Eighth May Generation
Biographical Sketches
Fred T. May - 2002

Reuben May (1800-1840)
More about Reuben | More biographical sketches

During the past few years, I have been in contact with 21 descendants of Reuben May and know of a number others who are actively continuing research on their respective family lines.
Marquita Jean Sivis Otis, organizer of the 2002 May Reunion, is a descendant of Reuben.

Family of Reuben May | The Allen Family | Living in Maytown | Sarah, the Widow
Children of Reuben and Sarah Allen May | Old May Mill | Reuben May Chapel | Notes

Reuben's Oral Will

Family of Reuben May
1 Reuben MAY b: 12 Oct 1800 Shelby Cr., Pike Co., KY d: 20 Sep 1840 Maytown, Beaver Cr., Floyd Co., KY age at d: 39
.. +Sarah ALLEN b: Dec 1810 Floyd Co., KY m: 27 Nov 1825 Beaver Cr., Floyd Co., KY d: 26 Nov 1876 Beaver Cr., Floyd Co., KY age at d: 65 est.

2 George Allen MAY b: 29 Aug 1828 [Present-day] Maytown in Floyd Co., Ky. d: 21 Aug 1912 On his farm near Maytown, where he is buried age at d: 83
..... +Mahala HAGANS b: 20 Oct 1833 m: 11 Jun 1851 Floyd Co., KY d: 3 Feb 1890 Maytown, KY, on Beaver Creek in Floyd Co. age at d: 56

2 William Harvey MAY b: 5 Aug 1830 Floyd Co., KY d: 10 Dec 1890 Prestonsburg, KY, buried in the May Cemetery there. age at d: 60

2 Daniel Wesley MAY b: 20 Aug 1831 d: 24 Jun 1900 age at d: 68
..... +Susanna MILAM b: Dec 1841 Right Beaver Creek, near present-day Wayland, KY m: 2 Sep 1857 Floyd Co., Ky. d: 18 May 1914 age at d: 72 est.

2 John MAY b: 13 Dec 1832 Maytown, KY (post office is Langley) d: 3 Mar 1926 Alphoretta, KY, at the home of his son, B.L.C. May. age at d: 93
..... +Dorcas CONLEY b: 22 Sep 1830 Salt Lick Cr., Floyd Co., KY m: 21 Jan 1851 Hueysville, Floyd Co., KY d: 18 Jul 1915 Maytown, Floyd Co., KY age at d: 84

2 Andrew Jackson MAY b: 25 Dec 1834 Floyd Co., KY d: 12 May 1906 Floyd Co., KY age at d: 71
..... +Nancy HIGGINS b: 6 Jun 1841 Floyd Co., KY m: 3 Mar 1859 Floyd Co., Ky. d: 22 Apr 1928 Floyd Co., KY age at d: 86

2 Cynthia MAY b: 7 Jun 1835 Floyd Co., KY d: 9 Dec 1869 Maytown, KY, buried in the Patton Cemetery there. age at d: 34
..... +James Patton STEPHENS b: 25 Jan 1825 m: 23 Dec 1852 Floyd Co., Ky. d: 29 Feb 1904 (three miles southeast of) Enid, OK, buried in the Bethany Cemetery there age at d: 79

2 Polly MAY b: 10 Sep 1836 (died in infancy)

2 Samuel MAY b: 28 Jan 1838 Beaver Creek in Floyd County, near Maytown. d: 19 Apr 1890 Cliff, Floyd County, KY, where he is buried. age at d: 52
..... +Mary Jane BEGLEY b: Feb 1843 Leslie Co., KY m: 14 Feb 1861 Floyd Co., KY d: 9 Jul 1892 Cliff, KY, where she is buried. age at d: 49 est.

2 Sarah MAY b: 1839 Maytown, Floyd Co., KY d: 9 Apr 1870 Perry Co., KY age at d: 31 est.
..... +Felix T. BEGLEY b: 6 Mar 1834 Cutshin Cr., Perry Co., KY m: Abt. 1862 Perry Co., KY d: 28 Jun 1912 Bull Cr., Leslie Co., KY age at d: 78

2 Reuben Ann MAY b: 12 Nov 1840 Maytown, Floyd Co., KY d: Abt. 1878 Floyd Co., KY age at d: 38 est.
..... +Hiram K. BEGLEY, Jr. b: 26 Jun 1839 Dryhill, KY m: 29 Jan 1869 Dryhill, Floyd Co., KY d: 24 Aug 1904 age at d: 65

The Allen Family
In the essay on Reuben's brother, Daniel, there is some information on the Allen family, descended from Samuel and Sarah Prater Allen, the grandparents of Reuben's wife, Sarah Allen (1810-1876). According to Tress May Francis in her history of the May family, Reuben followed the carpenter trade, as did some of his older brothers. She relates the story that he came to Beaver Creek in Floyd County, and while there built a house for George Allen, met his young daughter Sally, fell in love with her, and they were married. Reuben was 25 and, based on the available information, Sally was only about 15 years of age at the time.

