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Rebecca Tipton: An 1858 Bridal Portrait

Samuel S. and Rebecca Tipton PattonIn the winter of 1858 Rebecca Tipton became the first bride of Anderson County, Kansas. Who was she, and what was life like for her? Kansas was a dangerous place at that time. The year 1855 marked the beginning of an era in Kansas history known as “the border struggle,” which is also referred to as “Bleeding Kansas” and lasted until 1861, when Kansas became a state. Becky’s father, Samuel Tipton, and the man who became her husband, 32-year-old Samuel Patton, were part of a group of people called “free soilers” who wanted Kansas to not have slavery. They took up arms to defend their families and property from “border ruffians.” These were individuals who wanted Kansas to be a slave state and were trying to physically run families who opposed slavery, like the Tiptons and the Pattons, out of Kansas by burning farms and killing the animals, the farmers, and their families. The “border ruffians” hoped too few “free soilers” would remain when it came time to vote whether Kansas would be a slave state or a free state. This would ensure that slavery was legal in the new state.

By the time 18-year-old Becky had arrived in Kansas, she had seen a great deal of the rugged young country into which she was born. Her future husband had helped Becky’s father drive his herd of shorthorn cattle from Ohio to Iowa, where they lived for two years, and then on to Kansas Territory where Samuel Tipton had established Mineral Point at Westphalia. The Tipton home served as a post office, stagecoach stop, and general store. Surely on January 17, 1858, it was the site of Becky Tipton and Sam Patton’s wedding. Although the structure that is present at the site today was not erected until the summer following the wedding there would have been some type of building quickly established as soon as the family arrived.

Not quite 16 when she left her birth state of Ohio, Becky must have thought Kansas was a desert-like wilderness. Even the two years spent living in the woods of Iowa would have seemed more hospitable than the Kansas plains. Surely, compared to Franklin County, Ohio, Anderson County, Kansas, was like the end of the earth to her. Sam Patton was 14 years her senior. Was her throat tight with fear as she walked down the aisle?   Did she dream of holding many babies in her arms?  Did her small hands shake as she grasped her husband’s large rough hand?  Perhaps her eyes were full of tears of joy while she said her marriage vows. In order to determine what type of person Rebecca Tipton Patton was, available records must be interpreted.  

There is ample known about Becky’s grandfather, her father, and her husband.  Her descendants’ lives are also well documented. Examining the lives of these people, along with constructing a social history of that time period and location, provides a window into Becky’s world. What type of woman was the first bride of Anderson County, Kansas?  She had two living sons when she died at age 73.  Sam Patton outlived her by 11 years, dying when he was 97. The religion of her parents, her grandparents, and her husband was Methodist so Becky was raised Methodist and remained a Methodist throughout her life. Because there was usually very little about everyday life of individual women documented it is often necessary to locate the information available about the men who surrounded her and piece together the type of life a woman experienced from those facts.

Becky’s grandfather, Thomas Tipton, was born in Maryland. He was the son of a schoolteacher from Scots-Irish descent.  His parents settled in Ross County, Ohio, when he was a child where he attended school until he was 14. Thomas served in the War of 1812 and achieved the rank of captain.  In 1813 he married Becky’s grandmother. They purchased land in Franklin County, Ohio, to which they added over the years until it totaled a thousand acres. Thomas and his wife Elizabeth’s family consisted of 11 children.  Their daughter, Mary, died and after her death Thomas worked through his extreme grief by becoming very religious.  He affiliated himself with the Methodist church. Politically Thomas was a member of the Republican Party. The family and friends who surrounded Thomas called him “Uncle Tommy” because of his kind demeanor.  Malarial fever claimed Thomas’ life in 1864.  Elizabeth had died earlier that year. Becky left Ohio when she was 16 in 1855 while both her grandparents were still living. They were surely a substantial influence on her life during her formative years.  Both the Methodist church and the Republican party had antislavery platforms so it is likely that Becky grew up with abolitionist views being discussed at the dinner table during family gatherings. Childhood trips to visit her grandparents would have been to the large farm that they owned.  She was obviously raised with the strong sense of Christian values that were typical in the Midwest during the early to mid-1800s.  An ethic of hard work and looking out for one’s neighbors clearly was embedded into her moral code.

Samuel Tipton houseBecky’s father, Samuel S. Tipton, would have cast a large shadow for not only was he a cattle rancher but he was very involved in the formative years of both Anderson County and the state of Kansas.  His arrival in Kansas with family and shorthorn came at a time when others were afraid to venture into the cattle industry in Kansas due to raids by the bushwhackers.  Such risks did not discourage Samuel Tipton. He brought with him 50 head of purebred shorthorn cattle that were originally from Ohio, although the family spent two years in Iowa before moving on to Kansas.  Not only was his daughter Becky the first bride of the county but his cow, Bertha Belle, who was born in March 1859, is recorded as being the first shorthorn bred in Kansas. Until the large home at Mineral Point was built, the family lived in a log cabin.  Later, the larger structure he built allowed for his family to live on the second story. On the ground level was the post office, general store, and stagecoach stop with a walk-in cellar to hide in during times of danger.  The third story was used by overnight stagecoach guests. There were openings in the sandstone under the porch from which weapons could be fired. The stone for the structure of the home was quarried from the same hillside on which it was built. Samuel expanded his farm during his lifetime to 720 acres.  Becky was undoubtedly in a hub of community activity as a young woman. The Tipton home also doubled as a Sunday school location and a place of worship until the Methodist church was built two miles away. After marriage, Becky’s family lived in a home on the southern slope of the Mineral Point mound. Her husband and sons worked with their grandfather’s cattle.

There was more to Samuel Tipton than cattle. He was involved with organizing the Republican Party in Anderson County.  He and his son-in-law were the county’s first postmasters. He served as principle in two different schools.  Searching the newspapers of the late 1800s from the area shows his interest in horticulture. This is reinforced by the orchards on his land. Apples, peaches and pears from S. S. Tipton are mentioned in old newspaper articles along with the cows in addition to pigs. Becky was raised by a man who had varied interests in the world around him.

Samuel Tipton was not only involved in the Free State Issue when he arrived in Kansas, but in a January 19, 1878, issue of the Garnett, Kansas newspaper, he is quoted as taking sides in the arguments between “gold bugs,” “silver-ites,” and “green backs.” Samuel was of the opinion that silver is fine for currency but that there should be gold to back up the silver. Current events were plainly part of the daily conversations in Becky’s environment growing up and throughout her adulthood.  

Samuel Patton homeBecky’s husband, Samuel Southard Patton, was a man of strong conviction. Not only did he move to Kansas to assist in establishing it as a free territory but during the Civil War he enlisted in the Home Guard.  He was in Company K of the 10th Regiment of the Kansas State Militia.  This regiment was formed to fight for the Union during Price’s raid in October 1864.  Price’s raid is considered the largest Confederate cavalry raid of the Civil War. Major General Sterling Price amassed a group of 15,000 guerillas who looted and destroyed what was in their path in Missouri concentrating against Unionists, Germans and African Americans. The raid was unsuccessful and the Union soldiers were victorious. Sam Patton built his house on the southern slope of the mound at Mineral Point where his father in law, Samuel Tipton, had built his home. Sam Patton served as one of the first two postmasters of the county for the post office that was located on the lower level of his father in laws home. Sam donated part of his land for the Patton Cemetery in Reeder Township, Anderson County, Kansas. The cemetery is located one half mile west of the site where the Patton home was located, and one and a half miles west of the Methodist Church.  The cemetery’s first burial was Sam Patton’s mother Elizabeth.

Later in life, Sam Patton, made a strong stance in favor of prohibition. He was described as a man who lived with a sense of hope as well as a man who lived by the golden rule. Sam was also portrayed as a man who was kind. Rebecca had a home during her marriage that was full of strong convictions, but that also had the edges softened with caring about others.

Another way to try to paint a picture of Becky Tipton is to examine what the typical way of life was for women in the mid-19th century in eastern Kansas. It was common at that time to have a kitchen garden and to grow vegetables and corn which was used in abundance. Cornbread, fried corn mush, and popcorn were frequently consumed. Game was hunted and wild fruits, nuts and grains were gathered to round out the family table.  Becky was lucky, for not only did her father have a cattle ranch, but her uncle had a hog farm and her brother-in-law raised sheep, therefore meat was obviously available to her family in abundance. In the summer time the temperature in that area of Kansas can be as high as 90 degrees and in the winter the average low is 24 degrees so moisture and sun of the four seasons would have allowed a variety of crops and grains to grow well. Becky’s father cultivated fruit trees so her family’s diet would have had a large variety of food. When walking into Becky’s house at dinner time the smell of stew and beans most likely greeted her family.  The meal probably was finished off with dry fruits and possibly a piece of freshly baked gingerbread melting against their tongue.

Most women of these times had three sun bonnets. One for every day, one for better occasions and a dress bonnet. Some women wore shorter skirts with bloomers for work days as it was easier to maneuver.  Long skirts were also typical. Petticoats were added to dress up clothing for special occasions.  Becky’s every day dresses would have been made of homespun material.  It was customary for women to spin wool or cotton into thread and then weave it into cloth to create the homespun fabrics. She may have had a dress made out of calico as a good dress. Becky would have taken flour sacks and remade them into many garments and household linens. Needless to say, she wore a cape or shawl for warmth.  

