The May Brothers and Sisters

After studying records of the three May brothers during the twenty years they lived in Lancaster, I have arrived at opinions of their individual personalities.

The May brothers in Lancaster
Leonard May
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. The father of a large family, he probably has the largest number of descendants still living in America. I have made contact with some of Leonard's descendants who are working on the genealogy of his line.

As early as 1751, Daniel May 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 May, 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" in an indenture written by Edward Shippen. This tells us that Francis catered to the manufacture of shoes, boots and other fine leather products which appealed to the local gentry, including lawyers, public officials and prosperous businessmen of the county. However, 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 years in Lancaster, Francis appears to have lived in his home and worked in his shop on King Street.

The May sisters in Lancaster
Unfortunately, we have scant information of what happened to the May sisters, Maria Elisabetha and Anna Margaretha, after they left Niederhausen. There is no known record of Maria Elisabetha after she traveled to Meisenheim with Daniel, Frantz Peter, and Anna Margaretha to obtain their manumissions to "leave for America."

The marriage records of the Rev. Philip W. Otterbein in the First Reformed Church in Lancaster show that he performed a marriage ceremony on November 12, 1752 for Anna Margaret May - probably the twenty-six year-old Anna Margaretha - and Michael Stern, a widower. We know of Stern's previous wife from a 1750 birth and baptism record. Another record from the church refers to Stern as "deceased," and gives his wife's name as Catherine. This record shows that she was the mother of a daughter who was born on September 2, 1753. This leads us to speculate that Anna Margaretha may have died very soon after she married Stern.

There is now doubt if Anna Maria immigrated with the family to America. In The Shoemaker's Children I assumed she may have been the Anna Maria Lorentz who received her manumission in Meisenheim with her mother and two Lorentz men from Niederhausen. I have found records showing she had married and had been living in Alsenz as late as 1747, when her husband died. Additional research will be necessary to determine if she remained in the Nahe Valley in the Rheinland Palatinate.

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© 2000 Fred T. May                Return to Index of John May essays