Eighth May Generation
Biographical Sketches
Fred T. May - 2002

Samuel May (1783-1851)
More biographical sketches
About his home | Family tree

Family Album

- Genealogists -

During the past few years, I have been in contact with 27 descendants of Samuel May. A number of them are actively continuing research on their respective family lines.
The most recent contributions to the documentation of the history of Samuel's family were made by Dr. Robert Perry of Prestonsburg, KY, author of The Oldest House in the Valley and Jack May's War. Access to his work is available on the internet.

Family of Samuel May | Early Years in Floyd County | The Evans Family
Prestonsburg: 1803-1849 | The Gold Rush | Notes

Family of Samuel May
1 Samuel MAY b: 8 Oct 1783 Martinsburg, VA d: 27 Feb 1851 Placerville, CA age at d: 67
.. +Catherine EVANS b: 1 Apr 1787 Monongalia Co., VA m: 3 May 1808 Floyd County, KY d: Aft. 1860 Louisa, Lawrence Co., KY age at d: 73 est.

2 Thomas MAY b: 11 Mar 1809 d: Aft. 1850 age at d: 41 est.

2 John MAY b: 13 Apr 1810

2 Elizabeth MAY b: 20 Oct 1811 Floyd Co., KY d: 1891 Missouri, buried in Hebron Cemetery in Platte Twp, Buchanan Co.. MO age at d: 80 est.
..... +Ephriam Elliott HILL b: Abt. 1807 Ohio m: 6 May 1830 Floyd Co., KY d: Bef. 1870 Missouri age at d: 63 est.

2 Catherine MAY b: 11 Sep 1813 d: Sep 1898 Bazaar, Kansas, buried there beside her husband age at d: 85 est.
..... +Elias KENARD b: 15 Feb 1810 m: 9 Aug 1832 Floyd County, Ky. d: Abt. 1894 Bazaar, Kansas, at the home of his daughter, Mahala age at d: 84 est.

2 Samuel MAY b: 1 Jun 1816

2 Sarah Minerva MAY b: 20 Mar 1818 d: 29 May 1879 Vernon Co., WI, buried in Viroqua Cemetery age at d: 61
..... +[1] James Henry LAYNE b: 15 Nov 1812 Amherst Co., VA m: 5 May 1836 Floyd County, KY d: 1 Feb 1891 Vernon Co., WI, buried in Viroqua Cemetery age at d: 78

2 Mahala Jane MAY b: 11 Nov 1819 Prestonsburg, KY d: 9 Jan 1901 Sylvan, WI, buried there in St. Peter's Cemetery age at d: 81
..... +Perez S. RANDALL b: 1804 Maine m: 30 Jul 1839 Prestonsburg, KY, by Rev. Landum d: 26 Aug 1867 Maysville, Mason Co., KY age at d: 63 est.

2 Louvina MAY b: 19 Jan 1822
..... +Jacob MCDONALD m: 29 Oct 1840 Floyd County, Ky.

2 Amanda Fitzellen MAY b: 22 Oct 1824 Floyd Co., KY d: 24 Mar 1901 Floyd Co., KY age at d: 76
..... +John M. BURNETT m: 21 Aug 1845 Floyd County, Ky. d: Bef. 1881 age at d: ?
*2nd Husband of Amanda Fitzellen MAY:
..... +[1] James Henry LAYNE b: 15 Nov 1812 Amherst Co., VA m: 1881 d: 1 Feb 1891 Vernon Co., WI, buried in Viroqua Cemetery age at d: 78

2 Charlotte Temple MAY b: 22 Oct 1825 (a twin to Amanda?) d: 26 Feb 1904 Viroqua, WI, where she is buried by William age at d: 78
..... +William D. GILES b: 13 Dec 1820 Lynchburg, VA area m: 7 Mar 1847 Floyd County, KY d: 21 May 1893 Viroqua, WI, buried in the Asbury Ridge (Methodist) Cemetery age at d: 72

2 Lucretia Caroline MAY b: 18 Jan 1827 d: Abt. 1900 Tazewell, Va., buried in Maple Shade Cemetery, one mile north of town age at d: 73 est.
..... +G. W. MAYO m: 4 Nov 1845 Floyd County, Ky.

