Appo Hocton was born in China, the son of Fook Ting and his wife, Pae See. According to family tradition his birth name was Wong Ahpoo Hock Ting and he was born on 18 August 1819. According to declarations he made in New Zealand, however, he may have been born as late as 1823. In New Zealand he became known as Appo Upton or Appo Hopton, and by 1853 was officially known as Appo Hocton or Hockton.
Appo left China at about nine years of age and served on various English ships as a cabin-boy and a steward. He arrived in Nelson as a steward on the immigrant ship Thomas Harrison on 25 October 1842. He deserted the ship on its arrival and was sentenced to 30 days' imprisonment before the ship sailed again without him on 10 November. He became housekeeper to Dr Thomas Renwick, who had been surgeon superintendent on the Thomas Harrison. He remained in Renwick's service for some years, but by 1849 was working as a carter in Nelson, where he rented a one acre section with a cottage, barn and 10 cattle. Literate, astute and hard-working, he prospered in his business and in 1852 applied for naturalisation in order to acquire and lease real property, which as an alien he was not permitted to do. Alfred Domett, the colonial secretary for New Munster, noted that Hocton was 'well known for industry & respectability while I was in Nelson', and his application was granted. He purchased three acres of land above Washington Valley at a Crown land auction in 1853, and bought two adjoining acres of residential land which had been passed in. He also acquired land near the tideway and built a home for himself and cottages to let.
On 17 July 1856, at his Washington Valley home in Nelson, Appo Hocton married Jennifer Rowling, formerly Rowe, the widow of his neighbour William Rowling, who had died in 1854. Her five-year-old child was probably Appo Hocton's natural son. Jennifer Hocton died in 1865. By this time her son, now known as William Rowling Hocton, was working with Appo in his cartage business. They operated three bullock drays, hauling loads from the port to the Wakatu valley. Appo remarried in Nelson on 12 September 1865. His second wife was Ellen Snook. They were to have two sons and one daughter. They also adopted another daughter.
In 1876 Appo and his family left Nelson to settle in Dovedale, south-west of Motueka, where Appo had purchased 485 acres of rural land. He gradually cleared the bush and ran cows and sheep. He was also one of the first in the area to grow hops. Ellen Hocton died in 1916 and Appo continued to live in Dovedale with members of his family. He died, reputedly a centenarian, on 26 September 1920 at the home of his son Appo Louis Hocton at Dovedale. He had been active almost to the time of his death, and able to transact all his business affairs until the previous year.