Newton Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Newton Surname Meaning

Newton, from the Old English neowa meaning new and tun a settlement, is the most common English place-name. There are said to be 83 different places called Newton or Newtown in the British Isles. For this reason Newton as a surname has a highly fragmented origin.

Newton Surname Resources on The Internet

Newton Surname Ancestry

  • from England
  • to America, Canada and Australia

England.  Early Newtons came from Somerset and Lincolnshire.

Somerset.  Sir Richard Cradock had assumed the surname of Newton in 1424.  He died in 1448 and was buried in the Wyke chapel of Yatton church in Somerset. An entry in the churchwarden’s books there for 1451 recorded a receipt of 20s.

The receipt read:  “From the Domina de Wyke, being the widow of Sir Richard and living at the manor of Wyke which Richard had partially built.” 

His family owned the East Harptree manor in Somerset and subsequently, in the 1500’s, Barr’s Court near Bristol, which they later had to sell because of indebtedness.  The male line then ran out.

Lincolnshire  The buyers of Barr’s Court were another Newton family, from Lincolnshire. These Lincolnshire Newtons, originally from Haydour, had made their money in Grantham and made enough of it to mix in the 17th century with the wealthy Cokes of Norfolk. A related family were the Newtons of Woolsthorpe Manor, whose numbers included the famous mathematician Isaac Newton.

There were also Newtons in Hull from the early 1600’s who may have crossed over from Lincolnshire. John Newton departed from Hull for Virginia in the 1670’s.

Newtons and Slavery.  The next prominent Newtons had much to do with slavery, on one side or the other. Samuel Newton from Wingfield in Derbyshire went out to Barbados in the 1660’s and started up the Newton plantation in Christ Church which ran on slave labor. The profits on this business enabled him to buy the Kings Bromley manor in Staffordshire.

Then came John Newton, the son of Captain John Newton, who was in his early life, like his father, a slave trader. However, during a stormy sea voyage in 1748, John Newton underwent a conversion, became an Anglican priest, wrote Amazing Grace, and took up the abolition cause.  Blind in later life, he died in 1807.

Newtons in Sheffield.  The Newton name can be found in Staindrop parish registers in Durham from the 1660’s. George Newton, the son of a wool manufacturer there, made his mark in Sheffield. In 1789 he entered into a partnership with Thomas Chambers, the outcome of which was the company Newton Chambers. This company became one of the largest industrial enterprises of the 19th century, operating a number of coal mines in and around Sheffield and ironworks at Thorncliffe.

America.  Early arrivals to America included a number of Newtons, mainly into New England.

New England.  Richard Newton from Suffolk came in the 1630’s and lived to see the new century. His son Moses Newton was one of the founders of the town of Marlborough. A branch of this family settled in Vermont and upstate New York and later moved onto Ohio and Wisconsin. Ermina Newton Leonard’s 1915 book Newton Genealogy covered this history.

Thomas Newton first appeared in public records in Fairfield, Connecticut in 1639. He fled to New York in the 1650’s after having been tried for adultery and his extradition was said to be a grievance in the petition that began the Anglo-Dutch war.

These and other immigrant histories were recounted in Ermina Newton Leonard’s 1915 book Newton Genealogies.

Later Newtons.  In the fiction of Parson Weems, Sergeant John Newton was – with his compatriot William Jasper – a soldier of the Revolutionary War, serving under Brigadier General Francis Marion, the “Swamp Fox.” Although these stories are no longer read, Newton place names across the United States attest to his popularity in the early 19th century.

Newtons from Virginia were 18th and 19th century landowners in Maryland (initally Dorchester county), starting with Nimrod Newton who died in 1792.

More Newtons fought on the Union side than on the Confederate side during the Civil War:

  • John Newton was a Union general from Norfolk, Virginia.
  • Thomas Newton, a private with the 6th Wisconsin, has handed down his reminiscences of the conflict; as has James Newton from another Wisconsin regiment.
  • there are also letters left by Thomas Newton, a private with the 8th Louisiana Infantry, who fought on the Confederate side.

