Joseph Pierce Massey, Barber County, Kansas Barber County, Kansas.  

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Joseph Pierce Massey

Joseph Pierce Massey, Barber County, Kansas.

Photo courtesy of Lee (Massey) Ives, daughter of Ray Massey, grand-daughter of J.P. Massey.
Joseph Pierce Massey, Barber County, Kansas.
Undated photo courtesy of Lee (Massey) Ives,
daughter of Ray Massey, grand-daughter of J.P. Massey.

Biography: Joseph Massey

By J.R. Massey

The Chosen Land: Barber County, Kansas, page 318.

Joseph P. Massey settled in Barber County for good in 1883 after having worked on river boats on the Mississippi, and railroads to the Pacific. He homesteaded on the Marty ranch southwest of Sun City in 1883, later buying the old Massey home place northwest of Sun City. He married Artha Lee Van Horn in 1889. She came from Virginia via Pawnee County. By the time of his death in 1908 his farm had increased to 1,728 acres, much livestock and five children.

Mrs. Massey lived in Sun City until she passed away in 1948. Ralph married Blanche Campbell and they had three sons whom they reared on the ranch. The ranch was increased to 5000 acres of grass and farmland. John R., dentist in Lenexa, Kansas; Nathan, a design engineer with many patents, of Pratt; and David, deputy director of KSIR are the sons.

Ray married Gail Meaders and they had five children; Joe, veterinarian - Clovis, California; Miriam of Coats; Hope, college professor in California; Lee, real estate and grape grower - Clovis, California; Kent, farmer and teacher - Florrisant, Missouri.

Edith is a writer in Edmund, Oklahoma. Ruth married Marion McLain and they had three children; Marjorie; Max, rancher of Medicine Lodge and Lake City; and Mark, a large farmer in Haskell County.

Ruby married Tom Murphy of Connecticut and had a long career with the immigration department in Washington. After Tom's death, she married Lyle Bullock.

Robert married Annette Allen and was with Swift and Co. for many years. They had three children: Charlotte of Phoenix, Arizona; Bob, manager of Marriotts in New York; and Tom, expert on Chinese - with the State Department.

Without a doubt, the happiest time of all the family's life centered around the ranch and our community. It was so easy to laugh and have a good time around the family. Ralph and Ray and their families farmed the place until their early deaths. They got their first registered Hereford in 1922 after their father had been a Shorthorn man! They ran around 300 cows most of the time. They started irrigating in 1934 and continued throughout their lives.

We all enjoyed the activities around Sun City, which was very action oriented. The excellent church - all the good school basketball and baseball teams - the big community picnics - the excitement of Marion's rodeo, with the people it attracted - the gypsum mines and all the activities it generated, the oil field workers - the bootleggers with their mystique - the dance halls - the ranchers, each his with his own special character, and very importantly, the old timers who were such good story tellers, all made up the activities.

The three generations of us who lived in Barber County, consider it the best place in the world, beautiful with its hills and streams, and the greatest character builder in the country.

All of the J.P. Massey grandsons and great-grandsons served in at least one war, and several of them in two wars.

-- By J.R. Massey, The Chosen Land: Barber County, Kansas, p. 318.

Barber County Index, December 30, 1908.


Joseph P. Massey Killed While Walking on Railroad
Near Sun City Last Wednesday Morning.


And Had No Knowledge of Approaching Train.
Lived Only Two Hours After Fatal Accident.

The people of Medicine Lodge and northwestern Barber county were startled beyond expression last Wednesday morning at 8:30 when the news was flashed over the wire that Joseph P. Massey of Turkey Creek township was struck by the Santa Fe engine, train 548, a quarter mile west of Sun City and fatally injured. Two hours later a message came that he died without gaining consciousness.

Mr. Massey was coming from his home which is not far from Sun City, and it was his habit to walk down the track a part of the way when going to the depot because it was a shorter walk that way. He was very deaf and could not hear the approach of the train, although the engineer, who was a new man and knew nothing of Mr. Massey's deafness, pulled the whistle for a considerable length of time at ample distance and, of course, expected to see him step from the track at every moment.

