THE HERITAGE OF THE GEORGIA HOUSTOUNS
SCOTTISH knights, earls, and lairds were the forebears of the Houstouns of Georgia. Patrick Houstoun, founder of the family in America, sailed for Savannah within a year of the establishment of the colony in 1733. He came from a long line of knights dating back to the twelfth century, and his inherited title, which he did not obtain until after twenty years’ residence in Georgia, was conferred upon his grandfather, Sir Patrick Houstoun, Kt., by Charles II, when he was created first baronet in 1668.
The family of Houstoun in Scotland traces its name to Hugo de Padvinan, from Normandy, who obtained a grant of the barony of Kilpeter from “Baldwin de Bigres, Vice-comes de Lanark, i. e. Baldwin of Bigger, Sheriff of Lanark,” in the reign of Malcolm IV (1153-65).1 When names become fixed and hereditary “they are the most ancient which are derived from baronies and lands, and when these lands have only been enjoyed by the same family, it is manifest proof, that that name and family is of great antiquity.”2 The only other extant record of Hugo de Padvinan shows that he was one of the “witnesses” to Walter, high steward of Scotland’s foundation charter of the Abbey of Paisley, about the year 1160.
Hugo’s son, Sir Reginald, who succeeded him, obtained his lands of Kilpeter from Walden, the son of Baldwin of Bigar. From Walter, the high steward of Scotland, Sir Hugh, the son of Sir Reginald, received a confirmation of his grandfather’s and father’s lands. Sir Hugh was a benefactor to the monks of Paisley by bestowing upon them, in 1225, an annuity of “half a Merk” out of his lands of Achinhoss. The successor of Sir Hugh, his son Sir Finley de Houstoun, who lived in the reign of Alexander III, subscribed to the bond of submission to Edward I of England, commonly called Ragman Roll, in 1296.3 Sir Finley was designated chevalier.
From those ancient Houstoun barons descended, in the reign of James II of Scotland, Sir Patrick Houstoun, Knight. He married Maria Colquhoun. He died in 1450 and his wife in 1456. He left a son and heir, Sir John, who died the same year as his father. By his wife, Ann Campbell, he left a son, Sir Peter Houstoun, who was with James IV at the battle of Flodden and who was killed September 9, 1513. Sir Peter married Helen Shaw “of an ancient family”; and their son, Sir Patrick, who obtained his knighthood from James IV, was associated with John, Earl of Lennox, in rescuing the Prince out of the custody of the Earls of Arran and Angus. Sir Patrick was slain at Avon near the town of Linlithgow in 1526, leaving a son by Janet Cunningham, “his lady.” John, who was his son and heir, obtained a charter of Barons of Houstoun from James V in 1528. His wife was Agnes Hopepringle, a daughter of Hopepringle of Torsance, and he died in 1542, to be succeeded by his son Patrick, who was knighted by James VI. By his wife, another Janet Cunningham, Patrick had four sons and five daughters. Janet Cunningham was the daughter of Gabriel Cunningham of Craigsends. Sir Patrick Houstoun died in 1605, and his son John succeeded him. Sir John Houstoun, Kt., married Margaret, daughter of Sir James Stirling of Kier, and died in 1609. Their son, Sir Ludowick, Kt., married Margaret, daughter of Peter Maxwell of Newark by whom he had Patrick, his successor, and George, first of the Houstouns of Johnstone, and several daughters. Sir Ludowick died in 1662.
Sir Patrick, the son of Sir Ludowick, was a baron “of ample fortune” and was advanced by Charles II to the degree of baronet, his patent bearing date at Whitehall the last day of February, 1668. Before his father’s death Patrick had married the Honourable Anna Hamilton, daughter of Sir John Hamilton who was created first Lord Bargany in the Peerage of Scotland, November 16, 1641.4 Sir John matriculated at Glascow University in 1624 as Sir John Hamilton of Bargame, and in 1635 he was commissioner to prevent the spread of plague and was served heir-general to his father April 23, 1642. Sympathetic to the Royalist cause during England’s Civil War, Sir John, both a Horse and Foot Colonel, accompanied in 1649 the Duke of Hamilton on the “Expedition” into England. He was captured and upon his release from prison a year later went to the Netherlands. In 1651 he returned to Scotland with Prince Charlie. Captured a second time by the Cromwellian forces, Lord Bargany was imprisoned in the Tower. Released in 1652, he acquired during the next year the barony of Monktoun from James, Earl of Abercorn. Hardly a model subject in the eyes of the Lord Protector, Lord Bargany was excluded from the Act of Grace of April 12, 1654.5 When the Stuart line was restored to the English throne in 1660, Sir John Hamilton was doubtless relieved. Two years after the Restoration he married Lady Jean Douglas, daughter of Sir William Douglas. In 1668 Lord Bargany died.
