Leonard Gay Mays Letter
The following letter was included in the appendix of Ms. Era Mae Smelley's book, A HISTORY OF THE MAYS AND SWINK FAMILIES, written in July 1956, Morehead, Kentucky. The letter was written by Leonard G. Mays of Dallas, TX in August 1928 to his cousins, Charles Edward Mays of San Angelo, TX; Thomas L. Mays of Laneville, TX; and John Horace Mays, of Laneville, TX.
My Dear Kinsmen:
Cousin Ed, you were here in April 1926 attending the convention of the American Medical Association, I believe it was, and after you returned home, I wrote asking further about our family. You replied and also sent my letter to cousin Tom and he also wrote me.
Both your letters are full of information, being very interesting to both Brother Brook and me. It seems a shame that neither of you heard from me again on the subject, but I've had it in mind all along. Have been trying to learn something more for the purpose at hand.
From you information and that from other sources, it appears that the Mays family is of English origin. Just when our branch of it left the old country for America and settled in South Carolina is uncertain. Just what part it had in beating the Red Man back and establishing a white man's government, we have no record, but it is easy to believe that some members of our family had a part in that great plan. If so, then without doubt, they must later have followed Francis Marion, the "Swamp Fox", in the successful efforts of the columnists in throwing the yoke of England, when that rule was no longer tolerable. In fact, the late Judge Milton Mays (of San Angelo, TX), in conversation with his family, remarked that Captain Fay, a relative, was an officer in the Revolutionary War. Some of them may have been in the Battle of Kings Mountain, which turned the tide of the conflict
Whatever their early activities may have been, we are told that they moved from South Carolina to Ireful Co. NC. It was there that great-grandfather Benjamin Mays married Rachel Gay and later moved his family to Tennessee. He stopped first in the middle of the state near the Cumberland Mountains. Later he went further west. Loading his household belongings and his family in his homemade wooden axle wagon, the wheels of which were held on to the spindles with "lynch pins", the spindles being lubricated with pine tar, probably brought over the old North State. With his equipment he pulled out through Cumberland Gap, for what was called the "Western District", but leaving his eldest son, James Gay (my grandfather), a young man in his early 20s, to finish the school he was teaching. When that was finished, it being a time and place where money was scarce if known at all, commercial transactions being largely a matter of barter, the young teacher was given a little negro boy as compensation for his services.
With this negro boy mounted behind him, he set out on horseback to join the folks that had gone ahead and later found them in the new home. It was probably somewhere between 1825 and 1830 when they reached and located in what is now Madison County, Tennessee. They settled near where Pinson Station was later established by the Mobile and Ohio RR, when the road was built through that part of the country. The land was poor, the timber mostly scrubby oak, with plenty of underbrush, which when cleared away, exposed thin soil. It was, however, a well-watered country, with hold springs and creeks. Bear Creek drains the country and empties into the Forked Deer River not many miles away. Wood and water the pioneers must have. Great-grandfather settled near one of those magnificent springs and built his cabin.
As stated above, he married Rachel Gay in the Old State and they had five sons, named in order of their ages: James Gay (my grandfather), Benjamin, Alfonso, Zene, and John Mandeville (your father). These boys took a liking to the daughters of Johnny Fulbright, a neighbor, who owned the mill on Bear Creek and ground the corn into meal for the neighborhood. This liking resulted in the marrying of the Mays boys into the Fulbright family-- and not just a little bit, either. I do not know just how many of the boys took Fulbright girls for wives, but as Zene was a bachelor, there could not have been more than four. There were no girls in the Mays family, so the Fulbright boys could not retaliate. Great-grandfather and wife, Rachel, lie in the old burying ground on the hill, near the old home.
My grandfather, James Gay Mays, was born in North Carolina in 1803. He married Ann Fulbright in Tennessee when he was probably between 30 and 35 years of age. They had three sons: Rufus Adolphus, Thaddeus, and Neal Wellington (my father). They had two daughters: Ann and Susan.
We were always under the impression that Uncle Benjamin went to Kentucky, but James Fay of Nocona, Texas says that he settled at about where Paris, Tennessee is now located and that he had a son, also named Benjamin, who wrote several letters to my grandfather just before his death in 1878, but that since then nothing has been heard from any of them. They must have gone west, however, for Judge Milton Mays said that Congressman Benjamin Mays from Nebrasks, I believe was Uncle Ben's son.
Alfonso, the father of Hubert and Wyatt, lived an died near Pinson. Cousin Herbert married and they had several children. I recall Joh, Bob and Doss, Annie and Florence. Annie married George Simmons. They reared a large family and now live near Harlingen, Texas. Florence married Mr. Cunningham and they also live in the Valley probably in Harlingen. Cousin Wyatt married Miss Simmons, sister of George Simmons, I believe, and they had at least one daughter, Ava, now deceased. I have no other information as to other members of this family.
From your letters we learn that John Mandeville, your father, was born January 16, 1810, and married Sarah Fulbright in Tennessee. He moved to Texas about 1850 with 12 other families and settled in Rusk County where they raised a large family. He died June 20, 1887, aged 77 years and 5 months. His wife, Sarah Fulbright Mays, died in 1870. They had 12 children: six boys and six girls. Six were born in Tennessee and six in Texas. The names of the sons in order of age: Byrd, Milton, William W., Thomas L., John Horace, and Charles Edward. The names of the daughters: Emma, Elvira, Fannie, Martha, Elizabeth and Laura. All lived to be grown and all married except Martha. The three older sons are dead, as are also the three oldest daughters.
