Maxson History

The Maxson Family History

The early history of the Maxson family in America is very confused, being based on persistent family legends and actual records.

There Is a traditional record In the diary of 0. H. Richardson, now In the collection of the Newport Historical Society, which reads:  “Today, Dec. 20, 1720, died John Maxson, Sr. , age 82.  He lost his father and brother Richard who were attacked and killed by Indians.  Mrs. Maxson escaped in a shallop to Acquetneck and her son was born soon after the landing in the spring of 1638 before the island was purchased from the Indians. He was the first white child born on the Island of Rhode Island (Acquetneck was the Indian name of the island). “

Walter LeRoy Brown, of Albion, N. Y. , writes thus in his book, “Maxson Family Records”.  “From various sources the tradition is persistent that John Maxson’s parents, with others from England, attempted settlement at Throg’s Point, sometimes called Maxson’s Point, about the beginning of the Pequot War.. They were driven from their homes by the Indians and took refuge in a shallop. The next day Richard Maxson and his son Richard, said to have been 13 years old, and other men landed again to get goods and food, when all were massacred by the Indians.  Mrs. Maxson and others left on the boat escaped and after a trying voyage landed on the island of Rhode Island where her son John was born the spring of 1638. “

The writer has the following from Mrs. Alena (Maxson) Bond of Nortonsville, Kans.  “There were two clans In Scotland that were at war with each other.  In the last fight, the Maxsons were all killed except a boy who hid in the woods, and found ‘ his way to England.  Later he came to America.  When and whom he married, I do not know.  He lived at Providence, R. 1. , then at Mystic, Conn. “Indians attacked the town and massacred many, and Mr. Maxson and his son were among the killed. His widow, and others, got away in a boat, and went along the coast to Newport, R.I.  On the way, they stopped on the island of Rhode Island, where, as recorded in ‘Westerly and Its Witnesses, ‘ Mrs. Maxson gave birth to a son, John Maxson, in 1638.  He became a leading man in the community; also was the first pastor of the Seventh Day Baptist Church as Ashway, R. 1. “

Referring to this John Maxson, Walter LeRoy Brown in his book states that “Sept. 20, 1708, John Maxson Sr. was ordained to the office of Elder (pastor) to the congregation in and about Westerly, now called the First Hopkinton S. D.B. C. at Ashway, R, 1.”

Mr. Lyie E. Maxson, gives, a slightly different story from that given, above, by his sister, Mrs. Alena Bond.  This follows: “My brother Clifford, who died recently, sent me, years ago, our history from the boy, in Scotland, of the Max Clan, as the only one left after a feud fight and escaped to England and there called Maxaon. He later came to America. “

Through the courtesy of the Seventh Day Baptist Historical Society, the writer has the following quotation from an article by Charles Hartshorn Maxson of Phila-delphia written in 1936.  “.  . . Richard Maxson and his good wife, and Hugh Mosher and Lydia Maxson, his wife. Mosher had come from Manchester, England and so probably had all four.  Where did Richard and Lydia get the name Maxson?  In student days I wheeled into the Scotch hamlet of Maxton, and In private thought have since claimed It as the original seat of my family.  A genealogist was unable to trace the Maxson line in Britain, but several lines were traced through the wives of early Maxsons.  Thus I learned that an ancestor of mine was the physician of King IV of York, a German brought to England for the Royal service.  In the first year of the settlement of Rhode Island a child was born to Richard Maxson and his good wife, . . . and that child grew up to be Elder John Maxson, first pastor of theS.D.B. Church at Westerly . . .”

The following is a quotation from the Seventh Day Baptist Memorial, Vol. I, No. I, pages 49 and 50.

“JOHN MAXSON, Sr. — the first leading Elder of the Seventh Day Baptist Church In Westerly, R. 1.  (This would now be known as the first HopkintonS.D.B. Church, atAshway, R. 1.  E. St. J.) “His parents came from England, and were among the earliest settlers of New England and also among the first who attempted a landing on the shores of Connecticut.

“The party with which they were connected made a temporary settlement, It is supposed,  near Throg’s Neck,  hence for some time after called Maxson’s Point.  They carried on a trade with the Indians, and prospered, until about the time of the breaking-out of the Pequot War, in 1637, when the Indians who surrounded them, instigated probably by emissaries from the Pequots, suddenly abstained from intercourse with the settlers.  Upon their sending to inquire why they did not come in as usual to trade they received answer that they feared their dogs which they allowed to go un-confined, but if they would shut them up they would come in again.  The unsuspecting colonists .  . . complied with the condition; and their watchful sentinels once confined, the savages made an attack upon the settlement, and drove the whites to their shallop.  A portion of them landing in a boat the next day, to procure more provisions and produce from their gardens, were attacked and Mr. Maxson and son Richard were killed.  Mrs. Maxson escaped with the survivors in the shallop, and after a long and tedious passage) landed on the island of Acquetneck, the near-est place on the coast at that time free from danger of the hostile Indians; where, soon after landing, John was born.  This was in the spring of 1638; and the island was purchased of the Sachems, Miantonimoh, and Canonicus on the 24th of March of that year, and settled by the English Immediately thereafter.  Mrs. Maxson remained.’ there, and devoted herself to the support and education of her son.  Mr. Maxson thus has the distinction of being the first white child born on the island of Rhode Island, or Acqu”This is the substance of the family traditions, and we regret that they do not give us more knowledge of the Christian mother and heroine .  .  . “

At this point we cannot avoid the question, Where did the name Maxson originate? Our present knowledge makes it impossible to arrive at any definite conclusion. If we start with the story of the Scotch boy, we might assume that It originated from the Max Clan mentioned by Mr. Lyie E. Maxson. His statement was to the effect that a member of the Max Clan became “Maxson” after escaping to England.  This addition of the “son” to the Clan name “Max” could form the family name of the members of that Clan.

Mr. Charles Hartshorn Maxson considered the hamlet “Maxton” to be the original seat of the Maxson family.  It is common practice in Scotland to name towns and villages after some family by adding “ton” to that family name.  An example is the town of Maxwellton in the south of Scotland.  Therefore, it seems quite Justifiable to assume that the hamlet of Maxton could have been named for the Clan Max.  If so, it seems quite pobable that the house of the Max Clan was in, or near, Maxton. All legendary evidence strongly Indicates that the Scotch boy of the Max Clan was the father of John Maxson who was born on the Island of Rhode Island in 1638.

So far the writer has failed to find any record connecting the Max son family, in America, with any line of the Maxson family in Britain.  The writer’s father, Stephen W. Maxson, has always held that the Maxsons were of Scotch descent and not English.  The evidence, largely legendary, seems to indicate this ancestry,

The writer is indebted to Miss Louise Maxon of Longmont, Colo., for the following regarding the name “Maxson” in England. A study of early English rec-ords reveals the fact that this family name was spelled in many ways in its early history. “Makkesone,” “Makkeson,” “Maggson,” “Magsen,” “Magson,” “Mackson,” “Macson,” “Maxen,” “Maxon” and “Maxson” are the spellings recorded. The earliest record of this family, In England:, is that of John Makkesone and his wife Agnes ofDisley, East Cheshire, who were living in the year 1333.

Walter LeRoy Brown, previously mentioned, writes: “Mention of one Maxson family, and only one, has been found in the records of Mass. and R. 1. before the time of John Maxson and family. This undoubtedly refers to Richard Maxson and hie wife.”

There is a record to the effect that Apr. 30, 1639, Richard Maxson was one of 14 men who signed their names; 15 others making their marks, to the following: “We whose names are underwritten do acknowledge legal subjects of his Majesty, King Charles, and in his name do bind ourselves Into civil body polotike unto his laws according to matters of Justice.” The 29 men were of the settlement which later was called “Acquetneck.”  (R. I Records, Vol. I, p. 70)

Mar. 6, 1640, ownership of 36 acres was recorded to Richard Maxson of Acquetneck. According to legend Richard was killed before the birth of his son John the spring of 1638. The record Just noted indicates that Richard was living as late as 1640.  While these records tend to confuse history of Richard’s death, there seems to be no reason to doubt the manner of the death of Richard and his son.

In 1661 John Maxson (1638-1720) with othersformed a company at Newport for pur-chase and settling a tract of land called by the Indians “Misquarncut” which now comprises Westerly, Charlestown, and Hopkinton, R. 1. He was made freeman at Westerly Oct. 29, 1668. He served as deputy to the General Assembly from Westerly 1670, 1686, 1690, and 1705. He was overseer of the poor in 1687. The colony of Westerly had connected itself as a branch of the Newport Seventh Day Baptist Church of which William Hiscox was pastor. John Maxson was a member of this branch church before 1692.  In 1708, the Westerly branch was made a separate church. Sept. 20, 1708, John Maxson, Sr., was ordained to the office of Elder (pastor) to the congregation in and about Westerly, now called the First Hopkinton S.D.B.C. of Ashway, R. 1.

There are two branches of the Maxson family in America. One spells its name “M-a-x-s-o-n” and the other does not use the “s,” the spelling being “M-a-x-o-n.” There is a story known to both the Maxsons and the Maxons regarding these spell-ings.  The writer has It from his father. Stephen W. Maxson, and Mr. E. E. Maxon, a farm machine dealer in Scotts Bluff, Nebr. According to this story, two brothers named Maxson landed in America early in the 17th century. It was agreed that one should drop the “s” from his name so that the descendants of both could be traced.  Mr. E. E. Maxon told this story to the writer, not knowing that he had ever heard it, saying that the people who raised him (he was an orphan) told it to him.

Being known to both the Maxsons and the Maxons, it would appear that this story was based on facts.  To be sure, it may be factual; however, it will not serve to separate the two groups at the present time.  The records show that cer- tain individuals, descended from John Maxson (1638-1720), have dropped the “s” from their names.  In some instances, the descendants of such individuals all continued to drop the “e” while in other cases only a part of the children have followed the parent while others have retained the “s”.

For much of the early history of the Maxson family in England, the writer is indebted to Miss Loise Maxon of Longmont, Colo.  In preparing the history up to the 7th generation, much has been drawn from Walter LeRoy Maxson’s book, “Maxson  ‘ Family Records”.  For data from the 7th generation to the present date, much has been drawn from a brief history of the family prepared by the writer’s mother, Jane Maria Maxson, Many relatives descended from Lyman Percy Maxson, the writer’s grandfather, have rendered valuable assistance without which this record could not have been prepared.  To all these, the writer wishes to express his deep appreciation.

Asa Chandler Maxson
1875-1980