Samuel May, Jr. (1810-1899)
First pastor of Leicester Unitarian Church from 1835-1846, Rev. Samuel May, Jr. and his wife lived in a new home built by his father as a wedding gift adjacent to the Academy and church. He helped found the Leicester Anti-Slavery Society and criticized his fellow Unitarian ministers for their weak stance against slavery. Rather than continue to offend many parishioners, he resigned to briefly serve as minister to the First Ecclesiastical Society of Brooklyn, CT.
Returning to Massachusetts. He became the General Agent of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society, supervising teams of lecturers until slavery was outlawed in 1865. His Leicester home was a stop on the Underground Railroad and a gathering place for prominent abolitionists.
Often confused with his cousin Samuel Joseph May of New York, both men supported the woman’s rights movement. S.J. May signed the Call to the 1850 Convention, but was too ill to attend. Sarah and Samuel May, Jr. both attended that first National Woman’s Rights Convention held in Worcester, MA. He served on the Business Committee and she became active in the School Suffrage Association along with her anti-slavery work.
A pacifist, May confided to William Lloyd Garrison in 1851, “When I saw poor Jerry [McHenry, a free black of Syracuse, NY] in the hands of the official kidnappers, I could not preach nonresistance very earnestly to the crowd who were clamoring for his release.” (Stewart, 158) During the Civil War, he gave such aid as he could to the Union cause and to its armies in the field, speaking publicly.
- Born April 11, 1810 in Boston, son of Samuel and Mary (Goddard) May
- Died 1899
- Education: Pupil of Deacon Samuel Greele, 3 years at Boston Public Latin School; one year at Round Hill School in Northampton, MA;; Graduated Harvard in class of 1829; studied with cousin Rev. Samuel May for a year in Brooklyn, CT before graduating from Cambridge Divinity School in 1833.
- Married Sarah Russell (1813-1893) of Boston, daughter of Nathaniel P. Russell; published intentions October 18, 1835
- Children: Adeline (September 4,1836-); Edward B. (January 20,1838-); Joseph Russel; (October 30, 1844-) and Elizabeth Goddard (1850-)
- His sister Abby W. May (1829-1888) was a leader in Boston reform circles.
- Member of town, county and state temperance societies and helped establish the Leicester Hotel as a place in which no alcoholic drinks would be sold.
- Served on Leicester School Committee twice, as a director of the Leicester public library in 1861, as a trustee of Leicester Academy, and as a member of the State Legislature in 1874.
- Stewart, James B. Holy Warriors.
- Leicester Vital Records
- Coolidge, Rev. A.H. A Brief History of Leicester (1890)
- Worcester Women’s History Heritage Trail Guide: Worcester in the Struggle for Equality in the Mid-Nineteenth Century. Worcester, MA: Worcester Women’s History Project, 2001.