AMONG the biographies of the Colonial period the only accounts of the Houstoun men are two short narratives by C. C. Jones, Jr., in his Biographical Sketches of the Delegates from Georgia to the Continental Congress, which, in the light of research, give only a hint of what the men of the Houstoun family contributed to early Georgia. There is scarcely a volume of the Colonial and of the Revolutionary Records of the State of Georgia, the histories, some manuscripts, and other source material that do not contain items of the deeds and written words of the subjects of this history.
Within the span of fifty years there lived in Georgia a father and five sons, each of whom entered public life and rendered service, according to his talents, to the king, to the Revolutionary cause, or to the molding of the state. I believe this can be said of no other Colonial family in Georgia. In every period of the state’s early history notable men, equally patriotic and gifted, served Georgia, meriting praise: friends and associates of the Houstouns, who had sons that succeeded them. No other father, however, except Sir Patrick Houstoun, Baronet, President of His Majesty’s Council, gave five sons to follow in his footsteps, each of whom played important roles of leadership, and who were conspicuous in their devotion to the colony, to the province, and to the state. Some of them extended their influence and their energies to national affairs.
When my sister, the late Eugenia Marion Johnston, and I began our research on the Houstouns in the spring of 1928, we had no idea what lay ahead of us. We were inexperienced and not too well-informed on Georgia history. We had in mind a book totally unlike a historical biography. Our intention, then, was to put consecutively in short paragraphs facts on the lives of the Houstouns in Georgia. As we delved deeper into our examination of records we decided that we had to change the character of our plan. As the years passed we found that the men’s lives were so involved in the economic, political, and civic life of Savannah and of the state that it was necessary to give, always, a historical background for each episode.
We started our research in the archives of Georgia, and from those records clues led us far afield, until by persistent research, and through correspondence both in this country and abroad, material was accumulated. By assembling facts concerning the Houstoun family of Georgia, we obtained valuable information from innumerable sources that helped to round out the story. I am confident that we have not exhausted all of the sources of information which might give the final record. While this is a history of a private family that lived in Savannah and on a near-by plantation, the background is Georgia history, necessarily so, but that has been made subservient to the life and work of the men of whom we have written.
It is not out of place, I think, to give the correct spelling and pronunciation of the name Houstoun as it is used in Georgia. We were informed, reliably, that in Scotland, it is pronounced “Hooseton”; in Georgia it has been, and is, pronounced “Houseton,” and not “Huseton.” The Colonial and the Revolutionary Records of the State of Georgia show the last syllable sometimes with the u and sometimes without it. Occasionally it was spelled “Howstown.”
An evaluation of the Houstoun family is given here by quoting from one of Georgia’s accredited historians, the Reverend George White, who, in his Statistics of the State of Georgia, wrote in 1849:
“The Houstouns are among the most ancient and reputable families in Georgia. The name often occurs in the history of our State, when under the direction of the Trustees, under Royal Government and after it had in connection with the other colonies declared itself independent. . . . Sir Patrick Houstoun was a prominent man under the Royal Government, being Register of Grants, and one of the Councillors when John Reynolds was Governor of Georgia.”
Edith Duncan Johnston.