52 Ancestors: # 17 ~ Johann Leonhardt MAY ~ …and Prosper.


My 6th great-grandfather, Johann Leonhardt May was born 17 January 1719 in Niederhausen, Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany to Johann Nickel Mey and Maria Catharina Graeff. Before arriving at Philadelphia in September of 1748 on the ship Edinburgh, Johann Leonhardt May had lost to death his father, his wife, and two children. Leonard’s father, Johan Nickel Mey, had died in Niederhausen on 21 February 1743. Leonard’s first-born son, Johann Conradt, died in 1747, followed by the deaths of his wife, Maria Barbara Lorentz, and his recently born daughter, Anna Otilia.


Soon after they had arrived in Philadelphia, the extended May family made their way to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. There is little doubt that they traveled by way of the King’s Road, better known as the King’s Highway; otherwise known as the Old Philadelphia Pike, and now, known as State Route 340.  The King’s Highway began approximately in 1733 as part of an old Allegheny Indian path and was more like a dirt wagon trail than anything else, but by 1748 when the May family arrived, this was very rapidly becoming the most widely traveled wagon road in the colonies. I happen to be a firm believer that simply by being in the right place, at the right time, can make all of the difference…timing is everything.

This was about 60 miles of road that took travelers from Philadelphia to Lancaster County, ending at Wright’s Ferry on the Susquehanna River, which was, at that time, the westernmost edge of the frontier and required a couple of days (at best) of travel. Whether Leonard and his brother, Daniel, had a plan before they arrived in Pennsylvania, or if it was just a matter of sizing up the opportunities available to them, they quickly set about buying land and establishing businesses. What did the growing population of Pennsylvania need? Ways to get places and to transport goods. What else did they need? Places to stay and to eat while travelling. It is little wonder then that Leonard became a waggoner and that both he and Daniel invested in real estate and the buying and selling of land. Youngest brother, Francis, was also a landowner and had apparently continued on in the occupation of his father as a shoemaker. Tax records show that Daniel was a tavern keeper and an innkeeper and that Leonard was also a tavern keeper at some point.

Although I have not yet found the marriage record of Leonard May and Anna Christina Schuch, it would appear that they were married sometime in 1749 and probably in Lancaster County, although perhaps in Philadelphia. I have been searching in both places. Their first child, Anna Maria, was born 21 January 1750 in Donegal Township, Lancaster County. Followed by Margaretta, Frantz Peter, Johannes, Johann Daniel (my line, born 27 September 1756), Elizabeth, Johann George, and Michael, born about 1766.

While living in Lancaster County, Leonard moved about a bit living first in Donegal Township, and also in Conestoga Township, and in the Borough of Lancaster. During the French and Indian War, which started in 1754 (and lasted until 1763), Lancaster served as a distribution center and as a storage depot for war materials. In Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography he notes that he was surprised that the British were having trouble moving their supplies and suggested to Braddock that they use Conestoga wagons from Lancaster. Following is an advertisement that Franklin published:


LANCASTER, April 26, 1755

“Whereas, one hundred and fifty waggons, with four horses to each waggon, and fifteen hundred saddle or pack horses, are wanted for the service of his majesty’s forces now about to rendezvous at Will’s Creek, and his excellency General Braddock having been pleased to empower me to contract for the hire of the same, I hereby give notice that I shall attend for that purpose at Lancaster from this day to next Wednesday evening, and at York from next Thursday morning till Friday evening, where I shall be ready to agree for waggons and teams, or single horses, on the following terms, viz.: I. That there shall be paid for each waggon, with four good horses and a driver, fifteen shillings per diem; and for each able horse with a pack-saddle, or other saddle and furniture, two shillings per diem; and for each able horse without a saddle, eighteen pence per diem. 2. That the pay commence from the time of their joining the forces at Will’s Creek, which must be on or before the 20th of May ensuing, and that a reasonable allowance be paid over and above for the time necessary for their travelling to Will’s Creek and home again after their discharge. 3. Each waggon and team, and every saddle or pack horse, is to be valued by indifferent persons chosen between me and the owner; and in case of the loss of any waggon, team, or other horse in the service, the price according to such valuation is to be allowed and paid. 4. Seven days’ pay is to be advanced and paid in hand by me to the owner of each waggon and team, or horse, at the time of contracting, if required, and the remainder to be paid by General Braddock, or by the paymaster of the army, at the time of their discharge, or from time to time, as it shall be demanded. 5. No drivers of waggons, or persons taking care of the hired horses, are on any account to be called upon to do the duty of soldiers, or be otherwise employed than in conducting or taking care of their carriages or horses. 6. All oats, Indian corn, or other forage that waggons or horses bring to the camp, more than is necessary for the subsistence of the horses, is to be taken for the use of the army, and a reasonable price paid for the same.”

