Axsom Newsletter October-December 2004
There has been some recent coverage in the media about President Woodrow Wilson and of course his wife, Ellen Louise Axson. For Axsom descendants, the question naturally arises, 'just how are the Axsoms and the Axsons related?' The short answers are: not at all (as best we can tell) and very closely (according to our records.)
To understand how those seemingly conflicting answers can both be true we need to define the Axsom Families and the Axson Families.
The Axsom Families: In the United States of America, all of the Axsom families that we have ever come across have been traceable back to Joseph H. Axsom, Sr. of Surry County, North Carolina. According to the Axsom database, there have been nearly 6000descendants of Joseph H. Axsom.
The Axson Families: We know of two clans of Axsons (1) those in the extended family tree of Ellen Louise Axson Wilson and (2) some of the descendants of George Wheeler Axsom and his wife Pearl Mae Foster Axsom.
Let us begin with Ellen Louise Axson Wilson. (This material comes partly from www.whitehouse.gov/history/firstladies) Ellen Louise Axson grew up in Rome, Georgia, where her father, the Reverend S.E. Axson, was a Presbyterian minister. Thomas Woodrow Wilson first saw her when he was about six and she was only a baby. In 1883, as a young lawyer from Atlanta, "Tommy" visited Rome and met Miss Ellie Lou again-a beautiful girl now, keeping house for a bereaved father. He thought, 'what splendid laughing eyes!" Despite their instant attraction they did not marry until 1885, because she was unwilling to leave her heartbroken father.
That same year Bryn Mawr College offered Wilson a teaching position at an annual salary of $1,500. He and his bride lived neaer the campus, keeping her little brother with them. Humorously insisting that her own children must not be born Yankees, she went to relatives in Georgia for the birth of Margaret in 1886 and Jessie in 1887. But Eleanor was born in Connecticut, while Wilson was teaching at Wesleyan University.
His distinguished career at Princeton began in 1890, bringing his wife new social responsibilities. From such demands she took refuge as always in art. SHe had studied briefly in New York and the quality of her paintings compares favorably with the professional art of the period. She had a studio with a skylight installed at the White House in 1913, and found time for painting despite the weddings of two daughters within six months and the duties of hostess for the nation.
Descendant of slave owners, Ellen (Axson) Wilson lent her prestige to the cause of improving housing in the capital's Negro slums. Visiting dilapidated alleys, she brought them to the attention of debutantes and Congressmen. Her death spurred passage of a remedial bill she had worked for. Her health failing slowly from Bright's disease, she died serenely on August 6 1914. On the day before her death, she made her physician promise to tell Wilson 'later' that she hoped he would marry again; she murmured at teh end, "...take good care of my husband." Struggling grimly to control his grief, Wilson took her to Rome for burial among her kin.
Louise Axson's ancestors trace back to Charleston, South Carolina as early as the 1700s. Although a lot of research has been done to find a genealogical link between Joseph H Axsom of Surry County and the ancestors of Ellen Louise Axson, no relation was ever found between these two familes.
Now for some descendants of George Wheeler Axsom: Below is a lineage for all of George Wheeler Axsom's children.
Joseph H Axsom,Sr.
Samuel David Axsom
Andrew Jackson Axsom
George Wheeler Axsom m. Pearl Mae Foster
*Loyal Robert Axsom
*Goldie Mae Anna Axson
*Beatrice Marguerite Axsom
*Charles Newton Axson
*Edward Franklin Axson
*Earl William Axson
*Dale Eugene Axson
From this lineage chart one can see that two of George Axsom's children were AXSOM and five were named AXSON. These were all children of George and Pearl Mae Foster Axsom. The children are listed in birth date order, so George did not start naming his children AXSON at some point and continue forever in that mode. We dont' know if it was just a spelling issue or if George or some of his children were convinced they were descendants of the Axsons of SC/GA.
So the Axsoms are closely related to one clan of Axsons-namely the children of George Wheeler Axsom; yet the Axsoms are not related to the Axson clan to which Ellen Louise Axson belonged. (The obituaries in this newsletter list the death of a son of Charles Newton Axson, namely Charles T. Axson.)