Col. John May

Is your surname May?

Research the May family

Col. John May's Geni Profile

Share your family tree and photos with the people you know and love

  • Build your family tree online
  • Share photos and videos
  • Smart Matching™ technology
  • Free!


Col. John May

Birthdate: (63)
Birthplace: Pomfret, Windham County, Connecticut Colony
Death: July 16, 1812 (63)
Place of Burial: Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Eleazer May and Dorothy May
Husband of Abigail May
Father of Lucretia Dana May; Frederick May; Abigail Stratton; John May; Henry Knox May and 7 others
Brother of Dorothy Dana; Eleazar May; William May; Mary Sabin; Prudence Sabin and 3 others
Half brother of Abigail May; Prudence May; Benjamin May and Ithamar May

Occupation: Continental Army officer, apprentice to Col. Ephraim May
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Col. John May

John May served as a colonel in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. He was also a participant in the Boston Tea Party.

History of above portrait of John May

John May was born in Pomfret, Connecticut, and moved to Boston as a young man. On December 16, 1773, along with other Boston residents angry over increased taxes, May participated in the Boston Tea Party, helping his neighbors dump a shipload of tea into the city’s harbor. In 1778, at the age of thirty, he joined the First Regiment of the Boston Militia as a captain. He rose steadily through the ranks, becoming a colonel in 1787. After the war, May served as a Boston fire warden and selectman and purchased valuable wharf property along the waterfront. In 1788, he travelled to the Ohio Territory to stake a claim on a parcel of land he hoped to use for future investment.1

This portrait of May wearing his military uniform was painted in the spring of 1789, just before he departed on a second trip to Ohio. His wife Abigail noted her husband’s departure in her diary on April 23: ‘Mr. May and Mr. Breck started on their journey for the West, not in the best health or spirits, leaving us very dull.’ The next day, when Abigail’s brother delivered this portrait to the house, she wrote: ‘What a present! The most welcome he could have made me, unless it had been the original himself.... Much praise is due the painter. He has done his work well, and I don’t wonder he says his hall is stripped of its greatest ornament.’2

The artist, Christian Gullager, was born in Copenhagen, Denmark. He completed his studies at the Royal Academy there in 1780 and immigrated to the United States sometime between 1782 and 1786. Gullager travelled around the country, taking likenesses, painting signs, and making backdrops for theater performances. He also worked as an ornamental painter, decorating military silks and fire buckets. In 1789 Gullager painted John May and signed and dated the canvas. As the only known work signed and dated by Gullager, this portrait is a key picture for the study of this artist’s work.

  • Abigail May (____ - 1824)*
  • Henry Knox May (1780 - 1865)*
  • Sophia May Tuckerman (1784 - 1870)*
  • William Rufus May (1786 - 1844)*
  • Mary Davenport May (1793 - 1869)*

John May, born in 1749, participated in the Boston Tea Party and was a soldier in the Revolutionary Army. He was always described as a man with great courage and passion for his country. He was the Colonel of the Boston regiment, a selectman, and a firewarden of the town of Boston. He made a journey of exploration to the Ohio region in 1788 and 1789; an account that has since been published. He died in 1812 and is buried at the Central Burying Ground, Tomb 131.



D. Glenn-2016

view all 16

Col. John May's Timeline

November 24, 1748
Pomfret, Windham County, Connecticut Colony
October 9, 1773
Age 24
November 16, 1773
Age 24
November 27, 1775
Age 27
May 4, 1778
Age 29
May 18, 1780
Age 31
September 22, 1782
Age 33
September 14, 1784
Age 35
December 6, 1786
Age 38