Firestone Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Firestone Surname Meaning

Firestone as a name – from viur or feuer meaning “fire” and stein “stone” – is believed to have originated in Austria. It could have been an occupational name, a stoker or fireman; or it could have been a nickname for someone fiery. Feuerstein often became Firestone in America as the German or Jewish arrivals bearing this name would anglicize it.

Firestone Surname Resources on The Internet

Firestone Surname Ancestry

  • from Austria and Alsace (Feuerstein)
  • to America (Pennsylvania and Ohio)

The early Feuersteins were said to have come from the Bregenz forest in western Austria. Some Feuersteins from Bregenz settled in Alsace in northern France around 1640. Later Feuersteins may have been Jews from Hungary or Russia who were given or had adopted Feuerstein as an ornamental name.

America.  Nicholas Hans Feuerstein immigrated to America from Thal in Alsace in 1753 and settled in Pennsylvania (in Paradise township, York county). Three of his sons, seeking to be patriotic, then changed their names to Firestone.

Genealogies of the two major early Firestone families descended from Nicholas – as well as from the unrelated Johann Feuerstein, also from Alsace, who came to Pennsylvania in 1750 – have been compiled by George Ely Russell from that time to the 1850’s. By 1850 there were 133 Firestones recorded in the US census. 

From the Nicholas line and born in 1868 in a farm in Columbiana, Ohio built by his grandfather came Harvey Firestone. He it was who founded the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company in Akron, Ohio in 1900. It became the leading tire maker in America, selling a quarter of all the tires on the road in the 1920’s.

There have been other Firestones in America as the Firestone lines proliferated in the 19th century. There were branches in Virginia, Maryland, Tennessee, and Indiana, as well as Ohio. The Firestone name reached Colorado in 1908 when the town of Firestone, Colorado in Weld county was named after the Firestone Coal and Land Company which operated there.

In more recent times Jacob Feuerstein, born in Brooklyn of Jewish Hungarian roots, changed his name to John Firestone in the 1930’s. Tirzah Firestone, who was raised with her sister in an Orthodox Jewish family in St. Louis, is a Jewish rabbi and writer on the Kabbalah.

Many later immigrants have retained their original Feuerstein name. Perhaps the best known of these was the Feuerstein family of Lawrence, Massachusetts. Henry Feuerstein, who had come to New York from Hungary in the 1890’s, started a clothing company in Massachusetts named Malden Mills in 1906. Aaron Feuerstein, its third generation owner, became nationally famous in 1995 when he continued to pay his workers after a fire had devastated the plant.

Firestone Surname Miscellany

Nicholas Hans Feuerstein.  According to the parish records of the Berg Evangelical Church, Nicholas was a carpenter, farmer and citizen of Thal in Alsace.  It was said that when their oldest child became subject to conscription into the French army, Nicholas and his wife abandoned their ten acre farm in Alsace and departed for Holland.  In Rotterdam, the couple and their nine children boarded the Peggy and they arrived in Philadelphia on September 24, 1753.  The family qualified for entry on the following day.

Until 1760 Nicholas indentured himself and his sons as farm laborers in Lancaster county in order to pay for his passage to America.  Then, at about the same time his wife died, he was able to acquire a 300 acre tract of land in Paradise township in York county. He married again, a widow Catherine Hacken. Nicholas died in early 1768. 

Firestones in the 1850 US Census.  The following were the number of Firestones listed by state in the US census of  1850.

State Number Percent
Pennsylvania    50    38
Ohio    31    23
Indiana    13    10
New York    10     8
Elsewhere    29    21
Total  133 100

Firestones were to be found in particular in the following townships:

State Township County
Pennsylvania Bullskin Fayette
Swatana Lebanon
Upper Turkeyfoot Somerset
Monaghan York
Ohio Knox/Fairfield Columbiana

Harvey Firestone of Firestone tire fame came from the Firestones in Columbiana county, Ohio.

