VALLEY VOICES FROM THE PAST: William and Clarasa Maxwell – Pioneer of Maple Valley

Taking a scroll through the Maple Valley-Hobart Cemetery, you will no doubt come across the gravestones of our pioneers. Elaborately carved from marble and stone, many of these monuments stand out amongst the flat grave markers that dot the cemetery lawn. Below these lie men and women who built our community with grit and determination. One of the most beautiful of these is the grave of William and Clarasa Maxwell which is intricately carved from white marble in the shape of two hearts.

William Maxwee was born in Cookville, TN to Thomas and Lettie (Carmack) Maxwell of North Carolina and Tennesse. William would learn a lot about farming from his parents. However, his passion would become teaching. He spent his younger years studying education in Tennessee before moving on to Alabama. After completing his studies in Education, William returned to his home state of Tennessee where he taught for a few years. On April 19, 1874, Mr. Maxwell married fellow Tennessean Miss Patterson, a year later, their daughter Mattie was born.

William’s ambitious spirit wouldn’t allow him to stand idle. By 1876 William would venture West to seek out a better education for his daughter. Utilizing the farming skills he learned from his parents, William bought land in Kansas and ranched there for 8 years. Clarasa and him would have two more children while living in Kansas. Donia was born in 1878 and Lettie, also known as Allie or Alice, was born in 1880.



Restless yet again, William would reach out to his brother Jim who had homesteaded out west along the Cedar River in 1870. Selling his land, he, along with his wife, two daughters and father in law, would venture west. He wintered in Walla Walla and by the Spring of 1884, leaving his now pregnant wife and three daughters behind, William would take the journey to Maple Valley, not only to visit his brother but to find his own land to claim. Once he had the homestead ready, he went back to Walla Walla and started the journey with his family to Maple Valley.

“We traveled to Walla Walla and stopped with my mother’s brother.” Alice recalled in a 1960 interview with the Seattle Times. “Daddy went to see how Uncle Jim was getting along at Cedar Mountain; then Daddy found 80 acres to homestead on the river at Maple Valley…Daddy went for us in the spring of 1884. I was four years old, He carried me across a foot-log over the river to get to our place. (McDonald, 1960)

Mattie also recalled the journey. “We went by train to Portland, then on to Tacoma. There we took a boat to Seattle. From Seattle to Renton we traveled again by train and then out Maple Valley by wagon. Ma complained of the rough, bumpy road, and said she was ready to turn around and go back–if she didn’t have so many children, and an eighty-three year old father to look after. We had stopped at the McCoy’s (Neighbors and good friends to her brother in law Jim Maxwell) along the river by Cedar Mountain for a drink, and when Ma complained Mrs. McCoy laughed and said Ma should have come up the road a few years before. It was hardly a road, just a trail” (Krall, 1953)


“We were the first persons at what was to become the town.” recalled Alice. “The road
reached as far as my uncle’s (James Maxwell) and the Stevens place and from there on we followed a trail. Daddy used to walk all the way to Renton to bring home a sack of flour, sugar and salt.” (McDonald, 1960)William’s land would eventually include the first saw mill built by Russell and Ames and later the site of Maple Valley School the first school large enough to include the entire Tahoma School District. Today his land includes SE 216th Way in Hobart.

He built a one room log with two tiny windows, puncheon floor and a small cook stove
that was carried half a mile through the timber and across the stream to get it to the cabin.




A few months after arriving in Maple Valley, Clarasa would give birth to her fourth child, Evelena. Four days later she would die. “(She) was born in the cabin. She died and was buried under a tree (McDonald, 1960). Later a grave would be created for her in the Maple Valley-Hobart Cemetery.


Mr. Maxwell eventually cleared 40 acres of his land and started a dairy ranch where he prospered as a dairy farmer until he died on January 18,1919, joining his wife who had passed away 9 years earlier. A strong advocate of the cause of education, he filled the office of school director for a number of years and was always ready to serve his district when needed.

Alice followed in her father footsteps and taught school before marrying George Russell. They would move to Puyallup and run a berry farm They had four children, Theodore, Vern, Calvin and Ethel.  Allie died in 1968 at the age of 88.


Since the death of their parents the daughters Mattie and Donia managed the operation of the homestead, specializing in managing a garden truck, as well as, keeping a few cows and chickens. They would never marry and died in 1957 and 1955.


Cited Sources

  1. Krall, Lorene. The Story of Our Community Maple Valley, WA. Lorene Krall, 1953.
  2. Lorenz, Laura. Historical Sketch of the Greater Maple Valley Area. Card Sharks Printers, 1986.
  3. McDonald, Lucile. “Library Guild Members Gathering Records of Cedar River Community’s Development.” The Seattle Times, 4 Dec. 1960
  4. Slauson, M. C. (1967). One Hundred Years Along the Cedar River. Maple Valley, WA: King County Library System.