Eaton History Eaton History


The historical trail of the surname de Eyton has emerged from the mists of time from research of ancient documents which record the first mention of the name de Eyton in Shropshire, England, otherwise known as Salop, where they were seated as Lords of the Manor. The first to hold this noted name was Robert de Eyton of Shrewsbury who lived in county Salop circa 1154. Robert de Eyton was seated as Lord of the Manor of Eyton-on-the-Wildmoors. His exact date of birth and parental line has yet to be determined, but records indicate he was the progenitor of a great line as branches of the Eyton family acquired other estates and manors throughout England and Wales. De Eytons were anciently seated at Eyton, Diddlestone, and Marshe. They also branched to many locations in Denbighshire including Eyton, Erddlis, Bersham and Rhiwabon. Of this branch, Sir John distinguished himself on Bosworth Field.[1]

Conflicts sometimes found family in opposing camps with conflicting interests and, as such, we find the family referred to as Eyton, Eyghton, Eiton, Eytone and other such variations. In many cases it may be difficult to prove that one family was related by blood to another as historical references often were more concerned with property and position than kin and, unless an heiress, maternal lines were seldom recorded. To make our job even more difficult, many changes in spelling were accidental, some were deliberate to declare a cause or to distance a branch from the main stem, but most followed the traditional Norman custom which did not allow sons to bear the family name until after the death of the father. We, therefore, find fathers and sons by different surnames, and brothers taking names from their maternal line and/or from location sites, as is the case with Eyton. Upon the death of the father, the new heir would then change his name to the family name, again making our ability to trace any one individual to his siblings or other kin more difficult. We have, however, been able to trace many of the generations of the de Eyton descendants through various property and historical records provided by noted historians such as R. W. Eyton, Morris and Burke and have learned that, although our Eyton families later migrated throughout England, at least one of the original Eyton-on-the-Wildmoor families remained in old Salop for generations; in 1394, John de Eyton was Sheriff of Salop; his brother, Humphrey Eyton, was Ranger of the Forest of Wrekin and Wildmoors; Sir Nicholas Eyton was Sheriff of Salop in 1440 and Knight of the Shire in 1449; Thomas Eyton was Sheriff in 1567; Sir Philip Eyton was High Sheriff of Salop in 1633; Sir Thomas Eyton was knighted at Shrewsbury in 1642 and his son, Rev. John Eyton, was Rector of Eyton and Vicar of Wellington; Thomas Eyton was High Sheriff of Salop in 1741 and another Thomas Eyton was High Sheriff of Salop in 1779.[2]

Although, each Coat of Arms differed slightly from sibling to sibling and generation to generation, research has determined the following rendering to be an ancient Coat of Arms for the family surname de Eyton. The description of this shield reads, "Ermine with a blue lion."[3]

Many families had by this time come to be known by the more modern Eaton spelling and, although we are still investigating the connections of these Eatons to our Robert, the family surname of Eaton is shown in the ancient manuscripts and cartularies as tracing their ancestry to Anglo Saxon origin. This notable family emerged primarily in the county of Cheshire where they were recorded as a family of great antiquity seated at Blackden with manor and estates in that shire. They flourished in that county acquiring Tolethorpe Hall in Rutland and Chapell Bar in Nottingham. Meanwhile, the main branch of the family was seated at Eaton in Cheshire where they erected Eaton Hall and acquired Messing Park and Stretchworth Park. Most notable were the Eatons of Eaton Hall. Many of the later Eaton families settled for a time in Kent, and these families were the progenitors of several branches that came to the New World.

Research has determined the following rendering to be one of the ancient Coat of Arms recorded for the family surname of Eaton. Its description reads, "Silver and black with a cross counterchanged" and its crest is a lion. The use of this arms was recorded during 12th and 15th centuries.[3]

During the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, England was ravaged by religious and political conflict. Protestants, the newly found political fervor of Cromwell's followers, and the vestiges of the Church of Rome rejected all but the most loyal. As each group gained power during those turbulent times, others were persecuted and exiled, losing their titles, estates and status, and many families were freely encouraged to migrate to Ireland and the Colonies. Some were given grants of lands, while the less fortunate became indentured servants.