Note. My son, William Franklin, is empowered to enter into like contracts with any person in Cumberland county.


It is not known for sure whether Leonard was a waggoner before this call for wagons went out or if he seized upon this opportunity to make money.

By E. Sachse & Co., publisher, No. 5 N. Liberty St. Artist is unknown. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
By E. Sachse & Co., publisher, No. 5 N. Liberty St. Artist is unknown. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Although many wagons were probably in use by farmers and waggoners during this period of time, none were as utilitarian as the Conestoga wagon which was developed by German wagon makers in the Conestoga Valley of Lancaster County before the French and Indian War started. The box part of the wagon was made with upward sloping floors and an unusual shape in order to prevent shifting of the cargo over hills and rutted roads. The wagons were pulled by a team of six horses – huge, powerful, and usually, black – that were also bred in Lancaster County. The driver usually walked beside his team, but occasionally, would ride on the “lazy-board” which could be pulled out on the left side of the wagon.

By Photo Ad Meskens of painting by Newbold Hough Trotter (1827-1898) [Public domain, CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Photo Ad Meskens of painting by Newbold Hough Trotter (1827-1898) [Public domain, CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Somewhere around 1768, Leonard May’s family and those families of his two brothers packed up and moved to Loudoun County, Virginia. Leonard and family appear to have owned land and lived around Waterford, Virginia. Leonard and his sons were involved with the road-building in that area. Their names appearing in Loudoun County road order reports.




Then sometime between May of 1775 and May of 1777, Leonard passed away. His brother, Daniel, died in 1777 and it appears that he and his wife were childless. In his will, he left his estate to his namesake and god-son, Leonard’s son, Johann Daniel, who was born in 1756 in Lancaster. (Again, this is my line of descent.) It appears as if Leonard May had purchased land in Bedford County, Pennsylvania before his death and that he was perhaps planning on making the move there from Virginia as his name (and other family member’s names) appears on a list of land warrants issued.


Daniel married Elizabeth Dorcheimer and had moved to Bedford County, Pennsylvania where they had at least six children, including their son, Daniel, born in January of 1794. Daniel, grandson of Leonard, appears to have kept up the family propensity for being innkeepers.



Daniel had three wives – Rachel Miller (who bore all eight of his children), a Charlotte – whose maiden name is unknown, and Eve Diebert Wertz. The following clip describes the boarding house in some detail:




This was a good family story to learn about. Once again, I am forever in debt to those who did such well-documented research in the past.


This is my Week #17 post for Amy Johnson Crow’s

52 Ancestors 52 Weeks Challenge.

The optional theme for this week was “And Prosper”.

Lineage Notecard

Name: Johann Leonhardt May

Parents: Johann Nickel MEY and Maria Catharina Graeff

Spouse: Anna Christina Schuch


Relationship to Hollie: paternal 6th great grandfather

  1. Johann Leonhardt May
  2. Johann Daniel May
  3. Daniel May
  4. John G. May
  5. Joseph C. May
  6. Lydia Pearl May
  7. Lloyd Albert Schrader
  8. George Orren Schrader
  9. Hollie Ann Schrader





The Planting of Civilization in Western Pennsylvania By Solon J. Buck, Elizabeth Buck


Benjamin Franklin, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, (Chicago: The Lakeside Press, 1915)




http://www.ancestry.com Pennsylvania church records – Adams, Berks, and Lancaster 1729-1821


The Shoemaker’s Children, Fred T. May, Baltimore, Maryland : Gateway Press, c1998

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Frisia Coast Trail

The 1,000 mile coastal hike for people with fear of heights and interest in 2,500 years of dealing with climate change...

The Legal Genealogist

Genealogy, the law and so much more


News and resources covering social media, search engines, databases, archives, and other such information collections. Since 1998.

Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

Adventures in Genealogy

Piedmont Trails

Genealogy and History in North Carolina and Beyond

Decluttering the Stuff

Our Journey in Decluttering the Stuff so we can Live a Decluttered Life

The Hipster Historian

Making genealogy more intersectional and accessible to all


musings of a frequent flying scientist

1,465 Or Bust

Exploring Ohio History One Marker At A Time

The Bar Method Lifestyle

Be Strong. Be Nourished. Be Mindful. Be Beautiful.

The Daily Post

The Art and Craft of Blogging

West Virginia Mountain Mama

Blogging about my life in Wild, Wonderful, West Virginia.

Steven E. Wedel

Author - Editor - Teacher


Sorting it out one load at a time


by Tim Nichols

Who were they? 52 ancestors in 52 weeks

About the Woods, Gaffney, Diggins and Marshall families

%d bloggers like this: