Select Horton Surname Genealogy

The English surname Horton came from a place-name that was found in three places in Yorkshire and in a number of other counties in England.

Horton itself derived from the Old English horh meaning “mud” or “slime” and tun meaning “settlement” or “enclosure.”  Hence Horton would literally translate as a mud dwelling.  However, other meanings for Horton have been suggested

Select Horton Resources on The Internet

Select Horton Ancestry

EnglandEarly sightings were in Yorkshire.  Alan de Horton was born there around 1160, taking his name probably from the place-name.  His descendants moved south, first to Northamptonshire and then, one branch to London and another to Mowsley in Leicestershire where they were to remain until the 1980’s.

There were still Hortons in Yorkshire.  Indeed three manors belonging to Hortons were to be found in the vicinity of Halifax:
  • William Horton had built Howroyd Hall in 1642 (shown on the house next to the initials of WH and EH for William and Elizabeth Horton).
  • the Hortons also held Barkisland Hall at that time.
  • while in 1654 William Horton acquired Coley Hall which the family held until 1775.
A fourth and grander manor, Chadderton Hall near Oldham in Lancashire, was acquired by Joshua Horton of Howroyd in 1690.  The hall was rebuilt by Sir William Horton, the High Sheriff for Lancashire, in 1748 and enlarged and improved by Thomas Horton in the 1800’s.

There were some other separate early Hortons, such as the Hartford Hortons from Northumberland and the Hortons from Shropshire.

West Midlands
.  On the basis of the 1881 census, the main focus for Hortons was in the West Midlands.  Some 45% of the Hortons in England were to be found in a line running from Lancashire to Cheshire and Staffordshire and onto Warwickshire and Worcestershire (with the most concentration being in Staffordshire and Warwickshire).

The Hortons were an old landowning family at Bushbury near Wolverhampton in Staffordshire.  Two Hortons who joined the army in the early 1800’s – Captain William and Captain John Horton – had different stories, one sad and the other strange.  The family moved to Worcester around the year 1820.

Benjamin Horton, born in 1796, started a pig farm in Lichfield, Staffordshire.  His son Isaac moved to Birmingham where he invested in property.  He acquired
the Midland Hotel in 1871 and four years later built the Grand Hotel.  He left what came to be Horton Estates, a substantial family-owned property company now run by Peter Horton.

A Horton family had a long history of the Birmingham gun trade, going back to the 1750’s with Joshua James Horton. William and his son Oliver carried on the Horton gun-making craft into the 20th century.

“Oliver had two daughters and sadly it was not the done thing in the 1920’s to pass on a gun-making company to a daughter! Their company was sold.”

. The Horton name had come to London by the 1300’s.  One early presence was William Horton, described as a resident of Southwark in 1394.  He later served as its MP.

The Horton family occupied Westwood manor in Wiltshire in Tudor times.  Thomas Horton who died in 1530 was one of the most successful clothiers of his time. Cloth manufacturing at Iford flourished under his management.  Sir John Horton, born in 1593, expanded the family fortunes still further and made his home at Great Chalfield.  The English actress Christiana Horton, born in 1699, was said to have come from a good family in Wiltshire.

.  Early Hortons came to New England and Virginia.

New England
.  Barnabas Horton from Leicestershire arrived with his family on the Swallow in 1635 and, five years later, settled at Southold on the eastern end of Long Island.

“Barnabas was one of the thirteen founding members of Southold.  In 1640 a small band of Puritans who just a few years before had crossed the Atlantic in search of religious freedom and a better life, became dissatisfied with conditions in New England and secured for themselves a parcel of land across the waters of the Long Island Sound on which to organize their church.”

Barnabas’s house in Southold, built in 1659, survived until 1870. 
Barnabas’s life was covered in Jacqueline Dinan’s 2015 book In Search of Barnabas Horton. 

The Rev. Ezra Horton left Southold for Union, Connecticut in the 1760’s.  A descendant Alonzo Horton, born there in 1813, headed West and became a successful real estate developer in San Diego.

Captain Nathan Horton served in the Revolutionary War and moved to New Jersey.  His son Nathan made the long trek from New Jersey to North Carolina in 1785 and was among the first settlers of Watauga county.  A descendant
Henry Walter Horton built the historic Horton Hotel in downtown Boone in the 1920’s.

Thomas Horton from Leicestershire, related to Barnabas, arrived with his family on the Mary and John in 1638 and settled in Springfield, Massachusetts (although not for long as he died three years later).  Carl Fischer’s 1965 book was entitled Descendants of Thomas Horton of Springfield.

The line through his son Jeremiah remained in Springfield although Abraham Horton, a Quaker, departed for Pennsylvania in the 1740’s and then moved with other Quaker families to Tom’s Creek in North Carolina in 1768.  His son John married a Cherokee woman and was banned from the Quaker meetinghouse.  John moved with other evicted Cherokees from North Carolina to Arkansas in 1817. 

There were three notable early Horton lines in Virginia. 

One was from William Horton from Gloucestershire who came in 1652 and settled in Westmoreland county.  Later Hortons of this line were to be found in North Carolina and in Troup county, Georgia. 

Another was from Daniel Horton from Middlesex who was first recorded in Surry county in 1678.  Among his descendants were:
  • Amos Horton who moved from South Carolina to Tennessee around 1810 and later died of typhoid fever.  A descendant was Henry Hollis Horton who served as the Governor of Tennessee from 1927 to 1933.
  • and William Horton, born in North Carolina in 1812, who headed for Blount county, Alabama at an early age and became a wealthy planter there.
Robert Horton meanwhile came involuntarily to Culpepper county, having been transported there on the Justitia in 1769.  He fought on the American side in the Revolutionary War and lived until 1820. 

“Robert enlisted in the 3rd Virginia Militia in February 1776.  He served in the Battles of Kings Bridge, York Island, White Plains, Brandywine and Germantown.  He was with Washington at Valley Forge where he was discharged in February 1778.” 

Some of his descendants, including his widow Jaley, migrated to Ohio; others to Tennessee.

.  Captain Isaiah Horton - a descendant of Thomas Horton who had come to America in 1638 - left his home in Rhode Island for Pictou, Nova Scotia in 1768.  At the time of the Revolutionary War he was accused of American sympathies as he would not swear an oath of allegiance. 

“He had his house burned down and his young cattle killed.  His older sons were obliged several times to hide him in the woods.”

After the war
he moved to the Cooks Cove area of Guysborough county.  There he was prepared to swear an oath of allegiance in order to receive a land grant.  He died around 1827.  His descendants have remained in Nova Scotia.

Henry Horton from Kent brought his family to Ontario in 1831 and settled in Huron county.  One of his sons Horace
served as the mayor of Goderich and a Canadian MP during the 1870’s.  Horace’s home of Donnelly House in Goderich, built in the 1880’s, is still standing.

.  David Horton was a convict in the Third Fleet, transported from Yorkshire to Sydney on the William and Ann in 1791.  There he was married three times to convict women and was the father of fifteen children.

His first wife Elizabeth, whom he married in 1796, left him for an army captain in 1801 and later made her home in Tasmania.  The next year David received at land grant at Pitt Town in the Hawkesbury area.  He then met another Elizabeth, whom he eventually married in 1825, by whom he had eleven children.  After Elizabeth’s death in 1830 he married for a third time in the following year.  He died in 1842.

Two William Hortons, both aged around sixteen, were transported to Sydney in 1832.  The first William Horton remained in NSW.  He married in 1847, raised six children, and died in 1907 at the grand age of ninety-two.  The second William Horton had a much shorter lifespan (he died in 1864) but a more successful one, moving to Queensland and running the Bull’s Head Inn at Drayton.

New Zealand
.  Alfred Horton had an early experience in printing and journalism in Lincolnshire before his emigration to New Zealand in 1861.  There he pursued these interests further and became a major shareholder in the New Zealand Herald in 1876.  His descendants remained active in the newspaper, through their company Wilson & Horton, until its sale in 1996

Select Horton Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for further stories and accounts:

Select Horton Names

Christiana Horton was a leading English actress in London in the early 1700’s.
George Moses Horton
was an enslaved black in North Carolina whose 1829 book of poetry, The Hope of Liberty, was the first book to be published by an African American in the South.
lonzo Horton was a real estate developer in the American West during the mid/late 19th century. The Horton Plaza in San Diego was named after him.
Isaac Horton
was a Birmingham property developer in the 1870’s who left a company, Horton Estates, which is now one of the largest family-owned businesses in the Midlands.
Admiral Sir Max Horton
was a British submariner in World War One and commander-in-chief during the Battle of the Atlantic in World War Two

Select Hortons Today
  • 20,000 in the UK (most numerous in West Midlands)
  • 31,000 in America (most numerous in Texas) 
  • 11,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

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