Eighth May Generation
Biographical Sketches
Fred T. May - 2002

Elizabeth (Betsey) May (1790-1884)
More biographical sketches

- Genealogists -

During the past few years, I have been fortunate in contacting a few descendants of John May's oldest daughter, Elizabeth. Juanelle (Sandy) Smith Sewell, of the 13th May generation, compiled a very extensive record of the descendants of James W. Little and Elizabeth May and published it in 1987 as: "We, The Little People." In this book, Sandy credits many relatives who contributed to her research. Most of the information presented in this essay comes from her book. She spoke at the 2002 May Reunion about her research.

Family of Elizabeth May | The Little Family | Kentucky 1813-1829 | Alabama 1829-1884 | Notes

Family of Elizabeth (Betsey) May
1 Elizabeth (Betsey) MAY b: Abt. 1790 Washington Co., NC in the Watauga River Valley d: 1884 Remlap, Blount Co., AL, buried in the Remlap Cemetery age at d: 94 est.
.. +James W. LITTLE b: Abt. 1787 South Carolina [perhaps as late as 1790] m: 10 Jun 1813 Shelby Creek, Floyd Co., KY (now in Pike Co.) d: 1862 Remlap, Blount Co., AL, buried in the Remlap Cemetery age at d: 75 est.

2 Mary LITTLE b: 12 Mar 1817 Floyd (now Pike) Co., KY d: 20 Mar 1903 Remlap, Blount Co., Ala., buried in the Remlap Cemetery. age at d: 86
..... +William H. HIGGINBOTHAM b: 20 Mar 1818 m: 1 Jan 1843 d: 23 Jul 1893 Remlap, Blount Co., Ala., buried in the Remlap Cemetery. age at d: 75

2 Thomas May LITTLE b: 27 Feb 1819 Floyd (now Pike) Co., KY d: 27 Aug 1874 Remlap, Blount Co., Ala., buried in the Remlap Cemetery. age at d: 55
..... +Elizabeth TATE b: 9 Feb 1826 Tennessee d: 30 Mar 1857 Remlap, Blount Co., Ala., giving birth to her daughter, Elizabeth. Buried in the Remlap Cemetery. age at d: 31
*2nd Wife of Thomas May LITTLE:
..... +Sarah "Sallie" EDWARDS b: 12 Mar 1834 m: 3 Dec 1857 d: 6 May 1907 age at d: 73

2 Reuben Lafayette LITTLE b: 31 May 1821 Floyd (now Pike) Co., KY d: 22 May 1894 Village Springs, Alabama; buried in Remlap Cemetery age at d: 72
..... +Lucinda PARSONS b: 4 Mar 1829 Milledgeville, GA m: 20 Sep 1849 Tuscaloosa, AL d: 12 Mar 1912 Village Springs, Alabama; buried in Remlap Cemetery age at d: 83

2 John LITTLE b: Abt. 1826 Pike Co., KY

2 Talitha LITTLE b: 31 Dec 1830 Blount Co., AL d: 25 Jul 1859 age at d: 28
..... +Arthur Malone BELCHER b: 25 May 1833 m: Abt. 1849 d: 25 Jan 1864 age at d: 30

2 Eliza LITTLE b: Abt. 1832 Blount Co., AL

2 Martha LITTLE b: Abt. 1837 Blount Co., AL
..... +George PARSONS b: Abt. 1838 m: 6 Jan 1858
*2nd Husband of Martha LITTLE:
..... +Bailey BOLLING/BOLIN m: 7 Sep 1873

2 Robert James LITTLE b: 22 Jul 1838 Blount Co., AL d: 22 Jan 1909 age at d: 70
..... +Elizabeth Alice PARSONS b: Abt. 1840 m: 2 Nov 1857 d: 3 Feb 1913 age at d: 73 est.

The Little Family
Isaac Little is thought to be the father of James W. Little, but Isaac's father has not been determined. , The will of a William Little was probated in Beaufort Co., N.C. on March 1, 1756, listing the names of one daughter, Jane, and six sons; Abraham, Jacob, William, James, Isaac and Joseph. Assuming Isaac's birthdate is correctly stated as being about 1760, William Little could not be his father, but could be his grandfather.

