Sunday, March 30, 2014

The old, old May place

The passing last week of Betty Johnson brought to mind these photos of the old May place, where Betty and her husband, Edwin --- my dad's first-cousin --- lived for many years just southwest of Russell. The house is gone now, but when I was a kid it was one of three of the Russell area's most ambitious farm houses. 

This was the home of James Madison and Mary Eveline (Werts) May and they and their children are gathered around the house in these photos, found online among May genealogies at

Down the road south was the grand Albert S. Beals home, also the site of Lucas County's largest barn. Lloyd May, who grew up in the house shown here, bought the Beals farm in 1917, 10 years after his marriage to Bessie Johnson, and if someone had said "May place" when I was a kid, it would have been the old Beals place that they were referring to. Both house and barn have vanished here as well.

The other big old house, located just east of the old Beals place, was the Slater family home --- and it still stands.

You can see the locations of the Jas. M. May and Albert S. Beals homes on this 1896 map of the four most northeasterly townships of Benton Township. Ragtown School (labeled No. 3) is a mile west of the Beals place and Ragtown Cemetery, a half mile northwest of the school.

I'm not sure when Edwin and Betty bought the older May place, but at the time --- probably the early 1950s --- they were living just across the road and south a little in another house that still survives. This was a small four-room cottage (since added onto) built for my great-uncle, Nolan Myers, upon his marriage to Mary Stephens, in the side yard of the original Daniel Myers Sr. home over on the New York Road. It had been moved over the river and through the woods to the Russell neighborhood.

I remember touring the old May house with Edwin and Betty and my parents just before they started renovating it and moved in. It had been unoccupied for quite a few years at the time and was a bit of a mess as I remember it. This may have been in 1955 because it coincides in my memory with a tour of Chariton's Ilion, or Mallory's Castle, also with my parents and Edwin and Betty, during May of that year.

Although the house always retained its shape, it lost its porches and gained new windows in the renovation and so never looked quite the same.

Anyhow, James Madison May died in 1912 and Mary Eveline, during 1932. Both are buried in the Russell Cemetery. Their children were James V. May (married Viola Pickett), who lived and died in Wisconsin; Junia E. (married Lester R. Van Nice); John C. (married Lillie D. Clanin; they built the red brick William L. Perkins-designed house with red tile roof still standing on the north side of Highway 34 between Russell and Chariton); Ada M. May (married Quincy S. Robb Sr.); William S. May (married Sadie E. Clodfelter and lived near the Lucas-Wayne county line just north of the "Tommy Lockridge section"), George A. May (married Beulah Hayden); Walter Lloyd May (Married Bessie Johnson); and Belle Susan May (married Gordon H. Bradley).

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