Forward by Robert Rennick
Early this past summer Robert Perry, an English teacher at Prestonsburg Community College, came to my office at Social Services and began asking me questions about local history. Aware of my interest in the subject, and of the publications which bear my name, he showed me an essay he was working on and asked me to critique it. I was happy to oblige. In the weeks that followed our first meeting, a friendship developed and his essay grew into the work which is presented here.
Perry came to Floyd County in the Fall of 1989. A native Nebraskan, he was educated at the University of Nebraska and received his Ph. D. at the University of Colorado . In 1987, after ten years in the retail trade in Nebraska, he accepted an instructorship at his alma mater. En route he published two monographs on local and regional history.
In the Fall of 1992, Perry taught a night course on local history and asked his students to suggest possible research projects. On the top of the list was the Samuel May House, the oldest brick structure in the Big Sandy Valley. E. B. May, Jr., a co-owner of the house and a descendant of the brother of its builder, was brought to the class to talk about the building, its history, the families it had served, its current status, and its future prospects. What he said so interested Perry that, in the Winter of 1992-93, he helped organize the Friends of the Samuel May House, Inc. This group has begun a ten-year project which, it is hoped, will lead to the building's restoration and its development as a local history resource, archive, and tourist attraction. In the following spring, the group received a $2,000 grant from the Kentucky Heritage Council. In the Summer of 1993, they hired an architect to make a preliminary study of the building. An estimated $400,000 will be needed to restore it, and donations from interested persons and groups are actively being sought.
This well-researched essay by Professor Perry is a synthesis of much of the past research on the building, as well as a narrative of the life and times of Samuel May, its builder and first occupant. May, a Floyd County artisan and businessman, was instrumental in the early economic and political development of the Upper Big Sandy Valley, and represented this area in the Kentucky legislature. Perry, now a resident of the South Prestonsburg community of Lancer, is planning future essays on the May family and the role of the house in the Civil War.
Robert M. Rennick
For information on how to obtain a copy of The Oldest House in the Valley CLICK HERE.
Maps of towns and counties mentioned in this book come to us courtesy of Pam Rietsche and her wonderful 1895 U.S. Atlas, a very handy tool for on-line historians and genealogists.
The George Caleb Bingham painting, Daniel Boone Escorting Settlers Through Cumberland Gap, comes to us courtesy of Jim Gratton, creator of Jim's Fine Art Collection, one of the best art galleries on the web.
© 1997 Robert L. Perry