Revolutionary War Soldier 1776-1779

Background information | Property & cemetery | Public Officials

The Shelby Valley Historical Society will host a dedication ceremony at the Dorton/Caney Community Center on US 23 north of Dorton on Saturday, May 14, 2011. Guests are invited to gather at noon for refreshments and the ceremony will begin at 1:00 pm.

The final program will be determined at a SVHS meeting on April 21st. See program


The following information regarding John May and his family has been prepared for the ceremony.

John May Historical Marker
Placed on Collins Hwy., Rte. 122, Pike County, KY

[Background information]

Johannes (John) May, the only son of Frantz Peter and Anna Maria May, was born in Lancaster, PA on January 6, 1760 and baptized in the First Reformed Church on January 20. In 1748, John's father, two uncles, two aunts and their widowed mother, Maria Catharina Graeff May, had immigrated to Pennsylvania from their home in the Nahe Valley in Germany, west of the Rhine. Frantz Peter's family remained in Lancaster County until 1768, then moved to a settlement that later became Martinsburg, in Berkeley County, VA [now WV].

We know of John's service in the Revolutionary War from a declaration for a pension that was sworn by his widow in 1845, when she was 86 years old. Her declaration tells us in part that John "...entered the services in the county of Berkeley and state of Virginia... in his seventeenth year [~ Oct. 1776]..." - "... his captain's name was [William] Cherry and a portion of his time he was under the command of General [Charles] Lee..." - "...he frequently spoke of being on the opposite side of the river from the battle of Long Island and of General Washington's retreat over the river [Nov. 1776]..." - "...he was in the artillery..." -"... he returned from the army in April [1779]..." and they were married the following March.

John's son, Samuel May, was among others who were deposed for Sarah's declaration. He recalled "...having frequently seen in the lifetime of my father, John May, what he called his discharge." He also recalled hearing his parents say they were married in Martinsburg, Virginia "...shortly after the expiration of father's service in the army."

While living in the Martinsburg area, three sons were born to John and Sarah: John Jr. in 1781, Samuel in 1783 and Thomas in 1787. In 1789 the family moved along the Great Waggon Road through Virginia and settled in the Watauga Valley in Western North Carolina. While there, three more children were born: Elizabeth in 1790, Daniel in 1791 and Mary in 1797. In 1796 their 50 acre farm at the mouth of Elk Creek became part of the new state of Tennessee.

In 1800 John - then 40 years old - sold his farm for $300 and the family moved along 150 miles of forest trails to settle in the upper region of the Big Sandy Valley in newly-formed Floyd County, Kentucky. In September 1805 a survey for 200 acres on both sides of the Big Sandy - adjacent to his original 150 acre homestead -was made for John at the mouth of Shelby Creek. The last two children of John and Sarah were born on Shelby: Reuben in 1800 and Tlepolard [Philip Pollard] in 1805.

Court records indicate that clear title to thousands of acres of land in the county was jeopardized when new surveys were authorized for David Morgan in 1810. Among them was a survey for 990 acres that extended from present-day Pikeville up the river past John's farm. In October 1811 a Floyd County jury awarded John $500 from Richard Damron in a lawsuit charging that Damron failed to provide him a valid deed. In April 1812 John purchased 50 acres at the upper end of his original land from Morgan, who was obligated to "undivide" the original tract and dig a well for John's new cabin. We know from Sarah's declaration that John died on January 25, 1813 at the age of 53. His family - headed by his wife and 26 year old son Thomas - resettled on the 50 acres, at the foot of the hill where John was buried. The two older brothers were married and no longer lived on Shelby Creek.

Thomas and his mother - along with five other farmers on Shelby - were back in Floyd County Court in April 1814, successfully defending themselves on a complaint of "Trespass and Ejectment." In November 1815 John's heirs finally got clear title to this small tract of land. The historical marker honoring John and his family is located near this site.

In May 1823 Thomas May purchased 50 acres near the mouth of Robinson Creek from George Tackett and established his family home there. His mother resided with Thomas until her death about 1848. She is buried on the hillside beside John.

 Part of a 990 acre survey made for David Morgan in 1810



John May's original 150 acres were within this boundary at the mouth of Shelby Creek on the Big Sandy River.

The Historical Marker for John is at the upper end of this land.

Yellow tract is the 50 acres finally deed to John's heirs in 1815.

He had a mill on the creek in this area.

Red marks the site of John and Sarah's hillside graves.

Graves of John & Sarah May

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