When Harvey Met Henry.  The moment Henry Ford walked into the Columbus Buggy Works and asked for Harvey Firestone, it could be said that the course of the 20th century changed.  Henry Ford recalled:

“The first time I met Harvey Firestone he was an agent for the Columbus Buggy Works in Detroit.  That was in 1895.  At that time I was building my first automobile.  It was about complete, and I was using bicycle tires.  The car weighed 500 pounds which was much too heavy for the light tires. I went to the buggy works to see about obtaining some solid rubber tires as a substitute. Firestone told me he had just received some new tires that were a great deal softer on the buggy in the rear.  They were pneumatic tires and I had him order me a set.”

At that time Harvey Firestone and Henry Ford were both relatively unknown in the business world.

Harvey Firestone, a fourth-generation farmer from Columbiana, Ohio, founded his own tire company in Akron, Ohio five years later in 1900.  In the beginning, the company only sold tires made by other manufacturers.  Firestone soon realized he could make a better product.  So in 1903 the company manufactured its first set of pneumatic rubber tires.

In 1906 Firestone contacted Henry Ford about supplying him with his new tires.  Henry Ford remarked:

“He was the first tire manufacturer to seek an order from us. He got the order and he has furnished us with about half of our tires since.”

That order was the basis of a long-lasting business and personal relationship.  William Clay Ford Jr. of the Ford dynasty has the son of Henry Ford’s grandson William and Harvey’s granddaughter Martha.

Firestone, Colorado.  The town was named in 1908 for Jacob Firestone who gave his name to the Firestone Coal and Land Company which had established a presence in the town.  However, Firestone himself never made it to Firestone.

Jacob Firestone was related to Harvey Firestone of Firestone Tires – but only by marriage and distantly at that.  He was the founder of a general store and bank in Spencer, Ohio and had been one of the owners of the Firestone Coal and Land Co.

The first Firestone family member to visit Firestone, Colorado had in fact to wait until 2011. Firestone mayor Paul Sorenson found Reid Firestone in Spencer, Ohio during a search for descendants while researching the town’s 100-year anniversary.  The September 26 visit by Reid Firestone and his wife Terri was full of history as they visited with town officials and took a tour.

Aaron Feuerstein and the Fire at Malden Mills.  The fire that broke out at Malden Mills in the winter of 1995 was the largest fire Massachusetts had seen for a century.  A boiler had exploded in one of the mill buildings.  The explosion was so powerful that it ruptured gas mains.  The fire quickly engulfed the buildings and employees fled into the streets.  Fortunately, no one was killed.  But the town was devastated.  Malden Mills was one of the few large employers in a town that was already in desperate straits.

Feuerstein decided not only to use the $300 million insurance money to rebuild the plant, but to also pay the salaries of all the now-unemployed workers while it was being rebuilt.  Feuerstein spent millions keeping all 3,000 employees on the payroll with full benefits for six months.  By going against common CEO business practices, especially at a time when most companies were downsizing and moving overseas, he achieved a small degree of fame.

Sadly, the millions he spent to keep his pledges cost him, nine years later, control of the company.

Firestone Names

  • Harvey Firestone founded the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company in Akron, Ohio in 1900.

Firestone Numbers Today

  • 2,000 in America (most numerous in Pennsylvania)

Firestone and Like Surnames 

The first wave of German immigration into America came in the early 1700’s from the Rhine Palatine and Switzerland.  They were fleeing religious persecution at home.  Most ended up in Pennsylvania, bringing their Mennonite church with them.  Some went to the Mohawk Valley in upstate New York.  Their Germanic names often changed under English rule to English-style names.  Thus Fischer became Fisher, Schneider Snyder, Hubner Hoover and so forth.

The reasons for immigration were different in the 19th century – in search of a better life, sometimes to avoid the draft.  They came from all German states and went not just to Pennsylvania but all over as the middle and west of the country was opening up.  And they brought German skills with them, notably beer-making.

Here are some of the notable German surnames in America that you can check out.



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Written by Colin Shelley

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