William L. Maxwell, BiographyPorter County biographical sketches . . . .

Transcribed biography of William L. Maxwell

WILLIAM L. MAXWELL. Commercialism is one of the principal foundation stones of a nation's success and prosperity. To the men who have built up the great trading marts of the nation, state or of smaller districts great commendation is due not only for the personal success they have achieved but also for the part they have taken in advancing the commercial prestige of their section, and therefore of the nation. There are men who are peculiarly adapted to the different enterprises of buying and selling, and as a representative of that class of business men in Porter county, Indiana, William L. Maxwell, for years a successful grain merchant, stands well to the fore. For twenty-three years he bought extensively of the surrounding agriculturists in Porter, Washington and Morgan townships, as well as in LaPorte county, and in this long period of business activity he gained an enviable record for fair dealing and accuracy of business methods. It is therefore with pleasure that we here present a brief review of his life as a representative business man of Porter county and as an agriculturist, for he has now turned much of his attention to that industry.

Mr. Maxwell, who is of English descent, was born December 20, 1854, in Davis county, Iowa, whither his parents, George W. and Margaret A. (Downs) Maxwell, had removed about 1853. Both parents were born in Franklin county, Indiana, the father's birth occurred in 1829 and that of the mother in 1835, and they remained residents of that county until after their marriage. George W. Maxwell received his education in the log cabin schools of his day, when puncheon floors, long slab seats and the inevitable goose quill prevailed. With his young wife he removed to Iowa, as previously stated, but after about three years' residence there they returned to Indiana, locating in Porter county. After about sixty years of continuous residence there and on his eighty-third birthday, George W. Maxwell passed quietly away on March 1, 1912. In politics he was formerly a Whig, but after the organization of the Republican party he gave to it his political allegiance. Fraternally he was a member of the Masonic order. The wife and mother, a woman whose strength and sweetness of character left a deep impression upon the child life of our subject, for early influences and teachings count for much in the lives of men, passed to life eternal in July, 1901. To these honored parents were born three sons and two daughters, of which family William L. Maxwell is the only survivor.

Mr. Maxwell was but two years of age when his parents located in Porter county and he is therefore all but a native born son of this county. At the time his family came here Porter county was but sparsely settled, the only railroad through the county was the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern, and Valparaiso was but a hamlet. He grew up a farmer boy, practical and energetic, and with but country school education, and the substantial abilities he has evinced during his business career have been almost wholly developed through his years of business experience. He remained with his parents until his marriage on December 21, 1876, to Miss Carolina Volkee. They began life together at the foot of the ladder financially, for they were $100 in debt, and from such a beginning, by industry and determination, have risen to the enjoyment of a well earned success. Mr. Maxwell began the grain business at Nickel, Indiana, on the Nickel Plate Railroad, in 1888, and for twenty-three years bought and sold grain. In 1889 he built his first elevator, and in 1904 another was erected with all modern improvements and at an outlay of $20,000. He shipped grain to different parts of the Eastern markets and in all his business operations was very successful. In 1904 he established his present elevator at Boone Grove, on the Erie Railroad, which is in charge of David Pierce, an experienced grain merchant. Today, in 1912, Mr. and Mrs. Maxwell have 232 acres of fine land in Porter and LaPorte counties, besides city property in Montpelier, Indiana, and an interest in the city property on College Hill, Valparaiso, in which they recently resided. On their estate in the southwest part of Washington township they have erected two beautiful modern country residences, each fitted out with all the modern conveniences of a city home. They may well look back with pride on their record of accomplishment, for in 1876 they did not have a dollar which they could call their own and now they rank among the most substantial citizens of Porter county, which shows what shrewd business management, strict honesty and economy may accomplish.

Mrs. Maxwell was born in Porter county, Indiana, on June 23, 1855, a daughter of Ernest and Esther (Fehrman) Volkee. Ten of the twelve children of these parents grew to maturity and all are residents of Porter county, except Matilda, who is the wife of Fred Berry, an artist residing at Venice, California, near the city of Los Angeles. Ernest Volkee was born in Waldeck-Coldgrund, Germany, near the city of Berlin, about 1813 and was reared in the Fatherland to the age of twenty, when he immigrated to America, leaving the port of Bremer Hafen in a sailing vessel, "The Mayflower," bound for Quebec, Canada. After a voyage of eight weeks' duration they reached Quebec, but just as they were about to land the vessel was wrecked. All were rescued, however, Mr. Volkee had both the customs and the language of the new country to learn, but there was plenty of opportunity for willing labor and he soon found employment at his trade, that of a blacksmith, for the French inhabitants. He began life in America with a five franc piece as his sole capital, other than his willingness and his ability for work. He resided in Canada for some time and was married at Humberton, Canada, to Esther Fehrman, who was born there in 1824. Later he worked at his trade in the construction of the Welland canal, and it was there he got his start financially. Following that employment he came to Porter county, Indiana, where he purchased 160 acres of land near Gates Corners. After a number of years residence there he sold his farm, removing to Hebron, where he followed his trade for a time, but later purchased another farm in Washington township. He then sold that farm and bought the property on College Hill, Valparaiso, where he passed away in 1891 and where Mr. and Mrs. Maxwell resided prior to their removal to their present home, known as the Cloverdale Farm. Mrs. Volkee survived her husband a number of years, her demise having occurred on November 12, 1908. Both parents are interred in the old Fehrman cemetery, where a beautiful monument is erected to their memory. Both were members of the Mennonite church.

To Mr. and Mrs. Maxwell have been born two children. The elder of these is George Leonard Maxwell, a staple agriculturist of Washington township. Their daughter, C. Grace, is now the wife of John E. Groth, one of the leading merchants of Peru, Indiana, who was formerly a dry goods merchant at Wanatah, Indiana, and is a scion of one of LaPorte county's leading German families. Mrs. Groth graduated from the Valparaiso high school in 1901 and was one of the most popular members of her class, having been selected to compose the class poem, which she did under the title of "The Old School House." She also received excellent training in both vocal and instrumental music, was a successful teacher in Washington township for several years, and is well fitted to take her place in society as the hostess of a delightful home. Mr. and Mrs. Groth have two children -- Maxine and Junior Earl.

Politically Mr. Maxwell is a Republican in national affairs, but in local politics he supports the man who is best fitted for the position. And in the convention of the people of Porter county, he received the full nomination as county commissioner, and he is a universal favorite as a strictly honest man to fill this important office for the people. Mrs. Maxwell is a member of the Mennonite church at Valparaiso. Both are citizens of progressive ideas who ever exert their influence in the direction of development and advancement along all lines. The purely material result of their long career has been financial success. While attaining this end however, both, by just and honorable characters, have gained what is of greater value, the universal respect and esteem of their fellow citizens.

Source: Lewis Publishing Company. 1912. History of Porter County, Indiana: A Narrative Account of its Historical Progress, its People and its Principal Interests. Chicago, Illinois: Lewis Publishing Company. 881 p.
Page(s) in Source: 657-659

This biography has been transcribed exactly as it was originally published in the source. Please note that we do not provide photocopies or digital scans of biographies appearing on this website.

Biography transcribed by Steven R. Shook


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