Taft Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Taft Surname Meaning

Taft is thought to have derived from the earlier spelling of Toft.  This was a term which described a low hillock where a homestead used to be.  Toft emerged as a place-name in various parts of England.

Taft Surname Resources on The Internet

Taft Surname Ancestry

  • from England (Derbyshire and Staffordshire)
  • to America

England.  One origin for the Toft name is thought to have been the place-name of Toft in Cheshire.  Daniel Toft was recorded in Bosley, Cheshire in 1625.  The name also cropped up in the vicinity of Norwich at this time.

As Taft, it has been most common in the adjacent counties of Derbyshire and Staffordshire.  Thomas Taft was born in Ticknall, Derbyshire in 1641.  A Taft family, tenants of the Earl of Chesterfield, were horse trainers in Derbyshire in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.  And a Taft line in Cheadle, Staffordshire began with Elixabeth Toft in the 1750’s.

Some 45% of the Tafts in the 1881 census were recorded in these two counties.

America.  Robert Taft, of uncertain origins, arrived in New England in the 1670’s and began a homestead in Uxbridge, Massachusetts a decade later.

The Taft family of Uxbridge were to remain a fixture there for the next two hundred years, contributing five generations of Massachusetts legislators and public servants.  Their family home Elmsdale, built in 1807, was the focus of many a subsequent Taft reunion.

One branch of the Taft family moved to Vermont around the year 1800.  The story is told that, due to the difficult times, Peter Rawson Taft walked a cow there all the way from Uxbridge, a distance of more than a hundred miles.  His son Alphonso headed west to Ohio in 1839.

Alphonso Taft, who founded the Skull and Bones society as a student at Yale and was later US Secretary of War and Attorney General, was the first of the Taft political dynasty:

  • his eldest son Charles developed a newspaper empire and later owned the Chicago Cubs baseball team.  The town of Taft in Texas was named after him.
  • a later son William Howard Taft became US President in 1909 and US Chief Justice in 1921.
  • while William’s son, grandson, and great grandson all served as Senator or Governor for Ohio.

Another Taft line in Vermont made its way in the 1860’s to Iowa and then to Oklahoma.

Taft Surname Miscellany

The Meaning of Taft.  I have no idea about what the Taft name means or where it is from.  Kenneth Taft.

Tafts in the 1881 UK Census

County Numbers Percent
Staffordshire    125    25
Derbyshire    101    20
Lancashire     75    15
Elsewhere    209    40
Total    510   100

Tafts in Uxbridge.  Among the Tafts in Uxbridge, Massachusetts were:

  • Robert Taft Sr. the immigrant who built the Taft homestead in Uxbridge around the year 1680.
  • His son Robert Taft Jr. who was a founding member of the Uxbridge Board of Selectmen in 1727.
  • Benjamin Taft who started an iron forge in Uxbridge in 1734.
  • Josiah Taft, the grandson, who was one of the wealthiest citizens of Uxbridge.  His wife Lydia is known for having been the first woman voter in America, by having voted as “widow Josiah Taft” in three Uxbridge town meetings in the 1750’s.
  • Belazeel Taft who was a captain in Washington’s army during the Revolutionary War.   Twelve other Tafts from Uxbridge fought in the war.  Belazeel Jr. built the family home Elmshade on South Main Street in Uxbridge in 1807.
  • Samuel Taft, father of 22, who was an Uxbridge farmer and tavern keeper.  George Washington stayed at his tavern during his journey round New England in 1789.
  • Daniel Day and Luke Taft, fourth and fifth generation descendants, who started a woolen mill nearby in the Blackstone valley in 1810.  It produced cloth during the Civil War for US military uniforms.

Chloe Taft was the mother of Ezra Taft Benson, a Mormon pioneer, who lived in Uxbridge between the years 1817 and 1835.  Orsmus Taft from Uxbridge settled in Northbridge, Massachusetts in the 1830’s.  His son Royal C. Taft became Governor of Rhode Island in 1888.

