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Henry Maxwell

From: Florida

American Guide, (Negro Writers' Unit)

Alfred Farrell, Field Worker
John A. Simms, Editor
Titusville, Florida
September 25, 1936


"Up from Slavery" might well be called this short biographical sketch of
Henry Maxwell, who first saw the light of day on October 17, 1859 in
Lownes County, Georgia. His mother Ann, was born in Virginia, and his
father, Robert, was born in South Carolina. Captain Peters, Ann's owner,
bought Robert Maxwell from Charles Howell as a husband for Ann. To this
union were born seven children, two girls--Elizabeth and Rosetta--and
five boys--Richard, Henry, Simms, Solomon and Sonnie. After the death of
Captain Peters in 1863, Elizabeth and Richard were sold to the Gaines
family. Rosetta and Robert (the father) were purchased from the Peters'
estate by Isham Peters, Captain Peters' son, and Henry and Simms were
bought by James Bamburg, husband of Izzy Peters, daughter of Captain
Peters. (Solomon and Sonnie were born after slavery.)

Just a tot when the Civil War gave him and his people freedom, Maxwell's
memories of bondage-days are vivid through the experiences related by
older Negroes. He relates the story of the plantation owner who trained
his dogs to hunt escaped slaves. He had a Negro youth hide in a tree
some distance away, and then he turned the pack loose to follow him. One
day he released the bloodhounds too soon, and they soon overtook the boy
and tore him to pieces. When the youth's mother heard of the atrocity,
she burst into tears which were only silenced by the threats of her
owner to set the dogs on her. Maxwell also relates tales of the terrible
beatings that the slaves received for being caught with a book or for
trying to run away.

After the Civil War the Maxwell family was united for a short while, and
later they drifted apart to go their various ways. Henry and his parents
resided for a while longer in Lownes County, and in 1880 they came to
Titusville, with the two younger children, Solomon and Sonnie. Here
Henry secured work with a farmer for whom he worked for $12 a month. In
1894 he purchased a small orange grove and began to cultivate oranges.
Today he owns over 30 acres of orange groves and controls nearly 200
more acres. He is said to be worth around $250,000 and is Titusville's
most influential and respected colored citizen. He is married but has no

[TR: Interview of Titus Bynes, including sections about Della Bess
Hilyard ("Aunt Bess") and Taylor Gilbert repeated here. References to
them deleted below.]


1. Personal interview of field worker with subject

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