Walton Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Walton Surname Meaning

The surname Walton derives from the Walton place-name of which there were many around the country, such as Walton-on-Thames in Surrey, Walton-on-the-Naze in Essex, Walton near Warrington in Cheshire, and Walton Hall in west Yorkshire. Many of these Walton place-names are now probably lost.

The root of the name appears to be the Old English wahl or wealas, terms by which Anglo-Saxon immigrants called the native Celts of the land. Walton – with the suffix tun or “hamlet” – may have been the name given to settlements where these Celts remained.

Walton Surname Resources on The Internet

Walton Surname Ancestry

  • from Northern England
  • to Ireland, America, Canada and New Zealand

England. Walton has been very much a northern name. Early records show a de Walton family in Cheshire from the 1200’s. Waltons of the 1600’s included:

  • Izaak Walton, author of The Compleat Angler, who was born in Stafford
  • Brian Walton, the priest and author of the Polyglot Bible, who was born in north Yorkshire
  • and Swithin Walton, who followed Cromwell to Ireland and came from Leicestershire.

The Walton lead mining dynasty which spanned five generations began with William Walton in Alston, Cumberland in the mid 1700’s. His Walton family at Alston was to shape the mining industry in the north Pennines for the next two hundred years. Jacob Walton who headed the business in the first half of the 19th century was to be its dominating personality. Alastair Robertson’s 2004 book The Walton Family recounted the history.

Some Waltons at Weardale in Durham were at one time lead miners. Roland Walton was recorded as being born in Stanhope around 1692. Many Waltons there were Primitive Methodists. One line led via John Walton, the coal merchant of Walton & Gowland, to his son Joseph who became a prominent colliery owner and Liberal politician.

Ireland.  The Walton surname was brought to Ireland by English settlers. Captain Swithin Walton established himself at Oysterhaven Bay, Kinsale in county Cork in 1643. His family built a Georgian house, Walton Court, on the property in the late 18th century.

“The Walton family archives and historical documents show that they were a colorful family, relying on smuggling brandy and silk from France for their living, outrunning the English coastguard cutters in and out of the many local bays and inlets.”

Robert Walton of this family emigrated to America and became a civic engineer in Cincinnati, Ohio. In the 1880’s he built Walton Court, a replica of his home in Ireland, at the Rugby community in Tennessee founded by the English author Thomas Hughes.

America.  There were early Waltons in New England.

New England.  The first Walton in America was probably the Puritan Rev. William Walton who with his wife Elizabeth was among the early settlers of Hingham, Massachusetts in 1635 before moving onto Marblehead. Josiah Walton’s 1898 booklet Walton Family Records traced this family’s history.

Samuel Walton from Herefordshire came to America at the time of the Revolutionary War, but died young in Maine.  His line did continue at New Portland in Maine through his son Samuel.  Wesley Walton also grew up in Maine. He headed west and was a pioneer in Utah.

Virginia. Robert Walton was said to have been an English soldier who had come to America in 1682 and bought land in Prince Edward county, Virginia. His great grandson George, orphaned there as a child, moved to Savannah and, as a representative for Georgia, was a signer of the Declaration of Independence.

One line of this family arrived in Burke county, North Carolina in the 1790’s and were among its early settlers. A descendant Thomas Walton published an account of these times in his 1894 book Sketches of the Pioneers.

Meanwhile, another Walton from Prince Edward county, William Walton, migrated west in 1792 to the St. Louis area when it was still under Spanish control. His son, Judge James Walton, owned several plantations there.

John Walton, an immigrant into Virginia in the 1640’s, is thought to have been the predecessor of the John Walton of Hanover county, Virginia who died in 1772, just prior to the Revolution. He was a herbal or “botanical” doctor by profession, the first of four generations of Walton physicians in this line.

His children spread after the war:

  • the older siblings were dissenting Baptists who departed for Kentucky and Tennessee. Their offspring later went further westward to Missouri and Texas. Grandson Jessie Walton made it to Texas.
  • while the younger children headed south to Georgia and later generations to Alabama and Florida.

William Penn Walton was born in Virginia in 1819 of uncertain parentage.  He was the forebear of Sam Walton, the man who started Walmart in Arkansas in 1962 and expanded it to the huge worldwide retail store that it is today.