Growing up on Shelby Creek: 1800-1829
Reuben - b. October 12, 1800 - was the seventh child of John and Sarah May, and was the first of the family to be born in Kentucky. He was only twelve years old when his father died in January 1813. For the next twelve years he lived with his mother and the family of his brother, Thomas. The first record on any land owned by Reuben is in the 1823 Tax List for Pike County, showing he owned two tracts of land totaling 500 acres on Shelby Creek. I have seen no deeds for this property. His name does appear in a few Pike County deeds, primarily as a witness to surveys on Shelby Creek. In 1824, Reuben bought a parcel of land on Shelby Creek - near land owned by Thomas - from Crabtree Price of Russell Co., VA for $250. Two of the witnesses on the deed were his brothers, "Tillpolard and Thomas May". The deed referenced a conditional line separating property owned by James Damron, William Adkins and "Rheuben May," so Reuben apparently owned additional property which is not recorded in existing Pike or Floyd County deeds. In 1829 Reuben sold 400 acres on "both sides of Shelby Creek" to Thomas for $500, possibly all of the property he owned in Pike County at the time. In Floyd County his only significant land purchase appears to have been 100 acres he bought in 1832 for $300 from Sarah's uncle, Henry Patton, on Right Beaver Creek.

Living in Maytown: 1829-1840
Reuben and Sarah settled near her home on Right Beaver Creek in the vicinity of a community now known as Maytown [post office: Langley, KY], where they reared their family. I haven't seen any records to show exactly when they began housekeeping in Floyd County. Since Reuben lived on Shelby Creek, he may have brought his young bride there for a short while before settling near the Allen family. The sale of his property in Pike County in 1829 and the listing of his household - "Rubin May" with his wife and a son [George Allen May] - in Floyd County in the 1830 U.S. census tells us he was established on Beaver Creek before 1830.

One of the last records of Reuben is from the 1840 U.S. census of Floyd County, in which he is named as the head of a household with his wife, six sons and two daughters. During the fifteen years of their marriage, Sarah gave birth to nine children, eight of whom had survived to this date. Less than two months following Reuben's untimely death in 1840, their tenth child, a daughter named Reuben Ann in his memory, was born. Sarah [Sallie] was left a widow with her children ranging in age from birth to twelve years. In 1846, Sallie Allen May was deeded two tracts of land on Right Beaver Creek from her father, George Allen. I don't have his year of death, but this could possibly have been her inheritance.

Sarah, the Widow: 1840-1876
Sarah May is listed as the head of the household in the 1850 Floyd County census and that year, for the first time, the census recorded the names and ages of everyone in the home. All nine surviving children, ranging in age from nine to twenty-one, were living with her. In 1852 she mortgaged some land on Beaver Creek to George J. Allen, possibly her brother. Again in 1860 she headed the household, but only her three youngest children, Samuel, Sarah and Reuben Ann, lived with her. Five of her children had married in the intervening ten years - George Allen in 1851, Daniel Wesley in 1857, John in 1851, Andrew Jackson in 1859 and Cynthia in 1852 - and William Harvey, never married. In 1870, Sarah Allen May was living in the home of her youngest daughter, Reuben Ann, who was married to Hiram K. Begley and had an eight-month old son, Jackson Allen Begley. About six years later, at the age of 65, Sarah died.

Old May Mill

One interesting story that has survived the passing of time tells us that Reuben purchased a water mill that had been erected years earlier by John Wireman, a pioneer of Eastern Kentucky, who was half-Indian. Early settlers on or near Beaver Creek followed forest trails for many miles to have their corn ground into meal at this mill. Family traditions say that the mill had been erected before 1792, the year the Commonwealth was formed from the mother state of Virginia. This tradition was presented as fact by John May, one of Reuben's sons, in defense of retaining a mill dam on the creek. Right Beaver had been declared a navigable stream by the State Legislature and the dam prevented the transport of goods on the stream. John May won his point, either by logic or bluff, by contending that the State had no authority to remove the dam, since it was built before the State came into existence, and the only recourse was to buy the picturesque landmark. The old mill was maintained into the mid-20th Century with its ancient red beech logs and a set of rocks that were used when it was first erected.

