Select Massey Miscellany

Here are some Massey stories and accounts over the years:

Hamon Mascy of Dunham Massey

According to The History of Cheshire by Sir Peter Leycester, Hamon Massey is seen as the founder of the Massey (Masci) family.  His title was Baron de Dunham and the seat of his holdings was the village of Dunham in Cheshire.  He accompanied King William Rufus in 1087 on a hunting trip in the Wirrall peninsula. During that time, apparently because of his proficency as an archer, he secured from the King a generous grant of land, as the following document records:

"I William King of England do give unto Mascy all my right, interest and title to the hop and hopland (valley land) from me and mine with bow and arrow, which I shoot upon yerrow (the place), and in witness to the sooth (action or statement) I seal with my wang tooth."

In Hamon's time Dunham Massey Hall was a three-winged manor in the shape of a "U," surrounded by a moat.  The extensive grounds outside the moat contained a deer park, orchards, a river, and several fishing ponds.

Hamon's descendants would continue to live there until around 1460 (when it came into the possession of the Booths through marriage).  The story goes that the third wife of the sixth Hamon was very extravagant and she forced him to sell land.  When he died leaving no heirs, Dunham Massey Hall passed out of the family's hands.

The Last Massey of Puddington

William Massey, the last of his family, was a zealoous Roman Catholic attached to the cause of the Pretender.  He is said to have fled home in 1716 after the battle of Preston; and to have escaped to the Wirrall by swimming his horse over the Mersey.  The brace horse then dropped dead as it reached the stable door.

The  William was seized at Puddington Hall and imprisoned in Chester castle where he died soon after.  He left his estates to his godson Thomas Stanley who assumed the name of Massey.

Masseys in Burnley

In 1818

Much of the land then was farmed by the Masseys.  The Masseys were then, with the Holgates and Crooks, the most influential people in Burnley.  Joseph Massey, father of Alderman John Massey, lived at the turn of the road to the Massey dye house.  His garden came to the edge of the road and the choice strawberry beds made many a Burnley lass's mouth water. 

Massey's woollen factory was nearby and this was flanked by two or three cottages.  The public house bearing the singular title The Hole-in-the-Wall, with its equally singular sign, dispensed its ale to thirsty souls then as now, though neither Massey's nor Keirby's brewery had yet seen the light. 

In 1904

In 1904 the mayor of Burnley received a very unusual letter from Edward Stocks Massey JP.  The brewery had made a considerable profit for the owners over the proceeding years and now Edward was prepared to see most of his fortune, estimated to be about £125,000 after death duties, go to the town of Burnley.

There was a catch, however.  If the police or magistrates should close any of Massey's pubs in the borough of Burnley, then the full value of the property would be deducted from the town's inheritance.  The letter made pointed reference to the recent refusal of a license for the Wheatsheaf Inn.  "This loss might have been avoided if the frequenters of the house, who came from Burnley, had been more careful as to their conduct."

Thomas Macy and the Founding of Nantucket

Thomas Macy had arrived in New England with his wife Sarah in the late 1630's and was one of the first settlers of Newbury, Massachusetts (the
Macy-Colby house in nearby Amesbury, which Thomas built, still stands).   But Thomas was brought before court there for “entertaining Quakers.”  Four men, reportedly Quakers, had stopped at the Macy home to ask directions on a rainy morning and stayed about three-quarters of an hour.  Thomas was fined. 

Macy was one of the original purchasers of Nantucket in 1659.  Tradition states that he fled to Nantucket from persecution as a result of the case against him concerning the Quakers. 

"In the late fall of 1659, the Macy family, with several neighbors and friends, twelve people in all, sailed in a small boat bound for Nantucket, rounding the hook of Cape Cod and at last coming ashore at the west end of the island.  Fortunately for the settlers, the Wampanoag Indians there were friendly, and had it not been for their hospitable succour during the long cold winter at Madaket the newcomers might have starved or frozen to death."

