- Genealogists -
During the past few years, I have been in contact with 96 descendants of Thomas May and know of a number others who are actively continuing research on their respective family lines. Being one of Thomas' descendants, I am continuing my research for a detailed history of his life and the lives of his children and grandchildren, through the 10th May generation.
A partial list of cousins
from this branch of the family who have provided information for my
research in recent years includes (in alphabetical order): R. Vaughn
Cassell; Edna May Clevinger; Roberta Daws; Mia K. Adkins Fleegel;
Emilee Clevinger Jones; Amy Strasser Kistulinec; Eldon J. May; George
D. May; Jon May; Nancy May; John Picklesimer; Charles & Pat
Prendergast; Virginia Burke May Rhoades; Wanda May Rose; Scott &
Ginger May Sanders; Joseph B. Sparks; Sharon L. Sternberg; Martha
Hite Tant; and Moya Lear Tsatsos.
Family of Thomas May | Introduction | The Patton Family | Early Years on Shelby Creek | Early Years of Marriage: 1813-1823 Formation of Pike County: 1821-22 | A Growing Family: 1823-1842 | The Empty Nest: 1842-1860 | The Civil War | Notes
Family of Thomas May
1 Thomas MAY b: 1 Feb 1787 Hampshire Co., VA [now WV] d: 3 Sep 1867 Robinson Cr., KY, buried there across the road from the Post Office age at d: 80
.. +Dorcas PATTON b: 18 Oct 1790 Virginia m: 19 Aug 1813 Pike Co., KY d: 9 Jun 1872 Robinson Cr., KY, buried beside her husband age at d: 81
2 Daniel MAY b: 29 May 1814 d: 3 Dec 1816 age at d: 2
Reuben MAY b: 23 Jun 1815 Shelby Creek, Pike Co., KY d: 26 Sep 1902
Vernon County, WI, buried in the Springville Cemetery near Viroqua.
age at d: 87
Thomas Patton MAY b: 3 Aug 1816 Robinson Creek, Floyd (now Pike) Co.,
KY d: 28 Aug 1910 Pike Co., KY at his farm on Johns Cr.; buried in
family cemetery there. age at d: 94
Cynthia Patton MAY b: 30 Oct 1817 Robinson Cr., Floyd (now Pike) Co.,
KY d: 3 Sep 1870 Robinson Cr., Pike Co., KY, buried in the Marrs
Cemetery, about one mile below the mouth of this creek. age at d: 52
William James MAY b: 9 Jan 1819 Robinson Cr., Floyd Co., KY; (now
Pike Co.) d: 2 Jul 1883 Prestonsburg, KY; buried in the May Cemetery
on the May farm age at d: 64
Samuel MAY b: 17 Apr 1820 Robinson Creek, KY d: 23 Sep 1904
Prestonsburg, KY, buried in the May Cemetery age at d: 84
MAY b: 3 Jun 1821 Robinson Cr., Pike Co., KY d: 23 Jul 1908 Coeburn,
VA, where he is buried age at d: 87
A. MAY b: 6 Dec 1822 Robinson Creek, Pike Co., KY d: 9 Aug 1914
Hannibal, MO, buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery age at d: 91
MAY b: 2 Mar 1824 Robinson Creek, KY d: 3 Dec 1902 North Tazewell,
VA, and buried there in the family cemetery age at d: 78
Harvey George MAY b: 27 Apr 1825 Robinson Creek, Pike Co. KY d: 5 Feb
1905 Harrisonville, MO, buried in Oakland Cemetery age at d: 79
Dorcas MAY b: 1 Sep 1826 Robinson Creek, Pike Co. KY d: Aft. 1914
Harrisonville, MO age at d: 88 est.
MAY b: 13 Feb 1828 Robinson Creek, Pike Co. KY d: 12 Jun 1864 in the
Battle of Cynthania during the Civil War; buried in Battle Grove
Cemetery, Cynthiana, KY age at d: 36
MAY b: 13 Mar 1830 Robinson Creek, Pike Co. KY d: Jan 1911 Auburn,
NE, where she is buried age at d: 80 est.
Thomas May, the third child of John and Sarah May, should be remembered as the son who stayed on the family homestead on Shelby Creek after his father died in 1813 and cared for his mother and younger brothers and sisters. He was a farmer and land owner who helped establish Pike County and over the years was very generous with his children, seeing that they had land for their own farms. In their later years, he and Dorcas provided care for some of their grandchildren, with particular concern for the well-being of the family of his youngest son, David, who died in service during the Civil War.
