The Maxwell Family

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

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 Anna'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 :

eyeglasses icon



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 .

Maxwell family origins

At this point 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. In the absence of specific historical record I can only go by DNA evidence.

DNA clues

My brother, but not myself, has a 27 centimorgan DNA match with a apparent mother and son pair who have Henry Maxwell as a grandfather or greatgrandfather. This match is an appropriate amount of DNA for putative fourth cousins.

Meanwhile in I have a DNA match totalling 36 centimorgans on 4 sites with a specific person who descends from a Maxwell from Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. Besides my brother (who shares 18 centimorgans on 2 sites) I share with him only one other match listed on the site. We both match to a second cousin of mine who is a descendant of Mabel Perrin. As Mabel was the only other child of FRC Perrin and Jennie Maxwell to have children, this match takes on some significance.

Mary Maxwell Banar

The greatgrandmother of my DNA match is one Mary Maxwell Banar, born 1827 and died 1904. Mary married James Banar before 1850, so she first appeared in the 1850 census living with James, his parents and 6 month old Eliza Banar in Unity Township, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. By the 1860 census they had moved to the borough of Latrobe, Westmoreland County. Thereafter the Banar family is consistently in the census in the city of Allegheny from 1870 through 1900 (spelled Baider in 1880, however).

The Pittsburgh directories first show James Banar in the city of Allegheny in 1872. James died by 1876, and Mary is listed in the directories as a widow thereafter. After 1880 her address was consistently 16 White Oak alley. This address is about 3 blocks away from Anna Maxwell's Linden Street address.

Mary died February 25, 1905, according to the city of Allegheny death registry. It further stated that she was born September 25, 1827 in Pittsburgh to John and Eliza Maxwell. Mary's obituary  is below:

Mrs. Mary Maxwell Banar, aged 77, widow of Jamers W. Banar, died at 1 o'clock his morning at her home, no. 127 Samson street, Allegheny, of pneumonia. Mrs. Banar was a member of a pioneer family of Pittsburgh. Mrs. Banar was a member of the Methodist Church, having been connected with ther Arch street church for 55 years. She is survived by five children, Mrs. Jennie Rees, Miss Anne, Mrs. Benton Martin, heny M., and Thomas L. Banar, all of Allegheny.

Daughter Jennie Rees' obituary on December 21, 1915  further stated

...She observed the sixty-sixth anniversary of her birth two days before she died. She was born in Arch Street and was married in 1869, going to Greensburg with her husband...

From that statement it is possible to calculate Jennie's date of birth to be December 19, 1849. As the above 1850 census for Unity Township was conducted in August, Jennie must be the child named Eliza there. But these two obituaries imply strongly that Mary and James Banar lived in the city of Allegheny, not Westmoreland County, before 1850. Perhaps Mary's original family was living there at that time as well.

John Maxwell

All I can say about John and Eliza Maxwell is inference. On the basis of the DNA match I would like to make the assumption that Mary Maxwell was a sister to Thomas (born about 1822) and Henry (born about 1828) Maxwell. The information in Mary's death record and obituary make it quite likely that John was in Pittsburgh by 1827.

There are two candidate John Maxwells in the Pittsburgh census records. The first candidate lived in the East Ward in 1830, This John Maxwell was born betweeen 1780 and 1790, and his wife was 10 years younger. In 1830 he had two sons and one daughter, all under 5 years old. In 1840 he is in the census once more in the East Ward. Then his family did not include the two sons, but there were five additional women aged 10 - 30 in the household.

The second candidate John Maxwell was in the North Ward in 1830 only. He was born between 1770 and 1780. His household included a wife, 2 sons under 5 years of age, and 5 females ranging from under 5 to over 20 years of age. It is tempting to think that many of these girls and women ended up in the East Ward John Maxwell household in 1840. Unfortunaterly neither of these families are obviously in the 1850 census.

The Pittsburgh directory of 1826 includes a John Maxwell, shoemaker, who shared a shop with Samuel Maxwell in the business district of Pittsburgh. A John Maxwell, laborer, is in the North End in the 1847, 1850 and 1852 directories. A second John Maxwell, saddler, lived on Carpenters Alley, a street in the city of Allegheny parallel and just south of South Canal Street, in the 1847 and 1850 directories. Neither of these later John Maxwells are obvious within the 1850 census record.

A search through the probate records for Allegheny County there is a John Maxwell, died 1843 in Pittsburgh. While there is no will on file, the online records available to me indicate that the executrix was Margaret Maxwell, and there is an inventory of the estate.

Finally, there was a John Maxwell of Allegheny County who volunteered and serverd in the Pennsylvania Blues company in the War of 1812 ; their antics are described elsewhere .

Future research

I would like to think that the census record tells the story of two John Maxwells, father and son. The elder John died between 1830 and 1840, with many of the females associated with that household migrating to the other household for the 1840 census. This younger John then died in 1843. Of course all of this can be considered fantasy. Perhaps looking at the Arch Street Methodist Church records, or John Maxwell's probate record, will be helpful in all of this. In the meantime one can only hope for some more exceptional DNA evidence.

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