1858 - The Horton District

The Horton district in the North-West of Tasmania existed from 1841 to 1890. In 1841 the District of Launceston, comprising the North of Van Diemen's Land, was split into Launceston and Horton. In 1856 the Horton district was split into Emu Bay and Horton. In 1890 the remaining Horton district was split into Stanley and Montagu and ceased to exist as a district in its own right.1 This forum topic is to discuss the origin of the district name, and any associated interests. The following description of the Horton District in 1858 is from The Hobart Town Daily Mercury.


The Horton or Circular Head District embraces the settlements at Circular Head, Woolnorth, Emu Bay, Table Cape and King's and Robbin's Islands, or an extent of country covering two and a half millions of acres, of which 350,000 have been alienated by the Crown. At present there are about 5,600 acres under cultivation, nearly half of which is laid down in English grasses. The quantity of stock for so large an extent of country is very small, being about 7,000 sheep and 2,500 cattle. There are five towns or villages in two of which are respectively 70 and 60 houses - two have each two houses, and one is not yet built upon.

Nine rivers with a depth of water ranging from 12 to 6 1/2 feet on the bars at their sea mouths, rise in the district and there are excellent anchorages at Circular Head, Woolnorth, Emu Bay, &c., at which places a steamer touches periodically from Launceston. The population is very small, viz.: - 931 males and 617 females. Four churches have been erected and Ministers appointed to the churches of England and Rome, and Lay Preachers of other denominations. There is a Local Court of Requests, for the recovery of debts up to £10, and a body of Police sufficient for the maintenance of order in the District, and a number of Justices of the Peace reside at the different localities. At the Government schools children from 3 years of age are taught reading, writing, arithmetic, grammar, geography, &c., while the girls taught the usual branches of needlework. The children are mostly those of small tenant farmers and their services are so valuable to their parents during the agricultural seasons as to render the attendance at school very fluctuating.

Beer of good quality is produced at two breweries. Provisions vary in price, but the prices of the necessaries of life may be stated as little in advance of the other districts of the Colony. Wages of mechanics vary from 10s. to 16s. a day, and labourers can earn from 15s. to 20s. a week with rations.

There is great cause for improvement in the roads of the District: it is believed that the fertile parts would be quickly sought after and occupoied if there were good roads to enable proprietors to bring their produce to market; the bridges are all temporary erections, but much good is expected from the exertions of the Road Trust which is just getting heartily to work.

For irrigation purposes water can be obtained everywhere, though the moistness of the climate would render its use unnecessary, still in some of the barren tracts there is no doubt that the various crops would be much benefitted by irrigation.

It may be said that the farmers in this District trust too much to the cultivation of the potato, at times a doubtful crop, and very variable in its price in the market, one year forty pounds a ton have been paid for potatoes, another year not half as many shillings. In no part of the colony are immigrants more rewarded than in the Horton District, where an extensive ?gain? exists for their exertions. In no place is the land located so far as five miles from the sea or the banks of a navigable river; soil of the finest description exists here, and it only requires a little capital, an active Road Trust, a stout heart, and Anglo-Saxon energy, to turn the forest into rich clearings, and to cover the vallies with thriving settlers.

If sufficient encouragement were given, a steamer would ply between the ports and the Districts of Melbourne or Port Fairy, bringing over meat, and taking back grain and timber, the distance being a run of about 120 miles only, while at the free port of Stanley all English and foreign goods could easily be landed, and distributed throughout the district at a cost not much exceeding that paid for them in other parts of Tasmania.2

John Horton
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Name of the Horton District

A number of items have been found which may be of relevance in determining the source for the name of the district of Horton. In a letter from Captain Montagu to Mr. Edward Curr, he notes:

The County, in which you take your land, will be called "Horton", and as soon as you have made your election, you will be so good as to notify the same to the Surveyor General... 1

That was in 1826 but according to the AOT Registration Districts Timeline, the formal naming didn't occur until sometime in 1841. Check district dates.

As the Horton District was nearly totally comprised of the Van Diemen's Land (VDL) Company land grants it is highly probable that the naming of the district was after Sir Robert Wilmot Horton:

[Horton]...had a prominent part in the constitutional changes in New South Wales in 1823 and in the granting of charters to the Australian Agricultural Co., the Van Diemen's Land Co. and the Canada Co.2

John Horton
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Tasmanian Registration Districts and Other Resources

The AUS-Tasmanian Genealogy Mailing List website includes a Tasmanian Registration Districts 1838--1945 - Origin and Development Chart.

Specific to the Horton district, the Archives Office of Tasmania has the following resources: