Friday, March 25, 2011

Why I Have a Yankee Accent

My grandmother, father and nine of my 10 Tipton uncles at my grandfather's funeral 1939

I first began researching my Tipton family roots in 1994.  I was born in West Chester, Pennsylvania in 1941 to Isaac Walter Tipton and Betty Louise Hadfield.  My Mother’s family history was from Pennsylvania Quakers.  All I knew about my father’s history was that he came up to Pennsylvania when he was ten years old, with eight of his brothers (no sisters) and without shoes to work on his Uncle Don Byrd’s farm near Unionville, Pennsylvania, country about 45 miles west of Philadelphia.  I did know that my father was a ‘hillbilly’ and that fact distressed me greatly when I was growing.  Little did I know that my father and his brothers came from those hearty, brave and hardworking families of Appalachia that made up the backbone of America. 

My Uncle John Henry Tipton and his team of mules used to haul lumber
for his father's (my grandfather) saw mill in the western mountains of
North Carolina about 1924
Back in 1994 was when I first began researching my family history.  I made my first trip to the mountains of western North Carolina where my father grew up as a small boy and visited one of my father’s distant Tipton cousins.  His name was Horace Tipton and he was about the same age as my father.  During my visit ‘Uncle Horace’ stopped me and said:

“Ye a damn Yankee ain’t ye?  Ye talk funny!” 

'Uncle Horace's home in Micaville, North Carolina 1994

At first I was stunned because he thought I talked funny?  I could hardly understand him, his Appalachian accent was that thick.  Then I saw the humor in the situation and continued my visit with ‘Uncle Horace.’  However during our visit (I was there with my brother John and his wife Barbara Tipton), ‘Uncle Horace’ did maintain a 'safe' distance.  Don’t want to get TOO friendly with a (damn) Yankee you know. 

My brother John and I at his home in Greenville, South Carolina
discussion our recent trip to the hills of North Carolina where
our father was born and left at ten years old for Pennsylvania

Below is the reason I have a ‘Yankee’ accent.

This is a history of how my branch of the Tipton family came to be in Pennsylvania. This information is an oral history from my late Aunt Peg Tipton, wife of my Uncle Henry Tipton.

In the 1920’s, life was rough for the folks who lived in the hollers of the Pisgah Mountains in western North Carolina, near the border of Johnson City, Tennessee.  One of those families who were near starvation was my paternal grandparents, Fieldon and Hester Lewis Tipton and their nine sons. 

Me during a visit to the mountains where my father was born - 1994

From 1909 to 1926 Fieldon and Hester had nine children, all boys. Fieldon was in the lumber business with other relatives in the close-knit mountain community. Leading up to the Great Depression, the sawmill business wasn’t producing enough food on the table to feed nine growing Tipton boys. Fieldon’s brother-in-law, Don Byrd (married to Hester Lewis’s sister, Essie Lewis) had a fruit and vegetable farm in southern Chester County, Pennsylvania. He needed cheap farm labor. Fieldon and Hester and their nine growing boys needed food, a roof over their heads to protect them from the elements and heat to give them comfort during the cold winters.

My grandmother Hester Tipton with her two sons born in Pennsylvania, Bruce and Sam Tipton 1936

Sometime in 1929 or 1930 (the exact date is uncertain) the Fieldon Tipton family made a life course change and decided to relocate to Pennsylvania and work on Don Byrd’s farm. The whole family moved into one of the tenant cabins called “The Baker Place” near present day Unionville, Pennsylvania. “Field” and his boys began the back-breaking work of picking fruits and vegetables in their Uncle Don’s farm. Two more sons were born to Fieldon and Hester Tipton in Pennsylvania. More farm labor.

My Uncle Sam, Bruce and Fieldon Tipton at the old 'Baker Place' where they
were farm laborers for their Uncle Don Byrd on his farm in exchange for free housing
The names of the Tipton boys were:

Raymond Luther Tipton  (1909-1988)                         
John Henry Tipton  (1911-1993)                                          
Edward Walter Tipton (1914-1998)                                   
Erby Erwin Tipton (1917-1990)                                            
Isaac Walter Tipton Sr. (my father)  (1920-2000)       
John Hannum Tipton (twin)   (1922-1961)                       
Richard Berry Tipton (twin)  (1922-1989)                
Luther Raymond Tipton    (1925-1979)                      
Fieldon Jacob Tipton, Jr.  (1926-2006)                       
Bruce Tipton  (1931-1995)                                                                  
Samuel Park Tipton (1934-2001)                                  
Baby Tipton (twin of Samuel, died at birth)  

As the Tipton boys grew into adult most of them met and married the local women of southeastern Pennsylvania, their new home.  Out of those unions thirty-six legitimate children and four illegitimate children were born. I am one of those thirty-six legitimate children over a hundred children were born. 

