Benjamin Franklin May and Nancy Ann Crump

Ancestors of Benjamin Franklin May
By: Novella May Wilson (deceased after 2007)
(Speech made at her 90th birthday party - 3 March 2007 at Glen Rose, Texas.)

Benjamin Franklin's great grandfather was William May who was born about 1730 in VA, possibly New Kent County, and died about 1785 in Franklin County, North Carolina. His proven children were: William, Thomas, Reuben, James and Mary Ann. There could have been more. A DNA test was taken by my brother, Alton May, which proves that we are, indeed, descended from this man.

William's son, Reuben, was our Benjamin Franklin's grandfather. He was born before 1774 in North Carolina and died in 1833 in Madison County, Tennessee. Reuben May was married twice, having 8 children by his first wife, and 3 by his second wife.

Reuben's son, Benjamin, born in 1797 in North Carolina, was a child of his first wife, Elizabeth. Benjamin married Jennie Hill in North Carolina, and their first 3 children were born in Franklin County, North Carolina, and their other 3 children were born in Madison County, Tennessee.

Descendants of Benjamin Franklin May and

Nancy Ann Crump

Our Benjamin Franklin was born 14 April 1836 in Madison County, Tennessee. His mother died shortly before his father moved the family to Lafayette County, Mississippi. His father died at Oxford, Mississippi in 1843, and the court made, the oldest son, Reuben, the oldest son, though not married, guardian of his 10 siblings. Benjamin Franklin was age 7 and his little sister, Emeline, was about 5 years old.

Many things during Benjamin's early years is not known except for family lore and census records. Reuben had married Catherine James, and we always thought that he lived with Reuben, but he doesn't show up on a census with him, so he may have lived here and there. We do find brother, Robert and sister Emeline living with a Daniel family. It is known that all of Ben May's siblings moved to southwest Arkansas except James Martin May, who remained in Lafayette County, Mississippi.

Benjamin Franklin and Nancy Ann Crump were married 18 September 1855, and Robert May married her half sister, Mary Jane Crump. It was always believed by the May family, that these two girls were the only family of John Crump, and that he raised them while he followed his occupation as a hunter for the market, in Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas. It was said that Ben followed the Crump "family" over into Hunt County, Texas where they were married. I have not found a marriage record for Ben and Nancy in either state.

Regardless of family lore, I am convinced that this John Crump family who were living in Claiborne Parish, Louisiana in 1850, the same family living in Lafayette County, Arkansas in 1860, and back in Claiborne Parish, Louisiana in 1870 are our ancestors. I have spent many hours researching them, and there are many reasons to believe this is Nancy Ann's correct family.
However, Ben and Nancy made their home at Stamps, Lafayette County, Arkansas where John Robert, born 1856, William Thomas, born 1858, and Isaac Newton (my grandpa) born 1860 were born.

But, all was not tranquil in this area. Political agitation arose between the north and the south concerning the slaves and other unrest. Abraham Lincoln was elected the new president of the United States on 4th March 1861. Then on 6 May 1861, Arkansas joined the Confederacy. The next year, Ben enlisted at Lewisville, Arkansas on 22 May 1862, as did his brother, Bob, and brother-in-law Nat Hobson and George Daniel. Unfortunately, George was killed in the service, and Bob died of the measles.

We know that Bob fought in t major battles and other skirmishes, Cane Hill, Backbone Mountain (Massard Prairie), Jenkins Ferry, Arkansas and Pleasant Hill, Louisiana. To any of you who are
interested to know more of these battles, go to GOOGLE and ask for either of these battles. To understand what these soldiers suffered during those hard years helps us to understand why as long as he lived and Ben was sick with a fever, he was yelling the "Rebel Yell".

Ben and Nancy's 5th child, Mary Jane Elizabeth, was born 29 Mar 1866 at Stamps, Lafayette County, Arkansas where Nancy had managed to protect and take care of their little children through this long ordeal. We can only surmise, but perhaps our family had seen so much unrest, hardships and deprivations that they wanted to make a new start elsewhere. They were accustomed to cornbread and homespun clothing, but had dreams of biscuits and calico from which to make their clothes.

Anyway, in 1867 a wagon train of 30 to 40 people, mostly kin, left Arkansas bound for Texas. According to Hobson records, they left by ox cart 3 days before J. W's 4th birthday, which would have been 6 December 1867. They spent Christmas at Clarksville, Texas, which was the Red River crossing site on their way from Arkansas. The weather was good the whole way and the trip was made in six weeks.