2 Col. Andrew Jackson MAY b: 28 Jan 1829 Prestonsburg, KY d: 3 May 1903 Tazewell, VA, buried there at Jeffersonville Cemetery age at d: 74
..... +Mary Matilda DAVIDSON b: 16 Dec 1832 Bluefield, VA, on a farm where the city was built m: 26 Apr 1855 Floyd County, KY d: 17 Mar 1901 Tazewell, VA, buried in Jeffersonville Cemetery there age at d: 68
*2nd Wife of Andrew Jackson MAY:
..... +Nelle Bly DAVIDSON b: 29 Nov 1880 Prestonsburg, KY m: 17 Jun 1902 Jeffersonville,Tazewell Co., VA d: 7 Nov 1918 Prestonsburg, KY age at d: 37

2 George Washington MAY b: Abt. 1831

2 Daniel Wesley MAY b: 22 Oct 1833 Prestonsburg, Ky.
..... +Martha BRASHEARS m: 26 Oct 1858 Hazard, Ky.

Early Years in Floyd County
Samuel May was seventeen years of age in 1800, when he migrated with his parents to Floyd Co., KY from Carter Co., TN. He was the second oldest of six children on this difficult journey from the home he had known since he was six years old. The family traveled about 150 miles through rough country with no established roads, crossed over the Cumberland Mountains at Pound Gap into Eastern Kentucky, and then crossed over Shelby Gap to Shelby Creek, where they would establish their new homestead.

In less than two years, Samuel's oldest brother, John, left home and married Caty Hanson, the sweetheart he left behind in Tennessee. It appears from family records that John and Caty returned to Floyd County after their marriage and may have lived there until her untimely death about 1808. John's marriage left Samuel as the oldest son in the May household. But this only lasted for a short time, since he left home about 1803 or 1804 to live and work, in Prestonsburg, the tiny collection of log homes over 40 miles away that served as the county seat for 8% of the area of the state.

Only a few families lived in or near the town, most of whom held political offices, so it was natural that Samuel soon became involved in the politics of the county. Court records show that he initially earned his living as a carpenter and, within a few years, began to buy land in the area. His first known purchase was Prestonsburg Lot #11, bid-in at auction on July 24, 1806 for 7 shillings & 6 pence. He also became friends with the Evans brothers, and especially got to know their sister, Catherine. On May 3, 1808, at the age of 24, he and Catherine were married in Prestonsburg. The 1810 U.S. census lists his household with two young sons. Samuel's father, John, is also listed in the census, with the remaining May family members accounted for in a household of eight. The only other May household in the county was that of Caleb May, an unrelated pioneer who settled in the Licking River Valley.

Certificate of Marriage performed by Thomas Brown of Prestonsburg
on "the 3rd day of May 1808."

The Evans Family
Caty's father, Thomas Evans (1737-1808) was a pioneer of present-day West Virginia. He settled first near Stewarttown Union District and is listed among the twelve charter members of the Forks of Cheat Baptist Church. Thomas operated a ferry at the mouth of Deckers Creek and served as a Private in the 13th VA Regiment, Virginia Troops, in the Revolutionary War.

The June 9, 1808 will of Thomas Evans was produced in Court for the September 1808 Term in Monongalia County, and proven by oath of John Morgan. Thomas, a resident of Morgantown, willed that all his property, both real and personal, should remain in the possession of my "dearly beloved and lawful wife Katherine Evans, during her widowhood, and in case she shall ever marry after my death, then she shall be entitled to her right Dower, according to the acts of the General Assembly in such cases made and provided; and balance to be divided amongst my children . . ." From this will, we get the names of his children.

Five of his children were living in Floyd Co., KY in the early 1800s. In 1814 the inheritance of their father's land in four counties of Virginia by three of these children - John, Evan & Caty - was sold for $3,000 to their brother, Richard. This netted a substantial $1,000 per child and infers that his total estate was worth much more than $10,000. The spouses of the parties were also named, including the husband of Caty, Samuel May. [Floyd County Deed Book A:169. Related documents filed in 1810 [A:190] and earlier in 1814 [A:151] ].

John, Evan, Richard and Thomas (Jr.) Evans were all living in Floyd County, as recorded in the 1810 U.S. census. All of them except Thomas moved to Greenup and Carter counties before 1830. Both Richard and Thomas served terms as Sheriff - Collector of the Levies -of Floyd Co. Thomas was listed in the Floyd Co. census as late as 1830, while Caty remained in Prestonsburg until 1849.

