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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Massey Roots

This is a picture of Gun Inn as you get off the
bus in Hollingworth. 
One of the courses I have taught at Galesburg HS is Diversity Studies. We look at different groups in America and their history- Native Americans, Mexican Americans, and Asian Americans. One of the focuses of the course is to look at the immigration process and the lives of immigrants. Even as we studied immigration, I never looked at that process and how my family had been impacted by immigration.

When I went to grade school in a different era, one of our lessons had to do with our ancestors country of origin. The teacher would have you find the origin of your ancestors. Then we would do work with fractions, you were 1/4 Irish, 1/2 English, and 1/4 Welch. As we did the work, my ancestors might as well have come to America in 1612 for all I cared- it was a long time ago.


Front of Gun Inn. The blacksmith shop of my
great-great grandfather may have been in
area of the white building. Wright worked in
mill to the left of the Gun Inn.
I realized my family had "different names" than the normal American. I was most concerned with myself. I never met another Evan until I was in college, so the first day of classes when the teacher read the roll, it was always an adventure in how they would pronounce "Evan." On those days when other kids would laugh I wished I was simply Bob or John. But Evan was not the worst of it, my middle name is Wright. It seemed when most mothers filled out forms for school they simply put the first and last name on the registrations. So when the teacher called names or when your name was printed it was something like Steve Kelley. A few kids would have listed their middle initial. But my mom always filled it out Evan Wright Massey. 

As you enter Gun Inn, there is this
stained glass window. 
Where do they come up with these names? Evan was my mother's maiden name. Wright was actually my fathers first name. My father's full name was Wright Ford Massey. He went by Mass most of the time in Savanna. With his family they called him Ford. And some called him WF, but I never ever heard anyone call him Wright. 

This whole story about names has to do with my family's story of immigration to the United States. By no means did I grow up feeling anything but an average American. But these unusual names are part of my families heritage. My father's grandparents were immigrants to America. My great-grandfather and great-grandmother were born and raised in Hollingworth England. 

As you walk in the door, this is
what you see. There are two sitting areas
ahead, and then to the right one big
area, and actually a library area.
Hollingworth is a small, rural town in northern England, located about 15 miles from Manchester. When one takes the high speed train from London to Hollingworth, it takes about two hours to get to Hollingworth. As you ride along, the area of England reminds one of southwest Wisconsin (where Wright immigrated to). The land is rolling and you see pasture after pasture with Holstein cows grazing, much like you would have seen in Wisconsin in the 1960's. The pastures and fields are very small with "hedges" marking the boundaries. The hedges have grown up around either stone walls or actual fences. The crops appear to be mainly hay, oats, and corn. 

Once you get to Hollingworth, you can take another train to Stalybridge which takes about ten minutes. Then you catch a bus to Hollingworth. In England they speak English, but for an American, it is a foreign language. When you talk to an Englishman you often find you are either asking, "What?", or you decide it is just best to nod and pretend you know what they said. Because of this, we had trouble finding our bus stop and then once on the bus, we had trouble being sure we knew when and where to get off.

Beautiful stained glass window that separates
the bar from a seating area with tables
and fireplace.
I entered into a conversation with an older man. I told him we were trying to get to the Gun Inn in Hollingworth. His reply was that he had been going there for 50 years. When he found it was a "geneology trip," (his words) to see where my great-grandparents were from, he was excited to help. In fact, before he got off the bus, he made sure everyone else on the bus knew where we were going and instructed them to take care of us. And on his way out the door, he gave similar instructions to the driver.  

When we got off the bus, there it was across the street, the Gun Inn. In fact the bus stop is listed as "The Gun Inn." The significance of the Gun Inn is that is was run by my great-grandmother's family in the 1850's into the 1870's. 

It would not be a pub if it didn't
have a bar.
Wright Massey (my great-grandfather), was born and raised in Hollingworth England in 1819 or 1820. Records are not as accurate as one would like. Wright mother was Kesiah Massey. Kesiah was a single mother. So Massey was not the name of Wright's father, but was his mother's name. Wright and Kesiah lived on Spring St, one block from the Gun Inn, and one block from the mills. Hollingworth had a mill (probably textiles). Wright worked in the mills. 

My great-grandmother is Betty Warhurst. Betty Warhurst was the daughter of Joseph and Ann Warhurst. Betty was born in 1828. Records are clearer with Betty because her family was from a family with a little higher social and economic status. Joseph was a blacksmith by occupation. The blacksmith shop was located next to the Gun Inn on the east side of the building. The name comes from a major part of the work was making guns in the blacksmith shop- in particular cannons. 

