The Horton Family history began in Chatham County, N.C. over 150 years ago. Our first known ancestor was George Moses Horton, a self-taught slave who sold love lyrics to students at the University of North Carolina to purchase his freedom.
George Moses Horton was born on the plantation in Northampton County, NC. owned by William Horton. When William divided his property in 1814, George became the property of William's son, James Horton. At James death in 1843, James' son Hall Horton inherited George.
As a child, George "taught himself to read and began composing in his head a series of stanzas based on the rhythms of Wesley's hymns" (Dictionary of North Carolina Biography 3:207). By the time he was twenty, he was walking to Chapel Hill on Sundays to peddle fruit. Horton composed poems for students, selling them for twenty five to seventy five cents and becoming well known for acrostics on the names of students' sweethearts.
For several decades Horton was able to buy his time from his master with the money he earned from students and by working as a campus laborer. Students loaned him books, and Caroline Lee Hentz, novelist and wife of modern language professor Nicolas Hentz, helped him publish his first poems in newspapers. With her encouragement Horton published in 1829 The Hope of Liberty, the first book published in the South by an African-American. Horton intended to use the proceeds to buy his freedom and move to Liberia, but when the profits were inconsiderable, Horton's own hopes of liberty were dashed.
In 1845 the Poetical Works of George Moses Horton, The Colored Bard of North Carolina, to which is prefixed the life of the author appeared. At the close of the Civil War, Horton left Chapel Hill, following a Michigan calvary unit, and with the help of Captain Will H. S. Banks published his third book Naked Genius (1865). Horton spend the last eighteen years of his life living in Philadelphia. He married a slave of Franklin Snipes and fathered a son and a daughter, both of whom retained their mother's name (Dictionary of North Carolina Biography 3:207).
Our second known ancestors were Illey and Jane Horton from Chatham County. To this union were born these children: Alfred, Nash, Elijah, Pennie, Dilly, whose married name is Bell, and Margaret (married name Womble). The name of the eldest son is unknown, but it is believed that he left the County at an early age and settled in Sanford, N. C.