Isaac Little apparently migrated from North Carolina to Virginia, since he is listed in "Fothergills Virginia Taxpayers" in Montgomery Co., VA for the year 1782. He is also listed in Russell Co., VA tax lists for the Upper District in the years 1794 and 1796. Sometime about the turn of the century, he migrated to Eastern Kentucky and became an early pioneer of Floyd County, which was formed on June 1, 1800. The population of this vast region of 3,600 square miles was only about 500 people at the time.
Isaac is listed in the 1810 Floyd County census as being over 45 years of age, living with his wife and two daughters. He settled on Caney Branch of Shelby Creek, near the homestead of John and Sarah May. He appears again in the 1820 census and in the 1823 tax rolls of newly formed Pike County. A few land records of Isaac's were recorded in 1815, 1818, 1821 and 1822. A 1824 Pike County court record shows that James Roberts administered the estate of Isaac Little, deceased, and says his wife's name was Winney.

Isaac's oldest son, William, is listed in the 1810 Floyd County census as the head of a family, but there is no apparent accounting for James that year. He likely was working and living on a nearby farm. The 1820 Floyd County census, filed February 23, 1821, lists the heads of three of the four Little families in the county on the same page - Issac, William, and James W. - so they must have lived near each other. Pike County was formed from Floyd County in 1822 and in the 1830 and 1840 censuses of the county the only Little family listed is that of William. James most certainly had left the area before that census was taken. Many of William Little's descendants remain in Eastern Kentucky to this day.

Early Years in Kentucky: 1813-1829
The marriage of James Little to Elizabeth May on June 10, 1813 is documented in a Floyd County 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." Justice of the Peace, Robert Haws, performed the ceremony. John May died about four months prior to her marriage.

In 1821, when the 1820 census was actually recorded, James Little's family was living in Floyd - soon to become Pike - County. Also that year, their third child, Reuben Lafayette, was born. In 1824 James sold 100 acres on Shelby Creek at the mouth of Long Fork to Booker and James Mullins for $350. [Pike County Deed Book A:108] He apparently moved his family from Shelby Creek, Pike County, Kentucky to present-day Blount County, Alabama sometime between 1824 and 1830. Sandy Sewell says in her book that, according to oral traditions of descendants of their oldest son, Thomas May Little, James and Betsey migrated about 1829.

Life in Alabama: 1829-1884
The first settlers came to the community now known as Remlap, Alabama, near Birmingham, about 1816. Some of them had passed through the region with Andrew Jackson during his Indian campaigns or during 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.

Sandy Sewell tells us that 130 descendants gathered in 1986 - mostly strangers to each other - at the Remlap Methodist (Hanover) Church, which their ancestors helped found, and donated money for markers for the burial location of James Little and Elizabeth (Betsey) May Little, who are buried next to their son, Thomas May Little, and his first wife.

The three oldest children of the family, Mary, Thomas May and Reuben Layafette, remained in or near their parents' homestead and are buried near their parents in the Remlap cemetery. From my research, it appears that when James and Betsey left Pike County, they didn't take their fourth child, John, since he isn't listed among the records of his Alabama siblings in "We, The Little People." Perhaps as a young child he simply wasn't strong enough to make the long and arduous journey. It wasn't uncommon for large families of the region to "care for their own" under such circumstances. We find John Little living in the home of his uncle, Thomas May in the 1850 Pike Co., KY census, at the age of 24. Also in 1850, Thomas' four-year-old granddaughter, Adaline May, whose mother had recently died in Prestonsburg, was living in his home.

