(8 Oct 1783 - 26 Jan 1851)
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of John May essays
Our earliest source of information on this
family was compiled over a period from the 1930s to 1950s by
Mrs. Tress May Francis 
of Prestonsburg, Kentucky. More
recently, Dr. Robert Perry , the first president of The Friends of the Samuel
May House, Inc, has researched and written about the life
of Samuel May and the history of the home he built in Prestonsburg.
Extensive information on Samuel May and the May House is available
on the internet, as noted at the end of this essay.
|2. Samuel May
m. Catherine Evans on 8 May 1808
6) Sarah Minerva
7) Mahala Jane
9) Amanda Fitzellen
10) Charlotte Temple
11) Lucretia Caroline
12) Andrew Jackson
13) George Washington
14) Daniel Wesley
The family of Samuel May
Samuel May, the second son of John and Sarah May, became the
most prominent member of the early May family in Kentucky. He
was born in Martinsburg, Virginia (now W. Va.), and was six years
old in 1789 when John May moved his family up the Shenandoah
River Valley into the mountains of Western North Carolina.
Samuel's memories of childhood were associated with the mountains
of the western frontier. He was thirteen when Tennessee became
a state, so he was exposed to the excitement of the political
talk of adults during this rapidly changing period in American
history. He must have been influenced by the political spirit
of the era, since his adult life was highlighted by public activities
at the local and state level.
John May needed the help of his older sons, John Jr., Samuel
and Thomas, to clear the land and plant the crops on Shelby Creek
in Eastern Kentucky when they arrived in 1800. Samuel, however,
was determined at an early age to move and establish his own
life in the Prestonsburg area, the center of public activity
in this remote section of Kentucky. Samuel wrote a brief deposition
for his mother's Declaration for a Revolutionary War pension
on September 19, 1845 that recalled his father frequently speak
of having served in the army of the Revolutionary War and both
parents speaking of being married very shortly after the expiration
of his father's service in the army. He also told of his move
away from home on Shelby Creek (to Prestonsburg) in his twentieth
year (about 1802-03).
Deed Book A of Floyd County shows that Samuel purchased three
Town Lots, #1, #9 and #15, in Prestonsburg in 1807. The plat
for Prestonsburg had been laid out in a survey for Colonel John
Preston's grant on May 3, 1797, when the Big Sandy Valley was
still in Mason County, by John Graham, Deputy Surveyor of the
County. Unfortunately, earlier Floyd County records were destroyed
when the log courthouse burned in 1808 and only a few, such as
Samuel's purchase of the Town Lots, were re-recorded.
According to genealogist Tress May Francis, other deeds show
Samuel acquired land in three different parcels from John Graham,
outside the northern limits of the town of Prestonsburg. This
land, located on May's Branch, became known as the May Farm.
Prestonsburg Community College is now located on the north end
of this old homestead.
On May 8, 1808, Samuel married Catherine (Caty) Evans the daughter
of Thomas Evans who had emigrated from Wales. Thomas, of Morgantown,
Monongalia County, Virginia (now W.Va.), died about September
1808 and his will was probated in Morgantown. Other records of
disposition of part of his estate is recorded in Floyd County.
We know that Samuel developed skills as a carpenter and supplemented
his farm work as a building contractor. One construction job,
for example, was to build the stocks, pillery and stray pen for
the county at Prestonsburg, as recorded in County Court Book
I in December 1808.
Thomas Evans, Caty's brother, was contracted to build a new courthouse
in Prestonsburg in March of 1806. The Commissioners appointed
by the Court would not accept the courthouse in August 22, 1808
due to cetain incomplete work items. Sometime between this date
and October 25 of the same year the building burned and the Court
records, which apparently had been transferred to it, were destroyed.
Evans proposed a new courthouse plan which was approved with
one year allowed for construction for $670, and Thomas Evans
and his securities were released from their original contract
Caty's brothers, Richard and Thomas Evans, were early Sheriffs
(Collector of the Levies) of Floyd County. Richard served in
1807 and Thomas in 1811 and 1812. The Evans family probably influenced
Samuel to become involved in the business at the county seat
which later led to his political activities in the state. In
May 1811 Samuel was appointed as a Justice of the Peace in Prestonsburg.
The courthouse was still not completed at this time. It was May
of 1813 before the Commissioners of the Court received the courthouse
as finished according to contract.
In 1818 another courthouse was commissioned by the Court and
it was constructed by Samuel May of "brick manufactured
at or near the scene". It was 30 feet square and had two
stories with seven windows on the lower floor and four windows
on the upper floor. Green Venetian shutters were hung outside
the windows and the roof was painted red. The magistrates also
directed the outside doors to be of mahogany with yellow ocre
and white decorations. This third courthouse was completed in
1821 and served Floyd County for almost seventy years. A drawing
of the courthouse that replaced this old building in 1890 has
been used as the cover seal of the "History of Floyd
County" published in 1992, the bicentennial year of
the State of Kentucky.
