Eaton Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Eaton Surname
Eaton is a topographical surname which described someone who lived by a river or
on an
island. The root of the name is the Old
English ea meaning “river” or eg
meaning “island” or “low-lying land”
plus tun meaning “settlement” or
“enclosure.” This became Etone or Eitone
by the time of the Domesday Book in 1086.
Eaton as a surname was first found in the western counties of Shropshire, Cheshire, and Derbyshire. One early spelling was Eyton.

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Eaton Resources on
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Eaton Ancestry


England. The Eyton spelling was found in Shropshire where
Robert de Eyton held the manor of Eyton-on-the-Wildmoors in 1154. These Eytons remained in Shropshire for many
generations. Sir John Eyton fought at
the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485; and Thomas Eyton was High Sheriff
of
Shropshire in 1779.

Cheshire. The Eaton place-name in Cheshire near
the village of Eccleston gave rise to an Eaton family which in the 15th
century
married into the more famous Grosvenor line. Eaton
Hall became their ancestral home.
Earlier, around 1310, Sir Nicholas de Eaton had married
an heiress in Stockport and moved the Eaton family name into Lancashire.

Some
accounts have Richard Eaton, the vicar of Great Budworth in Cheshire in
the
early 1600’s, as descended from the Eytons of Shropshire.
But this is by no means clear. Richard
had three illustrious sons – Samuel,
Theophilus and Nathaniel Eaton
. All
three were Protestant dissidents who
emigrated to America. Only Theophilus
stayed there.

Derbyshire.
Long Eaton in the Erewash district of Derbyshire was
referred to as Aitone in the Domesday Book.
A settlement had grown up close to the lowest bridging point of
the
Erewash river.

The Eaton name has been mainly to be found in Derby.
An Eaton family was engaged for several
generations in the wool-combing and dyeing trade during the course of
the 17th
and 18th centuries. They lived at the
Bridge-gate. Thomas Eaton served as its mayor
in 1771 and William and Richard Eaton, father and son, were keepers of
the
county jail in the early 1800’s.

Elsewhere. There were sizeable Eaton
numbers in Cheshire
and Derbyshire by the time of the 1881 census.
Larger numbers were to be found further north in Lancashire.

Eatons dated from the mid-16th century in Dover,
Kent. Nicholas Eaton was mayor of the
town in 1618. His son John emigrated to
America in 1635.

There were two notable Eaton lines in London in the 19th
century:

  • the
    first began with William Eaton, first recorded as a buckle-maker on
    Addle Street in 1784. His son William
    practiced as a silversmith, one of the most prolific silversmiths in
    the
    country, from 1813 until his death in 1845. But
    he almost fell into deep trouble with the law in a court case at the Guildhall
    in 1822.
  • the
    second, born in 1816, was Henry William Eaton.
    He
    became wealthy as the head of Henry
    William Eaton & Sons, silk brokers with China.
    He was the MP for Coventry and made Baron
    Cheylesmore. His son Herbert was a
    sportsman, Army officer, and Chairman of London County Council.

Ireland. The main Eaton
line here had descent from Theophilus Eaton, the grandson of Richard
Eaton from
Great Budworth in Cheshire. He had
returned from America after his father’s death and moved to Dublin at
the time
of Cromwell’s conquests in the 1650’s.
He secured Powers Court at Goresbridge in Kilkenny.

“The
story goes that his grandson John then lost Powers Court on a game of
cards to
the Loftus family. But he somehow
remained in possession for a period of time while accompanied on all
occasions
by two thugs with pike and blunderbuss.”


Timothy Eaton’s family had been in Ulster since 1626.
He was born in 1834 in Ballymena in county
Antrim, the son of Scottish Presbyterian tenant farmers.
His father died when he was only two months
old, his mother died when he was fourteen.
In 1854, at the age of twenty, he followed several of his
siblings and
emigrated to Canada. He was the
progenitor of the Eaton dynasty in Toronto.

America. According
to the Eaton
Family Association
, there were five main
early Eaton lines into New England.

New England. The first to arrive was
Francis Eaton from
Bristol with his family on the Mayflower
in 1620. A
carpenter by trade, he died in 1633 as a result of an epidemic that had
struck
the colony. The report on him by
Governor William Bradford in 1649 ran as follows:

“His first wife died in
the general sickness and he married again and his second wife died. He married a third time and had by her three
children. One of them married and has a child.
The others are living, but one of them is an idiot.
Francis died about sixteen years ago. His
son Samuel, who came over as a sucking
child, also married and has a child.”


Theophilus
Eaton came with his family and two brothers on the Hector
in 1637. Two years
later he helped found the colony of New Haven in Connecticut and was to
serve
as its first governor until his death in 1657.
His epitaph read:

“Eaton so famed, so wise,
so just,

The Phoenix of our world, here lies his dust,
This name forget, New England never must.”


