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Benjamin R. Justesen

was born in Fayette County, Ohio, one of ten children of Campbell and Henrietta (Hill) Maxwell. He is first mentioned in the 1850 census as being four years of age, although most official records list his birth year as 1851 or 1852. His father was a farmer and Methodist minister. Maxwell received his early education at home and in the Fayette County public schools before attending Wilberforce University, an African Methodist Episcopal (AME) school in Xenia, Ohio, where he attended preparatory classes and studied law.

By 1870 Maxwell worked as a schoolteacher in Xenia, while attending Wilberforce, and lived with his older brother Joshua, a local grocer. It was here that he met his future wife, Mary E. Cousins, a local schoolteacher, and they were married in June 1873. Two of their four children lived to adulthood: son Earl Frederick Maxwell, born in 1879 ...