Dime Novel Desperados – Chapter 2: The Maxwells in Troubled Fulton County


We continue our examination of the book “Dime Novel Desperados: The Notorious Maxwell Brothers” by Dr. John Hallwas. This episode provides an overview of Chapter 2 – “The Maxwells in Troubled Fulton County.” Shout out to CHS student Andrew Christian for helping with this episode.

The MINI-POD for this episode (which is included within the chapter episode this time) once again profiles a Hollywood Western & various Primary Sources Dr. Hallwas used to write the book.


  • What was Ed Maxwell’s Childhood like in Fulton County?
  • What experience did Ed & Lon’s dad, David Maxwell, have as a Union soldier during the Civil War; and how did this impact his family back in Lewistown, Illinois?
  • How did the Maxwells adjust to life in Fulton County after the Civil War?
  • What instances of violence occurred in Fulton County after the Civil War (and why)?
  • Why was the crime of Horse Robbery particularly unacceptable and how did the Justice System in Fulton County respond?


This time we included our Dime Novel Desperados MINI-POD within the overall chapter episode. Each episode profiles a Hollywood Western & primary source that Dr. Hallwas used to write the book.


“Unforgiven” (1992) starring Clint Eastwood, Gene Hackman, Morgan Freeman, & Richard Harris


  • How does this film reflect themes found in DND?
  • Is this a western or anti-western? How do you know?
  • Does this film celebrate or romanticize violence as a form of resolution? What realities do you see? What is sensationalized (i.e., such as the stories told by “English Bob”)?
  • What other thoughts, lessons, and illustrations come to mind when you think about this film?


  • Sept. 1863 article, “Shame on Lewistown” (This article criticizes citizens for showing indifference to a Civil War soldier’s wife raising two kids alone and in deep poverty. While it can’t be certain that this is Mrs. Maxwell, their situation is undoubtedly similar)
  • 1863 article from the Fulton County Democrat comparing penalties for an Assault vs. justice system penalties for Attempted Murder
  • Chicago Tribune, 1870 article providing an account of a murder in Fulton County


Dime Novel Desperados is a TRUE-CRIME narrative that “recovers the long-forgotten story of Ed and Lon Maxwell, the outlaw brothers from Illinois who once rivaled Jesse and Frank James in national notoriety.” Ed & Lon grew up right here in Forgottonia (Fulton & McDonough Counties) and their story contains many lessons for us today. An essential argument Dr. Hallwas makes is that we should reimagine how we think about the Wild West, and include stories from communities like Forgottonia positioned just east of the Mississippi.

This series is done in partnership with CHS students and features comments from Dr. Hallwas as well as music from Forgottonia maestro Chris Vallillo. Each episode will review a chapter of the book, a primary source analysis, and a featurette of a famous Hollywood western. After their crime spree, the Maxwell mythology was advanced through Dime Novels which in turn influenced the iconic Hollywood western film industry. Studying various western films will offer further insight into the story of the Maxwells.

Visit the Amazon book page to discover more about the book and how to get your own copy.


Dr. John Hallwas is western IL’s most prolific author, known for writing over 30 books about IL & the Midwest, as well as dozens of journal & newspaper articles. Dr. Hallwas has won more than 30 awards and even has an annual event named for him at WIU where he attended and taught for 34 years. If you have any interest in the history & culture of these 16 counties in western IL, your search begins and ends with Dr. Hallwas!

Visit John Hallwas’s webpage to learn more about the man and all of his tremendous contributions to elevating forgotten voices throughout history.

Dr. Hallwas visited our class at Cuba High School to discuss his book Dime Novel Desperados

Book Overview

Here is an overview of each chapter (and podcast) that will be covered in this series.

Preface – Welcome to the World of the Maxwell Brothers: An Introduction to DND w/author Dr. John Halwas 
Chapter 1 – The Maxwell Family Moves West
Chapter 2 – The Maxwells in Troubled Fulton County
Chapter 3 – The Maxwells in McDonough County
Chapter 4 – Law & Order and Prison Life
#5 – The Maxwell Brothers Become Outlaws (Chapter 5)
#6 – The Great Escape & Recapture (Chapter 6)
#7 – Prison Time & Justice Issues (Chapter 7)
#8 – Lon’s Struggle to Go Straight (Chapter 8)
#9 – The Wisconsin Desperados (Chapter 9)
#10 – The Gunfight at Durand (Chapter 10)
#11 – The Great Manhunt (Chapter 11)
#12 – Another Gunfight–and the Renewed Manhunt (Chapter 12)
#13 – Ed’s Capture & Lon’s Escape (Chapter 13)
#14 – The Desperado & the Public (Chapter 14)
#15 – The Lynching at Durand (Chapter 15)
#16 – The Lynching Controversy & Durand’s Fate (Chapter 16)
#17 – The Mysterious Fate of Lon Maxwell (Chapter 17)
Epilogue – The Story Life of the Maxwell Brothers

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