By
then his eldest son Theophilus had returned to England and settled in
Ireland.

John Eaton from Kent arrived on the Elizabeth and Ann
with his family in
1635 and settled in Dedham, Massachusetts six years later.
The line of descent, which numbers many
thousands today, was through his son John.
This was covered in John Eaton Alden’s 1900 book Eaton
Family of Dedham
. A
family reunion by descendants was held at Dedham in 2017.

Jonathan Eaton, who
was born in Dedham in 1681, moved to Windham county, Connecticut in
1701. He was the first permanent settler
of Putnam
village where he built a mill. From
Windham came:

  • Abel
    Eaton who moved to Columbia county in upstate New York in the
    1770’s. His son Amos who co-founded the
    Rensselaer School in 1824 was an inspired educator and botanist who
    emphasized
    the scientific approach to study. Daniel
    Eaton, like his grandfather Amos, was also a botany professor.
  • and
    Benjamin
    Eaton who departed for California in 1850 at the time of the Gold Rush. He moved south to Los Angeles and was the
    first settler and founder of the town of Pasadena.
    His son Fred became a major force in Los
    Angeles, serving as city engineer and mayor. A younger Eaton owned a
    ranch in
    the Owens Valley and introduced William Mulholland to the area. This led to the controversial bringing of
    Owens River water to Los Angeles in 1913.

Another John Eaton, possibly from Warwickshire, was first
recorded in
Salisbury, Massachusetts in 1639. His
homestead there, later known as Brookside Farm, remained in family
hands until
the early 1900’s. Other Eatons migrated
to New Hampshire and Maine. Tristram
Eaton of Buxton, Maine died in 1875 at the grand age of ninety-four.

The
brothers Jonas and William Eaton were likely cousins of John Eaton of
Dedham. They arrived from Kent on the Hercules in 1637 and made their home in
Reading, Massachusetts. A family home,
now known as the Eaton-Prescott House, was built in Reading in the
1750’s. Lilley Eaton, born in 1802, was a
Justice of
the Peace for thirty-eight years and a noted local historian.

Elsewhere. John
Eaton was a Baptist from Radnorshire in north Wales who came with his
wife Joan
and brothers George and Joseph to Philadelphia in 1686.
John and Joan moved to the Welsh tract in New
Castle county, Delaware by 1712. Later
Eatons settled in Rowan county, North Carolina.

William Eaton who died in York
county, Virginia in 1714 appears to have been the progenitor of the
Eatons of
North Carolina and Tennessee. His
grandson Major Pinketham Eaton of Halifax county, North Carolina was
killed in
battle in 1781 during the Revolutionary War.
He left land in Williamson county, Tennessee to his brother
John.

John’s
son John Henry Eaton moved to Tennessee in the early 1800’s and became
part of
a network there that supported the political campaigns of Andrew Jackson He was just twenty-eight years old in
1818
when he entered the US Senate, making him the youngest Senator in US
history. He later was Andrew Jackson’s
Secretary of
War until he became embroiled in the “Petticoat affair.

“The Petticoat affair, led by the wife of Vice President
John Calhoun,
socially ostracized John Eaton, the Secretary of War, and his wife
Peggy over disapproval of the circumstances surrounding their
marriage and
what they considered her failure to meet the moral standards of a
cabinet
wife.”


Canada
. There
were notable Eaton lines in Nova Scotia and Toronto.

Nova Scotia. David Eaton from
Haverhill in Massachusetts
was an early arrival in Nova Scotia in 1760, settling in Cornwallis,
Kings
county after the French had departed five years previously. His line was covered in the Rev. Arthur
Eaton’s 1929 book The Eaton Family of
Nova Scotia.

The line through Stephen Eaton, a shipbuilder and farmer in Pugwash,
produced Charles and Cyrus Eaton. Charles
was a clergyman,
journalist, U.S. Congressman and a signatory to the original United
Nations
charter. Charles’s
nephew Cyrus prospered as
well in America, emerging in the 1920’s as one of the most powerful
financiers
of the American Midwest. Cyrus
funded
and helped organize the first Pugwash conferences on World Peace in
1955.

Toronto. Timothy Eaton was the Irish
immigrant who founded Eaton’s department store in Toronto in 1869, one
of the
most important retail businesses in Canada’s history.
He spawned
a
colossal retail empire that his offspring would expand from coast to
coast,
reaching a high point in World War Two when they employed more
than 70,000
people.

The Eaton family of Toronto was
considered like royalty
in Canada. Four generations of the
family were involved in the running of the business.
However, retail decline set in in the 1990’s
and the company went bankrupt in 1999.

