Maxwell and Allied Families

By Harold Graham

While the Maxwell name is seldom heard in Newton County today, many of its residents bear the Maxwell ancestry and most notably descent from Rev. Thomas Maxwell of Middlesex County, Virginia and Elbert County, Georgia.

Rev. Thomas Maxwell, son of Thomas Maxwell, Sr., and Keziah Blake and grandson of immigrant Joel Maxwell, was born on September 8, 1742, Middlesex County, Virginia. Virginia was a colony, he would learn, that was controlled by the Episcopal Church and he grew up in that worship. He was “born again”, as he often boasted, into the Baptist church in 1768, and his life was dramatically changed thereafter. It was not long thereafter that he became a minister of the Gospel.

Thomas saw service in the Revolutionary War.  The most dramatic moment in his life, however, was the day he was jailed in Culpeper County for preaching the Gospel [1]. The good Baptist that he was did not let it deter him, however.  Preaching through the bars of his jail cell, Thomas rubbed a sore on his nose that gave him a permanent scar. No, we do not know if any of the other priso

Patrick Henry

Patrick Henry (1736-1799)

ners were saved, but we are told that the jailer and his family surrendered to the Lord.

Thomas most likely would have remained in jail indefinitely had not Patrick Henry intervened. Henry, a young attorney and later one of the crafters of our Constitution, saw the issue of freeman of religious expression at risk, was successful in getting Thomas Maxwell out of jail, and in the days that followed, was successful in writing the First Amendment to our Constitution and seeing it approved by the Constitutional Congress.

In 1792 Rev. Thomas Maxwell moved to Elbert County, Georgia. Before his death in 1837, he served and helped establish a number of Baptist churches throughout northwestern Georgia, both in Elbert and Franklin counties. One of those churches, Line Baptist Church, was formed in 1802, with Revs. Maxwell, Daniel White and Moses Sanders formed the presbytery at the founding of Line Baptist Church.

Line Baptist Church, now in the town of Hollingsworth, Banks County, Georgia, was unintentionally built just outside the state of Georgia and on Cherokee Indian land. Constant disputes with the Cherokees caused members to worry for their safety to the extent that they refused to conduct worship services at night. It was there, however, that the Maxwells first met the Hollingsworths and Smiths, a relationship that would continue for generations.

Line Baptist Church Historical Marker
Col. William Wofford had moved from Lexington County, South Carolina, in 1787 and claimed a large tract of land along the Franklin and Jackson Counties borders. In turn, he sold lots to willing settlers, among these Nathan Smith and his extended family from Moore County, North Carolina. Wofford’s Tract, as it turned out, was largely in the disputed territory and the settlers could not obtain a clear title to the land. Those farmers who had clear titles soon found out that the Franklin County soil was full of boulders and small rocks that had tumbled down the landscape from the Appalachian Mountains over the course of many centuries.  These settlers began to look elsewhere, more notably in the Mississippi Territory, to resettle.

On April 14, 1804, William Nathaniel Wofford, William Washington Wofford, Lewis Jones, Lewis Dickenson, Caleb Dickenson, Nathan Horn, James Maxwell, and Samuel Hollingsworth requested a passport to travel with their families “across the Cumberland Mountains with their families…through the Cherokee Nation.”  We believe their mission was to find new and better land and that their journey carried them to the Mississippi Territory.  Residents of Franklin County, Georgia who certified that they were all “honest men and good citizens” included Stephen Smith, Elijah Maxwell, Benson Henry, Jesse Maxwell, and Isham Smith.

In the Fall of 1810 more than 60 Franklin County families, including those of Jesse Maxwell and Isaac Hollingsworth abandoned their lands in Franklin County. Many set out for Franklin, Tennessee. It is there, it is believed, that they built rafts and slipped these into the Little Tennessee River. Their float trip carried them on a long winding northwesterly trip that took them first into the Tennessee River and then the Ohio River before they reached the Mississippi River near Cairo, Illinois. Then they floated to Natchez, abandoned their rafts and traveled overland on the Old Stephens Road to Franklin and Marion Counties, Mississippi. Marion County would soon be divided to create Lawrence County and that is where we find Jesse and Thomas Maxwell, many of the Smiths, Caleb and Lewis Dickinson, and Isaac Hollingsworth by the year 1815.