Recycling items was a normal way of life in those times. For example, when Sam’s trouser fabric became thin from wear, Becky would have cut out the legs and formed caps that she lined with fur to keep her boys ears warm in winter.  When Sam wore out his boots Becky probably softened the leather and created shoes with wooden pegs that were called Brogans. When quilts became old and ragged, women of her time re-made them into petticoats to help keep warm in the frigid cold winter months. Becky would have made knitting yarn from buffalo hair. In fact, women at that time would sew grapevines into their dresses to make hoop skirts. Or they sometimes created horse hair petticoats to add fullness to their dresses.

Doing the laundry also required some improvising.  Perhaps Becky saved the ashes from the fireplace into a container and added water. Lye would have drained out of the bottom of the container and grease added to create soap. Women at that time made bluing from the rinse water of their calico dresses.  It was common to save the water the potatoes were boiled in and used it as starch.

Becky’s grandparents, parents and husband were all members of the Methodist Episcopal Church, so a look at what types of beliefs that included will help us understand her. The Methodist church had committed itself to an antislavery stance by 1808. In 1844 the church split over slavery and the Methodist church - South was formed in the southern states.   In the northern church, there was a strong focus on social problems which developed into a social gospel. Later the Methodists were leaders in the temperance movement. 

As far as physical appearance, a photograph of Becky Tipton standing beside her husband Sam has been found. She had dark hair and dark eyes and was small in stature. Her hair was pulled back away from her face. Her eyes expressed a sadness in the photo. Sam is seated in the picture and has white hair and a long white beard. The photo has been estimated to be dated 1902, or 10 years before her death. Samuel is wearing a pocket watch as the chain is visible. A chain is also visible that Becky is wearing. Is it a watch or perhaps a pince-nez?  The chain goes into the waistband of her dress.  

Becky and Sam’s son Fred’s first wife died in childbirth along with his first baby.  But Fred did go on to remarry and have three more grandchildren for Sam and Becky. And their son Charles had a daughter so their family consisted of four grandchildren. But the sadness in Becky’s eyes perhaps was a result of grieving in her life during such times as losing a daughter in law and grandchild. Even though the deaths occurred eight years before the picture was taken, such hurt often lingers in one’s demeanor.

Life as a homemaker on the plains of Kansas in the mid 1800s was not easy. Becky’s first son, Charlie, was born in November 1858 which was 10 months after her January wedding. Charlie would have been almost six when her husband left to fight with the state Militia. Her son Freddie was born in April 1867, eight-and-a-half years after his older brother. Nothing is recorded about children lost in between.  Did Becky and Sam decide to wait to have more children until after the Civil War concluded?  Or were there physical problems with pregnancies that did not get recorded?  A family with only two children was unusually small for that time period. Did Becky experience the heart break so many women did during that time frame of children who did not live?  Did her arms ache to hold babies that were not conceived?  Many questions such as this about Becky remain unanswered but, we do know some things about her descendants. Becky was the matriarch of a line that provided four teachers in three generations therefore leading scores of this nation’s children to adulthood. Her great granddaughter was a music teacher at the same school for the blind that Laura Ingalls Wilder’s sister, Mary, attended. Her great, great grandson’s hold advanced degrees, one of which is an attorney. Becky’s most recent descendant was born June 2017, a great, great, great, great, granddaughter. No doubt as a mother of two boys she would have been thrilled with all these female offspring.

By looking at the men in her life, discovering information about her descendants and examining the normal activities of women from that era, we have created an idea of the type of woman Rebecca Tipton Patton was.  By examining her family environment, we have been able to paint a picture of her values and personality traits. Anderson County’s first bride was smart, capable, creative, skilled, resourceful, hard-working, religious, aware of the political issues of the times, sociable with others, kind and an advocate for human rights. She was a first bride for which today’s citizens of Anderson county and others of the state of Kansas can be proud.

Further reading

Tipton, Samuel S. House, nomination for National Register of Historic Places, 1975. 

Tipton House, Kansas Historical Resources Inventory, khri.org.

"Anderson County." Lawrence Daily Journal, September 15, 1875, p. 1, newspapers.com. (Kansas residents gain free access through the Kansas Historical Society.)

"Muster Rolls, Kansas State Militia, Volume 4." Kansas Memory.

Entry: Tipton: Rebecca: An 1858 Bridal Portrait

Author: Mary Rohrer Dexter

Author information: Mary Rohrer Dexter is a wife, mother, grandmother and registered nurse who lives in southwest Ohio. She enjoys history and has a special interest in the history of American women.

Date Created: September 2017

Date Modified: September 2017

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.