The Waltons was a fictional American TV series that ran from 1972 to 1981 and focused on a family growing up in a rural Virginia community during the Great Depression and World War Two. These Waltons traced themselves back to the fictional Rome Walton who came and settled in what came to be known as Waltons Mountain in 1789.

Canada. Among the 102 emigrants from Alston in Cumberland on the Jason in 1818 departing to Canada with the promise of Government land grants were two Waltons, Robert and John. Joseph Walton from Alston settled with his family in Smith township in Peterborough county, Ontario a year later; while Thomas and Jane Walton made their home in Scarborough township.

New Zealand. Joseph and Mary Ann Walton and their son Joseph Lewis from Yorkshire came third class on the Empress to Auckland in 1865. Gordon Nicholls’ 1996 book A Walton Family History covered the son Joseph Lewis Walton (who died in 1925) and his contemporaries.

Alice Walton’s Family Ancestry

Alice Walton, the second richest woman in the world, is the daughter of Sam Walton, the man who made Walmart the giant company it is today.  The Walton story goes back to William Penn Walton who was born in Virginia and married Louisa Turley in Missouri in 1840.  Just click below if you want to read more about this history:

Walton Surname Miscellany

Izaak Walton and The Compleat Angler.  Izaak Walton was born in Stafford.  His father, an innkeeper, died before Izaak was three and his mother then married another innkeeper.

Walton had probably some schooling in Stafford, but he moved to London where he was apprenticed to a cloth merchant and then, for thirty years, was a proprietor of an ironmonger’s shop there.

Walton was a Royalist and did not feel safe in London during the Commonwealth. He consequently returned to live near his birthplace in Stafford.

He bought some land there, including a farm and a parcel of land at Shallowford.  Part of the attraction may have been that the Meece river, which he mentioned in one of his poems, formed part of its boundary.  Fishing and writing became his pastimes.  The first edition of The Compleat Angler came out in 1653.  Walton continued to add to it for the next twenty five years.

The Compleat Angler was a combination of manual and meditation.  “Angling may be said to be so like the mathematics that it can never be fully learnt.”  The work became one of the most reprinted books in the history of British letters.

It was characteristic of Walton’s kindly nature that he left his property at Shallowford for the benefit of the poor of his native town.  His thatched 16th century half-timbered cottage is now a museum commemorating his life. 

Waltons at Alston.  It was the elder Jacob Walton who bought the Walton family home of Greenends.  In 1817 he moved his wife Mary and their twelve children across the Nent valley to a long, rambling house then known as Nentsbury Green Ends.  Re-christened Greenends, it was to be the family home to successive Waltons for more than half a century.

Jacob the elder had risen from wielding his own pick to being an employer of a hundred miners.  While the old man was still alive his son Jacob seemed to have been very much in his shadow.

But as soon as Jacob the younger became the main “Jacob” in the Walton family, he became a real “adventurer.”  He had his hand in more than a dozen mines in the north Pennines and was undoubtedly the great entrepreneur and businessman of the family. He is commemorated by a stone and bronze memorial erected for him by his employees at Alston.  When he died at the age of 53 in 1863, it was generally agreed that he had worked himself into an early grave.

He left Greenends to his son John Pears.  But the Waltons were not destined to stay there much longer.  John’s new wife, Frances Belville, was a Londoner who was used to the bright lights and diversions of life in the capital.  Moving to Greenends – surrounded by moor and fell and a carriage-ride to the nearest village – proved too much of a culture shock.  In 1875 they uprooted to slightly more urban Acomb.

But Greenends was kept on for another fifty years as a much-loved holiday home, a hunting lodge where the family could relax while chivvying the local grouse.

Waltons in the 1891 English Census.  Walton is very much a northern name.  The three northern counties of Yorkshire, Lancashire and Durham accounted for just over half of the Walton population in England in the 1891 census.

County Numbers (000’s) Percent
Yorkshire    4.7    22
Lancashire    4.0    18
Durham    2.6    11
Elsewhere   11.0    49
Total   22.3

The Walton name was particularly evident in Alston, Cumberland and in Stanhope, Durham.  The largest numbers in Yorkshire were in Leeds, in Lancashire in Preston and Blackburn.

Reader Feedback – William George Walton and South Africa.  My ancestor was William George Walton, captain of the Nautilus ship which took settlers to South Africa.  He was born in 1795 and died in 1833.

Trevor Walton (trevor.walton66@gmail.com).

Henry Walton at a Slave Auction.  The following narrative was based on family reminiscences and embellished for readability.

