page of the
following is taken from notes
attended two May family reunion in the 1930s.
The history of the early May family ancestors that Edna wrote about probably was based primarily on the May Genealogy that was compiled by Tress May Francis over a period of twenty or more years up to 1956. Edna's first cousin, Eldon J. May summarized the family tree, as compiled by Mrs. Francis, in a series of articles that were published in the Appalachian News-Express in 1984. Eldon was very active in the Pike County Historical Society at the time.
Subsequent research on the earliest known generations of the family (published in my book, The Shoemaker's Children, in 1998) has corrected some of the earlier assumptions of the immigrant May family up to the time of the American Revolution. Many other facts from Mrs. Francis' research on the family after they arrived in Kentucky about 1800 have been proven to be quite accurate.
Click here => for essays on our immigrant May ancestors.
Edna cites Miriam Forsyth (b. 1887) for some of the information about the May family. Miriam was a second cousin to Edna's father and lived on Sookie's Creek, a branch of Shelby Creek in Pike County.
Following a few paragraphs repeating earlier tales of our May ancestors, Edna wrote about her great-great grandfather, Thomas May, some of his children and her line of the family:
[Notes to add clarity have been included in red and enclosed in brackets.]
Thomas May [1787-1867]: See a biographical sketch of Thomas.
Thomas was helping build a jail at Prestonsburg and a big log fell on his foot, crushing it badly. A young lady, Dorcas Patton, happened to be passing by, saw it happen and helped dress his foot. They fell in love and later married and moved to Robinson Creek (in present-day Pike County, KY). Dorcas was born October 18, 1790; died June 7, 1872. Four of their sons served in the Civil War: Reuben in the Union Army and John, Henry and David in the Confederate Army. John served as Captain in the Confederate Army. David was killed at Cynthiana, KY on June 12, 1864.
Thomas and Dorcas divided their land among their children. Some of them settled on the land but others went to other parts of the country. Captain John settled on the land his father gave him on Robinson Creek.
NOTE: We have two similar stories of May brothers, Thomas and Reuben, meeting their future wives while working on a construction job miles away from the May homestead on Shelby Creek.
This story about Thomas and Dorcas certainly is credible. In 1808 Thomas' brother, Samuel May, was a 27-year-old carpenter residing in Prestonsburg, which served as county seat of Floyd County. Dorcas' father, James Patton, lived near town and was appointed Floyd County Sheriff by Gov. Charles Scottt in February 1809. He served about one year, during which time repairs were being made to the county jail. A man named Asa Leech was the contractor and Samuel quite likely was involved in the repairs. Thomas was 22 years old and would have stayed in Samuel's home if he worked on the jail. He and Dorcas married a few months after his father died in 1813.
Thomas Patton May, son of Thomas, Sr. and Dorcas, married Elizabeth Margery Leslie, daughter of Allen and Elizabeth Bennett Leslie, March 4, 1841. He was a brother to Captain John May. Miriam Forsyth's mother was Elizabeth Dorcas May, daughter of Thomas Patton May. Her father was Dr. William F. Miller of Taylor, TN.
NOTE: Miriam Forsyth's oldest son, Tommy, was a businessman in Pikeville, KY. Her other son, Harvey, was wounded in action during WW-II at the Volturo River in Italy on November 8, 1943 and died the next day. He is buried in a Military Cemetery at Anzio, Italy.
Thomas Patton May, Miriam's grandfather, as a young man, became a Southern Methodist minister. He was born on Robinson Creek and died Sunday August 28, 1910. Elizabeth died January 19, 1909. They were buried on their farm [on Lower Johns Creek in Pike County near Gulnare] in the family cemetery. She was called Betty.
Captain John May, Edna's great grandfather, was born June 3, 1821. He married Martha Jane Osborn [in Russell County, VA in 1843]. They had several children [we know of at least ten]. One daughter, Mary May, married Will Damron and lived on Shelby Creek near the mouth of Caney Creek. J.C.B May, Crit's Uncle Brack, married Ann Lambert and they had two daughters, Ellen [1875-1908] and Helen [1878-1894]. Ann was a good wife and mother, but she and Brack divorced and Uncle Brack married Kate Damron. They had eight children [between 1883 and 1905]. In 1907 Brack moved his family to Coeburn, Wise Co., VA, where two brothers and sisters lived.
NOTE: Brack's father died in Coeburn in 1908. He moved there from Robinson Creek in the early 1890s and bought a farm of about 40 acres. This farm was later sold as town lots, and was given the name of Maytown. Click here ==> for photos of John May's family & descendants.
Reuben Thomas May was born July 9, 1860 at Yeager, KY (Little Creek). He married Joanah Damron, daughter of Christian and Tildy [Matilda] Damron of Sookie's Creek, near Little Creek.
