Geneabloggers describes Tombstone Tuesday:
Tombstone Tuesday is a daily blogging theme used by many genealogy bloggers to help them post content on their sites.
To participate in Tombstone Tuesday simply create a post which includes an image of a gravestone of one or more ancestors and it may also include a brief description of the image or the ancestor. You can read more about Tombstone Tuesday here at gene@pedia.
Today’s featured tombstone comes from the The New Jerusalem Lutheran Church Cemetery in Lovettsville, Virginia. While I was doing some research on George Axline I came across a short history of the New Jerusalem Lutheran Church.
Apparently the church was first organized in 1765, “under the pastorate of Rev. Schwerdferger.”1 The original church was constructed of log and a schoolhouse was adjacent.2 The New Jerusalem Lutheran Church went through changes, structures were built and succumbed to the elements and fire before the current building was erected after 1868.3 This church served as the worshiping place for the Loudoun County Axlines (or Exline).
The tombstone for George Axline bears an angelic cherub on his headstone and a heart on the top of his footstone. The inscription reads:
Here lies the
Body of George
Axline son of Ja
cob Axline Who
Died June 16
1803 Aged at 1 year 1 day4
George was the first son of Jacob Axline and Catherine Moul Axline.5 Jacob was the fifth child of Johannes Axline and Christena Mertz Axline, the first of the Loudoun County Axlines.6 Unlike many of Johannes’s other children, not much is known about Jacob. We know that he was born in 1782, who he married and approximately when he married, we can assume that he lived in Lovettsville his whole life because he was born there, was likely married there, was a member of the New Jerusalem Lutheran Church, and died there.7 His surviving children migrated with many of the other Axline family to Ohio.8 And although Johannes Axline did not fight in the Revolutionary War, he rendered material aid and is on the books at the Daughters of the American Revolution as a Patriot.9
The images carved on little George Axline’s monument are fairly typical of the time period. James Deetz and Edwin S. Dethlefsen did a study in Plymouth Colony on the development and digression of tombstone motifs used in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Death’s Head, Cherub, Urn and Willow. In it they describe a winged grim death’s head (or primitive skull type motif) that is rather quickly replaced by winged cherub motifs, which becomes simplified and is later developed into a willow tree overhanging an urn. Their study focused mainly in the New England region of the early Colonial time period, however I have noticed that some of Loudoun’s earlier cemeteries have these same motifs, which would indicate that this is less of a small regional tradition and more of a larger cultural motif. Deetz and Dethlefsen’s work places the cherub as being popular between 1760 and 1800 (specific to a cemetery in Stoenham, MA).10 Little George’s memorial falls into the later part of this time period, however, the simplification of the winged cherub falls directly in line with Deetz and Dethlefsen’s observations in New England. Deetz and Dethlefsen also mention that the phases of motifs are in flux and overlap slightly, varying from cemetery to cemetery throughout the region. The same would be expected in Loudoun. However, there is probably a bit more uniformity in time because Loudoun is a much smaller microcosm than all of New England.
I would be quite interested to know if local artisans were used often, and if there are patterns throughout other cemeteries in Loudoun County. Some of the stones in the New Jerusalem Lutheran Church Cemetery appear to have been carved by loved ones, being primitive in design and lettering. Others are standardized shapes, lettering, and motif. And yet other are written in old Germanic script; not entirely surprising given the history of Lovettsville as a German community.
1. Thoesen, Edythe Wilson, and Emma Miller Exline. 1952. Genealogy of the Exline and Axline family, p. 157.
3. Ibid., p. 157-158.
4. “George Axline,” Find A Grave, 30 November 2009 < http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GSln=axline&GSiman=1&GScid=151099&GRid=42883327&>
5. Thoesen, Edythe Wilson, and Emma Miller Exline. 1952. Genealogy of the Exline and Axline family, p. 195.
6. Ibid., p. 160.
7. Ibid., p. 195.
10. Deetz, James and Edwin S. Dethlefsen, “Death’s Head, Cherub, Urn and Willow,” The Plymouth Colony Archive Project 14 December 2007, 30 November 2009 < http://www.histarch.uiuc.edu/plymouth/deathshead.html>