Gleanings from England and Elsewhere
(from the introduction to the 1945 AXTELL GENEALOGY compiled by Carson
The name Axtell is unquestionably of Anglo-Saxon origin. The earliest
records appear in English history and are found in London, Somerset, and
Hertford Counties under various forms of spelling: Axail, Axell, Axtil,
Axtill, Axtel, Axstell, Akstyl, Akstyle, Axstyl, Ackstyl, Ackstell,
Extell, Extil, Extill, and Axtell, the last form the most generally
accepted in America, with the accent on the first syllable.
Much of the early English history of the Axtell family came from
Hertford, a small county lying west of Essex and north of Middlesex
county, some twenty miles from London.
In 1534, Henry the VIII, King of England, having disagreed with the Pope
of Rome on the divorce question, with the consent of Parliament set up
an independent church of which he became head. Soon after he suppressed
many of the smaller monasteries of the country. At Gatesdon, in the
northwest part of the country, there was a small colony of the Augustine
order, "a priori of twenty good men (Bon hommes)". This fell to the
King. Clutterbuck, the historian of Hertfordshire, printed the
instrument, in Latin, by which the Monks acknowledged King Henry's
authority in all religious matters and signed over all their property to
His Majesty. The thirteenth name on the document was that of Johannes
Akstyl, probably the first mention of the name of Axtell in history.
In the year of 1538, King Henry VIII of England decreed that all births,
marriages and deaths should be recorded in the records of the Church.
The following entries are found in the records of St. Peter's Church,
John, sonne of John Axtell, christened 1539.
William, sonne of John Axtell, christened 1541.
John Axtell, christened 1560.
Ann Axtell, christened 1565.
John, sonne of Robert Axtell, chr. 1584.
Sussanne, daughter of William, chr. 1599.
John, chr. Aug. 14, 1614.
William, chr. Dec. 1, 1616.
Thomas, chr. Jan. 26, 1619.
Daniel, (reg.) chr. May 26, 1622, sonn of William.
William, chr. June 11, 1622, ye sonn of William.
Thomas, chr. Oct. 31, 1624, ye sonn of William.
Samuel, chr. Dec. 15, 1624.
Sarah, chr. June 20, 1628, dau. of William.
Alice, chr. Mar. 27, 1637, dau. of William.
Elizabeth, dau. of John, chr. Mar. 7, 1640.
Ann, dau. of William, chr. June 6, 1641.
John, son of William, chr. Sept. 6, 1670.
William, son of William, chr. Sept. 17, 1674.
Mary, dau. of William, chr. Nov. 15, 1686.
John, son of William, chr. Dec. 26, 1700.
Mary, dau. of William, chr. Jan. 9, 1703-4.
Ann, dau. of William, chr. Jan. 26, 1707
Elizabeth, dau. of Samuel, chr. Apr. 8, 1734.
William Axtell and Joan Phillips married 1543. (This is probably the
William of Bovington whose will was probated in 1568, and the Joan may
have been Joan Wells, also of Bovington, whose will dated 1584 and who
appointed her son Henry Axtell executor. William of Bovington left his
son John land in Berkhamstead.)
A William Axtell, who died 1637-38, mentioned in his will Thomasine, his
wife, his sons, John, Thomas, William, Daniel and Samuel, and his
daughter, Sarah and his dead brother Henry.
Rev. Seth J. Axtell, after viewing the above from every angle, has
placed the last named William as our progenitor, with children as
John, christened Aug. 14, 1614.
William, christened Dec. 1, 1616.
Thomas, christened Jan. 26, 1619.
Daniel, christened May 26, 1622.
Samuel, christened Dec. 15, 1624.
Sarah, christened June 20, 1628.
The Axtell Coat of Arms probably originated with Col. Daniel Axtell
about 1648 or 1650. Burke's "General Armory," 1884, gives the
description as follows: "Azure, three axes argent, handles or", a blue
shield on which are three silver axes with handles of gold and heads
uppermost, blades to the left. The Crest consists of two axes with
handles crossed, blades uppermost; a green wreath lies on the handles
where they cross, and beneath is a bar of blue and silver on which the
handles rest. Below the bar is a scroll on which is "Sub cruce glorior"
(I glory in the Cross).
The old ancestral home has been visited by several of the American
Axtells, among them Miss Juliet Lay Axtell (8-260). In writing to her
sister under date of October 4, 1878, she says, "I think it will be
neither a Tower letter nor an Abbey letter, but a Berkhamstead letter,
for yesterday I went to my ancestral home, not that I found any Axtells
living over here. I think it evident that the family has died out,
except those who emigrated to America. The Parish Clerk recognized the
name immediately because of its frequent appearance on the Registry, and
on examination of that most interesting book which gives the registries
of marriages, births, and deaths from 1538 (the time when registers were
first ordered kept) down to the present time, we found not only the
registry of the baptism of Col. Daniel Axtell, the regicide, and of
Thomas Axtell (our ancestor, I believe) but of many others. The first
baptism was in 1539, of John Axtell "ye sonne of John Axtell," the name
being spelled, as you see, just the same as we spell ours. Then this is
followed by the baptism of William Axtell (ye sonne of John Axtell), two
years after, in 1541, but in 1543 there is recorded the marriage of
William Axtell to Joan Phillips. This William must have been the brother
and not the son of John. I had that old book in my hands and traced
those names with my own fingers through curious chirography of three
hundred years ago. The old book is wearing out and a copy on parchment
has been made which I also handled. Well, he (the clerk) brought out a
small history of the town to me, thinking that I might like to buy it
because it speaks of the family and makes very honorable mention of Col.
Daniel, calling him a most remarkable man. Of course I bought it, and we
have been intensely interested in reading the history of the old town
which goes back to the time of the Mercian Kings, who had a castle as
early as 690 A.D.
"Moreover, before I read it in the book, the clerk told me Col. Axtell
occupied the castle now occupied by the Duke of Hamilton and built from
the ruins of the old castle during the Protectorate of Cromwell. Having
wandered around those old walls awhile, we left them and went up the
grand avenue of the old spreading oaks, nearby, up hill all the way till
we came out upon the court-yard of the present castle, built partly of
material from the old one in the second year of Elizabeth. I wish I had
a picture of it, not grand, but picturesque. The part occupied by Col.
Axtell is still standing, the wing having been destroyed by fire in 1660
and never rebuilt. But everything is in perfect repair, the court-yard
filled with flowers and urns."
A few years ago Silas Blake Axtell visited the old ancestral home in
Berkhamstead, England, and made several pictures of the old castle, some
of which are shown.
Daniel Axtell, known as the "regicide," was baptised in St. Peter's
Church on the 26th day of May, 1622. His father's name was William. He
was apprenticed, when a youth, to a grocer in Welting Street, London. He
was of a nervous, earnest, religious turn of mind; and when the struggle
of Charles I and Parliament began, he warmly espoused the cause of the
latter, chiefly on religious grounds. he enlisted in the army of
Parliament and soon was promoted to Captain, Major, and Lieutenant-
Colonel. In 1649, King Charles I was summoned before the high court of
justice sitting in Westminster Hall, to answer to the charge of tyranny,
treason, and murder. A guard was detailed from the army to preserve
order and repress violence during the trial, with Col. Daniel Axtell in
command. In calling over the names of the court, when the crier
pronounced the name Fairfax, Lady Fairfax who was in the galleries,
cried out, "he has more wit than to be here," and when the charge was
made against the King, she cried out again, "In the name of the people
of England not a tenth part of them," Col. Axtell ordered to fire into
the place whence these interruptions came, but on discovering who it was
that offended withdrew his order.
In his own trial in 1660, this action was brought against him, and he
was also charged with forcing his men and others against their will to
cry out "justice" and "execution" in order to make it appear that the
soldiers and people were demanding the death of the King. As a zealous
supporter of Parliament he doubtless used his influence against the
King, but we may surely acquit him of bloodthirsty conduct at the trial
of Charles I. After his condemnation, he prayed for the false witness
who testified against him. Ludlow, then the Parliament General, who
afterwards commanded in Ireland, has this notice of him: "Col. Daniel
Axtell has been Captain, Major, and Lieutenant Col. in a regiment of
foot, in the last of which employment he had assisted in the trial and
execution of the late King. When Lieut. General Cromwell was sent by
Parliament into Ireland against the rebels, the regiment in which Col.
Axtell served was drawn by lot for that expedition; he cheerfully
undertook the employment and for his fidelity and courage was soon
preferred to the head of his regiment, and not long after was made
Governor of Kilkenny. In this station he showed a more than ordinary
zeal in punishing those Irish who had been guilty of murdering the
Doubtless the Colonel was a little severe in his work; the temper of the
times was cruel and vindictive, and the extreme Puritan party to which
he belonged looked with intense animosity upon the Papacy and all its
design. Clarendon, the royal historian, charged him with inflicting
"wanton and barbarous cruelties upon the Irish people." History,
however, shows that wanton and barbarous cruelties had been inflicted
only a little earlier by the Papal partisans in Ireland upon the
Protestant inhabitants, and soldiers of Cromwell regarded themselves as
avenging their slaughtered brethren. Col. Axtell's own view of his
actions in Ireland is given in Cobbett's "Trials of State." Cobbett says
of him: "having given an account when in prison to some persons for
their satisfaction about his proceedings in Ireland, he said, 'I can say
in humility that God did use me as an instrument in my place for the
suppressing of that bloodthirsty enemy, and when I considered the bloody
cruelty in murdering so many thousands of Protestants and innocent
souls, that word was on my heart,' 'give her blood to drink for she is
worthy,' and 'sometimes we neither gave nor took quarter.'" One author
says Henry Cromwell, who was appointed Governor of Ireland in 1656, gave
such offense to the Puritans, and especially to the Ana-Baptists, that
many of the officers sent in their resignations and among them was Col.
Axtell. His resignation was dated November 28, 1656; however, he seems
to have served again in Ireland under Ludlow and to have commanded one
division of the Irish brigade.
Upon the return of Charles II in March, 1660, Col. Axtell joined General
Lambert, who was endeavoring to raise a force to oppose the re-
establishment of monarchy. But the tide had turned and Lambert's troops
of horse, finding themselves unsupported by the people, quietly
dispersed. The Colonel was soon apprehended and put on trial for
treason. He defended himself with great skill and persistence, quoting
from the statutes and pleading that what he had done had been as a
soldier under orders from his superior whom he must obey on pain of
"I came to the trial of Charles I," he said, "not voluntarily, but by
command of the General, who had a commission from Parliament. I was no
councillor, no contriver, I was no parliamentary man, none of the
judges, none that sentenced, signed, none that had a hand in the
execution, only that which is charged is that I was an officer in the
army." The Chief Justice complimented him on his manifest diligence in
the study of law, but with his associates overruled his plea, deciding
that the command of a superior officer constituted no excuse, for the
superior officer whom he obeyed was a traitor and all that joined him
The result was certain from the first. The prisoner, finding his
argument of no avail, said, "I leave all to the jury in whose hands I
and my little ones and my family are left." The jury as well as the
court could be trusted for their part, and so they brought in a verdict
of guilty. The old account goes on to say, "returning from his trial at
court to his prison with a cheerful countenance and his wife coming to
him full of trouble, he said to her 'not a tear, wife, what hurt can
they have done me, to send me sooner to heaven.'"
"In prayer he laid all his comfort in the blood of the crucified Christ
and upon the covenant of free grace, and did heartily desire pardon for
all his judges, jury and those false witnesses." His daughter coming to
him he said, "where hast thou been all this while, I thought thou hadst
been ashamed of my chains but they that will not bear the cross shall
not wear the crown." "Bid our friends," he said, "keep close to Christ
and love the image of Christ wherever they see it, in the Presbyterian,
Independent, Baptist, or others." Speaking of his faith, he said, "I
believe in all the things written in the Old and New Testaments as the
principles and doctrines of a believer's faith. I believe the blessed
ordinances of Christ, that it is our duty to hear the word preached, to
seek unto God in prayer of which I judge to be the way of Christ which
is the company of men born again by His grace that walk in the way of
Christ blameless and harmless."
His execution occurred at Tyburn, October 19, 1660. Francis Hacker was
executed with him, and Colonel Axtell, at Hacker's request offered a
prayer for both. One portion of the prayer was filled with earnest
pleadings for the people standing near, for the City of London, for the
magistrates and hangman and for the Chief Magistrate of the nation. The
prayer was offered while he stood in the chief hangman's cart with a
rope around his neck. After it was all over, no one was found to put
forward the cart and the horse, the cartman saying, "that he would lose
both the cart and the horse before he would have a hand in hanging such
a man." The great crowd of spectators behaved civilly. Only two cried
out, "hang them, hang the rogues, traitors, murderers," whereupon a man
desired them to be civil, and they were silent and gave attention to
Col. Axtell's speech and prayer at which they were very much affected.
Besides the daughter already mentioned, the Colonel had a young son and
possibly other children. The son was probably the William Axtell of
Jamaica, who is mentioned in 1683. The next in line is a Daniel Axtell,
(supposed to be a son of the above mentioned William) who acquired a
large fortune in trade in Jamaica; and, visiting New Jersey, purchased a
great tract of land in Somerset County, extending from the east line of
Bedminster tp. to Lamington River, north of the North Branch of the
Raritan. The following quotation from (Crumrine 1882) the History of
Washington County, Pa., seems to coincide in part at least: "Maj. Daniel
Axtell was the original purchaser of land acquired by 'East and West
Jersey' in 1682. About the year 1740, he purchased 2,000 acres in what
is now Bedminster tp., Somerset County, N.J. He died within the next ten
years and his son William came into possession; he sold a part in 1750
and a part in 1760. This William Axtell was born in Jamaica, W.I., about
1720. He came to New Jersey about 1746 to dispose of some of his
holdings and he soon found a place in high society in New York City.
Winning the affections of a daughter of Abraham DePeyster, he ran away
with and married her. He was known as "William the Gay." He lived in a
fine mansion on Broadway as well as maintaining a country seat in
Flatbush, Long Island. From the time of his marriage, he was both
politically and socially prominent in city life.
As the Revolution approached, he was at first favorable to the colonial
party, but when the struggle finally opened he took sides with the
mother country. He was a member of the council in 1776, and when
examined by the Whig committee in that year he stated the bulk of his
property was in England and the West Indies. In reporting his case to
the Provincial Congress, the committee remarked that they believed him
to be a gentleman of high honor and integrity. He became a Tory, and was
commissioned Colonel in a corps of loyalists by Sir William Howe. In
1793, his furniture was confiscated and sold at auction in New York. He
went to England and was indemnified for his losses by the British
Government. He died at Beaumont Cottage, Surrey, in 1795, aged 75. He
left no issue, but while in New York adopted a daughter, Miss Shipton, a
relative, who married Maj. Giles of the Continental Army. (See Sabines
In 1678, another Daniel Axtell, probably a son of Col. Daniel, left
England in company with many others of Puritanic tendencies on account
of the oppression and indignities to which they were subjected by the
law and government of the country. August 13, 1678, before leaving
England, he made a will in which he remembers his children: Sibella,
Sibyl, Daniel, Mary, Holland, Rebecca, Elizabeth and Ann. Of these, only
one of age, he made his wife, "Rebeckah" "his full and whole executrix,"
Henry Danvers, Esq. and William Pennington, his friends, were to assist
his wife "in gathering in the estate from abroad and advising and
helping her disposing of it when at home." (N. E. His. & Gen. Rec. Vol.
44, p58.) A grant of 3,000 acres in South Carolina was made to him
December 13, 1680. His son started for South Carolina about that time,
but died on the way over and was buried at sea. The father appears at
that date to have been in England, but later was again in South Carolina
in the movement to establish a colony of which he was one of the
John Locke, the celebrated philosopher, drew up a form of government for
the proprietors called "The Grand Model." It was a creation struck from
the brain of an idealist, with as little fitness for actual life as can
be imagined. One of the chief orders of nobility was to consist of
Landgraves, and one of the twelve who held this position was Daniel
Axtell. Hence, his widow was called "Lady Axtell." He died in 1686, and
his son Holland became Landgrave in his place. The latter died in 1692,
and with him the hopes of continuing the name perished in South
Carolina. Lady Axtell, however, and several of her daughters still
survived. One of them, Elizabeth, married Joseph Blake, the great
English Admiral and naval warrior of Cromwell's time. Rebecca married
John Moore, who later moved to Philadelphia and became Attorney-General
and King's collector of Pennsylvania. She died in Moore's Hall,
Philadelphia, December 21, 1749.
When Daniel Axtell (3-5) of Massachusetts went to South Carolina, he
settled near Lady Axtell on Ashley River. He operated a saw mill of
which he was part owner, and had various transactions with her which are
still on record in an old account book. In 1720 she made her will,
remembering him as her kinsman, thus establishing the relationship.
William Axtell of Dunstable, England, wrote in 1878, "There is no doubt
that Thomas Axtell, progenitor of the Axtell family in America, and
Daniel Axtell, the regicide, were brothers to my progenitor, Samuel, as
appears to have the same father, viz. William." Descendants of this
William of Dunstable, England, are at present living in the vicinity of
Record has been found in England of a will of one Nathaniel Axtell of
Hertfordshire, dated August 17, 1639, which states his intentions of
going to New England and names his brothers, Thomas and Daniel, and
three sisters, Joane, Ann and Sarah. This seems to coincide with the
early record of New Haven, Connecticut. In 1639 or 1640 he decided to
return to England, going to Boston to embark, died while awaiting
sailing, and the court at New Haven settled his estate. This gives rise
to the oft-repeated story of three brothers coming to America, one in
Massachusetts, one in Connecticut, and one in South Carolina.
Among the passengers of the barque "Globe" of London for Virginia in
1636, was the name of Thomas Axtell, aged 35. We find no further record
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