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 William Henry Maxwell

William Henry Maxwell

Lowndes County, Georgia, USA
Death 25 Nov 1952 (aged 94)
Titusville, Brevard County, Florida, USA
Burial Mims, Brevard County, Florida, USA
Plot Section D
Memorial ID 159826847 · View Source
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Florida Slave Narratives: Maxwell, William Henry (Federal Writers' Project 1936-1938, page 218)

"Up from Slavery" might well be called this short biographical sketch of Henry Maxwell, who first saw the light of day on October 12, 1858*, in Lowndes County, GA. His mother Ann Doe*, was born in Virginia, and his father, Robert, was born in South Carolina. Captain Peters, Ann's owner, bought Robert Maxwell from Charles Howell as a husband for Ann. To this union were born seven children, two girls-Elizabeth and Rosetta and five boys-Richard, Henry, Simms, Solomon and Sonnie. After the death of Captain Peters in 1863, Elizabeth and Richard were sold to the Gaines family. Rosetta and Robert (the father) were purchased from the Peters' estate by Isham Peters, Captain Peters' son, and Henry and Simms were bought by James Bamburg, husband of Izzy Peters, daughter of Captain Peters. (Solomon and Sonnie were born after slavery.)

Just a tot when the Civil War gave him and his people freedom, Maxwell's memories of bondage-days are vivid through the experiences related by older Negroes. He relates the story of the plantation owner who trained his dogs to hunt escaped slaves. He had a Negro youth hide in a tree some distance away, and then he turned the pack loose to follow him. One day he released the bloodhounds too soon, and they soon overtook the boy and tore him to pieces. When the youth's mother heard of the atrocity, she burst into tears which were only silenced by the threats of her owner to set the dogs on her. Maxwell also relates tales of the terrible beatings that the slaves received for being caught with a book or for trying to run away.

After the Civil War, the Maxwell family was united for a short while, and later they drifted apart to go their various ways. Henry and his parents resided for a while longer in Lowndes County, and in 1880 they came to Titusville, FL, with the two younger children, Solomon and Sonnie. Here Henry secured work with a farmer for whom he worked for $12 a month.

In 1894, he purchased a small orange grove and began to cultivate oranges. In 1936, he owned over 30 acres of orange groves and controlled nearly 200 more acres. He was said to be worth around $250,000. William Henry Maxwell was Titusville's most influential and respected colored citizen.

In 1900, he married Matilda Irvin Maxwell. They did not have children of their own, but adopted and raised several children, including Mrs. Louise Jones Davis, the daughter of his first cousin, Dixie Jones; Willie Baskin Maxwell, Henry Baskin Maxwell, Luada Wade, Willie Milton, and a boy named Tyler.


*Date of birth corrected from October 17, 1859, to October 12, 1858, based on information obtained from William Henry Maxwell's official Florida Death Certificate, State File No. 27651. The last name, Doe, added to Ann (mother), was also based on William Henry Maxwell's official Florida Death Certificate, State File No. 27651.

Titusville's Star-Advocate newspaper article about WILLIAM HENRY MAXWELL printed in 1950.

Sold As Slave In 1862,
He Came Here In 1880

HENRY MAXWELL, PIONEER NEGRO resident of Titusville, FL, contributed the following article for the Star-Advocate over 50 years ago. He tells particularly of how the black section was established and how it grew:

"I landed in Titusville on the twenty-third day of October, 1880. At that time there were thirteen black people here, the greater part of them children. Some of the older ones who are partly responsible for the conduct of the black people here and who owned their own homes at that time were: Andrew Gibson, Dick Wright, Noel Gibson, Betsy Thomas. These people had families."

"Andrew Gibson was jailor at that time and fed the prisoners from his little home where he prepared it. He lived in a 12 by 20 building of rough boards sawed at a little saw mill that sat just south of the foot of Walker bridge and which was owned by John Einig. Andrew Gibson was a handy man at that time and worked as the supervisor of the only public road in Brevard County. He was a trustee, and the white people knew it. He had these two public offices at the same time and the county turned the first poor over to him. This man's name was Stone."

"Andrew took him and nursed him for the county. There was very little growth in the black community until 1886. After the completion of the J.T. & K.W. Railroad, there were many who worked on the road and made their homes here. Among them was a man by the name of Louis Ufollow."

"He and Andrew Gibson started the first black church in that year in a little 12 by 12 upright shack owned by Andrew Gibson. In a very short time after they began their services, they found that the house was too small. Andrew, who knew everybody, went to Tom Smith, who had a larger house, but not as large as his heart. He opened the doors to them."

"IN A VERY SHORT TIME, Lewis Ufollow went to Mrs. M. E. Titus to make arrangements to get a lot for a church. Mrs. Titus, with her big heart, named William Gibson, Isaiah Gory and Lewis Ufollow as trustees and gave a lot for a school and a church. From that day on, the white people took more interest in blacks and then their little settlement grew."

"Among those who were benefactors of the blacks who I can't fail to mention is the late Col. Robbins. He saw that there were people here living in tents who could clear land for groves and truck farming, but had no place to live. He at once built a house for them 125 feet long. In 1886, the only black home north of South Street was where the section house is located, and it was then owned by Dick Wright, a black man who was well thought of and mail carrier at that time. The route was from Titusville to Eau Gallie. I can recall many times making the trip with him. That was before Dr. A.A. Stewart, our then clerk of the circuit court, moved here. I met him with Dick Wright many times on Dick's boat called the Dolphin."

"The name, Colored Town, came about in this way: Mr. E.L. Brady moved his store from LaGrange, which was on the corner of Mr. Ives' lot at that time. He did not move the building, but being a good business man, he moved his business. As soon as Mr. E.L.'s business was established, he found use for a new thing in Titusville: a delivery wagon was put on. When goods were to be sent to the black people, he would say 'this goes to Andrew Gibson or George Ellen Wood or Andrew Gibson as the case may be. But soon Titusville's black section grew to where Mr. Brady, nor his clerk, could name them so easily. Then Mr. Brady would put the black people's goods in certain baskets and would say to his delivery man. 'This load goes out in Colored town. And it has been called Colored town ever since."

"A GREAT MANY BLACKS bought homes here in the eighties and nineties, but as there was not enough employment, they would go south to get work, which caused the black people to be slow about building nice homes. Mr. Brady and others turned their attention to Turnbull Hammock. This put a spirit in the blacks to own nice home, and believe that 95 per cent of them are paid for. And today those who have homes say that there is no place so near self-sustaining that they know of, as this section.”

"Many of the old timers who help to build up this part of Titusville, have left us; but there are a few of the older people still living. Some of them may read this who do not live here now. I will mention a few of them: Andrew and his wife Myrtle Gibson, Ellis Cobbs, Bettie Edmonson, Ella Foster, Haywood Boumny, very aged; William Harris and Will Gibson. The writer has only mentioned the oldest settlers and not all who own homes. He also lives in Titusville, owns his home, but he is not very old. I was sold as a slave in 1862. (I) came to Titusville, FL, in the year 1880, and believe that accounts for my youthful feelings."

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  • Created by: Kirk A. Davis
  • Added: 20 Mar 2016
  • Find A Grave Memorial 159826847
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for William Henry Maxwell (12 Oct 1858–25 Nov 1952), Find A Grave Memorial no. 159826847, citing LaGrange Cemetery, Mims, Brevard County, Florida, USA ; Maintained by Kirk A. Davis (contributor 48961009) .