Ben and Nancy first rented some land in southern edge of Hood County, on the Squaw Creek, believed to be the very same land which did not become Somervell County until 18th February 1875 by petition of the Legislature to make this a new county. Ben and John R. May signed this petition containing 406 names. His name was on the first Somervell County tax roll in 1876. He had bought 325 acres of the Jose Hernandez Survey valued at $925.00. By 1881, he owned a wagon valued at $50.00, 5 horses valued at $250.00, and 40 cows valued at $200.00. We might think of this as about the extent of his wealth when the decision to build this large two story rock house was made.

Building the Rock House

Quoting from "The May House" that Loma Swaim and I wrote many years ago urged on by my aunt Lela (May) Swaim and her mother-in-law. "It was the year 1882 and there was plenty of excitement in the air around the one-room log house, with side room attached, where the Ben F. May family had lived for the past few years. They had long planned to build a larger house, one made of stone, since they had bought this tract of land in 1874. Ben and Nancy had come to Texas in 1867 with their children, John, William, Newton, Benjamin and Mary. After moving to Glen Rose (Squaw Creek) five more children Parilee, who died as a child, Amanda, Jim, Lou, and Edward had been born to them. The little log house was much too small, even though John had married and lived nearby with his family.

"Now, plans were well underway to build the home they had been dreaming of so long. The land had been sown in grain in the fall, so there would be no row crops to be cultivated that year, as all hands expected to pitch in on the building of the new House."

"Finally, the construction of the house was ready to begin. The rock mason, Bill Trawick, was on the job, and with the help of Benjamin, was checking and rechecking the measurements of the large rectangular cavity mid the freshly dug earth. The site was just at the tip of the knoll extending out from the hill. At the very tip of the knoll, the digging was several feet deeper as there was to be a roomy storage basement beneath the east end of the house. Nearby, from the top of the hill west of the house, all the rock was obtained. One could hear noises of crowbars, picks, and directions to the team, as the digging crew worked. The father and two oldest sons, William and Newton, continued with the hauling of the rock down the hill for the building."

"A harvest time, all the family stopped to harvest the grain except Benjamin, who kept hauling rock and help the rock mason. In later years, he said that he believed he had handled most of the rock twice, and many of them three times. The lumber hauling was no small item as it had to be hauled from Fort Worth by wagon. Although Fort Worth was only fifty miles away, it took four days to make the trip."

"Bill Trawick, the rock mason, with the whole family, worked all that year to finish the house. The large, two-story, stone building, had arched windows and front entrance. Downstairs were two very large rooms, each with a fireplace, and a broad hall between, with no porches. Upstairs was all one big room used for sleeping quarters with the stairway in the hall near the front entrance."

"Upon completion of the new house, a community dance was given to celebrate the occasion. Neighbors came from all around in wagons, buggies and on horseback. The dancing took place in the huge upstairs area of the house. Most likely the fiddle music was furnished by Abe Landers, a musician, who did play for many dances about that time."

"For many years, the little log house, which stood nearby in the yard, was stilled used as the kitchen. The mother and the girls must have made many steps back and forth, from house to house to get their housework done. Also, the young men kept their saddles in one end of the sideroom always riding up to the house to saddle and unsaddle their horse."

"As the years passed, Ben and Nancy began to improve their place. To replace the draw well located down the hill in the garden, and walled up with rock, a flowing well was dug beside the rock house. A trough was made for the water to pour into. Their milk was placed in large stone jars and cooled in this trough. Some of the milk was used as sweet milk, the rest allowed to clabber, the cream skimmed, and churned into butter. Then the buttermilk was put back into the trough to coll till mealtime. Later, the well stopped flowing and the windmill was erected."
"Then in about 1900, a wooden porch was added to the rock house, extending almost the full length of the front of the house. A smaller one was built at the back. Some years, later, a large kitchen, built of lumber, was added to the back of the house, extending out from the hallway. A porch was attached to the west side of the kitchen which led right out to the well. This is the way the house remained as long as the May family owned it."

Other land was bought, making this a large 600 acre farm, on which there were two smaller houses. There was plenty of room for the children, as they married off, to live and provide for their young growing families.

From the Glen Rose Herald: Aug. 30, 1906
"Uncle Ben May is having his house newly shingled."

My memory of this house starts after the parents had died, and were buried in nearby Hopewell cemetery, the others had all moved away except Aunt Amanda and Aunt Lou who were living there all alone at ages 51 and 46. Aunt Mandy died in 1921, so I could not have been more than 4 years old when I was there with my parents to visit them. They had their kitchen in the west downstairs room and had one of the biggest cats sleeping by the cook stove that I had ever seen. Aunt Lou married Lee Caldwell in 1922, when she was age 47 and they lived there until 1928, so I was there several times to visit them. They moved to a farm at Paluxy leaving the old homeplace vacant for the first time.

