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Episode 12 Transcript

Sign at the Boring Cemetery in Kentucky where John Tipton is buried

Sign at the Boring Cemetery in Kentucky, where Major Tipton is buried

In September, 1780, a ragtag group of backwoodsmen from what is today North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia assembled to begin a journey to defend their homes and belief in liberty. They met their destiny at Kings Mountain and this is their story. The Mitchell County Historical Society presents Footsteps for Freedom: The Road to Kings Mountain. Episode Twelve: Tipton Hill’s Jonathan Tipton.

The beauty of the virtually untouched wilderness that the Overmountain Men saw as they marched through the Toe River Valley on their way to King’s Mountain must have been quiet stunning. One of these soldiers, Major Jonathan Tipton, returned to the valley after the war and made it his home for 27 years. The Tipton Hill community of Mitchell County was named for him and thousands of his descendants still live in the valley to this day.

Born October 23, 1750 in Frederick County, Virginia, Jonathan Tipton was the third to bear the name Jonathan in the family. Before he left Frederick County about 1775, Jonathan married Francis Perlina Daugherty.  They moved to the Watauga Settlements in present-day Eastern Tennessee. In 1776, Tipton signed the Watauga Petition for annexation by the State of North Carolina. 

Jonathan was commissioned as a major in the North Carolina Militia in February 1777.  He soon saw combat against the Cherokee at the Battle of Flat Creek. Afterward, he was active as a scout conducting ranger patrols on the mountainous frontier. Major Jonathan Tipton was second-in-command of John Sevier’s regiment at Kings Mountain. He also participated with Sevier in several campaigns against the Cherokee and was wounded in the arm at the Battle of Boyd’s Creek. Tipton crossed the mountains with the Overmountain militia again in 1781 and took part in General Nathaniel Greene’s campaign against the British in South Carolina until he was finally discharged after Cornwallis’ surrender in the fall of 1781.  He spoke of personally knowing and serving with some of the greatest heroes of the Revolutionary War including “Lighthorse” Harry Lee (the father of Confederate General Robert E. Lee), General Nathaniel Greene, “The Old Wagoner” Daniel Morgan, “The Gamecock” Thomas Sumpter and the “Swamp Fox” Francis Marion.

Besides serving in Sevier’s regiment, Jonathan had a more intimate connection to the Sevier family. He married Keziah Robertson, the widow of Robert Sevier, John Sevier’s brother and Overmountain Man who was mortally wounded at Kings Mountain. Robert had died on the trek back from the battle to Tennessee, and is buried in the Davenport Cemetery near the North Toe River in present-day Avery County.

Jonathan is often confused by historians with his brother John Tipton.  John also lived in the Overmountain Settlements and rose to the rank of Colonel in the militia.  John successfully led the fight against the establishment of the state of Franklin after the Revolution. He charged King’s Mountain Hero John Sevier with treason and sent him in chains to prison across the mountains.  It is rumored that John ordered one of his men to assassinate John Sevier on the top of Iron Mountain but a lucky mishap prevented the secret order from being carried out.  Colonel John Tipton’s home is preserved as the Tipton-Haynes Tennessee State Historic Site today.

About 1798, Major Jonathan Tipton and part of his family moved back across the mountain into North Carolina, into Buncombe County, which would become Yancey County.  While there, wife Keziah passed away in 1806 and is buried in an unmarked grave somewhere in Yancey or Mitchell Counties. Then, in 1825, Tipton married his third wife, Lavinia Stephens who was thirty to forty years his junior, and they moved to Overton County, Tennessee in the middle part of the state.  He filed for a Revolutionary pension in 1832 and died January 18, 1833.

With his three wives, Tipton supposedly fathered of 15 or 16 children.  At least 5 of Major Tipton’s sons settled in the Toe River Valley, including Jonathan, Jr., Wiley, Jacob, David, and Joseph.  There is considerable disagreement among genealogists about which of his grandsons were the offspring of which of his sons.

The descendants of Major Jonathan Tipton continue to call Mitchell and Yancey Counties home some two hundred years later.

Special thanks go to Rhonda Gunter and Jonathan Bennett for their help with today’s program.

Footsteps for Freedom: The Road to Kings Mountain is a production of the Mitchell County Historical Society, a non-profit organization committed to the preservation of the history, heritage, and culture of Mitchell County, North Carolina. Today’s program was written, narrated, and produced by David Biddix. Special thanks to WTOE radio in Spruce Pine, North Carolina (1470 on the AM dial) and WKYK Radio in Burnsville, North Carolina (940 on the AM dial) for airing our program. You can also download episodes through Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts. Learn more at mitchellnchistory.org/ovm.

The Mitchell County Historical Society offices are located in the Historic Mitchell County Courthouse in Bakersville. We’d love for you to become a member of our Society! You can learn more about us on the web at mitchellnchistory.org. There, you can also see show notes about today’s episode, links to online resources about the Battle of Kings Mountain and those involved in it, and much more about Mitchell County’s history and heritage. You can also visit us on Facebook. Join us next time as we continue the journey to Patrick Ferguson and the famous battle atop Kings Mountain.

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