According to the late Skeets Maxwell, James and Jesse Maxwell went about the tasks of building cabins, clearing land, and starting crops. Those tasks completed, James Maxwell went back to Georgia, never to return to Mississippi, and sent in his place his brother Thomas Maxwell, Jr., who had looked after their families while James and Jesse were gone.

Rev. Thomas Maxwell was married to Mary Pemberton and their marriage produced the following children, all born in Virginia:

  1. John Maxwell, born May 9, 1763--- died October 5, 1840, Milton County, Georgia; married Agatha Henry
  2. Keziah Maxwell, born January 11, 1766—died after 1837, Elbert County, Georgia; married Benson Henry
  3. Thomas Maxwell, Jr., was  born January 1, 1768—died December 12, 1857, Lawrence County, Mississippi; married Adulla (Duly) Henry
  4. James Maxwell, born September 12, 1770—died after 1837; married, but complete name of wife unknown
  5. Elijah Maxwell, born  May 1, 1773—died January 22, 1847, Georgia; married Elizabeth Jordan
  6. William Maxwell, born December 22, 1775--died 25 September1852, Georgia; married Jane Higginbotham
  7. Jesse Maxwell, born December 11, 1780—died September 26, 1864, Lawrence County, Mississippi; married (1) Priscilla Kees and (2) Mrs. Abigail Whitworth
  8. Joel Maxwell, born September 30, 1782--died August 23, 1863 in Georgia; married Mary (Polly) Brown
  9. Sara Maxwell, born January  4, 1786—died May 29, 1838; married William Payne Christian
  10. Jeremiah Maxwell, born July 14, 1789—died 1843, Attala County, Mississippi; married Mildred Harvey
  11. Elizabeth Maxwell, born September 23, 1791--died January 29, 1862, Hart County, Georgia; married William McMullan

The Family of Thomas Maxwell, Jr., and Adulla (Duly) Henry

Thomas Maxwell, Jr.,  and Duly Maxwell moved from Franklin County, Georgia to Lawrence County, Mississippi, in the 1810’s and settled on what became known as Maxwell Creek in the Fair River community of (now) Lincoln County, Mississippi. He was a miller and farmer by trade. Thomas and Duly were also charter members of Fair River Baptist Church, along with Jesse Maxwell and his family, Isham Smith and his family, Lewis and Caleb Dickerson, and Isaac Hollingsworth. From his will and family records, we identify the following children:

  1. Henry Maxwell, born April 17, 1793, Elbert County, Georgia—died 1870, Lawrence County, Mississippi; married Jemima Smith, daughter of Isham Smith and Sarah Harbin
  2. Jemima Maxwell, born February 26 1795—died 1829; married Joseph Owen
  3. Frances (Frankey) Maxwell, born February 23, 1797—died ca. 1841, Pinckney community, Newton County, Mississippi; married John William Smith (See later)
  4. Lucy Maxwell, born October 4, 1798; married James Hamm
  5. Mary (Polly) Maxwell, born October 11, 1800; married Joseph Owen
  6. Benjamin Maxwell, born January 3, 1802
  7. Joshua Maxwell, born October 14, 1803—died February 18, 1886, Meehan, Lauderdale County, Mississippi; married Dianna Huey (See later).
  8. Keziah Maxwell, born March 19, 1805; married Samuel Cook
  9. Willis Leonidas Maxwell, born November 8, 1807—died March 22 1896, Attala County, Mississippi; married Catherine (Kitty) Cooper
  10. George Washington Maxwell, born December 1814
  11. William Pemberton Maxwell, born May 14, 1816