Referring again to my grandfather and his family, the station of Pinson grew to be a village, then a town. A post office was established. Grandfather moved to the town after the Civil War, was elected Justice of the Peace and later appointed Postmaster. He was holding the latter office when death came in September 1878. Rufus Adolphus (Uncle Dock), the eldest was born about 1839, he being 5 years older than my father. He married Nannie Davis. They had 3 sons: James Grayson, Bruce, and Robert Lee. They had only one daughter, Vesta, who died in early womanhood, unmarried. James Grayson and Bruce married in early life and have families. Uncle Dock's wife, Aunt Nan, having died, he married again, but they had no children. He lived the most of his life on his little farm near Pinson, where he died in 1914, age about 75 years.
I do not have the birth and death of Thaddeus, the second son. He married Miss Mattie Johnson and they had 8 children: Alice, Mollie, Kate, Charlie, Gracie, Ada Lou, Jim Nick, Lem and Eva. Uncle Thad died in middle life, the result of an accident. His widow is also dead. The children, or at least some of them, are living in Madison Co. TN. One of the boys lived, or at least that is my information, on my grandfather's old home place.
Neal Wellington, the youngest, my father, was born January 19 1844 and died in Dallas, August 1, 1922, age 78 years 6 months and 12 days. He was married February 15, 1866 to Mary Emily Bryant at home of her cousin, Mrs. Jane Nooner, near Pinson Tennessee, with whom she made her home. Mother died in Dallas on July 2, 1922 age 76 years and 3 months. They had seven children: Leonard Gay, Thomas Westbrook, Jennie Ann, Emily Bryant, Neal Wellington, Elizabeth Bowen, Fulbright Fry. Jennie Ann, Emily Bryant, Neal Wellington and Elizabeth died early in life, at ages 23 to 25 years.
Of my fatherís sisters, Ann married James Swink and moved to Rusk County, Texas about 1854. Both she and her husband have long since passed on. They left a family in Rusk County. Susan married James Alford at Pinson and they had 4 children: Albert, Jennie, James and Robert. Albert died in early life.
The others married and reared families. Jennie married a Mr. Wren. They now live in Saltillo, Mississippi. Their daughter married Lemuel Hall, a Baptist minister, and I understand, now lives in Oklahoma. James was through Dallas on a circle tour to the west coast and called to see us. Robert is chief train dispatcher for the Illinois Central RR at Fulton, Kentucky if our information is correct. James Alford and his wife, Aunt Susan, have long passed on to the great beyond.
Neither of my uncles left the neighborhood in which they were born, but father moved to Lauderdale County about 60 miles west in 1872. Lauderdale borders Mississippi River and in that county, on the bluffs of the river, was fought that famous Civil War, the Battle of Ft. Pillow, where the Confederates under General Forrest wiped out the fort. Father lived in that county until January 1900 when he came to Texas with the remnant of his family.
It is our understanding that after the death of Uncle Alfonso his sons, Hubert and Wyatt, lived in my grandfather's home. All the boys of this household, Rufus, Thad, Neal, Hubert, and Wyatt, went to the war and stayed with it to the end. All came home without any serious wounds, they were in some serious fighting. All came out as they went in-----honorable privates, except Dock, who was a captain of his infantry. Uncle Dock was taken prisoner and confined at Rock Island, Illinois for a while, from where he was exchanged before the end of the war. These men enlisted in the Sixth Tennessee Infantry which was afterwards consolidated with the 9th. I do not know exactly the war record of these five brave boys, but I heard my father mention some of the engagements he was in as follows: Perryville, Murphreesboro, Chickamauga, Missionary Ridge, Lookout Mountain, Franklin, and Nashville. He was not at Shiloh, being at home on sick leave, but was in the battle of Corinth. He was in the Georgia Campaign, participating in the fighting in and around Atlanta. These are not in the order in which they occurred, but just as they came into my mind at this time.
My father and his brothers were men of highest character----earnest, sincere, and religious. all were Methodists, but Uncle Thad, who after marriage joined the Baptist Church with the wife.
I knew my Uncle Dock better than Uncle Thad, for the reason that my father bought land in Lauderdale Co. and moved to it. Uncle Dock also bought a track near us, and although he never moved to it, made frequent visits to look after it, and would stay at our house. We children would look forward to his visits, for he would usually write Father when to expect him. He always brought some little presents for us.
Father and Uncle Dock were Masons, but Uncle Dock took more interest and held some important offices. He often met with the Grand Lodge at Nashville. He also represented his county with credit in the State Legislature for awhile.
Grandmother Ann (Fulbright Mays) having died in early life, Grandfather married Serena Weaver, to whom 4 children were born: Louena, James Gay, Waunie, and Hugh Hines, all whom are living. Louena is at , Texas; James Gay near Nocona, Montague Co., TX; Waunie at Duncan, OK; Hugh near Harlington, Texas. Waunie married J.M. Armstrong of Oklahoma, after coming to Texas. Both have children. The husbands are both dead. The boys married in Montague County and have children.
I trust that you have had patience with my long letter. Knowing little of composition, arrangement, punctuation, or other rules of writing, it is therefore subject to criticism. However, a desire to put in writing with the best of my knowledge the information from you and others is my apology for the effort, incomplete, limited, and badly presented though it may be.
If there are any misrepresentations, they are from lack of information and I would be glad of correction. I would be pleased to have any other and further information with regards to our family history (leave out all bad reports) from you and others interested.
Hoping the letter may at least hold some interest for you and yours with kindest regards for all, in which Brother Brook joins. I beg to remain, as ever,
Yours most sincerely,
Leonard G. Mays