Our earliest collection of information on Thomas' family was compiled over a period from the early 1930s to the mid-1950s by a descendant, Mrs. Tress May Francis of Prestonsburg, KY. Thomas' will names all of his children as heirs and we also have confirmation of the names and birth dates of members of his family from the Bible of Garland Hurt, a great-grandson, who was reared by Thomas Patton May on Johns Creek, KY.
Years on Shelby Creek
In 1810 the first U.S. Census for Floyd County was enumerated. It lists eight people living in the household of John May and appears to account for all of the known members of the family that hadn't yet left home. In 1813, when John died, Thomas, at the young age of 26 years, assumed his father's role for the family, especially for his two youngest brothers; twelve year old Reuben and seven year old Tlepolard (Phillip Pollard).
Thomas' 21 year old brother, Daniel, might have been living with his brother, Samuel, soon after their father's death. He was active in Court proceedings in Prestonsburg and was appointed as administrator of their father's estate. [Floyd CountyCourt Book 2: March 28, 1815 session] His two sisters were still living at home, but soon were married: Elizabeth (Betsey), age 23, married James W. Little in June 1813 and Mary (Polly), age 16, married Peyton Justice in July 1814. Sarah signed wedding bonds for both of her daughters and Thomas was a witness on one of them. Betsey lived on an adjacent farm on Shelby Creek for a number of years before her young family migrated to Alabama about 1829. Polly was divorced from Peyton on November 4, 1816 and married John Hamilton by 1817. She and John spent their married lives together in Morgan County, KY in the Licking River Valley.
On August 19, 1813 Thomas married Dorcas Patton, a daughter of James Patton and Florence Graham. Her father's permission and the minister's certification of the marriage are preserved in a Floyd County marriage bond: ". . . the oral consent of James Patton, father of Dorcas Patton, was given in my office the 19th day of August 1813." Their marriage certificate reads:
Prior to the marriage, Dorcas lived in the home of her parents in the vicinity of Prestonsburg. Simeon Justice, who lived on the Big Sandy River above the mouth of Shelby Creek, must have come down the river with Thomas for the ceremony, which - according to prevailing customs - would have been performed in the Patton home. Thomas' mother and younger siblings probably accompanied the party on horseback. His brother, Samuel, lived near the Patton farm, so he and his wife were also likely in attendance.
Tress May Francis tells us in her history of the family that after their marriage Thomas took pack horses, traveled 117 miles north to Catlettsburg, KY at the mouth of the Big Sandy River, and carried the goods needed to start housekeeping back to his farm on Robinson Creek fork of Shelby Creek. I have yet to see any evidence that Thomas was living on Robinson Creek when he married, but I am confident he moved there within a few years.
James and his brother, Thomas, were "sworn to the State in Capt. McCorkle's Company" of the Montgomery Co. militia in Virginia on Sept. 6, 1777. Numerous records show James buying land and being on the tax rolls of Montgomery and Wythe Co., VA - formed from Montgomery in 1789. [Wythe County Deed Book 1:459-460] In 1795 he and Joseph Patton joined petitioners for the creation of Tazewell County, which was subsequently formed in 1799. James and Florence sold their two tracts of land on Peak Creek in Wythe Co. in December 1796, prior to moving to Eastern Kentucky He is last listed on the tax rolls of Wythe Co. in 1798.
James Patton was one of the first Clerks of Floyd County, serving as early as November 1803. He was appointed Sheriff at the 1809 sitting of the Court and served until December 31, 1810. He is last mentioned in the Floyd County Court records in August 1815, when he and Henry Patton were ordered to mark the road near John Wireman's shoals, a few miles down the Big Sandy River from Prestonsburg. Proof that James is the father of Dorcas Patton is found in his oral consent to the marriage of Thomas and Dorcas. Also the names of her parents are on the shared grave stone of Thomas and Dorcas Patton May.
The only Floyd County census record of the household of James Patton was recorded in 1810. Listed with him are: one female over 45 [his wife, Florence]; two males age 16 to 26 [Samuel and William]; one male age under 10 [?]; two females age 16 to 26 [Jeany and Dorcas]; one female under 10 [Florence]. Other Patton households residing in the county in 1810 were those of James Patton's married sons, Henry, John and Christopher.
