Nancy May ("Aunt Boney")

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"Aunt Boney"

Nancy May
wife of

Napoleon Bonaparte May

Contributed by
Charlotte Collins Bond


Aunt Boney's Treasures

Some time in the late 50’s or early 60’s I discovered some letters & other items in a trunk that belonged to my grandfather, Charles Thomas Collins. He explained that he had been the Superintendent of the Madison County Paupers Home in the early 1900s.  Some of the contents in the trunk belonged to a lady who died leaving no known relatives. She was known as Aunt Boney. Her name was Nancy May. She was the widow of Napoleon Bonaparte May. He was known as Uncle Boney; thus her name.  

My grandmother, Savannah Beard Collins, said the couple had lived at Carruth’s Mill when she was a teenager. That would have been around 1885-90 or there about. The location was the Bond-Shiloh community, near Ft. Lamar. Grandmother told of going to their home for a Sunday School party.  She belonged to Jones Chapel Methodist Church, so I assume the May family did also.

I talked with my great aunt, Alice Collins Hunt, who was young & unmarried at the time she lived at the Paupers Superintendent home with her brother. She said Aunt Boney showed her a letter from Texas that had been written by her daughter in-law, wife of John May. It was dated Jan. 14, 1878. Aunt Boney asked Alice to write a letter to the Postmaster of Colorado County, Texas to see if he could locate her son and his family, as this was the last contact she had from them. Sadly, the report from the Postmaster was negative. Aunt Boney died in 1905 without learning the fate of her son, John May & his family. Aunt Alice gave me a postage-sized drawing of Aunt Boney. It was done in color pencil by a traveling artist who survived through his art. Another note of sadness that Aunt Alice told of was how a son of Aunt Boney’s removed a board from the floor in the kitchen & cut his throat & bled to the ground so that he would not stain her floor. Yes, he died.

It became my quest to find what became of John May & perhaps find a descendant of his daughter Johnnie who would appreciate Aunt Boney's treasures.  Posting these items and research will be the end of my quest.  Forty years is long enough.
                                                                                            Charlotte Collins Bond


Papers Belonging to Nancy May
Bible records, Letters, Quilt Pattern

1850 Transcription from May Family Bible


Ages of William May’s Family

William May Snr. was born January 15th A.D. 1789
Ann May was born January 25th A.D. 1792
Elizabeth May was born June 18th A.D. 1813
John May was born April 1st A.D. 1815
William May was born Feby 22nd A.D. 1817
Ann May was born December 28th A.D. 1818
Phalby May was born December 31st A.D. 1819
Napoleon B. May was born March 25th A.D. 1822
Owen May was born September 11th A.D. 1823
Andrew J. May was born January 2nd A.D. 1826
Simon B. May was born May 22nd A.D. 1828
Marquis de la Fayette May was born Aug 30th A.D. 1830
Harriet May was born March 10th A.D. 1833
Martha T. May was born November 30th A.D. 1836

                                                             Transcribed by D. E. Slagle at
                                                 White Path   Gilmer Co. Georgia
                                                                                March 13th 1850

On other side of page:

Anna May departed this life february 11th 1853
Owen May departed this life August 8th 1857
Elizabeth May departed this life December 23, 1860


This is a page torn from a Family Bible.  It is only one half of the page.  It looks as if it had been folded so long it broke apart.  The other side of the page was not among the collection.  The first 5 entries are the family of Napolean Bonaparte May.


John N. May was born Aug. the 16th 1846
William J. A. May was born March the 16th 1849
Nancy J. E. May was born Apr. the 1st 1852
N. B. May was born March the 25th 1822
Nancy E. May was born December the 3rd 1817

On the back of the same page in a different script is:

Avory Cullarston [Culbertson?] departed this life Oct 27th 1857
Nancy Ann Weaver departed this life No. [sic] 19th 1860
Avory Ann May was [born] December 28th 1847
Departed this life January 6th 1848



This Bible record, which records Nancy May's death, was also found in the trunk of Charlie Collins.  It is unknown who the owner of the Bible was.


