The Maxwell Family

This section describes what I know concerning the family of Jennie Maxwell and her father Thomas.

Maxwell family origins

The ancestry of Thomas and Jennie Maxwell is uncertain. The Maxwell name can be found as early as 1774 in present day Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. Persons named Maxwell are in Butler County, Washington County, and Pittsburgh by 1805. I have tried but not succeeded in connecting these families to those discussed here. But I, as a result of some convoluted reasoning, want to entertain one possible candidate ancestor in a James Maxwell and wife Rachel. This family appeared in the 1850 census in Allegheny City, third ward:

James Maxwell (Jr.), in 1853, married Nancy Morris in the Allegheny Methodist Episcopal Church. Due to an experiment in which Allegheny County recorded all births, marriages and deaths for the years 1852 through 1854 (a custom which would not be resumed for another thirty years), it is known that James was the son of James and Rachel Maxwell, and that he was born in Washington County, Pennsylvania . That James Maxwell family was in the 1840 census in Allegheny City and in 1830 can be located by elimination in the Hopewell Township, Washington County census. It is with this record that I can start to imagine a relationship for Thomas Maxwell, my ancestor, to this family. For while the 1830 census does not list the names of children, it does give the sex and the ages of whomever lived with the head of household. In this instance, there were four boys listed; one under five, two more between five and ten, and one between ten and fifteen. Given that the 1850 census record for this family can only account for the youngest boy on the 1830 list, I can hypothesize that the other three boys are out of the household by 1840. I believe that the oldest boy is the Alexander Maxwell who appears in Allegheny city in the 1840 census; no more will be said about him. The other two boys I believe would be Thomas and his brother Henry.

The 1850 census record shown above implies that the James Maxwell family immigrated from Ireland between 1810 and 1820. Descriptions of this family in published family trees attribute the family to a James Maxwell born 1784 in Scotland, who married Rachel Gilmour. I think the jury is out regarding this attribution. However, I have found one person, a descendant of James Maxwell, Jr., who shares a 7 centiMorgan chunk of DNA with me and my brother. This would be the expected amount of identity between 4th cousins, so I am cautiously optomistic about this information.

Early Years

Thomas Maxwell

Thomas Maxwell, the father of Jennifer Maxwell, was probably born in late 1822 or early 1823 in Pennsylvania . The first mention of him was the 1850 Pittsburgh Directory where he gave his address as 30 Fourth Avenue in the Point and his occupation as cabinet maker. While he was not recorded in the 1850 census, he probably was already married to Jane B. at that time. In the 1860 census Jane stated she was born in Pennsylvania in 1821; I can only guess that the B stood for Baxter and was Jane's middle name.

In the years 1855 through 1860 Thomas reappeared in the Directory as a police officer or constable, living at 176 Penn and 158 Penn. The Pittsburgh newspapers confirm this; they reported his appointment as a police officer on January, 1856 , and his promotion to vice high constable on March 2, 1861 . I found a number of references in the newspapers between 1856 and 1860 to Thomas' activity as a police officer, usually as an arresting officer. Judging from a published history of the Pittsburgh police, Thomas was a night watchman, of which perhaps 30 patrolled the city in the late 1850s.

In 1857 Thomas and his younger brother Henry Maxwell purchased a cemetery lot in Union Dale Cemetery of Allegheny. Thomas and Jane's six year old daughter, Anna M. Maxwell, was buried there November 28, 1857; she was the eighth burial in that new cemetery .

Thomas was in the 1860 census, fourth ward, Pittsburgh, married and with three children.

