Analysis. Vita and Family of John Maxwell (88)



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Person: John Maxwell (88)
Transcript:Records for Maxwell in Chalkley's Chronicles
Transcript:Records for John Maxwell in Chalkley's Annals Covers his presence in Augusta County prior to 1770
Transcript:Records for John Maxwell in Summers, 1929 Covers his presence in Botetourt County after 1770
Transcript:Inventory and Estate of John Maxwell, Rockbridge County, 1786
Transcript:Proof of Importation, John Maxwell, Orange County, 1740
Notes. Miscellaneous Notes for John Maxwell of Augusta and Botetourt Counties c1740-c1775
Land Transactions of John Maxwell in Augusta County, c1736 to c1770
Transcript:Maxwell Baptisms by the Rev. Craig, Augusta County, 1741-1747

Analysis. Wife of John Maxwell (88), the Oath Taker

Conventional Wisdom

The following is a brief summary of the family of John Maxwell (88), as it is conventionally described in family histories.

John Maxwell (88) is "defined" as the person for whom an Orange County Court record exists, in which he attests to importing himself and several other persons with the last name of Maxwell, to the new world sometime before 1740.

July 24, 1740.
"John Maxwell came into Court and made oath that he imported himself Margaret John, Jr. Thomas, Mary and Alexander Maxwell from Ireland to Philadelphia and from thence to this Colony, at his own expense and that this is the first time of his proving his rights in order to obtain land. Which is ordered to be certified."

The importation record does not specify the relationship of these persons to John Maxwell. Most genealogists probably assume that since share the same surname, this is the record for a basic 18th century "nuclear family". While other possibilities exist[1], this seems to be the most likely, simplest, explanation. In anycase, this is the interpretation that will be used here.

There are a substantial number of records for "John Maxwell" in Augusta County, some of which are believed to pertain to John (88), and some to his son, John (89), and some to his grandson, John (100). Under the usual interpretation encountered in family genealogies, John (88) is thought to have settled on Beverley's Manor in what is now Augusta County immediately after (if not before) attesting in 1740 to his self importation. Few records for him exist between 1740 and about 1750. Baptismal records for Tinkling Springs show that during this period three children are born to John Maxwell. William (1743), James/John (1745), and Thomas (1747). William and Thomas are commonly assigned to John (88), while John is commonly assigned to his son, John (89).

Source:Maxwell History, Source:Wilson, 1954, and Source:Hatke, 1979 provide transcripts of these baptisms. They do not agree in a number of particulars. For example Hatke indicates that John Maxwell had a son John baptized in 1745, while Maxwell History and Wilson, 1954]] identify this child as James. Whether John had a son James or a son John, or perhaps both, has considerble implication for the following discussion. Resolution of some of the key problems in the genealogy of this family is in part contingent on determining whether the Rev. Craig's baptisms include John or James as the son of John Maxwell. Queries are being made to determine where Craigs original records are held (probably Tinkling Springs Curh in Fisherville, VA, or the Presbyterian Historical Society in Philadelphia. Q 09:14, 29 June 2012 (EDT)

Around 1750 a series of land transactions are made by John Maxwell in which his property on Beverleys Manor is sold, and other land purchased in the Forks of the James, to the south near Natural Bridge. In 1770 this area was in Botetourt County, but in 1778 the area became part of the newly formed Rockbridge County. John Maxwell, and kindred, are commonly believed to have remained in the Forks of the James until his death before 1786. Records for "John Maxwell become more numerous betwee 1750 to 1786, but again are variously interpreted as pertaining to John (88), (89), and (100). Some of these records indicate that "John Maxwell" was proposed as a Justice for Botetourt County, but apparently refused to serve in that capacity. Others tell us that he served as sheriff for the county. A 1786 estate inventory is commonly cited as the record for the death of John (88), who presumably died intestate.

About 1770 a James Maxwell (known as "Great White Chief" in family lore) and his brother Thomas moved further south to the head of the Clinch River in what is now Tazewell County. late in life James gave testimony that he came to Tazewell from the Old Augusta area, in the company of a Samuel Walker. This Samuel Walker is believed to have been a member of the Natural Bridge Line of Wigton Walkers, who lived near where the Maxwells settled in the Forks of the James. testimony is commonly identified as the son of John Maxwell (88).

An Audley Maxwell (1) is recorded as appearing on Beveley's Manor b 1738, somewhat further north from where John Maxwell settled. His relationship to John Maxwell of the importation record is not known, but when John and Mary Maxwell moved south in 1750, Audley's family apparently did as well, as we have several records for an Audley Maxwell living in the Forks of the James after that date. It is assumed that Audley (1) was a brother of John (88), but he could have been a cousin of one degree or another. In anycase an Audley Maxwell also appears in the records of South Carolina and Georgia at a later date, and he is often said to have come from the Old Augusta area. Given the rarity of the name "Audley", it is assumed that the Audley Maxwell of South Carolina is in fact related to Audley Maxwell of Old Augusta.


The foregoing account of the family represents an overall perspective on the Maxwell's of Augusta County. There are, however, many different views of that history, particularly as embodied in on-line sources such as Ancestry. The above captures the overall flavor of what most genealogists seem to accept. There is, however, a generalized problem with this lineage in that while there are a substantial number of records for Maxwell's in Old Augusta it is often unclear which Maxwell they pertain to. As am example, there are probably 60 plus records for "John Maxwell" in Old Augusta between 1738 and c1800, but there are also at least three different "John Maxwell's" in the area during this same time frame: John (88), John (89), and John (100). [2] In general, it has proven difficult to accurately associate most of these records with specific John Maxwell's.

One issue of considerable importance is the identity of the wife of John Maxwell the Oath Taker (John (88)). An analysis of this issue is presented at Analysis. Wife of John Maxwell (88), the Oath Taker, and summarized here:

The essential problem with regard to John (88)'s wife is that in his the oath of importation we swore that he had paid for the importation of several people, the first of which was Margaret. Margaret is commonly assumed to be his wife, and the others his children. Yet the first records for John Maxwell in Augusta County after this date are land transactions about 1750, in which his wife is identified as "Mary". There are several ways these records can be reconciled.

1. His wife's name was "Mary Margaret". This is a facile explanation for which no supporting evidence exists. There are, for example, no records for a "Mary Margaret Maxwell" in Augusta County during this period.
2. The name of John's first wife was "Margaret", but she died prior to the land transaction in 1750, and John remarried, this time to "Mary".
3. The Margaret identified in the oath of importation is John's daughter, not his wife. Under this interpretation his wife predeceased him, most likely before his importation, but certainly before he gave his oath.