From the Biography of Ernest Thompson Seton:
"MY ANCESTORS on the paternal side were Scottish. During the turbulent days
of the Jacobite risings in 1715 and 1745, they had sided with the Stuarts.
After the fatal battle of Culloden, 1746, in which the Highlanders were
scattered in flight by the troops supporting King George, many of the clansmen sought hiding in
England; among them, Alan Cameron, a brother or a cousin of the Cameron of Lochiel. He was a
man of importance, so a price of one thousand pounds was set on his head.
Among the shipyards of South Shields he took refuge. He assumed the name of
"Thompson"; and, being a man of education, he spoke English well enough to complete his
disguise. His grandson was my father.
In the earlier rising, our great-grandfather, Lord Seton, the Earl of
Winton, had taken part, and lost everything, fleeing for his life to Italy, where he died. His
only grandson, and his lawful heir, was George Seton, of Bellingham, Northumberland, my
father's first cousin.
In 1823, after the general amnesty, this George Seton appeared before the
Bailies of Cannongate, the highest tribunal in Scotland; and proved himself the only grandson
and lawful heir of George Seton, Earl of Winton. The bailies acknowledged the validity of the
claim, and George Seton was served with the title of Earl of Winton.
He died without issue, but named my father as his heir and the lawful
successor to the title, as he was the only male survivor of the line.
My father's grandmother was Ann Seton. She never ceased to urge our people
to make a stand for their rights. My father always meant to do so; but his natural indolence
effectually stopped all action.
On her deathbed, his grandmother, in these, her last words, enjoined him:
"Never forget, Joseph, you are the heir. You are Seton, the Earl of Winton. You must stand up
for your rights."
According to the law of Scotland, and under the original grant of the title,
the Earldom should be transmitted through a female when a male heir was lacking; said female
was to carry the surname Seton as though a male. Therefore, though lineally Cameron, my
father's legal surname was Seton.
These facts were common knowledge in our family; and frequently Father said
that he felt it his duty to take his real name and assert his rights.
In 1877, my father's sister, Mrs. Harry Lee, came to stay with us in
Toronto. She was a very handsome lady of aristocratic habit and appearance. She took an intense
interest in family matters, and did all she could to stir my father to action in the matter of
his true name and his titular rights.
There was no lack of documentary proof; but the scarcity of funds, combined
with my father's constitutional dislike of effort, resulted in nothing but a great interest on
the part of the family, and an emphatic announcement on the part of about half of us that we
would take our real name at the earliest convenient date.
One or two of my brothers did indeed begin to use the hyphenated name
"Seton-Thompson." I was unable to take legal steps, being but seventeen years of age; but
announced that, at the age of twenty-one, I would resume our name of "Seton." Father cordially
approved; Mother was silent.
I never wavered; and when I came of age, I carried out my original plan. The
necessary formalities were complied with; and on the first day of February, 1883, my full and
proper legal style became Ernest Evan Thompson Seton.
Under this name, I wrote all my first articles; under this name, illustrated
The Century Dictionary. By this name, and this alone, was known for years.
Then one or two of my pious brothers got the idea that there was something
irreligious in the family being divided between two, or virtually three, surnames; for one
group was "Thompson," one "Seton-Thompson," and one "Seton." I could smile at their
sophisticated platitudes-and did. I went my own way.
After three years, the subject again became acute. Against my father and a
few cranky brothers, I could stand. But when they got hold of my mother, it was another matter.
She was the only being on earth to whom I owed an avowed and absolute loyalty. They convinced
her that the split was impious, and a reflection on both Parents.
So, one day, she put her arms around my neck and kissed me; then invited me
to kneel with her and pray for heavenly guidance. She prayed as few but my mother could pray;
then rose and said: "Oh, my boy, I want you to give up the name of 'Seton,' and be known as
'Thompson' as long as I am alive."
Thus I was attacked in the weak spot of my wall.
"Mother darling, I'll do anything you wish me to do-although I know I am
wrong in doing this."
Then Father came, and it was agreed that I was to wear the name
'Seton-Thompson' as a nom de plume as long as Mother was alive; but when she should be
called away, I would be free to resume what was really my legal name.
So it was arranged; and I continued 'Seton-Thompson' until the death of my
mother in 1897.
I was now released from my promise.
There was no doubt about the form of my legal name, but so many copyrights
had been taken out in the other form, that it was deemed wise to have the matter cleared up in
On November 28, 1901, the Supreme Court of New York decided the question.
In a word, 'Seton-Thompson' was a nom de plume; 'Seton' is my family