The Honourable Anna Hamilton’s lineage was distinguished. She was the great-great-granddaughter of the second Earl of Arran; and was sixth in descent from the Princess Mary Stewart (daughter of James II, of Scotland) who married in 1469, under Papal dispensation, Sir James, first Lord Hamilton (1415-1479). He became one of the most trusted friends and counsellors of James III. By his marriage to “the king’s sister, the house of Hamilton gained a great position, and became the nearest family to the throne.”6 The grandson of Lord Hamilton, James, second Earl of Arran and first Duke of Chatelberault, accompanied James V on his “matrimonial expedition” to France in 1536, and when the king died on December 14, 1542, a few days before the birth of his daughter Mary (1542-1579), Lord Hamilton was chosen governor of the realm during the minority of the infant queen. On “March 13, 1542/3, an act of State declared the Earl to be the second person in the kingdom and heir to the throne, failing the young Queen, to whom he was appointed tutor.”7
Sir Patrick Houstoun, first baronet, and his wife, Anna Hamilton, were the parents of five sons and four daughters: John, who succeeded to the title; Patrick; William; James; and Archibald; Margaret; Ann; Joan; and Henrietta.8 Sir Patrick died in 1696. Lady Houston, it is said, was so frightened by the soldiers during the “convenanting troubles” that she “fell in a fever and died a few days later,”9 May 3, 1678.
On the death of his father Sir Patrick Houstoun, first baronet, inherited the estate prior to receiving his title in 1668. The castle and barony of Houstoun on the river Guise was situated on an eminence which “afforded a very agreeable prospect of most of the shire.” In 1710 the historian Crawfurd described the barony as “a large court which . . . has a most beautiful avenue fronting . . . the castle, regularly planted, and has orchards, gardens and a park equal to many in this part of the kingdom, with delectable woods surrounding almost the house.”10 It was a “real fortification,” and formed a complete square, with an extensive area on the inside. “There was a large and very high tower on the north west corner which was the oldest part of the building with a lower house joined to the east end of the tower, having vaults below and a long and wide paved hall above, with antique windows in the front and without plaster on the roof. The timbers of the roof were arched and made of massive oak. On the front to the south were two turrets, between which was the grand entry into the area, arched above and secured by a portcullis. Over the door and entrance of one of the wings was inscribed:
|Anno. 16||Dom. 25|
|The blessing of God rest upon this house|
and familie, making us to do thy will, O Lord,—
For the just live by faith.—Heb. 10.11
OLD WING OF HOUSTOUN CASTLE, FACING AREA, RENFREWSHIRE, SCOTLAND
Connected with the castle was the parish church of Houston where, as early as 1450, the Houstoun knights and their ladies were interred. A “fair monument” was erected to the memory of Sir Patrick Houstoun, who died in 1450, and to his wife. The inscription is in Latin:
Hic jacet Patricius Houstoun de
eodem, miles, qui obit anno
Et D. Maria Colquhoun, spousa dicti
domini Patricius quae obit
Sir Patrick’s son and successor was also entombed in the chapel “under a canopy of freestone with the effigies of himself and his lady as big as the life; about the verge of which tomb is the inscription in Saxon capitals:
The effigy, representing Sir John Houstoun, “is dressed in a coat of mail, his head lying on a pillow and his feet on a lion, with wide mouth holding a lamb in his paws under him, the image of the lady is dressed in grave clothes neatly cut in stone, both hands elevated as in a praying or supplicating posture.”15
Among the many Houstouns buried in the chapel was Lady Anna Houstoun, wife of Sir Patrick Houstoun, first baronet. On her tomb was inscribed:
Hic Sita est Domina Hamilton dilectissma Patricii
Houstoun deodem Baronetti Conjux suo quae obit
tertio die idus Maias anno Salutis parta Milesimo
Sexcentessimo et Septuagesimo octavo.16
The Houstoun coat-of-arms is described by Crawfurd: “The coat armorial of this ancient family is or, a chevron checquie azure and argent, betwixt three martlets sable, supported by two hinds [rampart—a broken column] and for crest a sand-glass [inverted with the sands running out] and with this motto, ‘In time’.”17 The story of the origin of the emblem is that at an early period in the history of the Houstouns, “John Houstoun [?] with a body of soldiers reinforced a broken column, and for his courage and unexampled energy was knighted on the field of battle. The grey hounds or hinds indicate the fleetness of his command in coming to the rescue; the last sands of the hour glass, the perilous extremity of the army; and the motto, ‘In time’, the victory.”18
Sir Patrick Houstoun, first baronet, was succeeded by his son John, who married Lady Ann Drummond. Their son, John, who became the third baronet married Lady Mary Shaw, and their son, John, fourth baronet, married the Honourable Eleanor Cathcart, daughter of Charles, Lord Cathcart. When Sir John Houstoun, fourth baronet, died in 1751, without male issue, the title reverted to his cousin, Patrick (son of Patrick, the second son of the first baronet), who was then living in Georgia, in America.
