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  Texas : Features : Columns : All Things Historical :

SAMUEL BELL MAXEY

by Archie P. McDonald, PhD
Archie McDonald, PhD
When most of us hear the word "redeemer" we think of the Good News of Christianity. In Reconstruction times in Texas after the Civil War, "redeemer" meant a political leader who helped reclaim control of the state from the national military and the radical Republican Congress. Samuel Bell Maxey of Paris, Texas, is a good example of such a leader.

Maxey was born in Tompkinsville, Kentucky, in 1825. He attended the United States Military Academy and for a year was the roommate of future Confederate General Thomas J. (Stonewall) Jackson. Maxey was graduated from West Point in 1846, just in time to participate in the Mexican-American War. He resigned from the Army in 1849 and returned to Kentucky to practice law. Four years later Maxey married Marilda Cass Denton.

In 1857 Maxey and his father moved their families to land near Paris in Lamar County. Like most immigrants to Texas before the Civil War, the main chance, a new start, explained the move. When Texas attempted to secede from the Union in 1861, Maxey was serving as district attorney for Lamar County. Evidently undecided on the best avenue of service, he simultaneously sought election to the Texas senate and a military command--and got both. In the end he decided on military service, rose to the rank of brigadier general in the Confederate service, and for a time commanded the Indian Territory for the Confederacy.

Maxey returned to Paris after the war. Postwar Texas was controlled by Federal soldiers and the Republican Party. Radical Republicans in Congress attempted several plans of Reconstruction, eventually settling on one that abolished the former states and regarded them as conquered territory. For a while Texas was ruled by the Federal army without a civilian government. Soldiers registered potential voters to elect delegates to write a new state constitution that would renounce secession and the previous Confederate affiliation and leave the state under Republican control. Republican E.J. Davis was elected governor of the new state government.

Maxey became active in the Democratic Party's opposition to Republican control. They defeated Davis at the end of his term, electing instead the "Redeemer" Richard Coke as governor. The new Democratic legislature then elected Maxey to represent Texas in the United States Senate. Maxey served two terms in the Senate.

The Maxeys had no children of their own but did adopt a daughter and helped to raise Maxey's namesake nephew, Sam Bell Maxey Long. Maxey died in 1895 and is interred in Paris. The Maxey's home in Paris is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and can be visited by the public.

All Things Historical July 22-28, 2001
Published by permission.
(Archie P. McDonald is Director of the East Texas Historical Association and author or editor of over 20 books on Texas)

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