My Mom (pregnant with me), my Uncle Dude and my grandmother Hester Tipton 1941
With the exception of Fieldon ‘s cousin Adgie Tipton, who also moved to southeastern Pennsylvania at the same time, all of the Tiptons who now live in an around the southeastern portion of Pennsylvania are descendents of my grandparents, Fieldon and Hester Tipton.  And this is the reason I am a Tipton with a Yankee accent.

Me ( tall, skinny  kid on the right) with my brothers and cousins showing our hillbilly roots 1955
March 26, 2011
Ronald Walter Tipton


Kim Ayres said...

When I went over to Canada on a student exchange programme, I remember a Canadian saying to me in a strong Canadian Accent, "Gee, it must be funny you coming over here where we don't have any accents!"

To which I replied, "My dear chap, I seem to be the only person here who doesn't have an accent..."

Mark said...

I don't think you sound funny. But what do I know? I'm all Yank. too.
I love these stories. You know that. I look forward to meeting the Clan this October. And when I say "Clan", I'm hoping that is with a "C".
Your Friend, m.

Ron said...

"A strong Canadian accent?" I didn't know there was such a thing. Now you, YOU DO have a 'strong Welsh (?) accent, and a quite pleasant one.
When Horace Tipton said to me "Ye talk funny?" the first thing that came to my mind "I talk funny? You're the ONE who talks funny!"

Ron said...


I always thought I sounded 'funny." I never had that deep, baritone voice. Now that I"m older I'm glad I have a 'young voice' and not that 'old man croak.' Don't worry about meeting my clan. They're all pretty cool with minorities - most of the old time racists have died off. The younger folk have other concerns to worry about (like raising their families) instead of worrying about the color of someone's skin. They're even pretty cool with gays. They know I'm gay (I made sure of that) and I haven't been ostracized. One idiot (the boyfriend of my cousin) tried to pull some crap at one of the reunions (talking about me behind my back and mocking me). When I heard about it I went to confront him but a cousin held me back. Anyone who wants to denigrate me for being gay does it to my face, not my back. When my cousins saw that I wasn't going to be intimidated, I think that changed their view of gays who were sissies. I don't take that kind of crap (homophobia) off of anybody, especially family.

Will J said...

From the ages of your parent's and uncles it looks like you are fishing in the longevity portion of the gene pool. So, stay healthy and keep working.

nitewrit said...


Ah, our golden voices! Yes, didn't think about having an accent until I got this comment about one of my filmed excursions I posted: "Thank you for the walk thru the woods Lar. It looked like a very beautiful crisp day with a bright blue sky, it was really nice.. You have a young sounding voice with a very northern accent..."

I noticed you posted this here and on your "Tales" Blog. Had you meant, too, fellow damn Yankee?


Ron said...


I posted my "Yankee Accent" on my "Tipton Tales and Trails' blog first but I thought it was so interesting (of course I did) that I decided to also post it on my "Retired in Delaware' blog. You also have a young sounding voice. Have you notice that some of our contemporaries have 'old man' voices now? I refuse to fall into that trap of croaking like an old man. You have a 'northern' accent? Why I hadn't notice. :)

Ron said...

Yes, I am in the longevity pool of my family. My grandfather died when he was 53. My father when he was 80. He smoked every day of his life and died from lung cancer. I hope to outlive him. So far so good!

Ur-spo said...

I always felt sad for people who could not trace their ancestors - how important it seemed to me know have and know your roots
I can emphasize about the accent. Father's side is not too removed from Canada, and having grown up in SE Michigan I / we still have 'oo' for 'ou' saying things like 'aboot' for 'about'. So we sound like Canucks.

Ron said...

I feel the same way about knowing my 'roots.' For most of my life I didn't think I would ever find out even the name of my great grandfather then back in 1994 I had a breakthrough on my family history and was able to research it back to the first Tipton to arrive in the United States. His name was Jonathan Tipton and he arrived in Baltimore County, Maryland in 1692 from Jamaica when his barrel stave business was destroyed by a hurricane. From that date on I have all the Tipton family history. I feel like my life is complete now. I do feel sorry for those people who know little of nothing about their origins.

Kim Ayres said...

My accent is definitely not Welsh. It's a generic Southern English (can't be pinned down to one county), with the occasional Scots word thrown in from living here for over 20 years.

Ron said...

I wasn't sure what to call your accent. I knew it wasn't Welsh but I'm not that familiar with all the different accents in your country except cockney and Liverpool. One of my neighbors here in Delaware has a delightful Liverpudlian (sp?) accent. I couldn't quite place your accent but it is pleasant to listen to unlike the Cockney accent causes me some discomfort when I hear it because it sounds so ignorant.