Copyright notice

This article is from the Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, 6 volumes, edited by William S. Powell. Copyright ©1979-1996 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher.

Printer-friendly page

Houston, Christopher

by M. Elaine Doerschuk, 1988; Revised by Jared Dease, Government and Heritage Library, December 2022

18 Feb. 1744–27 May 1837

Christopher Houston, farmer, soldier, and town planner, was born in Lancaster County, Pa., the fourth son of Robert Houston, a successful Scottish immigrant wheat farmer, and his wife Martha Worke of Philadelphia. Reared in Lancaster County, he was educated by private tutors and in schools in Philadelphia. In 1765 he joined the great wave of settlers migrating from Pennsylvania to the Carolinas and late in the year arrived at Fort Dobbs in Rowan County. Houston settled along the Catawba River and with his brother-in-law and his brother, James, established the first mill in the area at Hunting Creek.

Houston played an active role in the Revolutionary War, both as a civilian and as a soldier. As a civilian, he was responsible for procuring goods for the community from Virginia. As a soldier, he served from 1776 to 1782 in the North Carolina Rangers along with his brother James. Both fought in the Battle of Ramsour's Mill, near present-day Lincolnton, in which James was killed. Houston participated in the Battle of Kings Mountain and was one of a band of patriots assembled by General Nathanael Greene to fight in the Battle of Guilford Court House.

After the war Houston went back to Hunting Creek, where he founded a neighborhood school in his home and served as a town planner. The 1788 Act to Divide the County of Rowan into Rowan and Iredell counties stated that "George Davidson, Christopher Houston, Joseph Sharpe, Jeremiah Nielson, and John Nisbett are directed to agree and contract with workmen for the erecting and building of a courthouse, prison, and stocks for the use of the county of Iredell, at the place that they agree on." During the American Revolution John Oliphant of Rowan County had conveyed a land site of fifty acres to Fergus Sloan, also of Rowan County. Sloan deeded the fifty acres to the newly appointed town commission, and the new county seat, named Statesville, was established in 1789. Shortly after helping to establish Statesville, Houston recognized the need for a town on Hunting Creek, so he founded Houstonville, the second postal station in Iredell County. He served as the first postmaster of the new town.

In 1812 Houston and his wife, with their son James and the twenty-seven people they enslaved, moved to Maury County, Tenn. He helped James clear his land and in return James deeded some of the property to his father. Houston spent the rest of his life farming and working in James's marble and slate factory near Columbia, Tenn. He died in Maury County ten days after suffering a "stroke of palsy."

A staunch Presbyterian, Houston was well known for instructing his family and his owned enslaved people in religious matters. He was considered a more merciful enslaver to his owned enslaved people, whom he freed in his will, stipulating that they were to be sent to Liberia. Whiggish in politics, he opposed the presidency of Andrew Jackson, favored the United States Bank, and spoke out against secession in the South Carolina Nullification Crisis of 1832.

Houston was married twice, first to Sarah Mitchell in 1767. She died in 1821, and he married Elizabeth Simpson in 1826. He had seven children: Martha, John, Lillias, James, Placebo, Samuel, and Sarah.


Gertrude Dixon Enfield, Unpublished biography of Christopher Houston (Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina Library, Chapel Hill).

F. B. Heitman, Historical Register of Officers of the Continental Army During the War of the Revolution (1893).

Mary Dalton Kennedy Papers (Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina Library, Chapel Hill).

North Carolina Historical Commission, Roster of Soldiers from North Carolina in the American Revolution (1932).

Additional Resources:

Roberts, J.J. "Governor Roberts' Letter" The African Repostory and Colonial Journal 22, no. 6 (June 1846). 187. (accessed December 2, 2013).

Daughters of the American Revolution. Lineage Book vol. 18. Washington, D.C.: Daughters of the American Revolution. 1904. 306-307. (accessed December 2, 2013).