When the train got close to him and the engineer saw that Mr. Massey was apparently in ignorance of its approach, he threw on the air, but too late. The pilot of the engine struck him on the thighs, threw him backwards, his head striking the engine and the entire body bouncing from the track to the left. One of the legs was broken and the back of the head badly crushed. The train came to a standstill a moment after the accident, going only about three car lengths. Mr. Massey was taken on the train by the crew and carried to Sun City and conveyed to the home of his brother-in-law, T. T. Hatfield, where he died within two hours.

The accident was witnessed by Mr. Massey's son, Ralph, who was on the wagon road with a load of hay less than a quarter of a mile away. It was a terrible sight for him to witness, realizing his utter inability to go to the rescue. Speaking of the accident when he reached Sun City, he said that he and other members of the family had often protested and advised his father against walking on the railroad, realizing the danger on account of his poor hearing, but it was a custom with him and he could not see the danger. On this particular morning, Mr. Massey was engrossed with business and his mind was so occupied that he evidently gave the fact that it was about train time no thought. He was on his way to the Sun City depot, intending to board the train there.

Following the accident, statements were made by the engineer and fireman as is the custom in all railroad accidents. Engineer R. E. Mason said:

"After seeing Mr. Massey on the track I whistled for the crossing and at the post for Sun City. The man I saw on the track was still some distance ahead and I then whistled to warn him. We were running probably about 20 miles per hour. As we approached him I pulled the cord repeatedly and did all possible to attract attention. Getting close to him and seeing he paid no attention to my signals I applied the air but could not stop before hitting him. He was walking in the middle of the track, swinging his arms and with his head down as if in a study."

Dillard Garrison, fireman, said: "I saw a man step upon the track at the point of timber and turn toward Sun City. From the time he stepped on the track until he fell after being struck by the engine, I never took my eyes off him. After the air was applied I leaned out of the window of the cab and swung my cap to attract his attention but with no result. When the pilot struck him he came backwards, struck on his back and head and then bounced off to the left. The train came to a stop within three car lengths after striking him. We placed him, still alive, on the train and brought him to Sun City. I had noticed a man on a load of hay some distance from the track and after the accident he came running across to where we were. It was the injured man's son."

Had Engineer Merrill been on duty that fatal day this terrible tragedy would have been averted. He was well acquainted with Mr. Massey and was apprised of his inability to hear.

The funeral was held in the Baptist church in Sun City Saturday, Dec. 26th, conducted by Rev. C. W. Owens of Belvidere, and interment was made in the Lake City cemetery. Mr. Massey was a beloved member of the I. O. O. F. lodge of Sun City and the Masonic lodge at Lake City. Both orders participated in the funeral rites.

Joseph P. Massey was 57 years and 4 days of age. He came to Barber county in 1884 and worked on cattle ranches until 1889 when he had accumulated sufficient funds to purchase a ranch of his own, gradually adding to his possessions, and soon became one of the best known and most substantial agriculturists in Barber county.

Mr. Massey is survived by a wife, formerly Miss Artha Van Horn, and 5 children, Ralph, aged 17; Ray, aged 16; Ruth aged 14; Ruby, aged 12, and Robert, aged 6. Two sisters also survive him, one residing at Vanhorn, Kansas, and one in Missouri.

To know Joe Massey was to be his friend. To come into contact with him in a business way was to realize his keen knowledge of affairs. He was a leader in his community, served as township trustee for many years and was an officer of faultless ability and unflinching integrity. He was also deeply interested in educational affairs and was always identified with the upbuilding of the county's public schools. When the Barnes County High School was adopted a few years ago, he was one of the hard workers for the proposition and to his labor was due the fact of its success in his part of the county.

Not only has this sudden and tragic death deprived the family of a kind, beloved and considerate husband and father, but it has cast a veil of gloom over the entire county.

The hearts of this good man's hundreds of friends go out in sympathy to those who mourn.

(An obituary written by an intimate friend of the family will be published next week.)


We desire to sincerely thank the kind friends and neighbors who came to our relief and assistance in the terrible misfortune that has been visited upon us. We appreciate our friends more than words can express.

Mrs. J. P. Massey,
Mr. and Mrs. Geo. Lott,
Mr. and Mrs. Thos. Hatfield.


