Born in Alton, Canada West (now Ontario), Houston's career as a newspaper publisher in British Columbia spanned twenty-two years, beginning in 1888 in the town of Donald. Later he would publish newspapers in New Westminster, Nelson, Rossland and Prince Rupert. His last paper would be printed in 1910 at South Fort George. John was married, though his wife, Edith May Keeley, didn't follow him on his constant ramblings throughout the province and stayed at their mansion in Nelson. He was the first mayor of Nelson lasting from 1897 to 1905 and was a member of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia for West Kootenay-Nelson from 1900 to 1903 and Nelson City from 1903 until 1907. During this time, he became well known for being a working-man's advocate and he often spoke against the policies of the Canadian Pacific Railway and supported a motion to stop provincial aid to railways. Both the town of Houston, B.C. and Houston Lane in Prince George, B.C. are named after him.