John Greenleaf Whittier wrote a romanticized version of the story in his poem, The Exiles

On 10 May 1661, Thomas was one of the men chosen to lay out and measure the land on Nantucket.   He moved to Nantucket permanently in 1664 and died there in 1682. 

The Massey Family

Hart Massey (1823-1896), the developer of the Massey business empire, was the son of Daniel Massey (1798-1856), a blacksmith who began producing farm implements in Canada.  Daniel had been born in Vermont in America and his family could trace themselves back to the early immigrant George Massy of the 1630's.

Hart's children were:

  • Charles A. Massey (1848-1884).  He died early of typhoid fever and his son Bert was famously murdered in 1915.
  • Chester D. Massey (1850-1926).  He and his first wife Anna Vincent raised their sons in the family home on Jarvis Street.  Elder son Vincent (1887-1967) became the first Canadian-born Governor General of Canada.  Younger son Raymond (1896-1983) was a famous actor and the father of two famous actors as well, Daniel and Anna Massey.
  • Edward H. Massey (1864-1901).  He was the first President of Massey-Harris after Hart Massey.  His son Denton was an Anglican priest and politician.
  • and Frederick V. Massey (1867-1890).

Massey's Ghosts

It is known as Haunted Keg Mansion in Toronto.   Hart Massey had acquired the mansion in the late 1800's and it was the place where dignitaries and royal family members such King George VI and Queen Mary were entertained.  The ghosts in the house are not one but many.

The Ghost in the Washroom

Isaac Massie of Lawrence Township, Ohio

The following article appeared in the Ironton Register of March 17, 1892.

"Mr. Isaac Massie of Lawrence township was in town Friday, seeing the Commissioners in regard to some "sheep claims."  Mr. Massie is turning his attention to sheep raising and has rearranged his farm, erected new wire fences, and had, a few days ago, one of the finest flocks of sheep in the county.

But within the past week the dogs of the neighborhood made a raid on his flock and killed a dozen or more of his finest and injured a number of others.  He found a number of his neighbors' dogs in his field and killed them then and there.

We think Mr. Massie pursued the right course in introducing his gun into the argument and think the results will tell in the future as well as they were felt on the occasion of the shooting.  We think sheep raising one of the most profitable enterprises farmers can engage in and Mr. Massie should be encouraged in his undertaking."   

George Massey's Tunnel Vision

The tenacity and vision of a man named George Massey was the driving force behind the construction of the 12 mile Deas Island Tunnel in the metro Vancouver region.  His dream to build an immersed tube tunnel under the south arm of the Fraser river began in 1936, several decades before the bridge was eventually opened. His vision had been inspired by his childhood experience as a seaman in Europe and his knowledge about the Maas Tunnel in Rotterdam.

"In 1936, my father sold his auto mechanics business in Regina and brought his family, a wrecker (tow truck), and a speed boat he built to B.C,” said his son Doug.  “When he got to the ferry in Ladner, he said ‘why isn’t there a tunnel here?’ These were the very first words he said."

After many years of trying to convincing the B.C. Government of the need for a tunnel, Massey formed the Lower Fraser River Improvement Crossing Association in the late 1940’s.

"Dad, with his layman’s knowledge and an understanding of navigation was able to draw up maps,” explained Doug.  “He had all the statistics to prove that this thing should be there.  He spoke to Chambers of Commerce all over and proved this was the way to go.  The lower crossing would fit better with the design of the Oak Street Bridge and Highway 99."

The tunnel eventually opened for traffic in 1959 and was called the George Massey Tunnel in his honor.

Reader Feedback - Bill Massey Arriving in New Zealand

My great great grandparents, John and Elizabeth Macnaughtan, travelled to New Zealand together with John and Marianne Massey aboard the Indian Empire in 1862.  William Massey, their son, remained behind to finish his studies and arrived in 1870. 

John Macnaughtan, New Zealand.


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