George Allen May (1865-1953), a grandson of Reuben, was the last of the family to operate the mill before it was razed.

Article about the mill

Rueben May Chapel

  1868 1910
[Photos from Floyd County, Kentucky History, 1992 Kentucky Bicentennial, pg. 87.]

In 1868, three of Reuben's sons, George Allen, John and Andrew Jackson, built the Reuben May Chapel in memory of their father. At the time of Reuben's death in 1840, these sons ranged in age from five to twelve years old. John donated the land for the chapel, Jack furnished the materials, and the three of them constructed a one-room building with crude homemade pews. An organ and pulpit were purchased new along with two bells that were shipped up the Big Sandy River and Beaver Creek from Catlettsburg, KY. One bell was to call the congregation to services and the other to toll the age of a deceased person at their funeral. The church, which later became May Memorial Methodist Church, has grown over the years, continuously serving the community of Maytown and its surrounding area into the 1990s.
[The church building still stands in Maytown in 2004, but is no longer active].

More about Reuben May Chapel and Maytown.

Children of Reuben and Sarah Allen May
In her history of the May family, Tress May Francis compiled 146 pages on Reuben and his descendants from Maytown. Throughout the generations, this family line has made many contributions to the progress of Floyd County, beginning with Reuben and Sarah's children - of the 9th May generation. The following are brief biographical sketches of each of them, from Tress' book and more recent research:

Rev. George Allen May (1828-1912):
He was one of the leading citizens of his community and of Floyd County. George owned and managed a farm, was a Methodist minister and served as an elected Judge of the county. They had two daughters, both of whom also lived in the Maytown area. George and his wife, Mahala Hagans, are buried in a cemetery named after him at Maytown.

William Harvey May (1830-1890):
Since he never married and has no descendants, I particularly wanted to record this brief account of his life:

William Harvey May attended school in Prestonsburg, Ky. When he was a young man, he was deputy Surveyor of Floyd Co., working for his first cousin, William James May. He lived for a number of years in William James' large brick home as he completed his schooling, saved his earnings as a surveyor, and began to engage in businesses in the county. He became very close with the large May family in Prestonsburg during the remaining years of his life in the community. He never married, and William James May named his ninth child, born in 1867, William Harvey May.

He entered the timber business and had a grist, flour and saw mill located about one mile north of the Prestonsburg Courthouse. He later lived in a small two room house on the river bank at the mouth of May's Branch near the mill, where he also had a store and an office for managing his businesses. Later this property was inherited by Thomas Reuben May, a son of William James May. After Thomas married Margaret Auxier in 1883, soon after the death of his father, he lived for a while in the small house. In 1885 William Harvey built a large two-story house on the property. Thomas and Margaret lived in this home with William Harvey and cared for him in later years when he was afflicted with paralysis. He willed them the property upon his death in 1890. In the 1950s the home was still standing and was owned by Mary Margaret Richmond Webb, a granddaughter of Thomas Reuben May.

William Harvey also had an office in Prestonsburg on the northeast corner of Second [Arnold] Ave. and Court Street. He once owned the lot on Second Ave. where the Prestonsburg High School was later built [in 1930]. In 1872 he superintended the construction of a "Frame School House" on this lot. The head carpenter hired for the job was a Mr. Tase of Paintsville, and he was assisted by "Uncle Ned" Horn, a life-long friend of the May family. A. Q. Harman, a Mr. Powell and a Mr. Kelly of East Point taught the first classes in the new school. In 1888, in his last business transaction, William Harvey May deeded the property to the school district to always be used for school or church purposes. A member of the Masons, he was the eighth man to be elected Master of Zebulon Lodge in Prestonsburg.

Daniel Wesley May (1831-1900):
He lived in Floyd County until February 1874, when, at the age of 43, he moved his family to Montgomery Co., near Jeffersonville, KY. He and his wife, Susanna Milam, lived there the remaining years of their lives and were buried in the May Cemetery on their farm. In addition to being a farmer, Wesley was also a carpenter and a miller. Most of his nine children remained near Montgomery County, where they were active members of the Methodist Church. A daughter, Sallie May, married Isaac Solomon Stratton, a well known minister of the Freewill Baptist Church in Floyd County.