Rev. Milton Koger Little, oldest son of Reuben Lafayette Little, told of an interesting experience in his father's religious life, following Koger's conversion to Christianity at a camp meeting:

"I then felt that my first duty was to endeavor to erect an altar in my father's house. This was a task, but my heart was fixed; my father was religious but did not pray with me. I approached him with the old family Bible and said, 'father will you have prayers tonight?' He said, 'No, child, I don't feel like it, if you do, go ahead.' Koger read a Psalm with a few friends gathered in the home and the 'Holy Ghost' came upon him. The next evening his father joined in the prayer meeting and they rejoiced together. From that day, the domestic altar was a marked feature in the Little home. All of Reuben's children became members of the Methodist Church."

Koger described his father, who was a farmer and cabinet maker:
"He was far above the average of his day. A man of charming personality - clean in life and lip. A close observer of the Sabbath and a church goer. Wish we had more of his kind."

Reuben served as a corporal in the 4th Regiment of the Alabama Calvary, C.S.A., and was a member of the George Morrow Masonic Lodge in Village Springs, AL. A Masonic Emblem is carved on Reuben's grave stone with the epitaph:

"Is a husband devoted; Is a father affectionate; Is a friend ever kind and true."

We know very little of the remaining four children of James and Elizabeth May Little. Talitha, and her husband, Arthur Belcher, were charter members of the Ebenezer (Mt. Nebo) Methodist Church at Gardendale, AL. Eliza was listed in the 1850 U.S. Census of Blount Co., AL. Martha was married twice, had three children and is believed to have been buried at Liberty, AL. Robert James married Elizabeth Alice Parsons in 1857 and they had twelve children.

Rev. Milton Koger Little wrote regarding his grandfather, James W. Little, who died of injuries from a fall at the age of seventy-five:

"The fall was from off a fence into a deep ditch and he lived only a short time. He came to Alabama with his family, among the first settlers, by pack-horse. He was above the average man of his day."

Regarding his grandmother, Elizabeth May Little, who died in 1884:
"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."

When Tress May Francis wrote 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 had married James W. Little on June 10, 1813. Tress simply assumed the Little families of Floyd and Pike County in the 20th Century were their descendants. While researching records on John May's family, I learned of a book entitled "We, the Little People" that was said to be about the descendants of James W. Little. After a few unsuccessful attempts, I finally learned Sandy Sewell was the author, located her, and obtained a copy for my library.

Others who have communicated with me on their respective family lines are: John Wesley Little of the 11th May generation; Drusilla (Dru) Cochran Sheldon of the 12th May generation; Ann Wain of the 14th May generation.

Articles in three issues of The East Kentuckian in 1985, submitted by Julius Little, is our source about the family of Isaac Little. Another source of information on the family of Isaac Little was privately compiled and published in an 1980 booklet, "Little/Lytle/Littell of Kentucky," by Mrs. Jim Little of Prospect KY. This book states that James W. Little and William were brothers. It also provides more information on the descendants of the siblings of James that I have entered in my records.

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

Mary Little, the oldest child of James and Betsey Little, married William H. Higginbotham, son of Robert Higginbotham and Elizabeth Little - who likely was related to James.

Thomas May Little, who died in 1874, had seven children by his first wife and ten more by his second wife.

It has long been a tradition in the Little family in Alabama that the two oldest sons, Thomas and Reuben, were born in Lexington, KY. This is unlikely since both of his parents were from Pike County in Eastern Kentucky and owned property there. In 1821, when the 1820 census was taken and Reuben was born, James and Betsey were recorded as living in Pike County. Other Little families - known to be living in Central Kentucky at the time - most likely have been confused with this mountain family.

Reuben Little's caplock, long barrel, Kentucky rifle, measuring about five feet in length, has been preserved. His CSA record is in the Alabama Confederate Archives: Ch.6; File No.298; Pg.182; No.2510.

Rev. Little's granddaughter, Dru Cochran Shelton, has shared many colorful stories of Milton Koger Little (1852-1942), who migrated to Texas in 1876, and his descendants. For nearly half a century, he was an active Methodist pastor and presiding elder (District Superintendent), filling church appointments throughout northwest Texas.

Tress May Francis had assumed Elizabeth's birth date to be about 1794 instead of 1790, as disclosed in family records.

More biographical sketches