In 1864 Judge Chapin, the mayor of Worcester, quoted a well-known Uxbridge story as follows:

“A stranger came to town, met a new person and said: ‘Hello Mr. Taft.” Mr. Taft said: ‘How do you know my name?’ The stranger replied: ‘I presume that you were a Taft, like the other twelve Tafts I have just met.’

Much detail about the Tafts in Uxbridge is contained in Lewis Leonard’s 1920 book Life of Alphonso Taft.

The Taft Political Dynasty

Alphonso Taft (1810-1891), US Secretary of War and US Attorney General

  • Charles Phelps Taft (1843-1929), newspaper publisher and owner of the Chicago Cubs baseball team
  • Peter Rawson Taft (1846-1889)
  • – Hubert Taft (1878-1959), Cincinnati newspaper publisher and editor
  • — David Gibson Taft (1916-1962), VP of Taft Broadcasting
  • William Howard Taft (1857-1930), US President and US Chief Justice
  • – Charles Phelps Taft (1897-1983), Cincinnati mayor
  • – Robert Alphonso Taft (1889-1953), Ohio Senator
  • — William Howard Taft (1915-1991), US ambassador to Ireland
  • — Robert Taft (1917-1993), Ohio Senator
  • — Robert Alphonso Taft (born 1942), Ohio Governor
  • Henry Walters Taft (1859-1945), law partner at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft
  • Horace Dutton Taft (1861-1943), founder of the Taft School in Watertown, Connecticut.

Meanwhile there was a related Taft line in Ohio that included Judge Frederick L. Taft and his son Kingsley Taft who was briefly the Senator for Ohio in 1946. 

The Sheer Weight of President Taft.  What most people associated with Taft was his enormous size, weighing as he did more than 300 pounds.  When he became stuck in the presidential bath tub, requiring six men to pull him free, the nation’s press had a field day.  His size made him the subject of countless jokes:

“Taft was the most polite man in Washington. One day he gave up his seat on a streetcar to three women.”

Within the capital’s social circle, Taft frequently embarrassed his family and associates by falling asleep at concerts, during presidential briefing sessions and while presiding over his cabinet.  At ease with his uncontrolled appetite and his need for sleep after eating or after exerting himself, Taft simply refused to be embarrassed by his weight or his behavior.  He accepted his size and so did most of the American public in time.

Despite his size he had a passion for sports.  He was the first President to take up golf.  Some western voters thought his golf playing indecent if not immoral. But his love for the sport caused a golf boom in the nation, doubling the number of players on public courses.

Tafts in Iowa and Oklahoma.  George Taft, a younger son of Peter and Phoebe Taft, was born in Vermont in 1807.  He moved to Ohio in the 1840’s and then came to Elkport, Iowa in 1861.  There, towards the end of his life, he set up a factory to manufacture staves for butter tubs, flour barrels and the like.

George died in Elkport in 1882, two years after the death there of his elder brother Deacon Amos Taft while he was visiting.  One of George’s sons Henry later moved to Wisconsin, another Orlando, a doctor, to Oregon, and a third son George moved his family to Garber, Oklahoma in 1893.

George’s eldest son Martin ran a drug store in Garber.  Next born George worked for the Farmers State Bank at Garber and was described as a man of great business integrity.  However, in 1930 he was accused of misappropriating and embezzling bank funds.  George was to appear in court to make a statement on the matter.  But he disappeared and was later found, fatally wounded by gunshot, and soon died.

Still, the Taft name lived on in Oklahoma.  Son George, who was admitted to the Oklahoma Bar Association in 1940, practiced law in the state until his death in 1999.

Taft Names

  • Robert Taft Sr. who came to Massachusetts in the 1670’s was the forebear of the Taft family in America.
  • Alphonso Taft was the patriarch of the Taft political dynasty in Ohio.
  • William Howard Taft was the 27th President of the United States, from 1909 to 1913.

Taft Numbers Today

  • 1,000 in the UK (most numerous in Staffordshire)
  • 3,000 in America (most numerous in New York)
  • 500 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

Taft and Like Surnames

The surnames found here cover most of the US Presidential surnames since the first President, George Washington.  Click on the surname below if you wish to know more of that particular President and his name.

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Written by Colin Shelley

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