(1 Feb 1787 - 3 Sep 1867)
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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.  We also have confirmation of the birthdates from the Bible of Garland Hurt, a great-grandson of Thomas, who was reared by Thomas Patton May on Johns Creek, Ky.
Thomas May, the third child of John and Sarah May, was the son who stayed on the homestead in Shelby Creek after his father died in 1813. A property deed indicates that his parents were living in Hampshire County, Virginia (now W. Va.) in 1784, so we can assume they still lived there when Thomas was born in 1787. He was only a child of two in 1789 when the May family migrated southwest up the Shenadoah River Valley on their trek to Western North Carolina. Thomas certainly must have had vivid memories of the next family move in 1800 when he was thirteen and they ventured northwest over the mountains into Floyd County, Kentucky, which had just been formed from Fleming, Mason and Montgomery Counties.
After John May died on January 25, 1813, Thomas assumed the major responsibility for the family. The older brothers, John Jr. and Samuel, were married and had not been living near the May farm on Shelby Creek for a number of years. Thomas was only 26 years old and his mother and three younger brothers and two sisters were still living at home. Daniel was the next oldest at age 24 followed by the sisters - Betsy, age 19 and Polly, age 16 - and the younger brothers - Reuben, age 13, and Phillip Pollard, age 8. Both sisters soon married - Betsy in June 1813 and Polly in July 1814.
Thomas married Dorcas Patton on August 19, 1813. she was the daughter of James Patton and Florence Graham (Patton). Tress May Francis tells us that after their marriage he took pack horses, traveled 117 miles north to Catlettsburg, Kentucky at the mouth of the Big Sandy River, and carried the goods needed to start housekeeping back to his farm on Robinson Creek fork of Shelby Creek.
The 1820 U.S. Census for Floyd County shows Thomas, age 33, as the head of the family with five young children under ten (their four boys and one girl, assuming Samuel wasn't born at the time), three males ten or older (probably his brothers, Tlepolard, Reuben and possibly Daniel), and two older females (Dorcas and probably his mother, Sarah). The other May families in the 1820 Census were Thomas' brothers, John and Samuel, who lived near Prestonsburg, and Caleb, who lived in the Licking River Valley near the present city of Salyersville and is not related to our May family.
The neighboring farm to Thomas in 1820 was owned by his brother-in-law, James W. Little, who was married to Elizabeth (Betsey) and had two young children listed in the U.S. Census. Other records show that these children were Mary Little and Thomas May Little, born in 1817 and 1819, respectively.
Pike County, Kentucky was formed from Floyd County in 1822. In a meeting at the house of Spencer Adkins on March 4, 1822, the first Justices of the Peace were commissioned and a court was formed for the County of Pike. Spencer Adkins was appionted clerk of this court and Thomas May was one of six surities for his bond in the amount of 1000 pounds. This meeting was held just below the mouth of Russell Fork of the Big Sandy River. Two of Thomas May's children, Sarah and Harvey George, married children of Spencer Adkins around 1840 and both families later moved to Harrisonville, Missouri.
Thomas May was one of the Commissioners appointed in 1824 to report on plans to build the first courthouse in the County Seat of "Pike". The town name was changed to Piketon in 1829, and finally changed to the present name of Pikeville in 1888. In 1830 Thomas May was the head of the only May family in Pike County. At this time there were fifteen members of the household plus one male slave. In 1840 there were thirteen members of the household plus four male slaves. Apparently his mother, Sarah, lived with him since there was a female 70 to 80 years old in the household.
Thomas purchased the farm of his Brother, Samuel, near Prestonsburg in 1842 and two of his sons, William James, age 23, and Samuel, age 22, moved to the large home on the farm and lived together and worked the land until they both married, at which time they divided the farm. William James May became the owner of the large brick home his uncle had built and all of his twelve children were born in this home. His first wife, Eliza Jane Harman, died soon after their only child was born. His second wife, Cynthia Ann Powers, was the granddaughter of Archibald Prater, another pioneer of Floyd County. Two of his sons, Beverly Clark and Lee P., were elected Sheriff of Floyd County and Beverly also was County Judge. Later a grandson, Alex Davidson, was also County Judge of Floyd County.
In 1850 Thomas was listed in the Census for Pike County as age 63 and Dorcas was age 60. Only one child, David L. age 22, was living at home. Also, some grandchildren were in the household; Adaline who was the four year old daughter of William James May and Eliza Harmon (who died in 1848), and John Little who was the son of James W. Little and Betsy May. Two young Hamilton (Hambleton) men were laborers on the farm and possibly were also related. The farm, valued at $6,000, was one of the largest in the Pike County.
The Civil War
Thomas May died on September 3, 1867, at the age of 80. Afterward Dorcas lived with her son, John, on Robinson Creek. Her daughter-in- law Mary Bickley May, widow of David, lived on a farm nearby with their seven children. Dorcas died on June 9, 1872, at the age of 82 and is buried beside Thomas on their old homestead near the mouth of Robinson Creek. They share a large marble gravestone that is still easy to locate across the highway from the Robinson Creek Post Office. A road, which passes near the graves, was built in the 1990s to access a coal stripmine site at the top of the hill.
The will of Thomas May, dated July 12, 1865, is filed in Pike County, Ky. Will Book B, pp. 65-66. It was probated on November 4, 1867, as attested by Hibbard Williamson, Clerk.
1. Francis, Tress May. May Genealogy. Southern Branch with Biographical Sketches: 1776-1956. Unpublished, filed at Kentucky Historical Society, Frankfort, Ky. 1956.
2. Sewell, Juanelle S. We, The Little People, McDowell Publications, Itica, KY, 1987.
3. Roberts, Leonard, Editor of Revised Edition. 150 Years, Pike County, Kentucky: 1822-1972,
Sesquicentennial Issue Vol. I,Pike County Historical Society, 1972.
4. Scalf, Henry P. Kentucky's Last Frontier, Pikeville College Press, Pikeville, Ky., 1972.
5. Family traditions provided in 2000 by Nancy May, a descendant of David May and an organizer of annual family reunions.