Florence Graham was a sister of John Graham (1765-1836), one of the most influential men in Floyd County during the first three decades of the 19th Century. He was a Revolutionary veteran who owned several large parcels of Big Sandy land. During his years as a surveyor, merchant , judge and banker, Graham attained prominence and respect among the people. In the early 1780s, he explored land between Tazewell County, Virginia and Limestone on the Ohio. On May 3, 1797, while he was a deputy surveyor of Mason County, KY, Graham filed "A plan of a town laid off on the North side of Sandy River opposite the mouth of Middle Creek, and to known by the name of Prestonsburg." He laid out the town "by direction of Major Andrew Hood, Matthias Harmon & Solomon Stratton for the adventurers under Colonel John Preston's grant."
James Patton died about 1818, at the age of 67, and Florence Graham Patton died about 1848 at the age of 91.
Years of Marriage: 1813-1823 Map
of the creeks where the May family lived
The May homestead, where Thomas' family lived, was still located within the boundary of the original Floyd County when his name first appeared as a grantee on a deed. On May 22, 1816, Thomas paid Philip Cole of Botetourt Co., VA $787.50 "good and lawful money of the United States" for 450 acres on Shelby Creek. On September 24th of the same year he paid Robert G. Scott $200 for another 320 acres on Shelby. By this time, his father's estate probably had been settled and he had extra cash for the first time in his life. Thomas' two older bothers, John Jr. and Samuel, also purchased land in Floyd County during this period.
On July 23, 1817, only fourteen months after purchasing 450 acres from Philip Cole, he and Dorcas deeded it back to Cole. The deed from Cole had no mortgage provisions in it, but for some unknown reason it was sold back to him for the same amount Thomas had paid him in 1816. On October 31, 1817 Thomas sold a tract of land on the Licking River to Thomas Rollings. This land must have been part of the inheritance from his father, but a deed for its purchase isn't recorded. It likely was destroyed when the log court house in Prestonsburg burned in 1808.
These four deeds were the only ones recorded to or from Thomas May in Floyd County until twenty-five years later, when he paid-off a number of mortgages on property owned by his brother, Samuel. The total amount of land that Thomas owned by 1818, according to these records, was 320 acres on Shelby Creek, the acreage he purchased from Robert Scott in 1816. Thomas' subsequent land transactions were recorded in Pike County, which was formed in 1821-22. His mother lived for another 30 years, so some of his father's land may have remained in her name.
The 1820 U.S. Census for Floyd County shows Thomas, who was 33 at the time, as the head of a household with a total of eleven members. The other three May families in the 1820 census were those of Thomas' brothers, John (Jr.) and Samuel, who lived near Prestonsburg, and Caleb May [not related], who lived in the Licking River Valley near the site of present-day Salyersville. A neighboring farm to Thomas was owned by his brother-in-law, James W. Little, husband of Betsey, and they had two children in their home - Mary and Thomas May Little, who were born in 1817 and 1819, respectively.
of Pike County: 1821-22
Three weeks later, the first recommendation for the site of the county seat - Liberty (present-day Garden Village) near Adkins' home - was rejected and a second commission was appointed by the County Court in 1823. On December 24, 1823, "Peach Orchard Bottom" was chosen and Elijah Adkins donated one acre of land as a site for the County Court House. James Honaker surveyed the site on March 23, 1824. The survey map was to contain lot boundaries, streets and alleys for the entire town.
The Court first convened at its new location in May 1824 and appointed three commissioners, John Bevins, Thomas May and William Ferguson, to report on plans to build the first courthouse. It was to be "of hewed logs, 24 ft. square . . . to be a story and a half high covered with shingles. . ." A report with details on the construction materials and furniture for the courthouse was filed six months later by another set of commissioners, Jacob Heabertin, Spencer Adkins and William Ratliff. It appears that the builder was James Honaker. This log structure served the county until the 1880s, when it was replaced by a brick building.
When the first post office was established on August 4, 1825 it was simply named "Pike." In 1829 the post office was renamed "Piketon," and in 1850, two years after the town was incorporated, it was known as "Pikeville." Thomas May served as one of the Trustees of the town, as noted on deeds for 13 town lots in 1827.
The total number of people qualified as voters in 1823 by Spencer Adkins, Clerk of Pike County Court, was 329 - of 354 total taxable persons. Nineteen households of "taxables" are listed as living on Shelby Creek. By local standards, the May households at the time were very prosperous. Thomas May owned the 320 acres he purchased seven years earlier; his brother, Reuben, owned tracts of 200 and 300 acres [the largest holdings on the creek]; and his brother-in-law, James Little, owned 100 acres. Other family groups on the creek owning 100 or more acres were; Adkins, Branham, Bevins, Damron, Mullins, Roberts and Tackett.
