Person:William Houston (14)

William Houston
Facts and Events
Name William Houston
Gender Male


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Will of William Houston
Horle, Craig H. 1997-2005. Lawmaking and Legislators in Pennsylvania:A Biographical Dictionary


Notebook:William Houston (14)
Notebook:Houston's of Old Chester County, PA
Notebook:Anthony Houston (1)
Timeline:Anthony Houston (1)


William Huston was born in Cotreaoch Manor, Wigtonshire, Scotland. William is almost certainly the son of a William Houston and Agnes Stewart of Whitehorn, in Wigtonshire Scotland, who appear in the 1684 roll of Whitehorn; the list of children in this household matches well with the brothers and sisters identified in his will [1]

William the son, could have been born no later than 1672, since the tax rolls only reported persons of 12 years of age or older. He was most likely the eldest child (given his place in the family name order on tax roll). Since his brothers and sisters mentioned in the tax role were also above 12 years of age, and allowing two years between their births, we can guess that William was born no later than than c1660, allowing two years of age between children, viz:

ChildEstimated age*
in 1784
Latest possible DOB
William Houstoune241660
Georg Houstoune*221662
Anthony Houstoune201664
Kathrine Houstoune181666
Mary Houstoune151668
Jane Houstoune141670
Margrett Houstoune 121672

*This analysis assumes that the listing of children in the parish roll is in "birth order", and that it just happens that the first three children are boys, and the last four are girls. It seems likely that William is indeed the eldest son, but its possible that one of his sisters, listed later in the parish rolls, was in fact older than he. as a result these DOB's are highly speculative.
**In his will William identifies Anthony as his "dear and only brother". From this we can conclude either that George Houston in the 1684 parish roll was either a) not William's brother, but another family relation, or b) preceased his brothers William and Anthony. If George was not William's brother, than the parent of the other children (and even William himself) is brought into question.</nowiki>

In his will, William described himself as "William Houstoun, sometime Merchant Burgess of Whithorn and burgosse and gild brother of The City of Glasgow both in Scotland". He may have come to the colony from London, where his brother Anthony was in business as a furrier[2]By the time he immigrated to Delaware, sometime before 1700, William was an established merchant. Source:Horle, 1997 notes that:

Howston probably arrived at New Castle in 1696, bringing with him sufficient funds to buy what was apparently a fully-equipped household; in addition to "a tract of land in Town with housing," his purchase included "a negroe woman, a Cow, & Cafe, a horse &c." When the penny-per-pound tax passed by that year's Assembly was assessed, Howston's property was rated at a substantial £300.
That he was well respected, (something with which his wealth may have had something to do) is attested to be the fact that not long after his arrival he was elected to the Pennsylvania State Assembly from the "lower counties". According to Source:Horle, 1997:
On two occasions in the spring of 1699, the freeholders of the county had refused to elect representatives to the Assembly. Houston was elected at a special polling in January 1700 held when William Penn, under pressure from the English authorities to enact legislation to suppress piracy and illegal trade, summoned a second session of the 1699 Assembly. Cornelius Empson and John Grubb complained that they and other inhabitants along Brandywine Creek had not been notified of this election, but the return of delegates was allowed to stand. Houston represented his county on a committee appointed to work with a committee of the Provincial Council on a bill to prevent illegal trade. When the bill was finally passed, he was one of seven assemblymen to carry it to the proprietor for his approval. With Anthony Morris, Isaac Norris, and Nehemiah Field, he was also appointed to confer with the Council about the appointment of a receiver and about the upcoming spring election. Houston was reelected at that polling, but his known activity in the spring 1700 Assembly was limited to carrying a bill to William Penn, in company with John Swift, to extend the length of the session. That Assembly failed in its attempts at constitutional revision and ended by surrendering the Frame of Government to the proprietor.

Few details of his life after the completion of his Assembly career are known.

William patented a tract in New Castle, adjacent to the Commons, in 1703, selling it three years later to John French, the county sheriff. He also acquired 300 acres in the county on the south side of Christina Creek.

Although a Presbyterian, he contributed £2 10s toward the construction of an Anglican church in New Castle. Also, he was involved in a protracted, five-year legal dispute apparently stemming from a debt that he was unable to collect. He took the matter to the governor and Council on two occasions when he failed to derive satisfaction in court. He also apparently spent an extended period "Deprived of his Liberty" as a result of co-signing a marriage bond to Governor John Evans for John French. The bond stipulated that French was to be married in an Anglican ceremony. When, instead, French was married by a Presbyterian minister, Evans sued Houston for payment of the bond, obtained judgment against him, and had him taken into custody for refusing to pay. Houston's brother Anthony complained to William Penn, who saw the case as inconsistent with freedom of conscience in the colony and ordered Evans's successor, Charles Gookin, to cancel the bond and have Howston set at liberty.

Howston drafted his will on 25 May 1707; he probably died shortly before its probate, on 11 December 1711. No inventory of his property has been located. He bequeathed all his real and personal estate in Scotland to his three sisters, his 300 acres on Christina Creek to the Reverend John Wilson and his successors, "Prisbitorians ministors of New Castle for ever and ever after," as a glebe for their support, and £150 sterling to be paid to the 13-year-old son of one Sarah Hows "living in South warke near London" at age 21. Howston left the remainder of his estate in Europe or America to his brother Anthony.

[1] CNC, 2:220; NCMW, 1:178–79; Gibson, Essays, 205, 208; Prop. E, 187, bundle B3.

[2] CNC, 2:220; MPTLC, 53–54; NCMW, 1:178–79; PATBk. A, 2:538–40; NCDBk. G, 1:433–35; PWP, 4:540n [3] MPTLC, 69; MPC, 1:570, 589–90, 613; Votes, 1 (pt. 1):109, 112, 115, 117–18; PLAD, 2:372, 382. [4] Holcomb, 45; MPC, 1:576–77, 2:127, 494–95, 504 [5] Gibson, Essays, 208; NCMW, 1:178–79; Statutes, 3:225–28

William Houston immigrated to Delaware sometime before 1704, when a resurvey of the New Castle Commons shows him as a landowner adjacent to the commons. His will [3] identifies him as a "sometime merchant, Burgess[4] of Whitehorn, Burgess and guild brother of the City of Glasgow[5], both in Scotland." His will mentions his sisters: Janet, Katherine, Agnes, Mary, and his "dearest and only brother Anthony, of London, wife Rebecca Lackerman, sons Abraham and Matthew, and daughter Mary. </ref>

Personal Data

Personal Data
DOB:before 1672at least 12 yrs of age when listed in 1684 parish roll
POB:Whitehorn, Wigtonshire, Scotlandinferred from statement in will that he was a Burgess of Whitehorn, in Scotland
DOD:1707-1711Will date, probate date
Father:Person:William Houston (13)See Overview above
Mother:Agnes StewartSee Overview above
Spouse:Not marriedNeither a Wife or Children are mentioned in will
Children (No Children listed in Will)
Name DOB POB DOD POD Spouse DOM POM Dispersion and Notes



  1. See Ancestry. The 1684 roll for Whitehorn, Wigtonshire] identifies a William Houston and wife Agnes Stewart, with the following children:
    William Houstoune, elder
    and yor.
    Agnes Stewart, w.
    Georg Houstoune, s
    Anthony Houstoune, s.
    Kathrine Houstoune, d.
    Mary Houstoune, d.
    Jane Houstoune, d.
    Margrett Houstoune d.
  2. Or perhaps that's "farrier", a different trade altogether. Transcriptions on this point seem to conflict, with some identifying him as a "furrier" (one who deals in furs), and others as a "farrier" (one who shoes horses).
  3. See Notebook:William Houston (14)
  4. A burgess in English law was originally simply a person who lived in a particular town ("burg"), but later seems to have become something like a qualified voter, and/or "a respectable person"; in some cases it takes on the sense of "elected representative", but in this context it seems more likely that the term simply designates him as an upright member of the community.
  5. It seems likely that the guild to which he belonged was the "Merchants Guild". Such a guild existed in Glasgow at the time, and indeed continues in existence today, though now it is more of a charitable organization. It seems likely that guild records of the period survive, and might identify guild members of the period.