Even though these surnames share the same Scottish origin, the family crests are distinct and different. “Hutchins”, “Hutchings” and “Hutchinson” are variations of a name first used by Viking settlers in ancient Scotland, all derived from a diminutive form of Hugh, or “Huchon.” “Hutchinson” would, of course, mean “son of Hugh.”
According to the web site “Forbears” these surnames are distributed as follows: Hutchings is found in the south and west of England, mainly Somerset, while Hutchinson is confined to the north, especially County Durham and frequent in Northumberland, Cumberland and in North and East Ridings.
During the reign of Edward III (1327-1377) records mention John Huchoun of Somerset and Isota Huchon of Wiltshire. Willelmus Huchon was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379. Later, similar names appear in Scotland: James Huchonsone (Glasgow, 1454); John Huchonson (Aberdeen, 1466); William Huchison (Ardmanoch, 1504). Two brothers, George and Thomas Hutcheson, founded a hospital in Glasgow in the 1600’s.1 Spelling variations include: Hutcheon, Hutchon, Houchin, MacCutcheon, MacQuestion and many more.2
Update: I received some comments on this article which shed more light on this surname, its origins and its variations. Please refer to those comments made on 05 May 2016 below. One thing I’ve found when researching surnames — everyone has an opinion as to origin and the sources I used originally may or may not have correctly represented the origins of the surname (one reason why I don’t do many Surname Saturday articles of late). I have also updated the paragraph above with two footnotes (at the time I wrote the article I did not have footnote capability). Originally, the article was written as part of a six-story arc on The Last Men of the Revolution (see William Hutchings below). Thanks to the reader who stopped by and commented to shed more light on this surname. — Sharon Hall (05 May 2016)
Following are the stories of a few American families bearing these surnames. I include a story of an early Hutchins just because of his unusual forename. Also included is the story of one of the remaining six veterans of the Revolutionary War who were photographed and interviewed for Reverend Elias Hillard’s 1864 book, The Last Men of the Revolution.
Strangeman Hutchins was born circa 1707 in Henrico County, Virginia. There are several traditions surrounding the birth, location, parentage and naming of Strangeman. His father Nicholas had two wives and it is believed that Strangeman’s mother was named Mary Watkins. Some believe that the Hutchins family first came to the Virginia colony in 1625. Strangeman’s name was possibly derived from an ancestor’s surname (Polly Strangeman).
Nevertheless, records indicate that Nicholas and his family were Quakers and members of the Henrico Monthly Meeting at Curles. Family historians point to the fact that their family was known as “birth right Quakers.” In 1731 Strangeman married Elizabeth Cox, born in 1713 and the daughter of Richard and Mary Cox.
Strangeman and Elizabeth had eleven children: Mary, Edith, John, Nicholas, Elizabeth, Obedience (“Biddy”), Thomas, Jane, Milla, Lydia and Benjamin. Soon after their marriage they relocated to Goochland County and remained there until 1785 when he moved to North Carolina at the age of seventy-eight. In preparation for the move to North Carolina, he disposed of his land and also freed twelve slaves.
He was a prominent member of the Friends Church and either a minister or an elder of the church. At the time of the Revolutionary War, Strangeman was of an advanced age, and of course his faith would have precluded battlefield service even if he had been younger. Records uncovered later proved he furnished supplies during the war, making him a “recognized patriot” and his descendants eligible for membership into either the S.A.R. (Sons of the American Revolution) or D.A.R. (Daughters of the American Revolution).
In October of 1791, Strangeman became ill and lingered until February of the following year. He passed away on February 10, 1792 in Surry County, North Carolina. His will directed his son Benjamin to oversee the distribution of his worldly goods to his wife and children. It is believed that Elizabeth lived to be one hundred and three years old.
The Hutchinson Family Singers
One family historian referred to them as the “tribe of Jesse.” From the beginning they were a musical family. According to A Brief Narrative of the Hutchinson Family: Sixteen Sons and Daughters of the “Tribe of Jesse,” they were “farmers by profession, musicians by ‘incident,’ the father possessing a rare baritone, and the mother a sweet and mellow contralto voice.
Jesse and Mary “Polly” Hutchinson had a large family, she bearing sixteen children over twenty-nine years: Jesse (tragically killed at age nine); David; Noah; Mary (died at age four); Andrew; Zephaniah; Caleb; Joshua (Caleb’s twin); Jesse (the second); Benjamin; Judson; Rhoda; John; Asa; Elizabeth (died at age four); Abby.
