The Works Progress Administration

Biography of Benjamin Franklin Maxson of El Monte California

An inheritance of sterling traits of character, have made the members of the Maxson family revered and highly esteemed citizens of this section.  New England ancestry gave to their descendents name and character, later members locating in New York, where in Allegheny County, Abel Maxson, father of the subject of this review, a native of Rhode Island, engaged as a farmer.  Following the example of his Revolutionary sires he served in the War of 1812, participating in several important engagements, among them Sacket’s Harbor.  Some time after the Close of the war, he removed to Dane County, Wisconsin, where he made his home until his death, which occurred in his eightieth year.  He married Abigail Lull, a native of New York, in which state her death occurred.  They had six sons, namely:  Mathew, who for a time was located in El Monte; Schuyler and Edmund, who were killed during service in a New York regiment during the Civil War; William, who served as a captain in a New York regiment in the Civil War; George, who served as a major in a Georgia regiment, in the Confederate Army; and Benjamin Franklin, the subject of this review.

Benjamin F. Maxson, Sr., was born in 1841 in Dane County, Wisconsin.  He was educated in the public schools of his home community, and at the outbreak of the Civil War enlisted in Company K of the 13th Wisconsin Infantry.  During the struggle, he participated in many important engagements, principally in the middle west.  After the war, he remained in Wisconsin until 1867, when he came to California, making the trip by water via the Isthmus of Panama.  Upon his arrival in California, he settled in Colusa County and for eight years engaged in farming.  Coming to Southern California in 1875 he located in Tustin and purchased a ranch, which he improved with an orange, lemon and walnut grove.  In 1889, having sold his Tustin ranch, he came to El Monte, where with P.F. Cogswell he purchased a tract of land east of El Monte, and set out one of the first walnut groves in the Mountain View District.  He improved about two hundred acres of land, and owned at the time of his death about one hundred and seventy acres, which was considered one of the best-improved properties in this section.  He was not only active in his personal affairs, but maintained a creditable interest in all matters of public import, being particularly associated with educational and religious work, and was instrumental in the building of schools and churches.  For many years, he was trustee on the Mountain View School Board.  He was a liberal and public-spirited man in every avenue of life and one who could always be counted upon to uphold honor, either personally or by his vote.  Mr. Maxson was one of the organizers and active members for the Mountain View Growers Association, and contributed much energy and time to the development of the walnut industry in this district.  He was a Republican politically, while in religion he belonged to the Presbyterian Church.  He was for many years associated with the Grand Army of the Republic.

Mr. Maxson was actively engaged in the management of his agricultural pursuits up until the day of his untimely death.  An affliction which was the result of a wound received in action during the Civil War was directly responsible for his death.  During the Battle of Nashville, the concussion of an exploding shell seriously impaired his hearing, which resulted in after years in complete deafness.  In May of the year 1899, while crossing the Southern Pacific Railway tracks near Shorb, he failed to hear an oncoming train and was struck and instantly killed.

Mr. Maxson was married May 15, 1870, to Miss Olive Merwin, a native of Genesee Falls, New York, and the daughter of James Merwin, a farmer, who also removed to Wisconsin.   Her mother was a Miss Babcock, the lineage of whose family can be traced back to John Alden, of Pilgrim fame.  Mrs. Maxson died in February 1900, leaving a family of six children, Myra, wife of A.C. Drake, of El Monte, Annie, wife of Thomas R. McMichael, of El Monte, Benjamin Franklin, Jr., who died in 1928, Fay (Mrs. Neely) of Covina; and Olive (Mrs. Cole) of Cleveland, Ohio, and Ernest, who died in infancy.

Source: C. D. Mayon, F. Brow, L. Stoddard, and C. Mudd; El Monte from the Pioneer Days. WPA Project No. N-5740, 1936. In record 19-187072. (California Historical Landmark No. 765: El Monte). On file at the SCCIC, CSU Fullerton.

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