James W. Little and Elizabeth "Betsey" May
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Essays about her ancestors

When Tress May Francis completed her history of the May family in 1956 she only knew from Floyd County Court records that Elizabeth was a daughter of John and Sarah May and that she had married James W. Little. She simply assumed the Little families of Floyd and Pike County in the 20th Century are their descendants.

We are fortunate to now have an extensive record of the migration of the family of James W. Little to Alabama, published by Juanelle S. Sewell in her comprehensive compilation, "We, The Little People." My information on this branch of the May family is taken primarily from her work. Anyone interested in her book should contact:  

Juanelle S. Sewell
755 East Lemon
Bartow Florida 33830

Her book contains about 500 pages with photos, copies of original documents, family groups and stories of descendants of James W. Little and Elizabeth May.

Rev. Milton Koger Little, a grandson of Elizabeth, wrote before his death:

"She was a remarkable character; a woman of refined tastes, gentle, loving, and loved by all. She died at the age of 94 and was strong to the last."

Of his grandfather, James W. Little, he entered "A fall" under Cause of
Death and wrote:

"The fall was from off a fence into a deep ditch. Lived only a short
time. He came to Alabama with his family, among the first settlers, and
pack-horse. He was above the average man of his day." James was 75 years old at the time of the accident.

The marriage of James Little to Elizabeth (Betsey) May is documented in Floyd County, Kentucky by a 1813 marriage bond signed by her mother:

"This is to certify that Sary May, Wife to John May, deceased, has give her daughter Elizabeth May in wedlock to James Little," witnessed by the Justice of the Peace, Robert Haws, who performed the ceremony.

Betsey's father, John May, died four months prior to their marriage. In 1821, when the 1820 census was taken, James was living in Pike County. Also that year their third child, Reuben Lafayette, was born. In 1824 James sold 100 acres on Shelby Creek to Booker and James Mullins. He apparently moved his family from Shelby Creek, Pike County, Kentucky to present-day Blount County, Alabama sometime between 1824 and 1830. Juanelle Sewell says James and Betsey migrated about 1829, according to oral traditions of descendants of their son, Thomas May Little.

The first settlers came to this community near Birmingham about 1816. Some of them had passed through the region with Andrew Jackson in his Indian campaigns or in the War of 1812. The early families are known to have been named; Cowden, Cosby, Little, Higginbotham, Brown, Hill, Hallmark, Campbell, Young, Hullet, Cornelius, Murphree, Newman, Reese, Hamby, Hendon and Palmer. The Palmer family became prominent in the area, and a nearby L&N railroad station in Jefferson County was named Palmer's Station. When the railroad came into Blount County and again wanted to honor the Palmers, Remlap - Palmer spelled backward - was chosen as its name.

Old settlers tell of riding across Pine Mountain to Springville to get a doctor and of hauling their cotton to Tuscaloosa, while Birmingham was only a blacksmith shop in a swampy area. The deed for the Remlap Methodist Episcopal Church is dated May 19, 1837. James Little was among the five trustees to receive the land for the church and cemetery from Robert and Elizabeth Higginbotham. (Subsequent court records show numerous business transactions between members of the Higginbotham and Little families.) James and Betsey Little are listed among the founders of this church.

Historical information on Remlap, recorded in We, The Little People, was written by Sudie Cowden Hicks, a descendant of the Cowden and Palmer families and a principle and primary teacher at Remlap school.

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© 2000 Fred T. May