Home on Robinson Creek
Growing Family: 1823-1842
In the 1830 U.S. Census for Pike County, KY, eighteen people are listed in Thomas May's household. The official totals for the county enumerate 2,677 people. Thomas' brothers, Reuben and Tlepolard (Phillip Pollard), who had lived with him since the time of their father's death in 1813, were no longer in his household. Reuben married Sarah Allen in 1825 and lived on Beaver Creek in Floyd County. Tlepolard might have been one of the males, age 20-30, living in the home of his older brother, Samuel, in Floyd County. He isn't listed as the head of a household in either Pike or Floyd County.
In 1830, at the age of 43, Thomas was in the prime of his life. Dorcas, who was three years younger, had a large family under her care and could depend on the older children to help with the young ones. No one over the age of 50 is listed in the household, so this record doesn't appear to account for his 70 year old mother, Sarah. It is possible she was tallied by error in the age 40-50 column for females in the home. The age ranges of the youngsters in the home match all twelve of their children living at the time. Sarah is assumed to have continued to live in the home, but she was aging and the condition of her health is not known. We know she was living as late as 1848.
Cynthia Patton May was the first of the May children to leave her home on Robinson Creek, when she married John Marrs of Pikeville on November 22, 1833. The next to leave was Reuben, who married Emmariah (Emma) Virginia Honaker of Pikeville on March 5, 1835, and Sarah, who married William Spencer Adkins, from a nearby farm below the mouth of Russell Fork of the Big Sandy, on December 14, 1839.
1835 Tax List
During the 1830s, Thomas' brother, Samuel, served as a State Representative and State Senator. The most significant service he rendered to his constituents was his campaign for establishing the first State road crossing Eastern Kentucky, beginning at Mt. Sterling and ending at Pound Gap on the Virginia border.
The fourth child to marry was Thomas Patton May, who wed Elizabeth Margery Leslie at her home on Johns Creek on March 4, 1841. Though a farmer, he also served as a Methodist Minister for 60 years and was a trustee of Snively Chapel, built in 1853, which was located near his home on Johns Creek. In 1860, seven years before the death of his father, Thomas P. May's estate was valued at $11,500, which was unusually large for the region.
In 1840, there were thirteen members of Thomas May's family in his household plus four male slaves. Apparently his mother, Sarah was in the home, since there was a female 70 to 80 years old in the household.
Empty Nest: 1842-1860
The two young brothers soon moved to the large home on the farm and lived together and worked the land until they both married, at which time they divided the farm. Samuel married Mary Osborn of Russell County, VA on March 9, 1843 and another brother, John, married Mary's sister, Martha Jane Osborn, in the same year. In 1844, Harvey George May married Louisa Adkins. In 1845, William James May became the owner of the large brick home his uncle had built, after he married his first wife, Eliza Jane Harman. She died in 1848, soon after their only child was born, and he married Cynthia Ann Powers three years later. He lived in this home the remaining years of his life.
The next May children to marry were: Dorcas, on July 21, 1847, to Silas W. Robert Owens; Henry, on October 20, 1847, to Rhoda Harman; and Mary, also in 1847, to Elias George W. Harman. The last child to wed was the youngest son, David, who married Mary Elizabeth Bickley soon after 1850.
In 1850, Thomas was listed in the Pike County census at age 63 and Dorcas at age 60. Only one child, David L. age 22, was living at home. Also, some grandchildren were in the household: Adaline, the four year old daughter of William James May and his late wife, Eliza Jane Harmon; and John Little, the son of James W. Little and Betsey May, who had moved from Pike County twenty years earlier. Two young Hambleton (Hamilton) men were laborers on the farm and possibly were also related. The May farm, valued at $6,000, was one of the largest in Pike County.
Thomas and Dorcas were still living in Pike County in 1860 and their estate had grown to a value of $12,400. The household only lists the two of them living together at ages 73 and 70. Obviously, the land was not being farmed by Thomas at his advanced age and the crops were probably tended through leases to farmers in the area.
Most members of the May family chose to support the Confederacy but, as was common in Kentucky, there were instances of brothers and cousins serving in opposing armies. Examples in the family of Thomas May are illustrated by the following brief accounts of some of his sons and grandsons.
Death of Thomas May
Death of Dorcas Patton May
In her 1956 history of the May family, Tress May Francis compiled 272 pages on Thomas May and his descendants. Francis, Tress May, May Genealogy: Southern Branch with Biographical Sketches: 1776-1956. Unpublished - filed at Kentucky Historical Society, Frankfort, KY, 1956.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.
The text in this section is an abstract from a history I am writing about Thomas' branch of the family.
Most of the records we have of James Patton and his wife are found in a well-researched book by Dr. David Agricola, "Descendants of James and Florence [Graham] Patton." Some contradictory records are found in a book by Mrs. Verle H. Parrish, in which she gives dates of their births and marriage - and the births of some of their children - that are later than Agricola's records.
Only the name of the head of a household was recorded in the U.S. census prior to 1850. Names of residents can only be inferred, based on knowledge of their ages are at the time of the census.
A leather-bound ledger from John Graham's store has been preserved. It lists Thomas, Daniel and Samuel May among his many customers.
Referenced Floyd County Deeds-- Book A:400 - Book A:424 - Book A:493; Book A:514.
There is no supporting evidence that Sarah Phillips May ever retained any ownership of land in Kentucky.
Henry B. Mayo from the Prestonsburg area made his final enumeration of the 1820 Floyd County census on Feb 23, 1821. The total population of this vast region was 7,867 White, 194 Free Colored and 313 Slaves.
We now have new information on the family of James W. and Mary May Little from a book: We, The Little People, Sewell, Juanelle S. - McDowell Publications, Itica, KY, 1987. Sandy was a speaker at the 2002 MAy Family Reunion in Prestonsburg.
Fact on the formation of Pike County from: 150 Years, Pike County, Kentucky: 1822-1972, Sesquicentennial Issue Vol. I, Pike County Historical Society. Roberts, Leonard, Editor of Revised Edition. 1972.
Two of Thomas May's children, Sarah and Harvey George, married children of Spencer Adkins around 1840 and both families later moved to Harrisonville, Missouri. Reuben May, the oldest son of Thomas, married James Honaker's daughter, Emma, in 1835.
Pike County references-- Deed Book A:252 - Order Book 1:78 - Deed Book A:300 & A:303.
The 1835 Pike Co. Tax list was compiled by Dorcas Hobbs from Microfilm. Published in Pike County Historical Papers, Number Six, Pike County Historical Society, 1987.
Dr. Robert Perry gives a full account of the Pound Gap Road on his web site.
Leslie, wife of Thomas Patton May, was the daughter of Allen Leslie
and a great-granddaughter of William Robert Leslie, who established
the first settlement in present-day Pike County prior to 1790. Thomas
Elizabeth probably inherited most of their estate from the Leslie
family. A closer look at deeds of the Leslies should shed some light
on their land holdings by 1860.
Thomas May and Spencer Adkins, reared their families on farms a few miles upstream from Pikeville and had known each other about forty years prior to the marriages of their children in 1839 (William Spencer Adkins to Sarah May) and 1844 ( Harvey George May to Louisa Adkins).
Eliza Jane Harman May was the first family member buried in the May Cemetery, located on the hill behind the Samuel May House in Prestonsburg.
Cynthia Powers (May) was a granddaughter of Archibald Prater, a pioneer of Floyd County in the Licking River Valley,
We know from numerous records that William James May bought and sold many acres of land in Floyd County during his lifetime. He was the County Surveyor for many years, was in the mercantile business at Prestonsburg, and served on the Big Sandy River Improvement Commission in the 1870s. All of his twelve children, one by his first wife and eleven by his second wife, were born in the "Samuel May House." When he died in 1883, his third son - my grandfather, Leonidas Polk May - was seventeen years of age. I donated charcoal portraits of William James and Cynthia Powers May to the Samuel May House. They were displayed for many years in my grandfather's home, where I was reared. A photo of a similar portrait of William James May is in the files of the Zebulon Masonic Lodge No. 273 of Prestonsburg, noting him as their fourth Lodge Master. After his death, two of his sons, Beverly Clark and Lee P., were elected Sheriff of Floyd County and Beverly also served as County Judge. In the 1940s, a grandson, Alex Davidson, was also County Judge of Floyd County.
I haven't determined the respective relationships of the Harman spouses of the May siblings - William James May, Henry May and Mary May.
Sharon L. Sternberg, a descendant, of Marshfield, WI is heading an effort to research and document the life of Col. Reuben May.
traditions of the descendants of David May were provided by Nancy
May, a great-great granddaughter and an organizer of recent May
family reunions. David's grandson, David Darwin May of Prestonsburg,
was the first Floyd Countian to enter West Point Military Academy,
where he graduated in 1942.
More biographical sketches