(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.  Additional information on the Little family was written by Julius Little of Canonsburg, PA in 1985.  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.
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 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.
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.
1. 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.