Main area with a fireplace. It is not hard
to imagine all the "news" shared in this
room in the 1850's.
The Warhurst family lived next to the Gun Inn. They did not take over the Gun Inn until after Wright and Betty had left for America. But the Gun Inn was the center of Hollingworth. In the days before internet (way before), information was exchanged by men going to the Gun Inn. 

My great-great grandfather, Joseph Warhurst owned and ran the Gun Inn along with Betty's brother John from the mid-1850's until the 1870's. When my brother Mark visited the Gun Inn, they had a listing of former brewmasters with Joseph and John listed. On our visit in 2013, new ownership had taken the framed list down. 

Wright and Betty married in 1848. They had five children in England. None of the children survived infancy or early childhood. All were buried and left behind in Hollingworth. Wright and Betty made the decision to go to America in 1855. Perhaps it was to escape the sorrow of five lost children, or perhaps it was to get Wright away from Hollngworth and the crowd he hung with. But Wright at 36 and Betty at 27, decided to pick up and leave.

Looking down Spring St. It is only about 1-2 blocks
long. Wright Massey lived in small hut with his
single mother.
They had no family to go to in America- they were on their own. They left all family and five buried children behind when they headed to Liverpool. They took a ship from Liverpool to Philadelphia. Wright started out digging wells. They spent one year in the Galena area before eventually getting land in Adamsville (rural Barneveld). The original farm is still in the Massey family. 

Wright and Betty had five more children in America. Four of the boys survived to adulthood. The boys were Joseph, Edward, Wright, and Cornelius. My grandfather, Cornelius was born in 1864. Wright died at age 46 in 1866. Wright smoked a pipe and when he fell ill, Betty would light his pipe for him, so he could have a smoke. The story is she grew addicted to the tobacco. So after his death, she often carried a pipe in her skirt.

Betty was 38 years old, had been in America just 11 years, and had 4 boys to raise when her husband died. The following was my great-grandmother's obituary:


The Obituary of Betty Massey 1828 -1900
                           { Nee Betty Warhurst}

As taken from the Hollandale Review, October 26, 1900

            Once more we must chronicle the death of an old settler, friend and neighbor, Mrs. Betty Massey, who died after midnight Monday morning October 22, 1900, after an illness of 9 months with heart disease.  For several weeks she suffered so intensely that death came as a welcome release.  Funeral services were conducted by Rev. Maes at the Middlebury Church on Wednesday and she was laid to rest beside her husband in the Middlebury Cemetery .

            Mrs. Massey whose maiden name was Warhurst was born at Hollingworth England January 30, 1828.  She married at the age of 20 to Wright Massey.  Five children were born and buried in England , after which they immigrated to America in 1855.  They lived in Illinois about one year, and a short time near Mineral Point after which they settled on the homestead near Adamsville where they spent the remainder of their life.  Five children were born to them in this country, 4 sons and 1 daughter, who died in infancy.  In 1866 when the homestead was little more than a wilderness, her husband died leaving her with 4 little boys to take care of…the oldest 10 years old.  For many years life for her was a struggle with poverty and hardship, but with dauntless courage she managed to keep the family together until the boys were old enough to take their share of the burden.  In 1878 their home was demolished in a cyclone and life was hard while building a new one.  Hard work and economy triumphed and she lived to see her sons comfortably settled in homes of their own and respected farmers.  The oldest, Joseph resides in Astor , Iowa …the youngest Cornelius on the old homestead. Wright on the adjoining farm and Edward on the farm in Middlebury, formerly owned by James Theobald.  Besides her children and grandchildren one sister and two half brothers are still living in England .  While her life was devoted to her family, she was ever a kind and thoughtful neighbor…..always ready to lend a helping hand.

Being an immigrant and then being a pioneer in the "west" was not easy. The decision to leave your family, knowing you would probably never see them again could not have been easy. You had to be committed to a dream, and you had to be tough. 


Outside the entrance to the Gun Inn.
I never got to meet my great-grandfather or my great-grandmother. For that matter, I never met my grandfather, Cornelius Massey. There is somewhat of a generational disconnect in my line of the family. My grandfather (Cornelius), my father (Wright Ford), myself, and my son (Allen)- none of ever met our "Grandpa Masseys." 

Perhaps this is what of makes finding out about my ancestors so interesting. My great-grandparents story inspires me. Going back to England this summer, and to Hollingworth was an experience I will never forget. To sit in the pub my great-grandmother's family owned and to walk down Spring Street where my great-grandfather was raised by a single mother brought a sense of connectedness. It was a long trip for me via jet, train, and bus to Hollingworth- but it was a much longer trip for my great-grandparents to America. Today I am so appreciative my parents gave me Wright for a middle name- I am proud of my ancestors.

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