John May (1832-1926):
He and his wife, Dorcas Conley, lived all of their lives in Floyd County and she gave birth to eleven children. Dorcas died in 1915, after 64 years of marriage. At the time of his death at the home of his son, Beverly Lewis Clarke (B.L.C.) May, in 1926, John was survived by only three sons and a daughter. Four of their best known sons were B.L.C., Felix, William Harvey and Andrew Jackson (Jack) May, U.S. Congressman from 1931 through 1946.

B.L.C. May (1859-1952) was a very successful and well-known timberman, contractor and farmer, who established his home in Alphoretta, KY at the forks of Beaver Creek in 1890. A grand celebration of the May family in 1930 was said in the Floyd County Times to have been "One of the largest and most pleasant social gatherings ever held in this section," with a list of friends and relatives from Alphoretta, Warco, Prestonsburg, Allen, Martin, Langley and Paintsville noted.

Felix J. May (1863-1908) lived in Maytown, was a farmer and also was in the timber business. He is buried in a cemetery that bears his name in the community.

John's two youngest children were twins, William Harvey May and Andrew Jackson (Jack) May, who were born June 24, 1875. Following their early education in Floyd County, both young men graduated from Southern Normal University in Huntingdon, TN in 1898 with their Law degrees. The following year they began to practice law together in the law firm of May & May in Prestonsburg.

Beginning in 1906, William Harvey was appointed as Commonwealth Attorney for the 31st Judicial District and was subsequently elected to serve in that capacity for ten more years. After an unsuccessful bid for the office of Circuit Judge, he moved to Jenkins, KY to become an attorney for Consolidation Coal Company, a very progressive organization for many years in Eastern Kentucky. In 1921, he died at the peak of his career, at the age of forty-five.

In 1901, at the age of twenty-six, Jack May was elected County Attorney of Floyd County. He was re-elected in 1905, serving a total of eight years in the office. In 1904, the May brothers joined with a few other men of the community to organize the First National Bank in Prestonsburg. During his years of affiliation with the bank, he served as Vice President and later as President and Director. Jack was appointed a Special Judge of nearby Johnson and Martin Counties' Circuit Courts and was retained for a number of years as an attorney for Pittsburgh Coal Co. and Kentucky-West Virginia Power Co. of Eastern Kentucky. He was engaged in the coal mining business and was associated with others in the operation of the May Coal Company on Right Beaver Creek in Floyd County.

In 1930 Andrew Jackson May, a Democrat, was elected to the U.S. Congress from the 10th Kentucky Congressional District, and served in that capacity for eight consecutive terms, through 1946. On March 4, 1932 he became a member of the House Military Affairs Committee and on January 10, 1937, as Franklin Roosevelt was preparing for his second administration, he was elevated to the Chairmanship of this committee. He is credited with rendering a great and honorable service to his district and the nation in World War II by his leadership of this very important committee. Congressman May was successful as the sponsor of legislation to provide Universal Military Training and wrote and sponsored the first peacetime Draft Act, which was enacted shortly before war was declared in 1941. He remained Chairman of the Military Affairs Committee until he went out of office.

Throughout his years in Congress he worked long and hard for government support of the canalization of the Big Sandy River. This ambitious project never came to fruition, but he was successful in his efforts on legislation authorizing the Dewey Dam Project in Floyd County. In the early 1950s the waters of Johns Creek formed a lake behind this dam and the State of Kentucky began to develop Jenny Wiley State Park. The commodious lodge on the lake is named "May Lodge" in honor of Congressman Andrew Jackson May.

Mr. May was a member and loyal supporter of the Baptist Church in Prestonsburg, KY since 1907. He served as a Deacon, Chairman of the Education Committee and taught in Sunday School. He also served on Church committees at the state level and was active in local civic clubs. Andrew Jackson May died in Prestonsburg in 1959 and is buried in the Mayo Cemetery south of town.

Andrew Jackson May (1834-1906):
I haven't seen much information printed about this Andrew Jackson May, but information from Floyd County deeds could help an interested descendant compile an extensive account of his numerous land transactions, up to his death in 1906. His first deed on file is the sale in 1867 of some land on Right Beaver Creek to his brother, William H. May. His first land purchase was recorded in 1861 for acreage on Abbott Creek, from Joseph Davidson. Most of the land he bought and sold was located on Right Beaver Creek and its tributaries.

Cynthia May (1835-1869):
Cynthia lived all of her life of 34 years in or around the community of Maytown. Family traditions have preserved a story about her surviving family, following her death.

After 17 years of marriage, Cynthia and her husband, James P. Stephens, had plans to move to Kansas and settle on a farm. However, soon after the birth of her tenth child, James, Cynthia died. About four years later James again made preparations to go west, leaving in a boat he had made of popular lumber to carry them to the mouth of Beaver Creek. When the day came to leave, young James couldn't bear to say goodbye to his Aunt Mahala and Uncle George May, with whom he had been living since the death of his mother. His father couldn't get him to stay in the boat, as James kept running back to Aunt Mahala. Finally they all agreed that the youngster would stay with his aunt and uncle, so he was reared by them and became known as James May, instead of James Stephens (Jr.).

After reaching the Mouth of Beaver Creek, James P. Stephens and his boys, including Daniel and his young wife and two children, took the steamboat "Jerry Osborne" down the Big Sandy River to Catlettsburg, KY. From there, they traveled on a steamboat freighter to Cincinnati, Ohio where they could continue their journey by railroad. According to the family story, the father's pocketbook was stolen by a pick-pocket in the railroad station, but he had other money hidden away on him sufficient to purchase the tickets he needed for the fare to Kansas. When they approached St. Louis, MO, they took a ferry across the Mississippi River. On March 28, 1873, the family group reached Newton, KS, where he purchased a fine home and a 400 acre farm, including all the implements necessary for cultivation, from a German man. A few years later he moved to Enid, OK. Twice he returned to Floyd County, KY for visits with his family and friends. He never remarried and died in 1904 at the home of his son, George Stephens, near Enid, OK.

Polly May (1836-1836):
She died in infancy.

Samuel May (1838-1890):
He was a farmer, a Methodist minister and a school teacher. His home at Cliff, KY, located across the Big Sandy River and north of Prestonsburg, was still standing in the 1950s. Both he and his wife, Mary Jane Begley, are buried near their home.

Sarah May (1839-1870):
Her husband, Felix T. Begley, was a brother to her sister-in-law, Mary Jane Begley. She and Felix lived in Leslie and Perry Co, KY.

Reuben Ann May (1840-1878):
Reuben Ann was obviously named for her father, who died two months before she was born. She also married one of the Begley siblings, Hiram K. Begley, Jr.

In her history of the May family, Tress May Francis compiled 146 pages on Reuben and his descendants. This large source of information is the basis for most of my records on this branch of the family, many of whom still live in Eastern Kentucky.

In 2001. Robert Eugene Allen of Morrow, GA provided me with his records of the Allen family, which added to information from other sources mentioned previously. He also provided me with new facts on the Begley family.

Early land purchases by Reuben are recorded in Pike County Deed Books A:127 & A1:62.

I don't know if the cause of death for Reuben has ever been recorded.

Land purchases by Reuben's widow, Sarah Allen May, are recorded in Floyd County Deed Books E:351 & F:148. I have not studied these deeds in detail. When I write a more complete account of the sons of John and Sarah May, I will make a more thorough analysis of the numerous deeds of their descendants in Pike and Floyd Counties throughout the 19th Century.

We know that Reuben's father, John, had also operated a mill on his farm on Shelby Creek prior to his death in 1813, and that it was still in operation when Reuben lived with his mother and brother, Thomas.

A history of the May Memorial United Methodist Church was submitted by Masaleete Patton for inclusion in History of Floyd County, an excellent photo and essay book on the county that was published about 1992.

Today, Maytown continues to be a friendly, close-knit community that honors the families who have had roots there for many years.

In 1998, Gerald Ray May, of Liberty, TX provided information on the May family, including Daniel Wesley May's first name.

Congressman Jack May was a popular guest at the May reunions in the 1930s. The minutes of the 1931 reunion at the home of Mr. and Mrs. William Greenwade of Cliff, KY - north of Prestonsburg - record: "Congressman Jack May with plenty of his wit and humor gave us many of the facts and traditions of the May family and closed by inviting us all to visit him in Washington - but not all at the same time."

I presently have records of twelve descendants of John May (1760-1813) named Andrew Jackson May. Three of his grandchildren were named after the popular "First Western" president, who was elected in 1828 and re-elected in 1832.

The story about Cynthia May Stephens' son, James, is confirmed by the 1870 Floyd Co. census, which lists James A. Stephens, age 9 months, living with George and Mahala May. The family of James P. Stephens was in a neighboring home, with five of his children, ranging in age from two to sixteen years old, residing there. In the 1880 Floyd County census, seven years after his father took the family to Kansas, James is listed as the ten-year-old son of George A. and Mahala May.

More biographical sketches