Heddens vs. Heddings


A woman in Sacramento, California recalls an old family legend about the origins of their last name. According to her, her great grandpa and his brother had a huge fight over their inheritance after their parents died. The farm was left to be split amongst the two of them. The conflict didn’t arise from property or money, but rather from who got to keep the mule. The dispute over the mule was so heated that my source’s great grandfather left his brother forever and changed his last name from Hedding to Hedden.


My interview with my source, A, went as follows:

ME: So you mentioned that you have an interesting legend about how your name came into–like came to be.

A: Yes, when I was a little girl, my father used to tell me the funniest story about his grandpa and his brother. Apparently when their parents passed away, they were left their property, they lived on a farm. The money and land were divided but when it came to who gets the mule, my great grandfather and his brother could not agree. At the time their last name was Hedding. Well my great grandfather eventually gave in and let his brother, my great uncle, have the mule. Now I never actually met this great uncle because my great uncle because my great grandfather was so angry that he left the place, changed his last name to Hedden, and started a new family.

ME: Did they ever talk to each other again?

A: Never again.


I really wish my source had some living relatives who I could ask more about this legend. I think the whole concept of a dispute restructuring an entire family (especially over something as simple as a mule) is incredibly interesting. My source did, however, show me some genealogical records that show that the last name did, in fact, change from Hedding to Hedden at that point in the family tree. Whether this was the reason for the change is up for debate.