William's place of birth is uncertain, but he went to Lexington, Kentucky in his youth, and began his career as a printer. Around 1793, he removed to Hamilton Co., Ohio, at the fledgling town of Cincinnati. He took his small wooden printing press to Cincinnati and soon embarked upon a more ambitious publishing enterprise. The first edition of his weekly "The Centinel of the Northwest Territory" was dated November 9, 1793, and it was the first newspaper published west of the Ohio River. Three years later, he printed "Laws of the Territory of the United States Northwest of the Ohio" in Cincinnati. Some sources report that as many as one thousand copies were produced. It became known simply as Maxwell's Code, and was the first book printed in the Northwest Territory. It is greatly valued today by antiquarians. One of the few original copies extant was auctioned in recent years for over $100,000.
William's marriage to Nancy Robbins probably occurred in Cincinnati. She is said to have been the daughter of William Robbins and native to Virginia. In 1799 the young Maxwell family removed to Dayton, another newly founded village in Hamilton (now Montgomery) Co., Ohio. William eventually settled a few miles eastward on a farm in nearby Beaver Creek Township, Hamilton County. Following Ohio's admission to the union, he served as Hamilton County's representative in the first Ohio General Assembly at Chillicothe. He was instrumental in the formation of Greene County from Hamilton in 1805, and was one of the associate justices of the new county's court. He was also sheriff of Greene County from 1803 until 1807. He became active in the local militia, and was known as Colonel Maxwell by the time of his death.
William was buried on his farm "a short distance from the little settlement of Alpha, and not far from the Dayton-Xenia pike." The grave site was forgotten until early in the twentieth century when "distant relatives" discovered the unmarked native stone. If not a "genius," as his biographer Burba called him, William certainly accomplished much to distinguish himself within his brief forty-two year lifetime. (Bio by Mark Hale)