A trip to Maxeys

Published 5:08 pm Tuesday, March 2, 2021

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This Oglethorpe County community dates back to 1834 and has undergone three name changes in its history — from Shanty to Salmonville to Maxeys.

With a population of 225, up from 97 in 1880, but down from 356 in 1920, Maxeys underscores the good neighbor policy that characterizes small town living from sea to shining sea.

Recently, I came this way to enjoy a visit with John Stephens, retired from the University of Georgia. John has an enduring passion to learn what makes things tick. He’s now enjoying life with his grandkids who will be the beneficiary of scholarship grants, exclusive to Maxeys’ residents, from the A.T. Brightwell Foundation. 

Maxeys has at least three redeeming factoids that set it apart from most communities with which we are familiar. President Lyndon Johnson’s great grandfather, Jesse Johnson, was born here, but the family kept moving west, initially to Alabama, and ultimately to what became Johnson City, Texas.

When LBJ journeyed this way for the funeral of Judge Robert L. Russell in Winder in 1965, word was that he was going to take a helicopter jaunt over to the land of his forebears, but it developed that the trip was aborted.

“He was a no-show,” John says, “and it made folks around here mad as hell.”

Another point of pride is the aforementioned A. T. Brightwell scholarship, which is available to college age students so long as their parents continue living in Maxeys while the scholarship is in effect.

John’s daughters, Angela and Heather, along with son, Jay, were beneficiaries of the scholarship and so will those of Heather and her husband, John Parham, who share the same address as John. A. T. Brightwell grew up here, left Maxeys and made his fortunate in real estate in Birmingham.

He gave education the highest priority and believed that if a small town had a good high school that would help perpetuate the town.

He funded the scholarship for those living within a mile of a downtown marker which pays tribute to Brightwell.

Brightwell’s will was amended in 1960 to ensure that there would be no discrimination against any applicant owing to race, creed, sex or religion.

Finally, not even Ripley would believe that this town has three zip codes, but it is fact. John was happy to explain: The Maxey’s post office has its own zip code. Those who live north of Cherry Street, have a Stephens (3.2 miles away) zip code and those to the South of Cherry Street have Union Point (12.7 miles away) zip code. Who do we blame, Republicans or Democrats?