In 1840, John founded the Hutchinson Family Singers (John, Judson, Jesse and Asa) and the group soon became one of America’s most popular entertainers. Later Jesse left the singing group to write songs and Abby, with her contralto voice, took his place.
They sang in four-part harmony with a repertoire that ranged from political to comic to dramatic works. The Hutchinson family were of the Baptist faith and later took up the controversial causes of abolition, temperance and women’s rights. They would write their own lyrics set to the music of well-known melodies and church hymns. At temperance meetings they would perform “King Alcohol” and their song “Old Granite State” paid tribute to their New Hampshire roots.
When leading abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison rose to prominence in 1843, the family began to sing anti-slavery songs. One song’s lyrics, “Get Off the Track,” were re-written using the tune of “Old Dan Tucker” to support emancipation. In 1843 they informally adopted the name “Tribe of Jesse.”
In 1845 the family toured abroad in England with Frederick Douglass. Other members of the family (Caleb, Joshua, Rhoda and Zephaniah) toured in the States under the name “Home Branch of the Hutchinson Family.” Apparently that must have caused a rift in the family, since after the main group’s return from England, the “Home Branch” ceased to exist.
Eventually the family split into two other ensembles: Tribe of John and Tribe of Asa – Asa to the western part of the country and John to the eastern part of the country, performing for the Union Army during the Civil War. Sadly, Judson committed suicide by hanging in 1859 in the cellar of John’s home.
One historian, Scott Gac, notes that after Abby married and “retired” in 1849, the group devolved into a “bickering band of brothers.” Their choice of lyrics would become increasingly more controversial with the nation divided over the issue of slavery. In addition to Judson’s suicide, it was noted that Asa died in near poverty in the 1880’s and it’s possible John may have also committed suicide in 1908. Their popularity as family singers began to wane in the 1850’s, but their family history, intertwined with that of the volatile mid-nineteenth century, was a fascinating one.
William Hutchings was born on October 6, 1764 in York County, Maine (although at the time it was Massachusetts). He was one of the subjects of Reverend Elias Hillard’s book, The Last Men of the Revolution. At the time of his interview he was one hundred and one years old.
His family moved to Penobscot when William was four years old. The Hutchings family was among the earliest settlers of that region, remaining there for several years. They endured hardship, and at times when food was scarce, William dug clams for their meals. About the time the family began to prosper, however, the British invaded and took the neighboring town of Castine. Charles, William’s father, fled to Newcastle, but at the age of fifteen William enlisted to serve in defense of Maine, the only service he saw during the war. At the battle of Castine he was taken prisoner, but the British decided to release him because of his young age. In 1832 he applied for and received a monthly pension amounting to $21.60.
After the war ended, William married his wife Mercy and together they had fifteen children, all but one living to adulthood. William’s occupation was that of farming and lumbering and at one point he commanded a sea vessel. Hillard noted William’s life-long habits:
He has been throughout life an early riser and a hard worker; not particularly regular in his habits, often going without food till he could get what he relished; especially, living near the sea, and being fond of sea food, delaying his meal until it could be procured. He smokes regularly, and uses spirituous liquors moderately.
At the time of his interview, he was said to be of feeble body but possessing a vigorous mind. His memory was so good that “he [was] a referee in the family in matters of history.” His feelings concerning the then current conflict were strong and Hillard noted that his views of slavery were “radical”: “God will never suffer it to exist in this country.” Some of his grandchildren had paid the ultimate price and died fighting for the Union.
Mercy passed away in 1837 and William continued to live in the house, elevated above Penobscot Bay, that he built years before. William Hutchings passed away on May 2, 1866 and was buried alongside Mercy in the small family cemetery on his property. At his funeral it was noted how much of history he had observed. He had perhaps conversed with some whose families came over on the Mayflower, he may have heard the great preacher George Whitefield speak.
One of his last requests was that an American flag should cover his remains. According to William Hutchings, the Last Surviving Revolutionary Pensioner in New England, “[T]his was done, and in the stillness of a bright spring afternoon, in the midst of an assembled multitude, upon the farm which for nearly a century had been his home, all that was mortal of the old hero was committed to the dust, while the Stars and Stripes he had so long honored floated above his grave.”
Monday’s article concludes the series highlighting the “Last Men of the Revolution,” with Lemuel Cook, the last of all the survivors, his death occuring just eighteen days after William’s. If you missed the stories of the four other survivors, you can read them here, here, here and here.
Everyone have a great day — someday it will be history!