“Bound hand and foot, the timid almost-teenage boy stepped on the block outside Market House in Fayetteville.  Henry High Walton, freshly delivered from Georgia by slave train, was the next to be sold to the highest bidder in North Carolina’s most active slave market.

Slaves adapted to all sorts of misery.  They could tolerate an evil master.  They endured brutal drivers.  They adjusted to working sun to sun with only food enough to sustain a squirrel. They endured the rod and whip as part of the evilness of slavery.  Not much in life shocked a slave and even less scared him – not even death.  Only one great fear hung like a storm-cloud over his head.  That was being separated from his family and sold to a distant owner.  Sold off was worse than dying.

A bad year for a Georgia plantation meant liquidation of assets, which meant young folks like Henry were stripped from their families, carted to Savannah in shackles then packed tightly into boxcars on a slave train for a long ride to be sold to other plantations where the adapting process would start over.  Being sold off was walking through fire to end up in hell.

One of those bad years visited central Georgia was 1841.  The cotton grew thin under a local drought, then a hailstorm in early fall ruined the standing crop.  Henry’s master could not meet his banknote without the liquidation of some of his major assets.  It made good sense to keep the men-slaves from mid-teens to late thirties, workers in their prime, and sell of most of the others. So Henry was on the block.

A young, fit slave would bring top dollar from a plantation wanting a strong back that could offer many years’ return on the investment.  Henry listened to the rhythm of the auctioneer as the bid went higher but he never looked up.  It was too depressing.  He was already depressed and missed his mama so much that his heart was heavier than a Georgia cotton bale.”

Jessie Walton, Texas Sheriff.  Jessie Walton, born in Virginia in 1807, moved west and south in stages – first to Tennessee and then to Arkansas and finally arriving in Texas in 1850.

Jessie bought a farm on Briar Creek in Navarro county in 1852.  He was elected Constable in 1854 and then served as Sheriff from 1855 to 1860.

He had scarcely time to get settled in office as sheriff when several men under indictment for the murder of a man by the name of Wells set fire to the courthouse in November 1855 in order to destroy the indictment records.  A wooden structure, it burned to the ground with only a few county clerk records saved. Runaway slaves and cattle thefts kept the sheriff busy after that.

Jessie later moved to Glen Rose in Texas where he is believed to have died in 1890.

Wesley Walton, Utah Pioneer.  Wesley Walton grew up in Maine and spent a few years in his father’s law office in Portland before being lured to California in 1872 by the gold rush stories.  He didn’t make it.  An illness caused him to remain in Salt Lake City.  There he met up with Brigham Roberts and they went prospecting west of Salt Lake in the Oquirrh mountains.  Brigham Roberts was a Mormon and converted Wesley to his faith.

In 1876 Wesley married Frances Huffaker and they moved north to a two-room log cabin that he had built at Woodruff in northern Utah.  Success came gradually in their sheep business and later in the breeding of purebred shorthorn cattle.  In 1890 Wesley had inherited land in Cottonwood where he built a new ranch.

“The banister down into the front hall was of beautiful wood and came down in a very graceful curve. All of the children and grandchildren found sliding down it irresistible.  The front hall was a large room with the walls decorated with the heads of many of the animals the boys had brought home from hunting.”

By the turn of the century the family was living between their two homes.  With thirteen children there was a twenty six year span in ages.  Most of the family stayed in Salt Lake during the winter and spent their summers at the ranch.

In early anticipation of Utah becoming a state, Wesley jumped right into the ring of politics. He became Chairman of the State Republican Committee, an honorary position he was to hold for thirty years, and had a say in the choice of the first Governor and Senator of the state.  Later he organized the Bank of Randolph and the Utah and Wyoming Independent Telephone Company. He was a state senator until his death in 1917.

Walton Names

  • Izaak Walton was the author of The Compleat Angler.
  • George Walton was a signer in 1776 of the Declaration of Independence. He later served as Georgia Governor and Senator.
  • Nancy Bird Walton was a pioneering Australian aviatrice.
  • Sir William Walton was an English composer who made his name in the 1920’s and 30’s.
  • Sam Walton was the founder of the ubiquitous retail chain Walmart. He opened his first store in Arkansas in 1962.

Walton Numbers Today

  • 38,000 in the UK (most numerous in Kent)
  • 26,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 12,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)

Walton 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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