In January 1929, my Aunt Lela and Uncle Ransom Swain moved there with their young children.
Soon, they were teenagers, and in need of entertainment. Once again, parties were held in the huge upstairs room, as it was those many years past, and the place came alive with the laughter and happiness. I have spent many happy hours there playing ring games, which was like square dancing except we danced to singing rather than fiddle music. These are some of the best times of my teenage years.

The place was sold to Dallas Parnell in 1937, the Swaim's lived there for 5 more years, where Uncle Ransom and Hoyt worked for Mr. Parnell. Hoyt and Loma's oldest son, Larry was the last May descendent to be born in the house. Their son, Marlin, was born on the place in a little house especially built for them, while Hoyt remained there to work.

I am so very pleased and grateful that this dear old house is still being used and cared for by TXU ENERGY, and have so graciously allowed it to be used for my 90th birthday party on March 3, 2007 (birthday is March 4).

Novella (May) Wilson



Nancy Ann Crump May
by: Novella May Wilson - May, 2007
Glen Rose, Sumervell County, Texas
Written for her 90th Birthday Celebration

Nancy Ann was born 14 March 1834 in Alabama, county unknown, died 7 April 1918, and is buried beside Benjamin Franklin, and some of their children and grand-children in Hopewell Cemetery, which is across Squaw Creek and just over the hill to the east of the May home place.

Presently, there is no one alive who would remember her to help me with her life story. I've noticed how easy it is for a woman to lose her identity, especially in those long ago years. There are few public records, but some priceless memories of family lore.

Nancy Ann's mother must have died when she was an infant, as, in less than 3 years, her half sister, Mary Jane, was born in Mississippi, county not known. The only stories passed down are that John raised these two daughters, that he was a hunter for the market, and that he moved around a lot. His rifle, Slick, was said to have downed many deer in Louisiana, and Nacogdoches, Texas. In fact, it is said that Ben followed the Crump family over into Hunt County, Texas where he married Nancy Ann 18 September 1855.

They were living at Stamps, Lafayette County, Arkansas, in 1862 when Ben enlisted in the Civil War, with their 3 young sons, John Robert, William Thomas, and my grandpa, Isaac Newton, age 2. Seven months later, Benjamin Franklin Reuben, was born. Certainly, there is no way for us to imagine the hardships, heartaches and uncertainties, that she went through while she was awaiting little Ben's arrival. It is known that she kept herself very busy, and that she pieced a quilt called "Eight Pointed Star". Later, she gave this quilt to Ben, and even later, it was contributed to the museum in Tulia, Texas by his granddaughter, Jett May Barber, daughter of Ben's oldest daughter, Nellie Francis May Barber.

She was also weaving cloth for their clothing. At one time, Ben got to go home on furlough. His clothes were tattered and worn. She made him a fine new uniform from some homespun cloth she had woven. Lee May asked his dad, William, how she got the gray cloth she used, and was told she used one white thread and one black thread to get the woof and the warp. There is a photograph of him wearing this uniform, and he looks so very handsome in it. When Aunt Lou Caldwell died, our copy, a 16 x 20, was passed to Vivian, whose son George's son, Wayne, named his youngest son Benjamin Christopher May, a 3rd great-grandson, who lives in El Paso, Texas with his wife Sarah. When little Benjamin was born, Mama, Dora May, immediately wanted him to have the picture. Mama, John and I drove to El Paso to take it to him. This is an unusual gift for a newborn baby but we think as the years pass, he will realize the significance of it.

In the story about Benjamin Franklin, I have told about their move to Somervell County (then Hood County until 1875), and about the new rock house. Don't you know, Nancy Ann was proud to have a little room to move around in? She had spent 15 years in a little log house, and their last 5 children had been born there. Edward, the youngest, was only 4 years old. John, the oldest, had married Mary Faucett in about 1876/77. They had twin babies who died in infancy. A little daughter, Rosa Lee, was born in March. His wife, Mary died March 26, 1880, so I'm thinking Mary died at Rosa Lee's birth or soon after. The 1880 census of Somervell County, shows John, widowed, living at home with his parents and baby, Rosa Lee, 3 months old. They would have all been living in the little log house. On 5 March 1882, John married 16 year old Emily A. Williams, and on December 28, 1882, their baby, Laura Susan, was born. Three weeks after her birth, John died. I've always thought that was such a sad story. They may have been living nearby, as that is what was said in the first little May book that Loma Swaim and I wrote. Anyway, Rosa Lee soon died, but we do not know when. All of them are buried in Hopewell Cemetery.

Sometime along about this time, a peddler came by and Nancy Ann paid $1.00 per yard for some dress material that was nicer than calico. That was a high price for the times. For a while, it was saved back, but she finally made a dress for her oldest daughter, Mary. The 4 oldest sons resented it saying "Ma" should have made a dress for herself. The last I knew that dress was still kept by Mary's granddaughter, Ina May Wilson May.