Before the Georgia Houstoun received his title, the barony of Houstoun was sold, and finally became the property of James McRae, governor of Bombay, in the East Indies, who left the estate to James M’Guire, of Ayrshire; and his son “in 1780-81 demolished the manor or castle of Houstoun, and applied the stones thereto to the building of a new town. . . . “19 In April, 1782, the barony of Houstoun was alienated to Alexander Speirs, Esq., of Elderslee.
When the parishes of Houstoun and Killellan were united in 1771, a larger church was needed, and in 1774 a new building was erected on the same site. It is thought some parts of the old chapel were incorporated in the new church. In 1874, however, the building, which had stood for a hundred years, was torn down, and a new one was built as a memorial to Captain Speirs of Elders-lee.20
1. William Semple, The History of tho Shire of Renfrew. . . . Brought from the earliest accounts to the year MDCCX by Mr. George Crawfurd: And continued to the Present Period (Paisley, MDCCLXXXII), 102.
2. Ibid.. 103.
4. Sir James Balfour Paul, The Scots Peerage (Edinburgh, 1904-1914), II, 28.
5. Lieutenant George Hamilton, A History of the House of Hamilton (Edinburgh, 1933), 104.
6. Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee, eds., Dictionary of National Biography (New York, London, 1908), VIII, 1046.
7. Ibid., 1042.
8. Semple, 106.
9. Hamilton, A History of the House of Hamilton, 104.
10. Ibid., 102.
11. Houstoun Family Papers owned by James Patrick Houstoun, Jr., of Houston, Texas. In the summer of 1934, through correspondence with the Reverend George Muir, minister of the old parish of Houston and Killellan, the author learned that Mr. A. A. Hagart Speirs was the owner of Houstoun house. Mr. Speirs kindly sent a photograph of the old wing, which, however, is not the oldest part, and also one of the new building attached to the wing.
12. Semple, 103.
13. Semple evidently made an error in copying, as the previous paragraph mentions Sir John who was the husband of Ann Campbell.
14. Semple, 104.
15. Houstoun Family Papers. In 1934, Mr. Muir wrote of the effigies, which have survived: “these have been mounted on a large slab, and are housed in a special chamber which was built to contain them. They are in excellent preservation, and have been much admired by several experts.”
16. Mr. Muir wrote of the tomb: “There is also a mural tablet in this chamber, a memorial to Lady Anna Hamilton, the wife of Sir Patrick Houstoun. Some of the figures are unfortunately somewhat mutilated and the inscription is now difficult to read.”
17. Semple, 105.
18. Houstoun Family Papers.
19. Semple, The History of the Shire of Renfrew, 106.
20. Letter from the Reverend George Muir, of Scotland, July 14, 1934.
General Sam Houston (1793-1863), of Texas, came from Scotch-Irish descent. In the Houston Post, April 24, 1916, the genealogy of General Houston is given as being of Scotch-Irish descent and shows that his line goes back only to 1450. The genealogy was compiled by F. M. Houston of Bourbon County, Kentucky. He gives Robert House Son of Ireland as the ancestor who may have been a second or third son of the knighted Houstouns. He was born in Dublin in 1450, and his lineal descendant, Alfred, who was born in 1752, came to Jamestown, Virginia, and changed his name to Houston. He was an ancestor of General Houston, who was born in Rockbridge County, Virginia, in 1793.