The Immigrant Meÿ/May Brothers

Johann Leonhardt (1719-abt.1777)
Johann Daniel (1722-1777)
Frantz Peter (1724-aft.1784)

In my book about the May family, I gave my impression of the three brothers at the end of Chapter 3, LANCASTER COUNTY: [The Shoemaker's Children, pg. 287]

Perhaps, by the time the three May brothers leave Pennsylvania, we have discovered enough information about them to form opinions of their individual personalities.

Leonard appears to have effectively assumed his role as the oldest son living in America. He probably managed the funds the family had accumulated and brought from Germany, wisely investing early in Donegal and Conestoga farmland and then selling the property for substantial profits. He continued this pattern of land transactions throughout his years in Lancaster County. As a waggoner, Leonard became the most familiar of the brothers with the outlying townships and counties, and certainly must have often visited the dynamic city of Philadelphia.

As early as 1751, Daniel owned property on East King Street where he ran his tavern and inn. There are no records indicating that he ever owned any other lots in town. Daniel seems to have become more venturesome by the mid-1760s, when he bought two lots in the Borough of Manheim. His participation in various church and civic organizations and on special committees shows Daniel to have been a very capable, gregarious man who was well known and liked in the borough. The large number of baptisms in which Daniel and his wife, Anna Maria, stood up as sponsors and godparents - in both the Lutheran and the Reformed churches - speaks highly of the esteem they garnered among their friends and neighbors.

Francis, the youngest brother, appears to have stuck to his trade of shoemaking, while maintaining a low profile in the community. It is interesting that he was called a "cordwainer" by the Clerk of Lancaster County, Edward Shippen. This tells us that Francis catered to the manufacture of shoes and other fine leather products which appealed to the local gentry, including lawyers, public officials and prosperous businessmen of the county. His only known venture in speculation on town lots, the purchase and sale of an Orange Street property, yielded him a tidy profit. Throughout his twenty years in Lancaster, Francis appears to have lived in his home and worked in his shop on King Street.

A cordwainer was a leatherworker who made articles - especially shoes - of fine, colored split-horsehide leather.