Perhaps, as time went on, they were able to afford a few of the nicer things, so a nice maple bed and dresser was bought. These may have already been there when my grandparents, Newt and Dollie Williams (she was a sister to John's wife, Emily), with Aunt Lela and my daddy moved to the upper house on the May place on January 1 where they stayed until May when they started on the long trip by wagon to visit Uncle William and Uncle Benjamin, who had recently moved to Swisher and Briscoe counties. While visiting at his grandparent's house, Vivian was playing with a hammer and some nails. Obviously, the pretty bedpost was the ideal place to drive a nail. Can't you just visualize that little left hand hammering furiously on that nail? He later became a carpenter. "If" he got caught, he probably just stood there and used that winning smile of his.

"As far back as I remember, there was a pink climbing rose bush growing at the west corner of the long front porch. Do you suppose Nancy set it out? Speaking of roses, there was a rose bush growing at the upper house site at the time a well was being dug for the Nuclear Power Plant in the 1970's. A friend I'd met who was working there and was staying in Oakdale Park at the time, dug me a start of that rose bush. I has multiplied and I've shared it with other family members. My brother, George has a large bush of it in his yard in El Paso. I will still be willing to share it with any who would like a start.


John Crump married Polly Long on 29 June 1826 in Blount County, Alabama.
John Crump married Nancy Grubbs 4 August 1836 in Blount County, Alabama.

1850 Claiborne Parish, Louisiana Census
John Crump 47 TN; Nancy 37 SC; William 19 AL; Nancy 16 AL; Phoeba 16 AL; Mary 14 MS; Isaac 13 MS: John 9 LA; Lavinia 8 LA; Margaret 6 LA; Sarah 4 LA

Now, if this is Nancy's family, we never heard of a brother or a twin. The brother would have been born 5 years and she would have been born 8 years after their parent's marriage. This would have been very unusual for those times; however, it was also, very common for there to have been other children who died in infancy. Also, we might think of naming patterns of this time. Nancy Ann may have named the first son, John, after her father, the next son, William after her brother, and my grandpa, Isaac Newton, after her half brother. There are no Isaac's or Newton's in the May Family

1860 Lafayette County, Arkansas Census, Red River Township
Crump, John 57 TN farmer; Nancy 48 SC; John T. 18 farm laborer LA; Margaret 16 LA;
Sarah 11 LA; Elvira 9 LA; Malinda 6 LA; Phebe A. 2 LA; Crump, Wm. R. 28 Farm laborer AL; Elizabeth 26 TN; Jas. M. 3 AR; John E. 1 AR

Nancy Ann and Mary Jane were not with the family, but we know they had married Ben and Bob May by then, and were living nearby. Neither was Isaac or Lavinia, but they too, were marriageable age. Elvira, Malinda and Phoebe A. had been added.

1870 Claiborne Parish, LA Census, Haynesville.
John Crump 66 farmer TN; Nancy, the wife was not listed (must have died); Isaac 32 works farm MS (had been married); Margaret 22 LA, Sarah 21 LA; Elvira 19 LA; Phoebe 11 LA
Malinda 17 MS had married Levi Alfred Smith 32 MS and they were living in the next house to her father, with sons, William, (Levi's son) 10 MS; and Charlie 3 AR (Levi's son-first wife died at his birth–added by Patsy Vinson-descendant of Levi)

1880 Bowie County, Texas
Walraven, J. 25 farmer AR GA GA; E. 26 wife, keeping house LA, LA
Alfred son 5 AR AR LA: Elijar(Edgar) 2 AR AR LA
Crump, John 76, wid. Boarder, TN VA SC (Elvira's father)

In exchanging information with the other Crump researchers, I learned that Elvira's full name was Elvira Paralee. So, Elvira was 1 year old when Nancy Ann married Benjamin Franklin May. She must have loved that baby very much, and in 1868, she named her little baby girl, Martha Paralee.

The biggest contradiction came in the death certificates of Nancy and Mary Jane. Ordinarily, a death certificate can be accepted as fact, but in this case the one who gave the information may have been mixed up. Nancy's death certificate, here in Somervell County, states her father's name was Crump, mother's name unknown. Mary Jane's death certificate from Nevada County, AR states father's name unknow, and mother's name as Minnie Crow, which certainly is not Nancy Grubbs. It was given by her son Marion May, but I still think he had his grandmother and great grandmother mixed up. According to other researchers, John William Crump's father was William Crump married to Phoebe Crews/Crows, who died in Sumner County, Tennessee in 1837. Marion was born 5 December 1860, and Mary Jane died 10 March 1920. Marion was 60 years at that time, and his great grandmother had died 23 years before he was born.


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