NOTE: Christian (Crit) May, Reuben and Joanah's third son, obviously was named for his grandfather Christian Damron. Recent research has shown that the name goes back two more generations to Christian Trout, grandfather of Christian Damron.
R.T. May and Joanah Damron were married at Yeager, KY, December 22, 1880 [by Rev John A. Damron, relation uncertain]. Joanah was noted for her beauty when she was a young woman and was a great dancer, according to Miriam Forsyth. Joanah's sister, Frankie, married a Coleman. Her brother, John Damron, lived on Shelby. His son Patrick had two daughters who never married and were schoolteachers. They lived near us when I worked at the Baptist Church in Pikeville, while Marvin [Edna's husband, who died in 1965 at the age of 50] was sick.
I saw Patrick often when I was young. The girls lived near the Pikeville High School and taught there while Peggy (my youngest daughter) was in school. We lived across the street from the school in a rented house which was part of my salary. We rented our home at Venters to a couple from California [while they lived in Pikeville]. I didn't drive at the time and it was more convenient for Marvin to go to the hospital in Pikeville.
John Damron had a large family. When I was attending Pikeville High School, John's daughters, Sophia and Jetty, invited me to stay overnight. They lived on a creek on Shelby. They had a crude home but it was clean and they were all nice to me. Both John and his wife were living at the time. When I was working with the Appalachian Volunteers, part of the VISTA program in the Johnson Administration, Mike Seger, a young man from California (brother to Pete Seger, a folk singer), and I were looking for local talent; mostly music. Mike wanted to learn to play banjo, etc. We stopped at a house on Caney Creek [a branch of Robinson Creek]. I was talking with the wife and Mike was talking with the husband. As we sat on their front porch, I found that she was one of Uncle John Damron's daughters. A man who went by the name of "Uncle Jasper" lived at the mouth of Little Creek. He taught Mike to play the banjo.
Marvin and I used to go to Miriam's. He liked Miriam and her son Tommy. Once when I was talking with her she said that their dog loved to chase their cat. When he was chasing the cat, the cat jumped up on the well box. The lid was open and down the cat went! The dog followed after her and they both drowned. The well had been hand dug and a well box was placed around it, with a pulley and bucket.
Miriam had a brother named Tom Harvey, a little ole man. I saw him often in Pikeville. He never married and lived near Miriam on Robinson Creek. He read books all the time but Miriam said he never read anything enlightening. He was buried close to home.
NOTE: I knew Tom Harvey [1888-1954], who used to visit with his first cousin, Garland Hurt, on Garland's farm on Lower Johns Creek at Gulnare, KY. My aunt Josephine May married Garland's son Everett Hurt. The first time I recall hearing that the May family once lived on Shelby Creek was during a visit Tom made to the farm about 1949.
My dad was born either at Sugar Camp Branch, Bear Fork or Sookie's Creek. Marvin and I went to the old homeplace grounds. It was up the creek above Miriam Forsyth's home. I think it was on the left hand fork. She showed us where the old house once stood. It was still there, but someone else owned the place and we didn't go inside.
See maps of Shelby Creek area, near Pikeville, KY
Samuel May [1881-1920: Crit May's brother] , married Martha Hall on March 29, 1906 [at Yeager] and they lived on Shelby Creek. They had a son, Melvin, and two daughters, Garnet and Dessie. I remember at my Mother's Memorial funeral which was held one year after her death, Melvin and his wife [Mazie McCowen] , with pretty red hair and two-year-old twin sons [Samuel & Daniel] who had red hair, came to the Memorial. They lived in Floyd County then at Melvin, KY. After my dad married Velcie, she told me the two boys grew to be young men. One of them drowned at Dewey Lake and the other was killed in a car accident. Melvin was killed in the mines in Floyd County in 1962.
When I was very small, my dad took me on the passenger train to Shelby. We walked from the station a long way to where Uncle Sam lived on a hill above the railroad tracks. He was in bed. I think he died in this house. [This has to be a very faint memory since Edna was only four and a half years old when her uncle died].
R.T. May moved his family to Little Blaine Creek near Louisa, Lawrence Co., KY after my dad was grown. R.T. was buried on the cemetery about a half mile back of the house on top of the hill above and to the right of the cliffs. When Grandma Joanah was staying with Popa, (Marvin and I hadn't been married very long), Marvin took us to Louisa. Grandma took Marvin and me, Charlene, Ivery, Zettie and Clyde to the cemetery. She could out-walk all of us to the top of the hill. The cemetery was fenced and very well taken care of. Grandfather R.T. was buried there, also Martha and others of the family. Grandma May stayed with Crit after R. T. died. She was with us at Crit's home when Ronald (my oldest son) was a year old. I have a picture of Grandma, Crit and Ron. I took the picture - 4 generations.