Australia and New Zealand. William Eaton was convicted
of
the theft of a cheddar cheese in London and transported to Australia on
the Admiral Barrington in 1791. Both
he and his son John prospered as farmers
– William in Hawkesbury, NSW and John in Maryborough, Queensland. And both lived to a good old age.
William Eaton died in 1858 at the age of
eighty-nine, John Eaton in 1904
at
the age of ninety-three.

Edward Eaton, a carpenter, and his wife Emily came to
New Zealand from Kent on the Stag in
1852. They were early settlers in
Masterton near Wellington where the built their home, the Ivy Cottage,
in
1855. They moved to Dunedin around
1870.

Levi Eaton arrived in New Zealand in 1860 on the George
Henderson
from Pugwash, Nova Scotia. He
had been involved in the building of
wooden ships there, but that business was in decline.
Levi became an auctioneer in Auckland.

 

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Eaton Miscellany

Eaton Places in Cheshire and London.  The hamlet of Eaton was situated near the village of Eccleston in the western part of Cheshire.  In the 1440’s Ralph Grosvenor
of Hulme married Joan, the heiress of Eaton, and he established his
home there.
The first substantial house, Eaton Hall, was built in
the 17th century.  It was replaced
by two much larger buildings, the first one in the early
19th century and then
the second one later in the century.
This has been the country home of the Grosvenors, now the Dukes
of
Westminster.

The Grosvenors were great landowners and developers in central
London.  The area known as Belgravia was
developed by them in the first half of the 19th century.
Belgravia included Eaton Square named after
their Cheshire home of Eaton Hall.  In
2016 Eaton Square was named as the “most expensive place to buy
property
in Britain,” with a home there costing on average 17 million pounds.

Samuel, Theoplhlus and Nathaniel Eaton in New England.  Samuel Eaton, the son of Richard Eaton the vicar of
Great Budworth, was a prolific pamphleteer and a contentious activist in
litigation and the first nonconformist minister in Cheshire.   He first went as minister to West Kirby
on
the Wirral, but was suspended by Bishop Bridgeman in 1631, taken
prisoner by
Bishop Laud, and imprisoned at Newgate.
He fled to Holland after his release.

Meanwhile his brother Theophilus, a
wealthy merchant in London, was part of a London company that in 1630
had
received a charter from the Crown for land in New England.

By 1637 John
Davenport had assembled a party and a vessel, the Hector,
to take him and like-minded dissidents to New England.
Their numbers included Theophilus Eaton; old
Mrs. Eaton, his mother; Samuel and Nathaniel Eaton, his brothers; Mary
Eaton,
the daughter of his first wife; and Samuel, Theophilus and Hannah, the
children
of his second wife.   Of the three
Eaton
brothers, only Theophilus stayed.
Nathaniel and Samuel later returned to England.

After his arrival in
Massachusetts, Theophilus with a few friends carefully explored the
Connecticut
coast and finally selected a place called Quinnipiac to establish their
colony.  In 1639 he was one of the
“seven pillars” selected to form a government for what became the New
Haven colony.  He was chosen as its first
governor and continued in that office until his death in 1657.  Apparently he was “a handsome and commanding
figure, and although strict and severe in religious matters, was
affable and
courteous.”

Nathaniel was appointed as the first professor of the
school which
later became Harvard University. He was, however, the black sheep of
the family
and was said to have deceived the people who appointed him.  He was notorious for his greed and
cruelty.  In September 1639, after
beating his usher with a cudgel, he was removed from his post.  He
fled to
Virginia leaving debts amounting to £1,000.
He returned to England in 1645, eventually dying in a debtor’s
prison.

Samuel meanwhile was educated at Harvard and came to live
at New Haven
next to his brother Theophilus.  He
returned to England in 1640 just in time for the Civil War.

William Eaton and His 1822 Court Case at the Guildhall.  It was the usual practice to collect together the
sweepings at goldsmith and silversmith workshops and melt the metallic
contents
into what was called a skillet.  The
skillets were then sold to refiners.  In
1822, at the Guildhall, William Eaton was charged by the refiner Brown
and
Brind for an attempted fraud in the sale of one of these skillets.

On September 28, 1822
William Eaton came in his skillet from Brown and Brind to make what is
called a
parting assay of it to determine its value.
This was generally done by taking off a small piece from one of
the corners
and from this assay the whole mass was valued.
It happened, however, in this instance that the assay was cut
out from
one of the sides and contained so trifling a portion of valuable
material as
not to be worth more than 20d an ounce.

When William Eaton called to know the
result, he was much surprised at this small value and said that he
understood
at least 25s per ounce. This led to a more minute inspection of the
skillet,
which was then found to have been made up for the express purpose of
deception.  The interior of the mass was of
little or no
value.  It was generally coated with
metal somewhat more valuable.  From the
corners where the part to be assayed was usually taken, pieces
containing particles
of gold were neatly soldiered on.