Sometime after the death of Thomas Evans in 1808, his daughter,
Caty, inherited her share of the Evans' estate. Around 1813,
the year his father died, Samuel inherited his part of John May's
estate. These inheritances made the young family relatively prosperous
for the area. In September 1814 Court, Samuel May was granted
leave to keep a ferry across the Sandy River at his house. The
rate was set at 12.5 cents per man and horse.
In 1816 and 1817 Deed Book A shows that Samuel purchased over
3,000 acres of land in Floyd County for about $3,400. This included
120 acres (which probably became part of the May farm) purchased
from John Graham near Prestonsburg for $200. In October, 1816,
Samuel Osborn sold Samuel May three Negro slaves. The U.S. Census
shows he still owned two slaves in 1820. These are the first
known records of slaves in the May family in Eastern Kentucky.
Unfortunately, this practice continued with some members of this
generation and as noted in another essay, John Jr. may have left
the area in 1830 in opposition to owning slaves. John Jr. lived
on Abbott Creek directly across the river from Samuel from about
1816 to 1830.
In March, 1816, Jacob Waller's son, Jacob, was bound to Samuel
May to give apprentice training for six months as a joiner (in
the carpenter trade). In 1817 the first brick home known to be
built in the Big Sandy Valley was constructed by Samuel on the
May farm. The historic two story Samuel May House with
its plastered walls and hand carved mantels stands today in it
restored state in north Prestonsburg, near the campus of Prestonsburg
Community College. Extensive details on the construction features
of the house and the making of the brick on the grounds of the
farm were described by Tress May Francis. Her father, Beverly
Clark May, was born in this home in 1856. Also, Leonidas Polk
(Lee P.) May, the grandfather of the author of this essay, was
born in this home in 1865.
There was once a race track in the meadow along the river bank
that belonged to the family so this certainly must have been
the center of sporting activity for the people of the County
nineteenth century. In the 1940s Prestonsburg High School played
their baseball and football games on a field of this old farm.
Samuel was elected as the State Representative for Floyd and
Pike County in 1832 and 1833. He was State Senator for Floyd
County from 1834 to 1839. Serving in Frankfort ment a long horse
ride for Samuel from Prestonsburg which would take several days
each way for his sessions at the State Legislature. Samuel and
his brothers increased their estates by purchasing numerous tracts
of land in Eastern Kentucky using Kentucky Land Warrants that
were in effect after 1815 and County Court Orders that were created
By the early 1840s it appears Samuel was having financial difficulties
and had sold or mortgaged most of his land. In 1842 his brother,
Thomas, paid off $4,750 in mortgages that Samuel owed and took
possession of the May farm at Prestonsburg. Samuel then moved
to Prestonsburg and lived in a home he had built on First Avenue
for John Layne. He continued as a contractor and owned a sawmill
at the mouth of Abbot Creek. Samuel's last venture was to the
gold fields of California in 1849 with his nineteen year old
son, Andrew Jackson May, and another young man named White. This
time he traveled across the continent to seek another fortune
at the age of 66. He arrived in Placerville, California but he
was never to return to the mountains of his youth.
According to his son, Samuel knew he was dying and he gave the
boys directions about returning to Kentucky with their gold and
with his hands on their heads, he pronounced a benediction. Samuel
died on January 26, 1851, and is buried in the Placerville area.
Andrew returned to Placerville in 1898 searching for his father's
grave but found no trace of the burial site.
Andrew Jackson May was probably the most prominent child of the
Samuel May family . He was born January 28, 1829, at Prestonsburg.
The name Andrew Jackson was very popular during this period and
he had two first cousins with the same name in Floyd County.
In 1861 he organized a company for service in the Confederated
States Army and was elected Captain of the ompany when it mustered
into service in October, 1861, and became Company A of the 10th
Kentucky Infantry. Andrew was given a number of field promotions
and in the winter of 1862-63 he organized the 10th Kentucky Cavalry.
He served as a Colonel until August 1864, when he was forced
to resign because of illness. After the War he moved to Tazewell,
Virginia, where he was a very successful lawyer.
After Samuels death in 1851, Catherine (Evans) May lived with
her daughter, Mahala Jane (May) Randall, in Maysville where Mahala's
husband, Dr. Perez S. Randall, practiced medicine. After Dr.
Randall's death in 1867 Catherine and Mahala moved to Lousia,
Kentucky where Catherine later died.
1. Francis, Tress May. May
Genealogy. Southern Branch with Biographical Sketches: 1776-1956.
Unpublished, filed at Kentucky Historical
Society, Frankfort, Ky. 1956.
2. Perry, Dr.
Robert. The Oldest House in the Valley, A Study
of the May House in Prestonsburg, Kentucky and
the man who built it. ©
1993 Friends of the Samuel May
House, Inc., P.O. Box 1460, Prestonsburg, Kentucky
Continue with an essay on
the third child of John and Sarah, Thomas
You can exit these essays and find additional
information on Samuel May and the May House at mayhouse.org
© 2000 Fred T. May Return to Index of John May