Edgar Lindsey Maxwell

Louisiana Conference President, 1908-1912

His Early Years

1887 edition of Marvel of Nations by Uriah Smith

Edgar Lindsey Maxwell was born near Galva, McPherson County, Kansas, on December 12, 1878. His boyhood years were spent with his parents, who in the early days had moved west from Illinois and settled on a Kansas farm. As his father was a Methodist minister, Edgar, while very young, became interested in religion, and enjoyed the Bible more than any other book. A Seventh-day Adventist colporteur traveling through the country, sold the family a copy of the book Marvel of Nations. Although but eleven years of age, Edgar read and studied the book, and came to definite conclusions regarding the prophecies of Scripture and the seventh-day Sabbath. He confided his convictions to his mother, and told her he would like to go to Battle Creek, Michigan, and go to school to prepare to be a minister. His mother told him that be was too young for this and said that the ten commandments require obedience of children to parents as well as Sabbath keeping, and that he would do better to follow their religious instruction until he was older. While Edgar acquiesced in this and was fully obedient, during the years that followed neither his convictions nor his ambitions to become a Seventh-day Adventist minister were changed (Copeland, 1941).

Accepting the Adventist Message

Eight years later in 1897, another colporteur called at the home. Edgar’s father purchased from him the book Bible Readings for the Home Circle, feeling that it would help him in his ministry. Edgar, then nineteen years of age, recognized this as a Seventh-day Adventist volume. To his delight, his mother, a brother, and a sister, became deeply interested in the study of this book. The same Bible truths that he, as a boy, had seen when he was eleven years of age now became clear to them. They accepted them and with Edgar were baptized and became members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The way was now open for the young man to push on in his study, and definitely prepare for the ministry. Within the next year he was called into active service and began preaching in Oklahoma. Edgar Maxwell was ordained in 1903 at the age of twenty-five (Copeland, 1941).

Family Life

Lenora with their three sons, Irwin, Warren, and Milton in 1918 (Ancestry, 2011)

In 1898, Edgar married Lenora Dell Reed in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. To this union were born four children, the eldest of which, a girl, died in infancy. Three sons survived. At the time of their father’s death Dr. Irwin Maxwell lived in Durango, Colorado, and Warren and Milton Maxwell, of Loma Linda, California, were medical students in the College of Medical Evangelists (Copeland, 1941).

Years of Ministry

In 1908, Elder E. L. Maxwell became the second president of the Louisiana Conference, in which capacity he served for five and a half years. In 1912 he was called from there to the presidency of the Tennessee River Conference, with headquarters in Nashville (Copeland, 1941).

Mission Service

Elder Maxwell’s 1913 passport photo (Ancestry, 2019)

In 1913, answering a call from the General Conference, he, with his family, went from the United States to Lima, Peru, where he directed the work in the Inca Union Mission during a period of five years. This was hard pioneer work in every sense of the word—meeting with very difficult conditions, and traveling by the most primitive methods over Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia. The family returned to the States in 1918 because of health conditions, and for the next year or so Elder Maxwell taught Bible in the Medical College at Loma Linda and translated several books into Spanish for the Pacific Press. Elder Maxwell was next called for a short term to Inter-America, to take charge of the mission work in Cuba and the Central American republics. In the summer of 1920 the Maxwell family settled in Mountain View, California (Copeland, 1941).

A Law Degree

Lenora and Edgar with their youngest son, Milton, in 1930 (Ancestry, 2009)

Prior to this, despite his already heavy program, Elder Maxwell had finished a training course in law, and in 1921 he was admitted to the bar in California. With certain translations completed for the publishing house here, he turned to the practice of law, and later became police judge and justice of the peace for this section. In this and other relationships he identified himself so closely with the interests of the people that when in 1928 he was invited by his church to again enter mission work in South America, the business leaders of the community sponsored a petition addressed to the governing body of Seventh-day Adventists in Washington, D.C., pleading that Mr. Maxwell be allowed to remain here. It was signed by more than three hundred citizens. With his characteristic loyalty to duty, however, Elder Maxwell responded to this call, and transferred to Buenos Aires, Argentina, from where he worked out over Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, and Paraguay, as the president of what was then known as the Austral Union Conference. He, with his family, returned to San Francisco in 1930 to attend the world General Conference held there, and had all plans made for return to South America, with ship reservations, when he was suddenly taken ill. He was in a serious condition for six months, and finally was advised not to go again to a foreign land (Copeland, 1941).

Resuming his law practice

After he had recovered sufficiently to take up work, the family established life in Mountain View, and he resumed his law practice and again became active in the affairs of the community. He worked with the chamber of commerce as president a part of the time, and in connection with the city council, and on boards and with other organizations, strongly supporting always every move for civic betterment. For his last eight years he served the city of Mountain View as its attorney. During all this time he took an active part in local church leadership, serving for several years as a pastor in Mountain View. He was active in relation to the Northern and Central California Conferences, representing the civil and religious liberty department as its field secretary (Copeland, 1941).

Flyer to elect Judge Edgar Lindsey Maxwell to the Superior Court (Ancestry, 2009)

His Final Years

Elder Maxwell interested himself in a wide variety of subjects, on which he was able to converse intelligently. He enjoyed language study, speaking and writing fluently in Spanish, and carried on work in several other foreign languages. He took a keen interest in life, loved people, and was never too busy to speak a friendly word or give counsel where it was needed. Truly, by his life, he exemplified the greatness that the Saviour Himself described as coming from service. His love and devotion to his family were recognized, not only by his loved ones, but by all who knew him. His happiest hours were those spent with his family and the grandchildren in the home circle. The affliction which finally ended his life of usefulness and achievement began about 1935. His condition had grown gradually worse, and he suffered much; yet by sheer courage and will power he pressed on in service, never complaining or even seeming to think much of his own serious condition, but always willing to sacrifice himself for the welfare of others. Despite the best medical efforts, the end came at his home early on Friday morning, Dec. 27, 1940, a few hours after his return from visiting with his children that Christmas (Copeland, 1941).


Ancestry.com (2019). U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925. Provo, UT: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc.

Ancestry Family Trees. (2009, Apr. 13). Edgar Lindsey Maxwell. Retrieved from ancestry.com.

Ibid. (2011, Apr. 18). Retrieved from ancestry.com.

Copeland, T. L. (1941, Jan. 30). Review and Herald, p. 23, 24.

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