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Pioneers of Madison County: Dennett Hill Mays 1809–1861

The story of Dennett Hill Mays is similar to many Madison County settlers. Dennett and four of his brothers migrated from South Carolina into Madison County in the 1830’s and 1840’s. Other Mays brothers who came to the county in the 1830’s were James Butler Mays, Richard Johnson Mays and Enock Grigsby Mays; in the 1840’s, Rhydon Grigsby Mays moved in with his family. The brothers were sons of General Samuel and Nancy Grigsby Mays. Samuel fought in the Revolutionary War, owned extensive acreage in South Carolina, and knew many of the officers in the war. According to Jerry M. Windsor, in “Father of the Florida Baptist Convention,” Samuel Mays was in three battles of the Revolutionary War before he was 16 years old. He was a Brigadier General during the War of 1812. He and his wife Nancy were quite wealthy, owning thousands of acres of land in South Carolina. Samuel knew President Washington; he was one of the founders of the University of South Carolina. He named his children after his friends and fellow soldiers. James Butler Mays was the oldest migrating son; he was born in 1798. He migrated with his second wife, Miriam Earle Mays, and their son, Sam III. James Butler died in 1836 in Madison County, and is buried in the Old Oakland Cemetery in Madison. The families of James Butler Mays and Richard Johnson Mays moved in around the same time, in the early 1830’s, settling in the Sampala Lake area. Rhydon Grigsby Mays, born around 1801 in South Carolina was married to Sarah B., born 1803 in South Carolina. Rhydon was the second oldest Mays in Madison County, arriving in the 1840’s. He settled in the southern part of the county, in the Sampala Lake area also. The value of Rhydon’s property in Madison was $3,000. The following six children were born in South Carolina: Elizabeth, born 1830; Samuel B., born 1832; Sarah, born 1834; Susan, born 1836; William Dannett, born 1840; and Frances, born 1842. Son William Dannett died January 29, 1852, and is buried in the Old Oakland Cemetery. Shortly after William’s death, the family moved to St. Johns and then Putnam County, Florida. In 1861, Rhydon was a member of the Florida Secession Delegation. He died in 1878 in Putnam County. Richard Johnson Mays, was born January 8, 1808 in South Carolina. He married Eliza Ann Williams on October 19, 1830, according to Edgefield, South Carolina marriage records. Elizabeth was born December 1812, in South Carolina. He and Eliza Ann had 11 children; only seven survived childhood. Richard initially settled in the Lake Sampala area of the county. Mosquitoes and malaria resulted in the death of their first child, Elizabeth. In 1833, Richard and Eliza moved to the Lovett area and lived on what was known as the Glendower Plantation, and built their home, a ten bedroom home, known as the Clifton Mansion. (More information will follow on Richard Johnson in a later article.) Enock was Samuel’s youngest son and was born after Samuel died in 1816 in South Carolina; his wife Caroline or Clotilde was born in 1819, also in South Carolina, according to census records. The couple moved to the county while they were in their early 20’s and had five children here. (Find-a-Grave information relates that Enock’s wife was Clotilde Elizabeth Linton; and the couple married in Madison County.) Their children were: Mary E., born 1840; Samuel R., born 1843; William R., born 1844; Sarah Caroline, born 1846, Sarah died at age seven and is buried in Oak Ridge Cemetery; and Margaret, born 1849. In 1850, Enock was a farmer and the value of his property was $7,000; he owned 800 acres; his plantation was just north of Madison on the Quitman Road. By 1860, Enock and his family had moved to Grimes County, Texas, and by 1870, the family had moved to Dallas, Texas. Find-a-Grave relates that in Texas, Enock became a cotton farmer on a large scale. The Civil War destroyed his plantation, and he moved into the village of Dallas, where he was a pioneer merchant, owning two blocks of downtown Dallas near the courthouse. Enock died in Dallas. Dennett Hill Mays, born June 10, 1809 in Edgefield, South