A native of the state of New York, William Horton was a '94er, attracted to the gold fields of California. Like several other disappointed prospectors, he moved north, first to Oregon in 1852 and then to Puget Sound in 1855. One of his first ventures in this area was as the engineer on the steamboat, "Traveler," brought to the Puget Sound by its owner, Capt. John G. Parker.
Horton eventually purchased the boat from Parker and it carried mail to points north. On one such venture in the late 1850s the boat floundered off Foul Weather Bluff. Fortunately, Horton was not aboard at the time. Despite this setback he continued to be involved with steamboats.
In 1869 he purchased property from Clanrick Crosby to start the Olympia Water Company in Tumwater. He started a water system that grew into the basic water system of Olympia. A year later he purchased more property and built the Washington Water Pipe Manufacturing and Water Company at the Tumwater lower falls. His factory stood next to the old Simmons Grist Mill. Horton's specialty was wooden pipe, made by hollowing out a log and linked with the use of wire. He supplied pipe to several different communities. An example of his pipe is at Talcott's in Olympia.
Horton lost the factory to foreclosure in 1882. In 1884 he opened another pipe factory, the Puget Sound Pipe Works, in Olympia not far from his house. After his death in 1887, his obituary summed up his life. "Without pretense to any extraordinary virtues, without assumption of any special credit for his life labors, he leaves the world with the acknowledgment of all that the community in which his lot was cast has been benefited by his presence."
William Horton's wife was Emma Hartsock, whom he married in 1853. She was the daughter of Lacey pioneer, Gallatin Hartsock. When the Hartsocks crossed the Oregon Trail in 1852, an Indian chief was so taken with Emma, he tried to buy her with a basket. Her father refused to sell. After the Hortons moved to the Puget Sound in 1855, Gallatin Hartsock had a house built for his daughter and son-in-law at the comer of what is now East Bay Drive and State Street. Here they raised 2 sons and 2 daughters.
Emma Horton outlived her husband by over 30 years. She remained in their house, which she surrounded with a magnificent garden. When State Street was paved in 1928 she could not pay the Local Improvement District (LID) assessment and had to sell the house. She moved to a smaller house just around the corner. She died 6 months later.