William Eaton, however, was a lucky man.  He
was initially discharged with a
recommendation that he should be taken directly before a magistrate of
the
county.  This was at first proposed to
do.  But as other evidence needed in the
case could not be conveniently procured for several weeks, he was
ultimately
permitted to go at large.

The Eaton Family Association of New England.  The fifth reunion and sixth meeting of the Eaton
family was held at Tremont Temple in Boston on October 31, 1888.  The members of the association continued to
collect in the hall for an entire hour.  During this time badges were
distributed
to the various branches represented:

  • white ribbon for the Plymouth Eatons
  • red for
    the Dedham branch
  • yellow for the members of the Haverhill family
  • blue for the
    descendants of Jonas of Reading
  • and pink for those who belonged to William of
    Reading.

There were many presentations.

Frederic Eaton of Toledo, a brother of
President Eaton of Marietta, said that he had never made a speech in
his life,
but said that he could not refrain from expressing his delight at
meeting so
many good-looking men and handsome women by the name of Eaton.  Dr. Benjamin Reid said that he belonged to the
Nova Scotian Eatons and spoke of his ancestor David’s emigration to
that
region.  Stephen Eaton was introduced as
coming from the state prison of New Hampshire of which he is a steward.  He said he was happy to meet with the Eatons
and go back to New Hampshire “and be a good boy and stay in prison a
little
longer.”

The Eatons of Toronto.  The Eatons of Toronto fascinated Canadians for over
a century.  They were well-known for
their lavish lifestyle and for their generous philanthropy.

While Timothy Eaton
had first launched Eaton’s department store in Toronto in 1869, it was
his son
John Craig Eaton, taking over the reins in 1907, who brought the family
name
into the upper echelons of Canadian society.
In 1915 John was knighted for his contributions to the First
World War
effort.  It was a fitting tribute since
most Canadians already viewed the Eaton family as their own royalty.  Canadians adored John’s wife, Lady Flora
Eaton, for her glamor and for her outspoken support of numerous causes.

In 1919
two life-sized statues of Timothy Eaton were donated by the Eaton
employees to
the Toronto and Winnipeg stores in celebration of the 50th anniversary
of the
company.  For years it was the tradition for customers to rub the
toe of the
statue for good luck.

When John Craig Eaton died at an early age in 1922, his
cousin Robert Young Eaton ran the company until John Craig’s heirs were
old
enough to take over the family business.
In 1942 John David Eaton, the second eldest son, became
president.  A relative described John David
as “the
best of a bad lot,” but he was quite inactive in the running of the
business.

When John David retired in
1969, there was a brief inter-regnum before four Eaton brothers,
collectively
known as “the boys,” ascended to the Eaton throne.
John Craig, George, Thor and Fred were the
fourth generation of Eatons to run the family empire.

However,
retail decline set in in the 1990’s.  George Eaton, the last of the family to be
involved in management, resigned as chief executive in 1997.  The company went
bankrupt two years later. 

The Death of John Eaton in Queensland.  The Maryborough Chronicle of March 25, 1904 reported:

“Mr. John Eaton, now
considerably past his nineties, has been in rather feeble health
lately,
although still able to move about.  Mr.
Eaton has over 300 direct descendants which perhaps is an Australian
record.  It is not every man who can say
his
grand-daughter is a grandmother.  We
trust he will live to be a centenarian.”

That did not happen.  In fact
he may even have been dead when this
notice came out.

 



Select
Eaton Names

  • Theophilus Eaton was a Puritan colonial
    leader in New England, the co-founder and first governor of the New Haven
    colony in Connecticut in the 1640’s. 
  • Timothy Eaton, an Irish immigrant, founded Eaton’s department store in Toronto in 1869. It was to thrive as
    Canada’s leading department store for over a 
    hundred years. 
  • Henry Eaton became wealthy in London
    in the mid/late 19th century as the head of Henry William Eaton & Sons, silk brokers with China. 
  • Cyrus Eaton, born in Canada, was one of the most powerful
    financiers of the American Midwest from the 1920’s to the 1950’s
    .


Select Eaton Numbers Today

  • 14,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Lancashire)
  • 19,000 in America (most numerous in California)
  • 11,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

 

Select Eaton and Like Surnames.

The Anglo-Saxon word tun meaning “settlement” gave rise to many place-names with the suffix “-ton.”  And the place-name could become a surname describing someone who came from that place.  Sometimes the name was specific to just one location; but often the place-name could be found in various places and the surname would also crop up in a number of locations.  These are some of these place-name surnames that you can check out here.

AshtonEatonMiddletonSutton
ClaytonHortonNortonWalton

 

 

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