Prestonsburg: 1803-1849
Samuel lived in Prestonsburg about 46 years, with many proud accomplishments and a few sad disappointments marking his life there. Floyd County deed books chronicle his many land ventures through the purchase and sale of property throughout the county - from the bidding-in a lot at auction in Prestonsburg in 1806 to the final sale of mortgaged tracts of land in 1849 to settle his extensive collection of debts.

In 1807, Samuel purchased two more town lots, and by 1817 he had paid about $3,000 for 2,574 acres of farm and forest land within the original boundary of Floyd County consisting of: 270 acres in bottom land north of Prestonsburg; 200 acres on or near Abbott Creek; 450 acres on the Licking River; 884 acres on Little Sandy River; and 770 acres on Blaine Creek. In 1816, he also purchased three Negro slaves from Samuel Osborn for $850. "One Negro woman aged about 28 named Phillis, her son Ben, age about 11, and her daughter Bets, age about 13." [Floyd County Deed Book A:380] The mother and young children were likely intended to help Caty care for the house and her five children; Thomas, John, Elizabeth, Catherine and Samuel - all of whom were under eight years of age at the time.

The Evans family probably influenced Samuel to become involved in the county's business at the courthouse. Samuel was appointed to his first public office, Justice of the Peace, in May of 1811 - the beginning of a long and successful political career. Dr. Perry reminds us of a few documented facts about some of Samuel's ventures during these early years:

In 1813 he was "granted permission to keep a tavern at his home in Prestonsburg." In May, 1814, he was granted a license to keep a ferry across the Big Sandy "at his house," and to charge twelve and a half cents per man and horse. In 1816, in his capacity as joiner (expert carpenter), he took Jacob Waller as his apprentice and agreed to train him for the trade. By 1818, in addition to everything else, he was operating a saw and grist mill at the mouth of Abbott Creek.

By 1817, following the settlement of the estates of the fathers of both Samuel and Caty, the young couple apparently was prosperous enough to finalize their designs for building themselves the first brick home in the Big Sandy Valley. Their fifth child was born in June of 1816 and the prospect of having more room for their growing family probably suited Caty just fine. Since it was totally impractical to haul bricks into the valley, Samuel had to build a kiln and use native materials to make the bricks he needed for the large two-story house he envisioned. Tress May Francis wrote about the home:

"Samuel May built a brick house on this land in 1817. The red brick was burned on the farm; the clay being dug from a part of the farm a short distance from where the house was built. The writer remembers seeing the red coloring in the clay knoll adjoining what was later a large apple orchard, and this knoll must have been where they had the kiln. Lime from the mortar was made by burning or pulverizing mussel shells. The brick is laid in a Flemish bond along the front of the house, but in a more random fashion along the sides and back. The exterior walls are four bricks thick, which accounts for the deep windowsills and door frames throughout the house. The interior walls and partitions are also four bricks thick and extend from the ground to the roof. The architecture of the house is Colonial in design. The steps leading to the front entrance are of sanded native stone, and are three or four feet long, and still in use today. The same kind of steps is used at all of the doors around the house. Over the front door is a transom of three oblong panes of clear glass, also on each side of the door are oblong panes of glass that extend half-way down the side of the door, or on a line with the window sills. The door itself is four feet wide with six panels and the original key and lock are still in use..."

The first two courthouses in Prestonsburg were constructed of logs by Thomas Evans. The first one burned in 1808, before it was completed, and the second one soon proved inadequate. When the Floyd County Court commissioned a third courthouse in 1818, Samuel May was awarded the contract. The Court directed him to construct the building of "brick manufactured at or near the scene" and he likely used the same kiln that fired the bricks for his home. This third courthouse was completed in 1821 and served the county for almost seventy years.

In 1822, Samuel was one of five commissioners who chose Louisa, located at the confluence of the East and West Forks of the Big Sandy River, as Lawrence County's "permanent seat of justice." Two years later, his brother, Thomas, performed a similar service as a commissioner in Pike County - another county that was formed from Floyd County in 1822.