John and Annie Newton emigrated from Cornwall to America in 1872, finally settling in Golden, Colorado. John came from a Cornish family of miners.

Canada.  Arnold Newton arrived in Quebec in 1840 and sent his two sons out into the wilderness to search out new land. They staked out land at Big White Fish Lake, near the Mont Ste. Marie ski area today. Elizabeth Newton, a descendant, still lives on the original land grant. Her house looks out on what is now called Baie Newton.

Newtons Out West.  William Newton was an early settler from England in British Columbia, arriving there in 1856 and marrying Emmaline Tod, the daughter of a local trader, at the First English Church on Victoria island. He subsequently worked as a clerk at Fort Langley. EJ Newton and his family came to Surrey near Vancouver in 1886. They had a large orchard there and raised horses.

The Rev. William Newton left Toronto in 1875 to become an Anglican missionary in what was then called “the far Northwest.” In 1897 he published an account of his missionary work there, Twenty Years on the Saskatchewan.

Australia.  One Newton family in Australia traces itself back to two Newton brothers, James and John, who left the grime of Lancashire in the mid 19th century for Rockhampton in Queensland. The descendants of James Newton, spread across Australia, are now very numerous.

Another two Newton brothers, George and Harold, left their families in 1929 to start a new life in Manjimup, Western Australia. The fruits of their enterprise became the Newton Brothers Orchard, still running and still family owned.

Newton Surname Miscellany

The Newtons at Barr’s Court.  Barr’s Court near Bristol was first under the Barr family and then passed through two different Newton families, one from nearby Yatton and the other from Lincolnshire.  The place was referred to as a “fayre old manor place of stone” in 1540.  By the 1650’s, when Sir John Newton was in residence, it was probably in its heyday.  Sir John had demolished the old castle nearby and reused the stone on his house.

There are tombs and monuments of the Newton family from Yatton, East Harptree in nearby Bitton church. Sir John, who died in 1699 and was buried there, was described as follows: “a most loving husband, careful father, faithful friend, pious, just, prudent, charitable, salient, and beloved of all.”

In the 1700’s Barr’s Court passed into the hands of Sir Michael Newton who had married a certain Margaret, Countess of Coningsby from Herefordshire.   They had one son John who died when an infant.

There are several rather extravagant stories about his death.  One version is that he was dropped from the roof of the manor house after having been carried there by an ape.  Another says that he was dropped down a stairway by his nurse when she was surprised by the sight of an ape.  Whatever the truth of the matter, upon the death of Sir Michael Newton in 1743, the baronetcy became extinct.

It was at the time of the death of his wife in 1746 that the manor house of Barr’s Court was destroyed.  The explanation appears to be that it was decreed in the will that, as there were no heirs, then the house was to be razed to the ground.  And so it was.  It is said that from the air the outlines of the foundations are to be seen and that in a dry period it is possible to make out the contours of the moat.

Woolsthorpe Manor.  A small plain limestone manor house in Lincolnshire was the birthplace of Sir Isaac Newton.  His family had taken possession of Woolsthorpe Manor in 1623 and Isaac was born prematurely and sickly on Christmas Day in 1642.

Isaac’s father, a prosperous Lincolnshire farmer, had died two months before his son’s birth.  His mother went on to raise a second family nearby.  But Isaac remained at Woolsthorpe and spent an introverted and isolated childhood in the care of his grandmothers.

His genius soon became obvious and an uncle declared that it would be wrong “to bury so extraordinary a talent in rustic business.” In 1661 Isaac Newton left Lincolnshire to continue his studies at Cambridge. However in 1665 and 1666 he was forced to return to Woolsthorpe to escape the plague.

It was at Woolsthorpe Manor that Isaac Newton formulated three great discoveries – the principle of differential calculus, the composition of white light and the law of gravitation.  He later observed: “In the two plague years I was in the prime of my age for invention and minded mathematics and philosophy more than at any time since.”

Woolsthorpe, with its simple T-shaped plan and mullioned windows, is a typical early-17th century manor house.  The house, suitable for a well-to-do gentleman farmer of James I’s reign, was built on the site of an earlier building sometime after 1623.

