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Maxfield Ayers – The Early Years

    In October of 1850, Maxfield (Maxy) Ayers, age 1 month, was living in the Ichepuckesassa Settlement (site of present day Plant City), Hillsborough County, Florida. He lived with his step-father, Christopher Zebendon, a European immigrant, his mother, Martha (Ayers) Zebendon, age 20, and his sister (half-sister?), Martha Ayers, age 2. Christopher and Martha were married in Hillsborough County, Florida and had been married for about four months.

    Ayers family tradition indicates that Maxfield is part Native American, possibly Seminole or Cherokee, and that Martha’s people were "Lakeland folks". DNA analysis of some of Maxfield's great grandchildren is consistent with the hypothesis that Maxfield was part Native American. The available sketchy evidence, including DNA data, indicates that Maxfield's mother, Martha Ayers, was Native American and that Maxfield's father was probably Caucasian. DNA research is continuing.

    In the immediate vicinity lived William Brewer and his wife Martha (Whidden) Brewer, age 17. Also nearby lived Maxfield Whidden, age 45, with his wife Sophia P. (Crews) Whidden and their children. Maxfield Whidden had come to Florida in 1830 about the time that Martha Ayers was born. In 1848 a James Ayre voted in the Tampa Precinct , Hillsborough County. In 1849, a James Ayres paid the poll tax in Hillsborough County. In 1849, Christopher Zebendon served in a Volunteer Militia Company with several Whiddens, including Maxfield Whidden, Sr. and Maxfield Whidden, Jr.

    In 1852, Mrs. Martha (Ayers) Zebenden was baptized by Reverend J. M. Hayman at Bethel (Socrum Settlement) then in Hillsborough County, Florida, now in Polk County, Florida.

    In 1853, William Brewer died leaving Martha (Whidden) Brewer a widow.

    In 1855, John Zebendon was born, and in 1856 Martha Zebendon was born, presumably the children of Christopher Zebendon and Martha (Ayers) Zebendon. Also in 1855, Martha (Whidden) Brewer married Willbord Combee who had come from South Carolina with two small children.

    In 1856, Christopher Zebending and Wilbert Comby voted in the Ichepuckesassa Precinct, Hillsborough County.

    From 1856 to 1858, Christopher Zebendon served in the Florida Mounted Militia Volunteers fighting in the Florida Indian War. In 1858, Christopher Zebendon married Catherine Avis. Presumably, Martha Ayers was dead, possibly in the yellow fever epidemic of 1857-58. In 1862, Thomas Zebendon was born.

    The Zebendon family, currently living in Polk County, has a family tradition that their forebear came to Florida by ship, and that he married a Seminole woman. Some Zebendon researchers believe that this Seminole woman was Indiana Bates, first wife of John Zebendon, Maxfield Ayers' half brother.

    (Examination of existing records demonstrates clearly that the Zebendons and the Ayers of Polk County are descended from the same woman, Martha (Ayers) Zebendon. Although the family traditions tell vastly different stories about the family origins, both families are talking about the same family unit, Christopher and Martha (Ayers) Zebendon. The Ayers family oral history tape recorded  in 1979 clearly states that Maxfield’s stepfather was Zebendon.)

    At the time the census of 1860 was taken, Maxfield was living with the family of Wilbert Combee and Martha (Whidden) (Brewer) Combee on their farm near Lakeland, just east of Lake Parker. According to family tradition, Maxfield (probably six to eight years old at the time) walked from Ichepuckesassa to the Combee farm, a distance of some fifteen miles, and was taken in. According to the Ayers oral history tape, Maxfield's stepfather, Christopher Zebendon "was mean to him, he beat him, and scuffled him around," because he was part Indian. This reported mistreatment may indicate that Maxfield's mother, Martha Ayers had died. At the Combee farm, Maxfield was permitted to eat at table with the family but slept in the barn. "No Indian kid is going to live in the house!" The location of the Zebendon family in 1860 has not been determined; but Christopher Zebendon paid taxes in Hillsborough County from 1848 to 1859.  Maxfield and William Whidden voted in Hillsborough County at least until 1856, and had moved to Manatee County, Florida by 1860.

    The 1870 census for Polk County is flawed. Large pieces of the population are missing from the existing documents, including the Combee’s and Maxfield. It is assumed that Maxfield is still living with the Combee’s.

    In 1879, Maxfield married Florida Dunaway. According to family tradition, Combee gave him a horse and saddle, and a barrel of syrup for a wedding present. In 1880 Maxfield is working on his brother-in-law’s (Jefferson Crews) farm, just east of present day Highland City, and by 1882 he has begun homesteading his own farm in Haskells. This property is located on the present  Reynolds Road.

This page was last updated 26 January 2011.


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