Asa McCormack died November 13th 1875
Edy Story departed this life October the 12th 1848
Nimrod Saylors died March the 13th 1887
John Dove died July the 6th 1901
Nancy Dove died 4th of April, 1905
Nancy May died 31st of March 1905
Emely Kellum died 13 of August 1904
Joe Hugh died 17 of October 1905

Letter from Phalby May
in Cartersville, Georgia
to her brother
Napolean Bonaparte May

Cartersville, Georgia           Sept   20th 1868

Dear Brother,

I take the present opportunity of dropping you few lines to let you know that we are all well exceptin my self.  My health is very bad I ly in bed half of my time. We have rented a house and moved back to town. I have got seven boarders at 57 dollars a month.  It is my intention to live if I can and do the best I can with them.  I think they are men that will do the thing that is write. If you want to come back hear to this place fall on the cheapest plan to come an you can sell all of your things exceptin your beds and send them on the train and I will pay the expenses on them and take care of them until you can come. Write and tell me how much money you can raise at this time. All so tell me how much it will take to bring you from there hear. I received a letter from John the other day. He is a chillen yet. Tom Sprigs was hear a bout a week ago. He had a hard chill while he was hear. He looks very bad. Nancy I know that you are in a bad fix but & if you are not in the bed sick you are in a good fix for I think if you all had of lay and suffer as I have it would brought you all to your right sences. I want you to come away from thare if you can get a way. Write soon and let me know what you can do. ---------is well. I will close for this time. I remain you loving sister until death.

Phaly May

Letter from Elizabeth May
of Colorado County, Texas
to her mother-in-law Nancy May
in Madison County, Georgia


Colorado Co.   Jan 14, 1878

Mrs. N. E. May

Dear Mother,

Several days have elapsed since the reception of your kind and sweet letter, the contents of which were so eagerly read. Johnnie says it was Grandmas letter to her took charge of it; put it away and says it is hers. She does not yet know how to write; her cousin Florence held and directed her hand in writing her letter to you, so you see I do not deserve the many compliments you bestowed on me for it. I know I do not exercise as much patience in training her as I should, nor am I as positive as is necessary, consequently she is a bad child, but still is very sweet. She can read tolerably well, but does not love to do so very much.

She talks of Grandma in Georgia a great deal and asks a great many questions.

Santa Claus brought her a great many presents Christmas of which she is very fond.

We took Christmas dinner with Mrs. Halyard, had a very nice time, have not seen her since, looked for her today, but she did not come.

We have moved from the place we lived last year, and again live on the east side of the Colorado River, only a short distance from the old place. The river has been pretty high for some time, consequently we moved across in a skiff. I have not been here long enough to tell whether I like it better than the old house or not. We have only a small place this year, farming on a large scale does not pay. I think that there is certainly very little to be made farming or at least that has been our experience here.

There has been a great deal of moving around and changing homes lately. Everybody making preparation for work, though very few have commenced plowing yet, the ground is too wet yet, but if the wind continues to blow for a few days it will soon dry off. We have not finished moving yet, have not got our stock over and still have some corn on the other side of the river. Moving is a great trouble and a thing I dislike very much. I hope I will not be troubled in that way for a long time again, but circumstances compel us to do many things we dislike. Fortunately, we did not have far to move. We can look out of the window and see our old home.

Crops were very short her last year, the cotton worm made its appearance early in the year, and then dry weather so between the two, very little was made.

I have written enough to weary your patience, will close, Johnnie sends her love and a kiss to all of you. My love to all and reserve a share for yourself.

Your affectionate daughter,

Lizzie May

Enclosed you will find the long promised photograph.  So not be disappointed in it.  I know it does not look as you imagined.  Please let me hear from you for it is one of my greatest pleasures to hear from you and read your sweet letters.

Surely some one of you could write at least once a month.

