Friday, October 14, 2011

JAO & Permelia Maxwell

My great-grandmother Lyda Ellen Maxwell Perry’s parents were J. A. O. Maxwell and Permelia Ruth McNair Maxwell.  The J.A.O. initials stood for James A. Oliver Maxwell.  And the “A”?  Well, that depends on who you talk to.  Albert? Alexander? Archibol?  Two of Lyda’s granddaughters were told separately that the “A” was for Albert, but then he does have a son named Alexander.  And one unpublished Maxwell family history says that it’s Archibol.  Apparently he most commonly went by “Oliver” for at least part of his adult life, but he’s mostly called J.A.O. nowadays because that’s what’s on his grave stone.  I actually have a picture of him, courtesy of my mom’s cousin Barbara Perry Walker.  I don’t have any early pictures of Permelia.  (Remember, you can click on any image in the blog post to view a larger size.)

J.A.O. Maxwell was born 12 Sep 1856 in Decatur County, Georgia, to Elder John A. Maxwell (1824-1906) and Elizabeth "Elizer Margaret Anders (1829-1918).  Permelia Ruth McNair was also born in Decatur County, on 22 Mar 1857, to Robert Martin McNair (1807-1869) and Nancy Patterson (1816-1905).  They were married 15 Jan 1878.  The marriage license is recorded in Decatur County Marriage Book B (1867-1896), page 296.  The digitized book images are available through the Georgia's Virtual Vault website ( and copied here.  Note that the clerk transposed his initials – the record says “J.O.A Maxwell” instead of “J.A.O. Maxwell”.

Census images courtesy of

J.A.O. and Permelia (who was often known as Amelia, or just Melia) made their home near Attapulgus in Decatur County for the next 36 years, until J.A.O.’s death at 57 in 1914.  They owned their own farm, and raised a passel of young’uns, as they say.  The 1880 census shows no children.  The 1890 census was lost, of course, but the 1900 census shows that Permelia had borne 10 children, 8 of whom were still living.  An unnamed infant boy lived but one day in October 1879 and is buried near the parents and many other Maxwell family members in the Piedmont Cemetery in Calvary, Georgia (now in Grady County, it was until 1904 in Decatur County).  Another son, John Robert Maxwell, died in February 1898 just a few weeks shy of his 12th birthday.  And the 1910 census shows that there were only 7 surviving children, young Corry Thomas Maxwell having departed this life at the age of 14 in February 1910.  There is a picture of six of the children from about 1904 in the last post.

J.A.O. died 3 May 1914; Permelia lived another 32 years, until 1946.  But they were buried side by side in Piedmont cemetery.  In fact they share an obelisk-style headstone, beautifully engraved on one face with his epitaph and on the other with hers.  

His side says:
SEPT. 14, 1856
MAY 3, 1914
Beyond the doubts
and hopes and fears,
Beyond the cares and
joys and tears,
Beyond the smiling
and the weeping,
Beyond the waking
and the sleeping,
Our loved one rests
in slumber deep,
In silent and eternal

On her side are the words:
MAR. 22, 1857
SEPT. 7, 1946
Dear mother, tho' we
miss you much,
We know you rest
with God.

The few photos I have of Permelia are from 1934.  In this one the baby she is holding is my mother. 

I was able to find Permelia in the 1920 census still living in Decatur County, with her son Malcolm Oliver Maxwell and his family.  But Malcolm died in 1924 and I could not find her anywhere in the 1930 census.  The story of that search is best left for another post another day, so …

That’s about it for now.

 Later y’all,


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