Hatton was born on May 30, 1875 on a farm in Boons Hill, Tennessee, United States. He was the son of William A. Sumners, a teacher and farmer, and of Anna Walker. During his childhood Sumners lived in Boons Hill, where his parents operated an academy. He then spent his adolescence on the family's sizable farm. There he became convinced "that we are only responsible for doing our best" with obstacles that "are the gymnastic paraphernalia of Nature. "