Horton Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Horton Meaning
The English surname Horton came
from a place-name that was found in three places in Yorkshire and in a
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

Horton Resources on

Horton Ancestry

England. Early
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
Lancashire, was acquired by Joshua Horton of Howroyd in 1690. The hall was rebuilt by Sir William Horton,
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
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

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

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
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.
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.

America. Early Hortons came to New
England and

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

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

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
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
later). Carl Fischer’s 1965 book was
entitled Descendants of Thomas Horton of

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

Virginia. 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
    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
    Alabama at an early age and became a wealthy planter there.

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
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

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

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.

Australia. 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.

William Hortons, both aged around sixteen, were transported to Sydney
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
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


Horton Miscellany

Horton Meanings.  The main explanation of Horton
was that it derived from the Old English words horh (mud
or slime) or horn (dirt)
and tun (settlement
or enclosure).  Hence it would literally
translate as a mud

One place in Gloucestershire was said to have derived from the Old
English word heorot (hart
or deer) and dun (hill).Mark
Antony Lower in his 1860 book Patronymica
stated that the name derived from the Anglo-Saxon
word ort or wort, meaning
“vegetables” or
“herbs” and hence referred to an enclosed garden.  Another
theory, espoused by William Arthur in
his 1857 book An Etmyological Dictionary
of Family and Christian Names,
averred that the name meant the
horrible town
or the town in the ravine, from the word horr meaning

Horton as a place-name was to be found three times in Yorkshire – near
Bradford, near Gisburn, and Horton-in-Ribblesdale near Settle.  The name also occurred in Northumberland,
Cheshire, Staffordshire, Shropshire, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire,
and Kent.

One source gave the name as being first found at Thornton in the West
Riding of Yorkshire near Bradford.  In
Samuel Lewis’ book A Topographical
Dictionary of England
appeared the following: “Thornton Hall was
granted in
the reign of Henry II by Robert de Lacy to the ancestors of the Hortons.” 

Hortons at Mowsley in Leicestershire.  Hortons, originally from Yorkshire, came to the village
of Mowsley, south of Leicester and near the border with
Northamptonshire, in
the mid-13th century and they were still there in the late 20th century.

first recorded was Henry de Horton who was initially a tenant of the
rector of
Knoptoft and served as his bailiff.
Henry or his son Hugh eventually owned their land free and clear.

John de Horton was the first
the family to settle in the village of Mowsley.
His house in 1345 lay on the north side of
the churchyard.  In 1761 a house on this
site, still belonging to the Hortons, was demolished and a new one
built on the
opposite side. There were still Hortons living there in 1909.

John Horton, born
in 1381, was an archer at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415 and was
listed on the
Agincourt Battle Roll.  Sir Roger Horton,
born in 1399, was a Justice on the King’s Bench.  Thomas
Horton, born in 1480, was a clergyman
who fled to the Continent during the dangerous time of Queen Mary’s
reign.  Richard
Horton held Crown lands in 1551 which had formerly belonged to
Leicester Abbey.

born in 1600, emigrated to Long Island in 1640.
Thomas Horton from nearby Gurnley fought in the Civil War under
and was one of the regicides of Charles I in 1648.
He died in Ireland the following year.  His
son Thomas departed to

Hortons were
a substantial yeoman farming family in Mowsley and in nearby villages
throughout the 17th and early 18th centuries.
However, between 1761 and 1768 Joseph Horton cut his sons
out of their future estate with a shilling each and left all his money
to a
nephew who then squandered it.

The last of the Hortons left Mowsley in the

Captain William and Captain John Horton.  The Hortons were an old landowning family at
Bushbury near Wolverhampton in Staffordshire.
Two sons from Moseley Hall there who joined the army in the
early 1800’s
had different stories – one being sad and the other strange.

Captain William Horton

William Horton, the heir of the family, was commissioned in the
Staffordshire Militia in 1799.  He was
appointed Captain in the 2nd Battalion in 1803.
In August 1805 he joined the 1st Battalion at Portsmouth.  Presumably he went with his battalion.  But subsequent muster rolls of the Militia
mark him “Dead.”

He did not die however, until 1850 at the Hopton and
Coton Lunatic Asylum near Stafford, certified as “Mania, 40 years.”

Clearly mental illness was hardly understood at that time and was not
kindly.  His death went unrecorded in the
local press.  He was not brought back to
Bushbury to be buried with his forebears.
Instead he was buried at St. Chad’s in Stafford.

Captain John Horton

Horton, a younger brother, had purchased a commission in the Queen’s
Bays and
went on the continent under the Duke of Wellington.
He was not present at the Battle of Waterloo
in 1815, but was in the army of reserve, not far from the scene of
action.  After the battle he went to Paris
with the
Duke and the Allies and stayed sometime there.
Then he proceeded to Picardy where he remained for about three
years.  When the army returned to England
he accompanied it and sold out in the year 1827.

John never married and he died
in 1856.  His obituary in the Worcester
remarked on some of his

“During his residence in this city he was personally
noticeable from
the well-worn appearance of his wardrobe, it being an ascertained fact
ever since he left the army – a period of twenty-nine years – he
continued to
wear, and had not worn out when he died, his stock of regimental
waistcoats and
trousers, and as to his coat, even that vestment could boast of almost
venerable age.

This partiality for an old acquaintance, added to a few
little whims publicly indulged in, led to the supposition that he was a
man of
miserly habits.”

Yet he was supposed to have left a fortune of £60,000 to his
cousin and heir at law, Colonel Horton, who lived near Stafford.

Hortons in the 1881 Census

County Numbers (000’s) Percent
Yorkshire    0.8     7
Lancashire    0.8     7
West Midlands
Cheshire    0.4     4
Staffordshire    1.9    17
Warwickshire    1.3    12
Worcestershire    0.6     5
SE England
London    0.9     8
Kent    1.0     9
Surrey    0.5     5
Elsewhere    2.9    26
Total   11.1 100

Nathan and Elizabeth Horton – from New Jersey to North Carolina.  At the conclusion of the Revolutionary War, Nathan Horton decided to seek his fortune
in the South.  But before his big adventure
he met and fell in love with Elizabeth Eagles, a charismatic actress
known as
“The Belle of Broadway” for her work in musical theatre. The couple
married in
1783 in New Jersey and, together with their first-born baby Hannah, set
off two
years later.

With furniture and clothes packed on a four-horse wagon,
Nathan and
Elizabeth departed New Jersey.
Tragically Hannah died not too far from New Jersey as they
through Hagerstown, Maryland.

They continued their travels on an unpaved yet
well-traveled route along the Great Wagon Road, stopping in lodges on
way.  The journey took them through 553
miles of forests, mountains, and rivers.
All this way they hauled Nathan’s grandfather clock, a beautiful
seven-foot tall clock crafted in mahogany.

After a year of arduous traveling,
they finally arrived as some of the first settlers at Cook’s Gap near
Watauga river.  While Nathan held their
new-born son William in his arms, born shortly after their arrival,
stumbled upon an empty hunter’s lodge and settled in the area.

and Elizabeth are believed to be amongst the earliest European
inhabitants of
modern-day Watauga county in North Carolina. 

Alonzo Horton in San Diego.  In 1851
Alonzo Horton decided to join many others in seeking his fortune in the
gold fields of
California.  Here he became a success not
so much through gold, but through trading ice in the mining towns.  Six years later he returned to his home in
Wisconsin.   During an Indian attack
lost a bag of gold dust worth $10,000, but kept the money he had made

In 1862 he returned to California.
There he heard about growing settlement and interest in a small
called San Diego located in southern California.  It
was acclaimed for its dry, warm, healthy
climate, very welcome to many cold-weary Easterners.

Upon visiting there, he
noticed that while the small town was built around the old Spanish
well inland near the mouth of the San Diego river, no large settlements
been made along the large San Diego Bay just a few miles south,
though all ships sailing to the town docked in the bay.

He bought 960 acres of
land on San Diego Bay at a very cheap price.
This became known as “Horton’s Addition” or “New
Town.”  At first there was much
opposition from the residents of the former site of the town, which
known as “Old Town” and still is to this day.  But
new businesses began to flood into the
new tract due to its greater convenience for ships arriving from the
Far East.
Eventually the new addition began to eclipse Old Town in importance as
heart of the growing city.

Horton grew rich as the city expanded and he helped
to establish San Diego’s Chamber of Commerce.
However, when the US Congress withdrew its proposed aid to bring
Texas Pacific Railroad into San Diego, the progress of the city froze.

estate proved a roller-coaster ride in San Diego.  Land
values crashed again in the late 1880’s,
devastating much of Horton’s fortune.  By
the time he died in 1909, he had lost much of his former wealth.

William Horton and the Bull’s Head Inn in Queensland.  In 1832 William Horton was convicted of theft in
England and transported to Australia for seven years.
He was sixteen when he arrived in
Sydney.  During his life he transformed
himself from a convict into a successful businessman.
His transportation to Australia had been the making of him.

After serving out his sentence he worked as a
stockman and became renowned as an experienced bushman.  He was
enthusiastic and determined to make the best of his situation.  These were all good qualities for an
ex-convict to start out a new life in Australia.

In the early 1840’s he moved to Queensland
and worked at the Queen’s Arms Hotel
in Ipswich.  There he met his wife Sarah
Campbell. She was one of only three women living in Ipswich.

William and Sarah moved in 1848 to Drayton to
run the Bull’s Head Inn in
Drayton.  They made it into a very
comfortable place to stay overnight or to sit and have a drink and a
meal. The
inn contained a fine parlor and high-quality meals were offered. There
was a
butcher’s shop on site, enabling a good supply of fresh and salted
meat, a
blacksmith and a saddler for repairs.
Stabling and hay were available for travelers to rest their

In 1858 William decided to build a large
extension to the inn which survives until today (it is now a museum and
visit it to see what it was like to live 150 years ago).
In 1860 the Governor of Queensland stayed the
night and this was a very special occasion.

As well as running the Inn, William helped to establish a
racecourse at
Drayton.  He donated a handsome trophy
for the winner and a generous sum of prize money.  He
was a keen gambler himself and was known
by the nickname ‘Bill the Fiver’ or ‘The Lucky Fiver’ from the time
when he won
a hand in a bush card game.  He died in

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.
  • Alonzo 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 Horton Numbers 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)


Select Horton 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.




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