Henry Maxwell

Henry Maxwell first appeared in the 1850 census in the third ward of Allegheny. He stated he was a butcher and had married Ann. Ann Baxter Maxwell later stated they married in March, 1850 . The 1860 census showed this couple along with four children and a sister-in-law living next door to the Baxters in Woodville, north and east of Allegheny:

The Civil War

Thomas had joined the Washington Infantry of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania when it formed in 1855; he was elected corporal in 1860 . A later commemorative booklet showed this Infantry resembled a modern National Guard unit. I would like to cite one of the examples given :

February 15, 1861 - President Lincoln addressed the citizens of Pittsburgh in the forenoon from the balcony of the Monongehela House, after which the Washington Infantry escorted him to the depot in Allegheny. The weather was disagreeable, raining during the early part of the day and the streets were very muddy. After returning to the city, General Negley addressed the company on behalf of the committee of arrangements thanking them for their services. The General concluded as follows: "While the storms of disunion clouded our happiness, it came as a fitting tribute of patriotism for you to disregard the stormy elements. The name you bear is sacred on the pages of history, you will honor it if found ever in the path of duty. Washington Infantry! Cherish your title, 'He was first in war, and first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.' Mr. Lincoln desired me to express to you his personal regard; I assured him that you considered no fatigue or danger too great when devotion to your country was your reward." The company was then dismissed.

On the day that Fort Sumter was attacked, April 14, 1861, the governor of Pennsylvania accepted the services of this unit against the Rebellion. Thomas Maxwell became First Sergeant of Company D, 13th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers. The Company was deployed to Washington County, Maryland and disbanded in August; an official history stated it did not see significant wartime activity .

In August, 1862 Henry Maxwell organized Company K, 123rd Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers. The Company, nicknamed the "Butcher's Infantry" , included Henry as captain and Thomas as first lieutenant. It arrived in Maryland just after the battle of Antietam and experienced significant casualties in December at Fredericksburg, Virginia . Henry resigned December 31, 1862; Thomas Maxwell was promoted to captain and so served until the company was disbanded May 13, 1863 .

Later Nineteenth Century

Henry Maxwell

Henry Maxwell died September 2, 1865  and was buried September 4 in the Union Dale Cemetery plot .. A small official veteran's stone marks his grave. His wife's application for a military pension stated that he died

from disease of kidney contracted by lying on the ground a while in the service

I assume that Henry experienced a significant crush injury in Fredericksburg with rhabdomyolysis and kidney failure.

Anna was denied the pension. The Directories show that her household lived at several places in Allegheny, settling by 1874 at 23 Linden just north of North Park. The 1880 census showed her along with three sons and two daughters at that location.

Ann Baxer Maxwell died in 1888; her three sons (Robert, James and Charles) and sister-in-law Sarah Baxter also died between 1886 and 1888 . The Union Dale plot contains a monument for the Henry Maxwell family as well as a separate stone for Sarah Baxter.

Thomas Maxwell

After his war time service Thomas returned to Pittsburgh, living at 160 Penn until 1871. He declared his occupation as independent policeman or watchman until 1864 when he became a cabinet maker once more.

The 1880 census listed the following children:

  1. Henry H., born 1849
  2. Bianca., born 1857
  3. Laura, born 1861
  4. Jennifer., born 1864

By 1873 the family had moved to 24 Third Avenue. Starting then son Henry H. Maxwell was also listed in the Directories at this address either as a cabinet maker or a coffin maker.

In 1880 the family moved across the street from the Perrins (28 Second Avenue), and both Thomas and Henry H. advertised themselves as "Thomas Maxwell & Son," makers of furniture. Unfortunately this arrangement only lasted through 1882. A final record for the Maxwells in the history of the Washington Infantry of Pittsburgh stated :

July 24, 1882 - The company -- 2 officers and 43 men -- acted as escort at the funeral of Harry H. Maxwell, a member of the company - son of Capt. Thos. Maxwell.

The Maxwell family lived at various addresses in the first ward, Pittsburgh, through 1888. There were no further listings for Thomas Maxwell in Pittsburgh after then. It is apparent that the family moved to Crafton, as described in detail in a newspaper article from December, 1888 :

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He Sells His Household Effects and Removes to Crafton - Another Prosecutor Must Be Procured - Father Sheedy's Opponents Dumbfounded.

A bomb has been thrown into the camp of the opposition to the First ward parochial school. The work of months has been undone and the gentlemn at the back of the plaintiff in the equity proceedings to restrain the directors from allowing the use of the building for Father Sheedy's school, are completely taken aback.

