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Sam Bell Maxey House

Take a trip back to post-Civil War Texas, when a toilet was a status symbol.

By Elsa K. Simcik

Standing in the parlor of Samuel Bell Maxey’s home and looking around at the original furniture, floors and fireplace, I try to imagine what it must have felt like when the room was packed with well-heeled guests attending one of the family’s swanky parties in the late 19th century.

General Maxey and his wife, Marilda, built the Victorian-style house in 1868 with the help of the local community. It sits just off Paris’ quaint town square in the historical district, where it has seen almost 140 years of Texas history. And it serves as a tribute not only to our past but also to great architecture. The home was one of the few structures that withstood the great Paris fire of 1916, which destroyed almost the entire town.

Four generations of the Maxey family lived in the home until 1966. General Maxey himself is an important figure in Texas and U.S. history, having served in both the Mexican War and Civil War and later as a U.S. senator. A graduate of West Point, he was roommates with fellow Confederate General Stonewall Jackson (see their photos in the library).

Now visitors can take tours of the home on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and learn as much as they want about the Maxey family and life in post-Civil-War Texas. In about 30 to 45 minutes, they’ll see the parlor, sun room, butler’s pantry, dining room, General Maxey’s library and two upstairs bedrooms.

Staff members at the house or knowledgeable volunteers tell about the features of the home (“Here’s the first running toilet in Paris, Texas”), the foundation (“They built the house on criss-crossed bois d’arc trees”) and family legends (“They were scared of light bulbs so they never used them.”) Some other interesting nuggets include General Maxey’s 800-plus book collection (which include works by Poe, Plath and Hawthorne), his dress sword and shoes belonging to members of the family. (Who knew that folks in the 19th century didn’t have right and left shoes?)

After the tour, visitors can venture over to the gift shop or simply stroll around the historic district and the antique shops on the square.

No matter how much you already know about the Civil War, life in the 19th century or Victorian-style homes, you’re sure to leave the Maxey house with some new tidbits of knowledge. And besides that, you’ll have seen the first running toilet in Paris, Texas.

For more information, call (903) 785-5716 or visit <www.tpwd.state.tx.us/sambellmaxeyhouse>.

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