During the 17th century, the great migrations from Europe were primarily focused on the New World. These unsettling times were disturbing, but the New World beckoned the adventurous. Many descendants of the early de Eytons and/or Eatons sailed aboard the armada of small sailing ships known as the White Sails which plied the stormy Atlantic. These overcrowded ships lost many of the newcomers to disease and the elements, and many never made it to shore. But those hardy few who survived soon settled in the eastern seaboards of Newfoundland, Massachusetts, Maine, Virginia, and the Carolinas. According to research conducted by the Hall of Names in Ontario, as well as historical records of our many ancestors, among the first families to the Colonies were Francis Eaton, his wife Sarah and son Samuel who arrived on the Mayflower and settled in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1620; John Eaton of Dedham, John Eaton of Haverhill, Jonas Eaton of Reading, Nathaniel Eaton of Cambridge and William Eaton of Reading who settled in New England from 1630 to 1640; Theophilus Eaton with wife Anne and children Mary, Samuel, and Theophilus who arrived on the Hector and settled first in Boston in 1638 and finally New Haven, Connecticut; Alexander Eaton who settled in Boston, Massachusetts in 1651; William Eaton who settled in North Carolina about 1670; Thomas Eaton who settled in Shrewsbury, New Jersey in 1670; Eliza Eaton who settled in Pennsylvania in 1682; and John, George and Edward Eaton who settled in Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania from 1683 to 1686. In a study conducted by Miss Flossie Martin in response to a request by former Association members and reported in the March 1935 issue of the Etonian, early Virginia settlers came at or near the mouth of the James River and include Nathanial Eaton circa 1635; Samuel Eaton to James City Co. circa 1635; Peter Eaton to New Norfolk Co. in 1637; Henry Eaton to the Isle of Wight Co. in 1638; Peter Eaton to the Isle of Wight Co. in 1652 and George Eaton to Lancaster Co. in 1654. Their descendants scattered far and wide throughout the South and Middle West.

Soon the East coast ports became overcrowded and some were closed to all but freemen, so once again the families began their migrations joining wagon trains trekking their way westward through the prairies and to the west coast. As new land grants became available in the New World, the hardiest of our forefathers once again proved their mettle and became instrumental in founding a great new nation.

Other Eatons found their way to New Zealand, the European continent and Nova Scotia. The settling of Nova Scotia was referred to as "A second Eaton migration" according to the January 1951 issue of the Etonian News.
"The second migration was from New England to Nova Scotia. This was in 1760 and was doubtless the result of a proclamation in 1758 by the Governor of Nova Scotia to the effect that now was 'a favorable opportunity for the peopling and cultivation of the land vacated by the French' in 1755. This, and other proclamations, aroused great interest in the American colonies . . . In this migration was David Eaton of the fifth generation of John and Anne of Salisbury and Haverhill, MA, son of James and grandson of Jonathan, who, after removal from Haverhill to Tolland, CT, embarked at New London for Nova Scotia, with his wife, Deborah White, whom he had married at Coventry, CT, ten years previously. He settled in Cornwallis in the County of Kingo. Here he lived until his death July 17, 1803 and from this family, Nova Scotia and Canada were richly endowed by a long line of able and substantial citizens."
More about this family can be found in Rev. Arthur Wentworth Hamilton Eaton's, The Eaton Family of Nova Scotia, published in 1929.

The earliest of these Canadian settlers were referred to as "planters," and their migrations began mid-18th century. Another great influx to Canada was during the American War of Independence, when loyalists made their way north and became known as the United Empire Loyalists. Most were displaced farmers and cityfolk who incurred the wrath of their friends and neighbours. UEL's started trickling into Canada about 1774, soon after the Boston Tea Party (December 1773), and continued until the cessation of hostilities. The largest migration of refugees was in 1783 when 20,000 soldiers and their families settled in Nova Scotia alone. Other settlements included New Brunswick, Quebec, and Ontario. These grants of land, many along the banks of the St. Lawrence River and in the Niagara Penisula, were distributed to the refugees; the amount of land depending upon the location.

To mention but a few distinguished contributors during this period would include Cyrus Eaton, Industrialist, whose "planter" ancestors predate the UELs by more than 20 years. This "Nova Scotia Eaton" descended from John Eton of Haverhill and Salisbury. Another was Timothy Eaton, a visionary industrialist, who originally came from Ireland to join family members already in Southern Ontario and founded the Canadian department store chain known as "Eaton's" and his first successor, his son, John Craig Eaton, who was knighted for his contributions to the WWI war effort.

The task before us could be considered by many to be daunting, but in respect to these brave pioneers, it is our duty and our privilege to take up the gauntlet and remember them well. The job of our Association will be to study, research, track and trace our heritage, to follow the paths these great men and women forged and in the process of discovering our roots, let us remember that not one of us stands alone. We are all part of one another, and as we learn about our new cousins throughout our troubled world, let us never forget the strength and greatness of family. The heritage left to us by Robert de Eyton has provided us with a link which is worldwide, but brings us together and makes us one. Let us take this great journey of discovery together and, in the spirit of global unity, let us leave our children a truly memorable legacy lest it soon be forgotten.

[1] The facts have been documented in such manuscripts as the ancient Harleian Manuscripts archived in the British Museum. Harleian Manuscripts are the records of the "Visitations" (the investigation of heralds) of English and Welsh families. The manuscripts were complied from about 1530 to the close of the 17th century. Over 30,000 families registered their lineage which are now housed in the British Museum in London. The distinguished surname de Eyton was recorded in MS 1982, 1241, 1396 and 1982 (in various folios) as well as others. It was also recorded in the Domesday Book compiled in 1086 A.D. by William I of Normandy who was King of England, the Ragman Rolls (1291-1296) which was a record of homage rendered to King Edward I, the Curia Regis Rolls, the Pipe Rolls, the Hearth Rolls, parish registers, baptismal, marriage, obituary and tax records as well as royal lineage accounts and writings by various renowned historians and authors.
[2] Burke's The Landed Gentry.
[3] Hall of Names International, Inc., Kingston, Ontario