Yours truly,



Quilt Pattern c1869
"Collect our Friends"
Presented by Mrs. Lydia May to Miss Nancy J. May

Miss Nancy J. May was the daughter of Napolean and Nancy May.
Mrs. Lydia May was probably the first wife of John May, son of Napolean and Nancy.

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One of the Pauper Houses in Madison County.
Probably where Aunt Boney lived.

Superintendant's house where Charles Thomas Collins lived.

May Family Notes

Napolean Bonaparte May was born 25 Mar 1822 in Tennessee.  He was the son of William and Ann May, who lived in McMinn Co, TN in 1830; in Cherokee Co, GA in 1830; and in Gilmer Co, GA in 1850-60.  Napolean married Nancy (maiden name unknown) c1845.  Nancy was born 3 Dec 1817 in North Carolina.  Napolean and Nancy were living in Fannin Co, GA in 1860.  In August 1864, Napolean enlisted with Company G, 11th Regt. GA Cavalry and served until May 4, 1865.  After the war, the family moved to Madison Co, GA.  Napolean applied for a Civil War pension in 1902.   He reported that he and his wife were being supported by neighbors who looked after them and "the Ordinary gives me some money out of the treasury."  A witness said that Napolean was confined to his bed mostly but can navigate by sitting in a chair and with a stick pushing himself around.  He probably died shortly after.  Nancy died on 31 Mar 1905 at age 85 at the Pauper's Home in Madison County.

Napolean and Nancy had 4 children:

1.  John N. May born 16 Aug 1846 in Georgia
2.  William J. A. May born 16 Mar 1849 in Georgia
3.  Nancy J. E. May born 1 Apr 1852 in Georgia
4.  Unknown child born & died before 1900*
*possibly the Avory Ann May 1847-1848 listed in the bible records


1860 Census - Fannin County, GA

Napoleon B. May 38 M Mining Hand TN
Nancy May 40 F Housekeeper NC
John May 14 M    GA
William May 11 M    GA
Nancy J. May 8 F    GA


1870 Census - Madison County, GA

Napolean B. May 43 M Farming GA
Nancy May 45 F Keeping H. NC
William J. May 21 M Farm Laborer GA
Nancy J. May 16 F House Laborer GA


1880 Census - Elbert County, GA

Napolian B. May   58 M Farmer TN TN TN
Nancy E. May Wife 62 F Keeping House NC NC TN
Nancy J. E. May Dau 28 F At Home GA TN NC


1900 Census - Madison County, GA

Bonapart May Head May 1822 78 Married 54 yrs TN VA VA Mining Gold
Nancy May Wife Dec 1819 82 Mother of 4 children, 1 living NC NC NC    


John N. May

John May, the oldest son of Napolean and Nancy May, was born 16 Aug 1846 in Georgia.  By 1870, he had moved to Colorado Co, Texas where he was working as a stock driver.  On the 1870 census, John was living with the family of George B. Halyard.  He had probably been married to George Halyard's step-daughter, Lydia Carter, who was born in 1846 and died in childbirth in August 1869.  Shortly after 1870, John married Elizabeth Miller.  They had one daughter, Johnnie May, born in August 1871 in Colorado Co, TX.  (Elizabeth is the author of the letter to Nancy May above).

John May died before 1880.  By 1900, his widow Elizabeth and daughter Johnnie had moved to Polk County, TX, where Johnnie married Lillian Ray Fife on 1 Sept 1891.  Johnnie and Lillian later lived in Freestone County (1910) and Harris County (1920) Texas.  Lillian Ray Fife was born 31 Jul 1864 and died 3 Jul 1920.  He and Johnnie are buried at Forest Hill Cemetery in Polk Co, TX.  Johnnie and Lillian Fife had four sons:

1.  Albert Ray Fife: born 25 Sept 1892, died 29 Jul 1896; buried Old City Cemetery, Polk Co, TX
2.  Robert Leon Fife: born Oct 1894
3.  Tom Elmo Fife: born Jul 1897, died 28 Dec 1928; buried Forest Hill Cemetery, Polk Co, TX
4.  Lillian Ray Fife, Jr. born c1902

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