It is likely that the first of the May children to be born in their grand new home was Sarah Minerva, the sixth child - b. March 20, 1818. Five more daughters were born to Samuel and Caty by 1827 - Mahala Jane, Louvina, Amanda Fitzellen, Charlotte Temple and Lucretia Caroline - increasing the household to include eleven children, ranging from the infant, Lucretia, to 18 year old Thomas. The last three children in the family were sons; Andrew Jackson, George Washington and Daniel Wesley. Andrew Jackson, now known throughout Eastern Kentucky as a Colonel in the Civil War, was to become the most celebrated of all of their children. Very little is known of his five brothers. From the 1850 U.S. census of Calilfornia, we know that Thomas was residing with his father in the gold fields near Placerville and Sutter's Mill. Samuel's daughters spent most, if not all, of their respective adult lives in the West - Missouri, Kansas and Wisconsin. Therefore, very few of his descendants now live in Eastern Kentucky.

Samuel was elected as the State Representative from Floyd and Pike County in 1832 and 1833 and was State Senator from Floyd County from 1834 to 1839. Serving in Frankfort, located far away in Central Kentucky, meant a long horse ride for Samuel from Prestonsburg, taking several days each way for his sessions at the State Legislature. The most significant service he rendered to his constituents was his campaign for establishing the first State road crossing Eastern Kentucky, from Mt. Sterling through West Liberty, Hazel Green, Licking Station, Prestonsburg, Laynesville, and Piketon to Pound Gap on the Virginia border.

During the 1830s, while he was at the height of his political career, Samuel built a race track in the meadow near his home. It became the center of activity for the sporting citizens of the county, while raising the eyebrows of the more devout church-goers of the community.

By the early 1840s Samuel was having extensive financial difficulties, having to sell or mortgage most of his land. In 1842, his brother, Thomas, paid off $2,250 in mortgages that Samuel owed - with additional reference to some money Thomas had already paid for Samuel's debt to the Bank of Kentucky - and took possession of the May farm at Prestonsburg. Samuel moved to Prestonsburg and lived in a home he had built on Front Street for John Layne. He continued as a contractor and operated his sawmill at the mouth of Abbott Creek. In 1847 he was an unsuccessful candidate for U.S. Congress from the 6th Congressional District of Kentucky.

The final bell was tolling for Samuel's years in Prestonsburg, when he took out a two-year mortgage in 1848 on town lots "one, two, three and four and lying immediately north of the public square. . ." for $1,267.08 to pay debts owed to a number of parties from Pittsburgh, PA. [Floyd County Deed Book E:428] In 1849, Samuel made his last attempt to restore his fortunes through a co-partnership on his property "just below Abbott Shoal" with Thomas Griffith of Cincinnati, OH to "saw plank, grind on their grist mill, build boats for plank and coal, buy saw logs & boat gunnels, dig coal and run the result of their labor to market. ." [Floyd County Deed Book E:550 & E:551]

The Gold Rush
Samuel's last hopes were placed in a venture to the gold fields of California. Two of his sons, Thomas and Andrew Jackson (Jack), were with him when he traveled, at the age of 66, across the continent with "gold fever," which was sweeping the nation. They likely stopped in Missouri and Kansas at the homes of his daughters, Elizabeth and Catherine, and possibly visited the homes of his nephew, Harvey George May, and niece, Sarah May Adkins, in Harrisonville, MO. Samuel arrived in Placerville, California in time to be counted in the 1850 U.S. census, but was never to return to the mountains of his youth. He died on January 26, 1851, and is buried somewhere near Placerville. According to Jack, Samuel realized he was dying, so he gave his sons directions about returning to Kentucky with their gold and "with his hands on their heads, he pronounced a benediction." Jack returned to Placerville in 1898, searching for his father's grave, but found no trace of the burial site.

Final Years of Catherine Evans May
After Samuel's death, Caty, his widow, lived with their daughter, Mahala. Mahala's husband, Dr. Perez Randall, served as a surgeon with the 5th Virginia Infantry in the Civil War from 1861 to 1864. Afterward, he resumed a medical practice in Maysville, KY, but died unexpectedly in 1867. Mahala and her mother then moved to Louisa, to be near Mahala's daughter, Georgia Randall Vinson. Catherine Evans May lived in Louisa until her death, sometime after 1860.

Tress May Francis, deceased, of Prestonsburg, was the first person to compile an extensive record of Samuel and his family. Her father, Judge Beverly Clarke May (1856-1929), was born and reared in the home built by Samuel, his great uncle. Tress documented her work in a privately published book in 1956, which she dedicated to her father.

Col. Andrew Jackson May is one of the first descendants known to have written about the family and his daughter-in-law, Lucy Spotts May, continued this work after his death. See Annals of Tazewell County, Va. Vol. II:420 by John Newton Harman.

JoAnn Whitson Cuddy, a descendant of Samuel's daughter, Mahala,, provided the inspiration to my research which led to the discovery of the first six generations of the Maÿ/May family.

Dicksie Knight May, wife of James Mitchell May, continues to be a very dependable source on descendants of Col. Andrew Jackson May. La Vay Hooper Lund was one of my first contacts with descendants of Samuel's daughter, Sarah. I am in contact with eleven descendants of Samuel's daughter, Elizabeth, most of whom are actively working on the genealogy of her line. I only have one contact each with Samuel's daughters, Amanda and Catherine. I am in contact with three descendants of Samuel's daughter, Charlotte.

We know of Samuel's move from his parents' home from an 1845 deposition for his mother's pension application: "It has been 41 or 42 years since I was in the company of my father any worth notice and it has been 32 years since his death."

Though the 1810 census didn't list the names of all people in the household, the two males under ten years of age most certainly were Samuel's first two children, Thomas and John, who were given the names of his father and two oldest brothers.

I often hear from descendants of Caleb May, the other May listed in the 1810 Floyd County census, and have obtained a genealogical record of his family.

Dicksie Knight May, wife of James Mitchell May, provided information on Thomas Evans from research that was conducted in Morgantown, WV at the Archives and Manuscript Division of the West Virginia University Library and the Genealogical Section of the Morgantown Public Library. She also acknowledges the earlier research of two of Samuel's descendants, Helen May Dalton and JoAnn Witson Cuddy, on the Evans and May families.

The Monongalia Story by Earl Gore has many accounts on the Evans family.

I am presently involved in studying Samuel's deeds - about 63 in total - and a number of Kentucky land warrants and surveys as primary sources for a detailed chapter I plan to write about his life. A few of these documents are referenced in this brief sketch.

In 1819, Samuel used Ben, a young slave, as collateral for a loan from Maurice Langhorn & son for $618, plus $7.89 charges & interest. [Floyd County Deed Book B:210] The U.S. Census shows that Samuel owned two slaves in 1820.

Through the efforts of The Friends of the Samuel May House, Inc. and the generosity of E. B. May, Jr. and William May of Prestonsburg, descendants of Samuel's brother, Thomas May, the historic Samuel May House has been restored and donated to the City of Prestonsburg.

Thomas Evans, father of Caty Evans died about 1808 at the age of 71 and his will was probated in Morgantown, VA (now WV), so I question if he ever lived in Prestonsburg. The 1810 U.S. Census lists Caty's brother, Thomas Evans, age between 16 and 26, living in one of the six cabins in town with his wife, two sons and three daughters - the five children all under ten years old.

The 1808 courthouse fire destroyed the early court documents, causing many unanswered questions for historians and genealogists about the original property claims of the county's pioneer settlers.

Charles C. Wells fine book, Annals of Floyd County, Kentucky 1800-1826, includes court records that tell of the progress - and lack of progress - in the construction of the courthouses.

The exploits of Col. A. J. May are chronicled in Jack May's War, by Dr. Robert Perry.

Dr. Robert Perry gives a full account of the Pound Gap Road on his web site.

Dr. Perry located a politically motivated letter published in the Louisville Daily Journal that made light of Samuel's credentials for U.S. Representative.

Samuel operated a tavern on this property in Prestonsburg in 1849. [Floyd County Deed Book E:428]

The last known record of Samuel's oldest son, Thomas, is in the 1850 U.S. census of California.

In the 20th Century, the Vinson family of Louisa was honored by the appointment of Fred Vinson (1890-1953) as U.S. Secretary of the Treasury for 1945-46 and Chief Justice of U.S. Supreme Court, from 1946 to 1953. Judge Vinson was a second cousin to Georgia Randall Vinson's six children.

Mahala May Vinson later moved to Viroqua, Wisconsin to live with her son Dr. Perez May Randall. She died there on January 9, 1901. A number of her May siblings and first cousins lived in the Viroqua area at the time.

More biographical sketches