Thomas Maxwell, it will be remembered, was the only one of the plaintiffs in the case who remained firm to the first move. He had three colleagues in the case but they all withdrew and left Mr. Maxwell the sole possessor of the field. The gentleman was staunch and firm. He would fight the matter to the end. Yesterday he exemplified how anxioius he was to stay till the conclusion by moving out of the city. Bag and baggage was disposed of at public sale at his residence on Ferry street, and at its close the Maxwell family left for Crafton. Mr. Maxwell, himself, has been there for the past two weeks and could not be seen when a POST representative called at his late home. His wife, however, was superintending the round-up of affairs.

I have not had the patience to get the back story for this newspaper article, but its substance seems clear. The Catholic church wanted to establish a school in the Point, and some residents were suing to prevent it. The neighborhood was changing; more Irish and Italians were taking over the neighborhood. So the Maxwells, given that their daughter had moved to Crafton, were also able to experience flight to the suburbs.

In 1890 Thomas applied for a Civil War pension , as in June of that year it first became possible to receive a military pension for nonservice disabilities. Affidavits from July, 1890 and April, 1891 stated that Thomas lived in Crafton. The medical examiners found Thomas was five foot, eight inches tall, weighed 120 pounds and had grey eyes. They found disability on the basis of "lumbago, disease of urinary organs and debility".

Thomas' wife Jane died on March 24, 1892, just six months before Jennifer Maxwell Perrin's death. The funeral home records showed that the expenses of the funeral, including a hearse, 5 carriages, flowers and crepe, were not fully paid until 1909 . There was no grave stone.

Thomas moved from Pittsburg to the Dayton, Ohio, National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers on May 26, 1896, and died April 13, 1898 . He was buried in the National Cemetery in Dayton, as shown in this .

Thomas' daughters

While three daughters born to Thomas and Jane Maxwell survived to adulthood, only Jennifer married. I showed a photograph of her in a previous narratice section. Every remaining photograph I have of here are in a . I know little about Bianca and Laura. Bianca was listed in the 1892 Pittsburgh directory at 107 Arch Street, Allegheny; this address is suspiciously similar to the one listed for Jane Maxwell in the Union Dale cemetery records . Both Bianca and Laura were boarders at 412 Biddle Avenue, Wilkinsburg in the 1900 census; Bianca worked as a dressmaker, Laura as a saleswoman. On the family there are two pictures which might be them.

Bianca died in 1917. Laura was in the 1930 census, living in the borough of Avalon at age 70 and retired. Lea Perrin's address book gives an additional address for her on Emily Street in Crafton; one of the photographs I have was glued to an envelope received by Laura at that address in 1924. Babs remembers Laura as the aunt who was very old and was always invited to their house for holidays. She died in 1949. Both Bianca and Laura were buried in Union Dale cemetery without grave stones .

Addendum: The Maxwell plot (Uniondale Cemetery)

Thomas and Henry Maxwell purchased a cemetery plot in 1856 in the Uniondale Cemetery which is located in the former city of Allegheny. Their first burial there is listed as the eighth burial in the entire cemetery. As is the case in the Perrin burials at Homewood Cemetery, not all the burials there are marked by stones. In particular, it is Henry Maxwell's family who received mention on a central monument. The stones themselves are in the grave stone . Below is a listing of the interments:

Name Date of burial Relationship and notes
Anna M. Maxwell 11/28/1857 daughter of Tom and Jane Maxwell, born 1851, Pittsburgh
Henry H. Maxwell 7/24/1882 son of Thomas
Sarah J. Baxter 8/13/1887 sister-in-law of Henry, she was born May 15,1831 and has her own stone
Henry Maxwell 9/4/1865 brother of Thomas, born 1826, There is an additional veteran's stone for him on the plot
Ann Maxwell 9/1/1888 wife of Henry, born 1828
Charles F. Maxwell 3/31/1887 One of Henry's sons, born 1864
James C. Maxwell 5/10/1886 One of Henry's sons, born 1856
Robt. B. Maxwell 9/20/1888 One of Henry's sons, born 1852
Bianca J. Maxwell 9/20/1917 the oldest daughter of Thomas
Jane B. Maxwell 3/26/1892 the wife of Thomas, born 1820
Laura F. Maxwell 6/1/1949 Thomas' second eldest daughter