Elizabeth May
(ca. 1790 - 1884)
Return to Index of John May essays

In We, The Little People, compiled by Jaunelle S. Sewell, we now have our most comprehensive information on the family of Elizabeth May and James W. Little. [1]  Additional information on the Little family was written by Julius Little of Canonsburg, PA in 1985. [2] As late as the 1950s it appears that very little was known in Eastern Kentucky of this family after they left their farm in Pike County in the Big Sandy Valley about 1829.

4. Elizabeth (Betsey) May
m. James W. Little (ca.1787-1862) 10 Jun 1813
1) Mary
2) Thomas May
3) Reuben Lafayette
4) John
5) Talitha
6) Eliza
7) Martha
8) Robert James

The family of Elizabeth May and James W. Little

When Tress May Francis wrote her history of the May family in the mid-1950s, she only knew from Floyd County Court records that Elizabeth was a daughter of John and Sarah May and that she had married James W. Little. She assumed the Little families of Floyd and Pike County in the 20th Century are their descendants. We now know that James and Betsey left the valley about 1829. His father, Isaac Little, and his siblings remained in the region.

NOTE: To my knowledge, substantial records have not been found to prove that James was a son of Isaac Little. However, the facts relating to the Little families on Shelby Creek, as summarized below, indicate that he most likely was Isaac's son and that he had a brother named William.

Isaac Little family
Isaac Little migrated to Virginia where he appears in "Fothergills Virginia Taxpayers" in Montgomery Co. for the year 1782, with one poll. He also appears in the Russell County, Va. tax lists for the Upper District in the years 1794 and 1796. Sometime about the turn of the century he migrated to Eastern, Kentucky and became an early pioneer of Floyd County, which was formed on June 1, 1800 from Mason, Flelming and Montgomery Counties. The population of this vast region of 3,600 square miles was about 500 people in 1800.

Isaac Little b. abt 1760 d. abt. 1824
m. Winney (?)
1) Elizabeth b. abt. 1780 d. abt 1855
m. David Branham, Jr., Jun 1803

2) William Little b. abt. 1785
m. Betsey Terrill, 10 Jan 1817
m. Elizabeth Swinney, 8 Jun 1828

3) Agnes Little b. abt. 1786 d abt 1849
m. James Mullins, 9 Mar 1812
Marriage bond signed by her father.

4) James W. Little b. abt. 1787 d. 1862
m. Elizabeth May, 10 Jun 1813

5) Sarah Little b. abt 1790
m. Marshall Mullins, 19 Sep 1811
Marriage bond signed by her father.

The family of Isaac Little and his wife, Winney.

Isaac is listed in the 1810 Floyd County census as being over 45 years of age, living with his wife and two daughters. He settled on Caney Branch of Shelby Creek, near the homestead of the family of John and Sarah May. He appears again in the 1820 census and in the 1823 tax rolls of newly formed Pike County. A few land records of Isaac's were recorded in 1815, 1818, 1821 and 1822. A 1824 Pike County record shows that a James Roberts administered the estate of Isaac Little, deceased, mentioning his wife, Winney.

William Little
In the 1810 census William Little, age about 26, is listed as the head of a family, but there is no apparent accounting for his brother James, who was probably working and living on a nearby farm. The 1820 Floyd County census, filed February 23, 1821, lists the heads of Little families as Issac, William, and James W. on the same page, indicating they lived near each other. Pike County was formed from Floyd County in 1822. In the 1830 and 1840 Pike County censuses the only Little family listed is that of William Little.

William was still living on the land settled by his father on Caney Branch of Shelby Creek as late as June 1850. He was listed at age 65 in 1850, making his year of birth about 1785. Also in the 1850 Pike County census, John Little, age 24 and thought to be a son of James Little, was living on the nearby farm of Thomas May, Sr., where he is listed as a laborer. David Little, age 21, a son of William, and his wife Lydia (Johnson), age 17, lived adjacent to the Thomas May farm. The census records show many children in the Little households. None of these Little names appear in the 1860 Pike Cunty census. Since James had left the county and his sisters were married in the Branham and Mullins families, the Little families on Shelby - as well as those across the mountain on Left Beaver Creek in Floyd County - were descendants of the remaining Little son, William.

James W. Little and Elizabeth May
The marriage of James Little to Elizabeth (Betsey) May is documented in Floyd County, Kentucky by a 1813 marriage bond signed by her mother - "This is to certify that Sary May, Wife to John May, deceased, has give her daughter Elizabeth May in wedlock to James Little" - and by a certification by the Justice of the Peace, Robert Haws, who performed the ceremony.

John May, died four months prior to this marriage. James was living in Pike County as late as 1821, when the 1820 census was taken. That year their third child was born. In 1824 James sold 100 acres on Shelby Creek to Booker and James Mullins (a brother-in-law). He apparently moved his family from Shelby Creek, Pike County, Kentucky to present-day Blount County, Alabama sometime between 1824 and 1830. Juanelle Sewell says, according to oral traditions of descendants of their son, Thomas May Little, that James and Betsey migrated about 1829.

The first settlers came to this community near Birmingham about 1816. Some of them had passed through the region with Andrew Jackson in his Indian campaigns or in the War of 1812. The early families are known to have been named; Cowden, Cosby, Little, Higginbotham, Brown, Hill, Hallmark, Compbell, Young, Hullet, Cornelius, Murphree, Newman, Reese, Hamby, Hendon and Palmer. The Palmer family became prominent in the area, and a nearby L&N railroad station in Jefferson County was named Palmer's Station. When the railroad came into Blount County and again wanted to honor the Palmers, Remlap - Palmer spelled backward - was chosen as its name.

Old settlers tell of riding across Pine Mountain to Springville to get a doctor and of hauling their cotton to Tuscaloosa, while Brimingham was only a blacksmith shop in a swampy area. The deed for the Remlap Methodist Episcopal Church is dated May 19, 1837. James Little was among the five trustees to receive the land for the church and cemetery from Robert and Elizabeth Higginbothom. (Subsequent court records show numerous business transactions between members of the Higginbothom and Little families.) James and Betsy Little are listed among the founders of this church. [Historical information on Remlap, recorded in "We, The Little People," was written by Sudie Cowden Hicks, a descendant of the Cowden and Palmer families and principle and primary teacher at Remlap school.]

Milton Koger, a grandson of Elizabeth, wrote before his death: "She was a remarkable character; a woman of refined tastes, gentle, loving, and loved by all. She died at the age of 94 and was strong to the last." She died in 1884, making 1790 her year of birth. Tress May Francis had assumed her birthdate to be about 1794.

 Sewell, Juanelle S.   We, The Little People, McDowell Publications, Itica, KY, 1987.
2.  Little, Julius, Isaac Little and his Descendants, The East Kentuckian, Lexington, Ky (no longer publishing),      June-September-December, 1985.

Continue with an essay on the fifth child of John and Sarah, Daniel May.

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