Carolina, was the second youngest of the Mays brothers who migrated to Madison. He married Jane Olive Thomas, who was born around 1831 in Georgia, on January 15, 1850 in Madison County. Census records show the couple with four children: Sarah Louise, born 1851, who married Thomas Livingston; Richard J., born March 24, 1854; Samuel Bate, born May 1857; and Dennett Hill, born 1860; Dennett, the least wealthy of the four brothers, was a lawyer. His land was valued at $1,000 in 1850. Second Generation At age 52, Dennett Hill Mays, father of the four children listed above, died, leaving his widow and four children, under the age of 10. His youngest, Dennett Hill was between one and two years old. He was buried in Oak Ridge Cemetery. • Sarah Louise, 1851, married Theodore (or Thomas) Livingston and had at least two children: Janie Mays Livingston, 1877; and Sallie S. Livingston, 1880. Janie Mays died at age 10, and is buried in Oak Ridge Cemetery, Madison, near her mother. • Richard J., born March 24, 1854, died at age 21 on May 7, 1875. He is also buried in Oak Ridge Cemetery, Madison. • Samuel Bate, born January 4, 1855, married Millie C. or Willie C.; as far as we can tell. Samuel Bate and Millie C. had one son, Dennet Hill, born 1897. Samuel Bate died January 1, 1930, and is buried at Oak Ridge Cemetery, Madison. • We don’t find any information on a family of Dennett Hill, born 1860. He was buried in Oak Ridge Cemetery, Madison, and his headstone simply states: Dannitte H. Mays, son of DH and Jane O. Mays 1860—1921. A Dennitt Mays died in Gadsden County in 1921. Third Generation Samuel Bate, 1855, seems to be the only male descendent of Dennett Hill Mays who had a son. Samuel Bate’s son was Dannitte Hill, born August 2, 1897, who married Viola Whitlock Mays, born March 11, 1898. The couple married on April 14, 1920. According to census records, the couple had one son, Dannitte Hill Mays, Jr. The family farmed in Madison in 1930; in 1940, they were in Miami. We think they moved back to Madison in the 1840’s. Dannitte Hill, Sr., died June 20, 1980, and was buried in Oak Ridge Cemetery, Madison. Viola died October 25, 1988, and is also buried in Oak Ridge Cemetery. Fourth Generation Dannitte Hill Mays, Jr, was born January 19, 1927; he died November 20, 1990, and is buried in Oak Ridge Cemetery. According to one of the family trees in Ancestry, he was married to Clara Marie Hughey. Fifth Generation and Sixth Generations Dannitte Hill Mays, III, was born Oct 10, 1950; he lived in Madison for most of his life; he died on December 11, 2007, and is buried in Oak Ridge Cemetery in Madison. Dannitte Hill Mays IV, son of Dannitte Hill Mays III, previously lived in Madison County. Currently, there are no Mays in Madison County listed in the telephone directory. Dennett Hill Mays, Madison Pioneer, left five Dannitte Hill Mays. For many years, the Dannitte Mays were an important part of Madison County and they have left a lasting legacy. Was there an original Dennitt Hill? Indeed there was—a Dennit Hill, born in 1790, who lived in the Laurens District of South Carolina. We don’t know the connection that this Dennit Hill has with the Madison Mays Pioneers. Perhaps he was one of Samuel Mays Revolutionary War friends; perhaps he was the father of one of the Mays women; perhaps he was Samuel’s neighbor in South Carolina. In any instance, he has stamped an imprint in this region. Or perhaps Dennette Hill Mays himself was such an extraordinary fellow that five of his descendants were named after him. And perhaps the Mays family has been as loyal to their ancestors as they have been to Madison County. The Madison County Genealogy Society welcomes your input and invites you to join our organization. We meet on the second Thursday monthly, except during summer months, in the Madison Public Library from 6 to 7 p.m. Annual dues are $25. We offer apologies to families of descendants who find errors, and we welcome corrections. To add comments to our articles or to submit your own sketch of your ancestor, contact us at Madison County Genealogy Society, P.O. Box 136, Madison, Fl. 32341. Or contact us by email at

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