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September 7, 2017 / Joanne Yeck

 Frank N. Maxey’s Well Water: Part III

In 1957, The Daily Progress printed Lulie Patteson’s eloquent ode to Well Water and its founder, F. N. Maxey.

Click here if you need to catch up: Frank N. Maxey’s Well Water: Part I

In the months immediately following the Civil War, Frank N. Maxey, like many men in Buckingham County, had little with which to start a new life. He saw his neighbors living hand to mouth and was determined to do something about it. Lulie Patteson continues her story of life at Well Water in The Daily Progress:

What poverty there was on every hand!  How could it be otherwise? No money, no fertilizer; land depleted in fertility; men low in physical strength from wartime hardship; teams in pitiful shape from near starvation (if, indeed, one was fortunate enough to have a team); no seeds; no farming implements — all of this and more stirred the heart of F. N. Maxey as he came in daily contact with the people.

His modest, little labor requirements seemed utterly inadequate for the unemployment situation about him. But he dared to install a youth from a widowed home nearby—where the wolf of hunger was pressing hardby the door—as a clerk in his store. Strange as it may seem, the store began to increase in business. There was no mill nearby, so he ventured to purchase a track of land—how gladly large acreages sold for small prices — and soon mill wheels were turning on the banks of Muddy Creek. The father of a large family of children was installed as miller and so bread, at least, was insured for them. Thus his small, erstwhile farming operations gradually increased to include a large area and this drew further on the surrounding population for both white and colored help.  

In the meantime, the merchandise business continued to flourish. How? Only the Keeper of the Infinite Storehouse knows, with mostly poverty-stricken patrons to deal there. One thing, Mr. Maxey bought every conceivable kind of product . . . ashes, stable fertilizer, rags, etc. as well as the usual farm produce. Somewhere he must have found sale for it else he could not have continued to buy. It is said that he had one resource for cash—a commission merchant in Richmond who developed a deep interest in Mr. Maxey’s efforts, and is said to have loaned him large sums of money to increase his activities.


As the years passed, Maxey steadily expanded, adding a foundry, which among other things, produced farm bells. There was a small house for a shoemaker, who also repaired shoes. According to Miss Patteson an “expert negro cobbler” was employed there. Additionally, Maxey decided to breed specialty chickens, ducks, turkeys, and guineas. There was beekeeping. He bought and sold tobacco. There was a blacksmith and a wheelwright shop. In this thriving village, F. N. Maxey kept money moving in Buckingham County.

To be continued…

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