Axtell Family OrganizationGleanings from England and Elsewhere

(from the introduction to the 1945 AXTELL GENEALOGY compiled by Carson A. Axtell)
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 
were traitors.

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 
American Loyalists.)

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 
Boston, Mass.

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 
of him.

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Last revised 2-28-96 by Dan Axtell