New book immortalizes notorious Pepin County outlawsDURAND, Wis. — A new book about a bloody shootout at Durand, Wis., in 1881 in which two notorious outlaw brothers killed two area law enforcement officers, is being released this year.
DURAND, Wis. — A new book about a bloody shootout at Durand, Wis., in 1881 in which two notorious outlaw brothers killed two area law enforcement officers, is being released this year.
The release of "Dime Novel Desperadoes — The Notorious Maxwell Brothers," by John Hallwas of Macomb, Ill., will coincide with Pepin County's 150th birthday celebration Saturday in Durand. Hallwas will present a lecture, “Outlaws, Sheriffs, Manhunters, and Mobs: Pepin County in 1881," at 11 a.m. in the Durand Theater.
In their day, the Maxwell brothers were just as famous as the James brothers, the Youngers and many other outlaws who were written about and romanticized by the press during the late 1800s. The saga of the Maxwells was carried in nearly all major city newspapers.
Ed and Alonzo Maxwell, however, have been lost in history compared to their counterparts.
They killed Charles Coleman of Durand and his brother, Milton Coleman of Menomonie, Wis., on July 10, 1881, in a blaze of gunfire along the Eau Claire Road. The location, at the northeast end of the city of Durand, is near the present intersection of Highway 10 and state Highways 25 and 85.
Subsequently, Ed Maxwell was lynched on Nov. 19, 1881, from a tree on the courthouse lawn in downtown Durand.
The story captured the interest of John Hallwas, Professor Emeritus at Western Illinois University at Macomb. He researched historical documents in cities across the eastern states.
The search for the Maxwells was “… the largest manhunt for outlaws in American history,” according to Hallwas. It extended from Wisconsin to Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Iowa and Nebraska, ending with Ed Maxwell's capture at Grand Island, Neb., in early November 1881.
Hallwas focuses much of his narrative on the psychological make up of the two men by delving into their upbringing and their family's past. Sons of a transient sharecropper, they grew up in a household of intense stress and poverty and watched their parents' struggle to make ends meet.
"The basic inequality of the landowner and tenant farmer, the lack of respect for the poor, and the injustices prevalent during the mid-1800s provide a believable backdrop for the later behavior of the Maxwells," he said.
Both brothers spent time in prison for crimes committed in Illinois before they arrived in Wisconsin.
Their story includes everything from romance and action to bloodshed, defiance of authority, demand for respect and individual rights.
The Maxwells were the anti-heroes of numerous national publications known as “dime novels,” which embellished their five-month run from the law and characterized them as victims of injustices perpetrated on them and their family throughout their lives.
"Dime Novel Desperadoes" is available on Amazon.com and will be available for purchase during his appearance at the Pepin County sesquicentennial celebration. For more information, contact the Pepin County Development Office at (715) 672-5709.