The Boyer brothers operated a trading post at Nebraska Pony Express Station No.21 just east of Cottonwood Creek in 1858. The Overland Stage also used this station. First called "Cottonwood," its name was changed to Cottonwood Falls in 1860 and, probably at the post office's request, to Cottonwood Springs three months later. The settlement served as the county seat of Lincoln County until the Union Pacific Railroad established North Platte as a primary station.
Not far away, a military post known as "Cantonment McKeen" for the commanding officer of the western territory of the Platte Valley was built in 1863. The next year its name was changed to Fort Cottonwood, and two years later, changed again to Fort McPherson.
During the time the fort was in operation, John "Mac" McCullugh had a hotel. When the soldiers came for the mail and supplies, they would water the horses and also enjoy a nice cool drink at Mac's well. Soon the word got around telling travelers to "be sure to stop and get a good cold drink at Mac's well." It is said that when they were ready to name the town, they decided to call it "Maxwell," as a variation of Mac's well. The post office also accepted the change of name in 1882.
The Village of Maxwell was formally platted by the Union Pacific on July 12, 1894. It had evolved from its settlement roots into a typical railroad town, and was incorporated as a village on September 8, 1908, with a population of 504.
Maxwell has many famous landmarks. Fort McPherson National Cemetery is one mile to the south. The first white child born in Lincoln County was born about a mile southeast of the fort on a farm. Sioux Lookout, a famous observation point, is located about seven miles southwest of Maxwell along the Oregon Trail. Many school children and travelers have climbed to its top to view the Indian monument on its peak.
Legend has it that long ago a cannon was filed with gold and sunk in the Platte River south of town to keep the Indians from getting it. Some believe it is still there.
The town has a new K-12 school, serving 225 students. The fire station and rescue unit are staffed by volunteers.
Maxwell's present population is 410. While many residents commute to North Platte to work, the town has good business district which includes a grocery store, hardware store, body and paint shop, greenhouse, barber shop, post office, two service station-garages, beauty shop, insurance office, and two taverns.
Maxwell is on Highway 30, with access to Interstate 80 just across the river. Even though the depot has long since been phased out, the mainline of the Union Pacific Railroad still runs through town.
This valley is especially noted for its hay and our industry is primarily farming and ranching.
As of 1987, Byron Loescher was chairman of the village board and Deloris Ahrens, clerk-treasurer.
by Pat Brittenham, Box 87, Maxwell, 69151