NOTE: At this point Edna wrote about two May reunions on the farm of her grandfather, Reuben Thomas May in Lawrence County, KY. These memories are posted at:
When Grandma May [Joanah Adkins May] died [in 1943] she was at my father's home. She became restless about a year before she became bedfast and went from Don's to Crit's houses ofter in the day. They were always afraid she would be hit by a train. She seemed to be looking for her family and husband. Her mind faded as she grew worse. When she was in bed she wanted us to sit and hold her hand. Uncle Charlie and Uncle Lonnie came to sit by her but she kept calling for Reuben. She was a Christian and went to church in her young days with R.T. She was buried in Louisa at the family cemetery beside R.T.
Popa and the other heirs sold the May farm to Uncle Tom. Tom sold the farm to his daughter, Joanna May Chafin and moved to Columbus, OH. They tore the old house down and built a four-room house where it had stood. They probably sold the property for the dam project. [The Yatesville Dam was completed on Blain Creek in 1988 and formed Yatesville Lake, the site of a Kentucky State Park].
[The following events probably occurred in the early 1960s.]
Marvin and part of our family, Mack, Crit & Velcie, Curt & Verna and Don met Dempsey & Charlene from Gahanna, OH in Louisa on north 23. We stopped the cars and five minutes later Charlene and Dempsey stopped in front of us. We all drove out by the mail right-of-way and through the large bottoms near the creek. There were no real roads but someone had cleared the way. Someone was there when our cars arrived. No one had lived in the house for months but it was furnished. Uncle Tom May and Aunt Lucille had driven all the way from Columbus, Ohio for a restful vacation. To his surprise, we all came. We didn't know he was there, but we had a good visit. Tom and his family lived in Columbus for years and Aunt Lucille ended up in bed with oxygen.
[The following account goes back before 1913, when Crit and Dulcie Adkins married]
When Papa was a young man, he came back from Louisa to find work in timber. He boarded at Winright Atkins' home and there he met my mother, Dulcie. They lived in the old Winright home. This house, according to Don May, had two large bedrooms upstairs and two downstairs. The house was made of logs and had upper and lower front porches and a back porct of rough wood. Otis Hess, a friend of Popa's boarded with them also. Winright and Lousa were old then. Dulcie was the baby of the family. When they were sitting at the table, Moma said her mother thought she should get interested in otis because he was friendly and not so serious. She said that Crit acted like a married man. Winright said to them, "The sow drinks the slop," meaning the quite hog drank and didn't alert the others to the food. Moma said the first she knew Crit was interested in her, she had burned the bread. He said, "Your man is mad," meaning he was her man!!
The railroad was built [by the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad up the Levisa Fork of the Big Sandy River above Pikeville] about 1905. Winright was 68 that year. Everyone gave right-of-way for one year thinking it was only for the coal in that part of the country. It was built on the flat land. They filled in the low places with cinders from large furnaces to fill between the ties and later gravel from the river, then rock from rock crushers at Jenkins, KY. I learned this from a tape recording I had from Don May. The railroad company kept the land, 50 feet on each side of the track. Coal buyers bought rights to the coal for 25 cents an acre (Carpetbaggers from the north after the war).
NOTE: 1905 was too long after the Civil War for real 'Carpetbaggers' but the term persisted for any outsiders who came into the valley for personal gain.
Don said he came to Winright when Crit and Winright were disagreeing about tearing down the old house. They moved down to the old house below the railroad across from Uncle Andy and Aunt Hanna Adkins Long. I was born in the old house, as were the first two babies who died as infants. When I was about 3 years old [in 1918], Uncle Don and Crit tore the old house down. Don said the logs were large but they hauled, stacked and burned them. The big chimney rocks were used to build the rock wall back of the house. The huge, flat rock had been used to put on each side of the fireplace was about 5 by 2 feet or more, was used as steps to the back porch on the new house, and on top of the rock wall. We sharpened knives on one rock towards Zettie's house. Don said that two men from Shelby, Rail England and Sam Blackburn, walked from Shelby each day and paid Winright for dinner. They were the rock cutters that built the chimney. The mines were already running coal from the lease of the coal on Dulcie and Crit's land. Winright and Louisa received a royalty from the coal when the old house was torn down and the new one built in 1918. Moma said the timber was ordered from Sears, Roebuck & Co. and delivered to the train station, named Winright. It was located on the river side of the track between the houses of Frank Coleman, my first cousin, and Aunt Zettie.
(Mrs.) Edna May Clevinger