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.