The Family of Frances (Frankey) Maxwell and John William Smith

Frances (Frankey) Maxwell, daughter of Thomas Maxwell, Jr., and Adulla Henry, was married to John William Smith about 1817 and they moved to Newton County (then Neshoba) with her brother Joshua Maxwell in 1834. John William Smith was a farmer and patented land in the Pinckney area. They were the parents of nine children before Frankey’s death ca. 1841. These children were:

  1. Linnie Smith, born December 1819, Lawrence County, Mississippi—died May 5, 1912, New Hope community, Newton County, Mississippi; married Samuel H. Hollingsworth
  2. Jemima Smith, born January 20, 1821, Lawrence County, Mississippi—died ca. 1861, Newton County, Mississippi; married Robert S. (Robin) Hollingsworth. According to family tradition, Robin and his brother-in-law Reuben Anderson Smith operated the first wheat mill in the state. This tradition has not been verified by historical sources, but the site most likely would have been on Okahatta Creek near the McElhenney Road crossing north of Decatur.
  3. Cinderalla Smith, born March 30, 1822, Lawrence County, Mississippi—died November 28, 1907, Riversville, Newton County, Mississippi; married (1) Owen Pinson and (2) Robert S. (Robin) Hollingsworth
  4. Jeremiah Benton Smith, Sr., born 1826, Lawrence County, Mississippi—died after 1880, likely Smith County, Mississippi; married Sarah E. Young
  5. Infant Smith, d/y
  6. Joshua Smith, born 1834
  7. Reuben Anderson Smith, born March 15, 1835, Neshoba (Newton) County, Mississippi—died January 27, 1937, Pleasant Valley community, Newton County, Mississippi; married Narcissa Ann Stephens
  8. Isham Smith, born 1838, Newton County, Mississippi
  9. Mary Smith, born 1840, Newton County, Mississippi

After the death of Frankey, John William Smith moved to the Macedonia community of Newton County, Mississippi, where he died in 1881. He married (2) Jemima Hollingsworth, by whom he had five children and (3) Eliza Graves, by whom he had three children, for a total of 17 known children.

Descendants of Joshua Maxwell and Dianna Huey

Joshua Maxwell, son of Thomas Maxwell, Jr., and Adulla Henry, was born October 14, 1804, either in Elbert County or Franklin County, Georgia and died February 18, 1874, Meehan, Lauderdale County, Mississippi. As a child he migrated with his parents to Lawrence (now Lincoln) County, Mississippi, where he grew up. In the year 1834 he moved with his brother-in-law John William Smith to Pinckney in then Neshoba County, Mississippi, where he established the first mill in Newton County. He also patented over 400 acres in the county during that time. He later lived in Attala County and was living in Lauderdale County, Mississippi, at the time of his death. Joshua married about the year 1838 to Diana Huey. Diana was born May 1819 and died December 7, 1891 at Meehan. Dianna was a daughter of Jesse Huey and Margaret Johnson and granddaughter of William Johnson and Dianna Adams Johnson, all pioneer settlers in Newton County, Mississippi. Their marriage produced twelve children:

  1. Melissa Ann Maxwell, born November 26, 1839; married on January 14, 1859, Lauderdale County, Mississippi, to John Prunty
  2. Thomas A. Maxwell, born June 4, 1841—died February 25, 1864. Served in Civil War and may have died there, but marker is set in Meehan Cemetery
  3. Martha J. (Matt) Maxwell, born October 18, 1843 or 1844—died February 13, 1923; Meehan, Lauderdale County, Mississippi. Did not marry
  4. Margaret A. (Mag) Maxwell, born August 15, 1847—died February 23, 1926, Meehan, Lauderdale County, Mississippi; married Peter Goodwin
  5. William H. (Buck) Maxwell, born October 6, 1849—died August 7, 1891, Meehan, Lauderdale County, Mississippi; married Mary Elizabeth (Molly) Summerlin
  6. Emma Liza Maxwell, born November 9, 1850—died October 14, 1912, Meehan, Lauderdale County, Mississippi; married S. W. Stuckey
  7. Jesse H. Maxwell, born April 17, 1852—died January 14, 1901; married Sarah Frances (Fannie) Summerlin
  8. Lucy Jane Maxwell, born August 1854—died August 21, 1942; Meehan, Mississippi; married James Henry (Jim) Little
  9. Burbin A. Maxwell, born April 23, 1856—died 1933, Meehan, Lauderdale County, Mississippi; did not marry
  10. John H. Maxwell, born September 1859—died January 21, 1928, Brandon, Mississippi. Did not marry.
  11. Joshua Hugh Frances (Frank) Maxwell, born February 19, 1861 or 1862—died January 11, 1934;  married (1) Carolina Columbia (Tump) Tillman and (2) Arborette Summerlin
  12. Ida Maxwell, born 1864 and may have died young.

The Family of Elizabeth Maxwell and William McMullan

Elizabeth Maxwell, daughter of Rev. Thomas Maxwell and Mary Pemberton, was married in Elbert County, Georgia, on September 4, 1812, to William McMullan, and they lived out their lives in Elbert County and Hart County, Georgia. It was at their home where Rev. Thomas Maxwell died on December 12, 1837.

Following the deaths of William and Elizabeth Maxwell McMullan, three sons and one daughter would move to Newton County, Mississippi. The three sons—Jesse Pemberton McMullan, William Marion McMullan, and Thomas Jefferson McMullan--were active in Decatur Baptist Church. Following the death of his two brothers, William Marion McMullan joined with others in the Midway community between Newton and Decatur in the formation of Midway Baptist Church and donated the land that the parsonage is built on.  Issue of Elizabeth and William:

  1. Sarah McMullan married Samuel W. Williford and lived in South Carolina.
  2. Mary  (Polly) McMullan married Joseph R. Hull
  3. Keziah McMullan, born 1817, Elbert County, Georgia—died 1868, unmarried, Decatur, Mississippi
  4. Jesse Pemberton McMullan, born August 15, 1819, Elbert County, Georgia—died October 7, 1879, Decatur, Mississippi; married America Dunagin
  5. Elizabeth Ann McMullan married Samuel W. Williford, widower of her sister Sarah.
  6. William Marion McMullan, born February 16, 1825, Elbert County, Georgia—died  October 31, 1900, Midway community, Newton County, Mississippi; married Medaline Dunagin
  7. Thomas Jefferson McMullan, born August 9, 1830, Elbert County, Georgia—died July 6, 1879, Decatur, Mississippi. Did not marry.

Epilogue Lest We Forget



[1] See Lewis Peyton Little, “Imprisoned Preachers and Religious Liberties in Virginia”. Other Baptist ministers who were also jailed were the Revs. James Ireland, John Corbley, Elijah Craig, Thomas Ammon, Adams Banks, Nathaniel Saunders, Andrew Moffett, William McClanahan, John Pickett, John Delaney, Samuel Harris and David Thomas.


Acker, Martha Walters, Franklin County, Georgia Tax Digests, Volume 2, 1808-1818,

            Birmingham, Alabama, 1981.

Enon Baptist Church, Minute Book A.

Hurst, Floy Martin, Descendants of Joshua Maxwell.

Matthews, Mary Sparks, Fourteen Frontier Families, Family History

            Publishers, Bountiful, Utah, 1996.

Maxwell, Annie Lou, Thomas Maxwell of Virginia and Georgia and His

            Descendants, J. W. Burke Company, Macon, Georgia, 1956.

McMullan, Albert Lawrence, McMullan Family History.

Potter, Dorothy Williams, Passports of Southeastern Pioneers, 1770-1823, Gateway

            Press, Baltimore, Maryland, 1982.

Price, Oberia G., Price-Kees and Allied Families, Pineville, Louisiana, 1988.

Rayborn, Leola, Maxwell Family Records.


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