Bill May: Letters from the ranch |

Bill May: Letters from the ranch

by Bill May

Steamboat Springs, Colo.

Editor’s note: Bill May’s parents, Fred and Anna May, were both from Iowa. Fred came to Routt County in 1901 and homesteaded the S Bar S Ranch. Anna moved to the Seattle area where she taught school until, after a 16-year “courtship by correspondence,” Fred and Anna were married in 1917. In 1929, Anna discovered that an old schoolmate from Iowa was living in Denver. These letters have been lost; but have been rewritten by Bill to the best of his ability. The S Bar S Ranch has been Bill’s home for the past 70-plus years.

December 1937

Dear Bertha,

News from Europe certainly does not sound good. Since you get the same reports as we do, there is no object in me repeating what you hear on the radio and read in the papers.

You asked about my family (the Bowies) and Fred’s family (the Mays); where these people cam from and what their occupations were.

Well, Fred can trace his May ancestors back only as far as his grandfather who came from England in about 1770 with his parents and siblings. That ancestor (Sam May) married a Sevier (daughter of John Sevier, governor of Tennessee). John Sevier’s father, Valentine Sevier, a French Huguenot, came from England to America in 1740. He married Joanne Goad, whose grandfather, John Williams, was a Virginia planter in the late 1600s.

Valentine raised five sons and at least two daughters, possibly three (or more). All five sons were prominent leaders ” military, political, community, industrial, educational ” you name it. Valentine played an important role in the French and Indian War, and the five sons followed in their father’s footsteps. John, in particular, shone as an outstanding leader at an incredibly young age. John, at age 16, married Sarah Hawkins, age 15. John plotted and surveyed the town site of New Market in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. After the manner of his father, John established inns, stores, mills, factories and forges for the making of iron.

General John was destined to become one of the new republic’s outstanding military leaders (being the victor in the battle of King’s Mountain, a pivotal battle of the Revolution).

In about 1772 or 1773, John Sevier followed the example of his brother Valentine by leading settlers from the Shenandoah Valley across the mountains into what is now east Tennessee. There the settlers constructed Fort Wautaga for defense against possible Indian raids (the Indians were being incited by the British to harass the frontier settlers). And receiving no benefits of government from North Carolina (although this “over the mountain country” was, supposedly, a part of that state), these frontiers organized their own government ” the state of Franklin. John Sevier was elected president of this new state. For four years Franklin petitioned the federal government for admission to the Union. Finally Congress separated a much larger area from North Carolina. This area, which took in all of Franklin and much more, was named Tennessee, and John Sevier was elected governor of Tennessee.

Well, I can see that whole books could be written about John Sevier, or any one of the dozens of interesting characters in Fred’s family tree.

Fred’s mother (a Wentworth) was a niece of Sam Houston of Texas. Her father, was a prominent Illinois judge, and her grandfather, was the founder of the Chicago Tribune and the first mayor of Chicago.

And now; my family history. My maiden name was Bowie. Yes, Jim Bowie of the Alamo was a distant cousin. I am a coal miner’s daughter. My father came to America from Ayrshire, Scotland.

I must close now or go to town for more writing paper!


Anna …


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