The Newton Plantation and Slave Burial Ground.  Samuel Newton started up his sugar plantation at Christ Church parish in Barbados in the 1660’s.  It ran on slave labor for the next 170 years until emancipation in 1834.  The slaves were initially supplied by slave traders. Later they were creolized, in other words born in Barbados.  The numbers ran around two to three hundred, generally more women than men.

It is estimated that a thousand slaves died on the Newton plantation over its 170 years of existence, of which 570 were buried in the cemetery (some in low earthen mounds, some in non-mound burials). Excavation of these mounds has allowed researchers a glimpse into their lives.

This is the only communal excavated slave burial ground that exists.  A sign near Sunbury marks the place. But there is little evidence that anyone has been taking notice.

John Newton in the Eye of the Storm.  The Greyhound had been thrashing about in the north Atlantic storm for over a week.  Its canvas sails were ripped and the wood on one side of the ship had been torn away and splintered.  The sailors had little hope of survival but they mechanically worked the pumps, trying to keep the vessel afloat.

On the eleventh day of the storm, sailor John Newton was too exhausted to pump.  So he tied himself to the helm and tried to hold the ship to its course.  From one o’clock until midnight he was at the helm.

With the storm raging fiercely, Newton had time to think.  His life seemed as ruined and wrecked as the battered ship he was trying to steer through the storm.  Since the age of eleven he had lived a life at sea. Sailors were not noted for the refinement of their manners.  But Newton had a reputation for profanity, coarseness, and debauchery which even shocked many a sailor.

He was known as “The Great Blasphemer.”  He sank so low at one point that he was even a servant to slaves in Africa for a brief period.  His mother had prayed he would become a minister and had early taught him the Scriptures and Isaac Watts’ Divine Songs for Children. Some of those early childhood teachings came to mind now.  He remembered Proverbs 1:24-31 and, in the midst of that storm, those verses seemed to confirm Newton in his despair:

“Because I have called, and ye refused . . . ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof: I also laughed at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh: when your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish come upon you. Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer.”

But that day at the helm, March 21, 1748, was a day Newton remembered ever after: “On that day the Lord sent from on high and delivered me out of deep waters.”

Early Newtons in America

Birth Death
Richard Newton 1603 England 1701 Mass (Marlborough)
Rev. Roger Newton 1608 England 1683 Connecticut (Milford)
John Newton 1639 England 1697 Va (Westmoreland co)
Richard Newton 1710 England 1760 Massachusetts
Ebeneezer Newton 1723 Penn (York co) 1812 North Carolina
Rev. John Newton 1732 Penn (Kent co) 1790 Georgia (Jefferson co)
Giles Newton 1735 Virginia 1804 South Carolina
Isaac Newton 1735 unknown 1799 N. Carolina (Duplin co)
John Newton 1750 Va (Lunenburg co) 1799 South Carolina
Peter Newton 1755 Va (Caroline co) 1823 Kentucky (Bullitt co)

Moses Newton Repelling An Indian Attack.  On March 26 1676 the Indians attacked the town of Marlborough in Massachusetts during King Philip’s War.  Moses Newton is generally given credit for being the hero of the day.

“On the Sabbath, when Mr. Brimstead was in sermon, the worshipping assembly was suddenly dispersed by an outcry: ‘Indians at the door.’  The confusion of the moment was instantly increased by fire from the enemy.

But the God whom they were worshipping shielded their lives and limbs, with the exception of the arm of one, Moses Newton, who was carrying an elderly and infirm woman to a place of safety.  In a few minutes they were sheltering in their fort with the mutual feelings peculiar to such a scene.

Their meeting house and many dwelling houses, being left without protection, were burnt.  The fruit trees pilled and hacked and the other valuable effects rendered useless perpetuated the barbarity of the savages for many years after the inhabitants had returned.  Many had left their farms until the threat of war was further removed.”

Charles Hudson in his 1862 book History of the Town of Marlborough stated that Moses Newton “received a ball in his elbow, the effects of which he never fully recovered from.”

Reader Feedback – Jacob Newton in New York.  I am looking for information on my 3rd great grandfather Jacob Newton. He was born in New York in 1812. I was told that his family was originally from Massachusetts.  Chyanne Miller(

Reader Feedback – John and Annie Newton from Cornwall.  My great great grandmother Annie Rowe married John Newton, born in 1854, in Zennor, Cornwall and they migrated to America in 1872.  They had ten children and finally settled in Golden, Colorado.

I have traced the Newton family back ten generation in Cornwall and most were miners.  Ann Newton, born in 1831, married in 1852 and then migrated to South Australia with her husband.  I found a non-Conformist baptism in Cornwall parish records of Annie Newton born in 1860 with parents William and Ann Newton.

I inherited the Newton family Bible.   It was like over 120 years old and had all sorts of information on the family – births, marriage, deaths etc.   I vaguely remember a newspaper clipping about Grandma Rowe and her death in the Midwest. But the Bible was stolen from my family’s office during a robbery.

I am 75 years old and still working for USPS here in San Diego, California.  After I retire I plan to go to Cornwall and visit where my ancestors lived and of course have a real genuine Cornish pastie.

Ruthann Storr (

Reader Feedback – Arnold Newton in Quebec.  I am Arnold Newton’s great granddaughter.  Arnold Newton who lived in Buckingham, Quebec sent his two sons by water on the Lièvre river because he had learned of two land grants in the area of what became known as Big White Fish Lake.

It was my grandfather Thomas Newton and my grandmother Margaret Skehan from Ryanville who were the first settlers at Big White Fish Lake.

Alice Newton (

Addendum: Arnold Newton, my great grandfather, was the son of Caleb Newton, who was born at Westfield, Connecticut.

Yes, it is  true that he sent his two sons up the Lievre River as he had learned of a Land Grant and his 2 sons were under the age of 21  One of those two sons was my grandfather Thomas Newton who married my grandmother, Margaret Skehan, from Ryanville.  Thus my grandfather Thomas Newton was the pioneer of Whitefish Lake.  His children were my father, Raymond, and my uncles Earl, Walter and Andrew.  His sisters were Alice, Elizabeth and Maryanne.

I am writing this because I feel that it is necessary for me to set the record straight.   Being that my grandfather who opened up Whitefish with the help of his father, Arnold Newton, in helping his sons, is not the one who made Whitefish lake what it is. It is my grandfather who worked and toiled the land, cut the trees etc.  My great grandfather made it possible, but my grandfather made it what it is today,

Big White Fish Lake or Lac Grand Poisson Blanc, the Baie Newton name came to be because of my grandfather, Thomas Newton, and my great grandfather, and  my aunt and then my sister Elizabeth.  Not wanting my grandfather to be forgotten and wanting to set the record straight.

The Fig Newton.  The Fig Newton is a brand of fig bar pastry filled with fig jam.  The biscuit was created in 1891 by Charles M. Roser for the Kennedy Biscuit Company, a Massachusetts-based bakery.  This company merged with other regional bakeries in 1898 to form the National Biscuit Company, now Nabisco.  The Fig Newton is now a trademarked product of Nabisco and is sold across the world.

Newton Names

  • Sir Isaac Newton, born in Lincolnshire, published his Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica in 1687. This is considered by many as the most influential book in the history of science ever written.
  • John Newton was the 18th century clergyman and author of many hymns, including Amazing Grace.  He was a former slave ship master who later spoke out against the slave trade.
  • John Newton started the family business of globe makers and map engravers in London in 1780.
  • George Newton was the co-founder of Newton Chambers, one of the largest industrial enterprises in England in the 19th century.
  • Sergeant John Newton was a fictionalized hero of the American Revolutionary War.
  • Helmut Newton, born Helmut Neustadter, was a noted German-Australian fashion photographer of the 20th century.
  • Huey Newton was co-founder of the Black Panther movement in California in the 1960’s.
  • Juice Newton, who was born Judith Cohen, is a very successful American pop and country singer.

Newton Numbers Today

  • 32,000 in the UK (most numerous in Durham)
  • 29,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 22,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)

Newton 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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Written by Colin Shelley

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