Whereas, The Grand Architect of the Universe has in His infinite wisdom removed from among us our beloved Brother, Joseph P. Massey, and, whereas, the long and intimate relations held with him in the faithful discharge of his duties as a brother and neighbor makes it eminently befitting that we record our appreciation of him; therefore.

Be it Resolved: That by the sudden removal of such a useful life from among our midst a vacancy has been left that will be deeply felt by all his brothers of this lodge, and which will prove an irreparable loss, to the community.

Resolved that we extend our sincere and most affectionate sympathy to his bereaved relatives and that through our faith in Him who doeth all things well we confidently hope that so great a loss to us all may be the means in his infinite wisdom of accomplishing great good.

Resolved that as a token of respect for him whose place will know him no more that Medicine Valley Lodge No. 260 A. F. & A. M. be draped in mourning for a period of thirty days. That a copy of those resolutions be spread on the minutes of the Lodge and copies supplied to local papers and bereaved family.

G. G. Shigley,
W. B. Redwine,
P. H. Parr,

The Barber County Index, January 6, 1909.

Obituary of Joseph P. Massey

The news of the terrible accident that struck down Joseph P. Massey near Sun City, Kansas on the morning of December 23, 1908, was a shock of indescribable magnitude, to the family, as he had left his home only a short time before on a load of baled hay, in company of his son, Ralph, they having been baling and loading out several car loads during the fall and winter. When they reached the crossing a mill northwest of Sun City, Mr. Massey alighted from the load of hay and walked down the track, Ralph going east on the wagon road. After crossing Turkey Creek, Ralph noticed his father on the railroad and knowing that it was almost train time, tried to attract his attention.

A moment later he heard the train coming and became alarmed, knowing the condition of his father's hearing. He climbed off the wagon and started to run across the field in an attempt to reach his father and direct his attention to the oncoming train, but could not reach the scene of the accident before the train, and while at a considerable distance he saw the massive engine hurl his father from the track. The accident happened at 8:52 A.M.

The train, after striking Mr. Massey ran a distance of 195 yards before coming to a stop. Mr. Massey was struck in the back, his right leg being broken and almost completely severed just above the ankle, the back and upper part of his head being crushed in. He was thrown to the left side of the railroad track. The train backed up and by this time several friends and relatives had reached the injured man, among them his son, Ralph. He was put into the baggage coach and taken to the depot and from there was carried to the home of his brother-in-law, Thomas Hatfield, where he died at 9:45 A.M., without gaining consciousness. The wife and other children were notified as soon as the accident occurred and arrived in a short time to witness the terrible scene. After his death, he was removed to the Massey homestead three miles northwest of Sun City where the body lay in state until Saturday.

The funeral services were held at the Baptist church in Sun City on Saturday, December 26th, under the auspices of the I. O. O. F. No 262 of which Mr. Massey was a beloved member. Rev. Chas. Owens of Belvidere preached a very eloquent and pathetic sermon, having been a life long friend of the deceased. The singing was conducted by I. O. Sherrod, another intimate friend of the Massey family. From the church the body was conveyed to the Lake City cemetery where funeral services were concluded under the auspices of The Medicine Valley Masonic Lodge No. 260 of which the deceased was a member for almost twenty years.


Joseph Pierce Massey was born in Pike county, Missouri, December 19, 1823, and died December 25, 1908, aged 56 years and 4 days. He was the youngest of nine children of which only three sisters remain to mourn his loss. Only one of these sisters was able to attend the funeral, Miss Sarah Massey, of Bowling Green, Mo. His other sisters live, one in California and the other in Chanute, the latter being unable to attend on account of sickness.

Mr. Massey remained on his father's farm until about 16 years of age when he started out to do for himself. He spent some time in Minnesota and Louisiana and then went to Texas and followed ranch life several years. From Texas he went to Rush county, Kansas, and settled on a timber claim in 1879 and was in a prosperous condition when a prairie fire burned him out. From there he went to Pawnee county and was employed by the A. T. & S. F. Ry. Co., in the bridge construction department. Here he became acquainted with Miss Artha L. Vanhorn, his future wife.

In 1883 he came to Barber county and was foreman on the Garvaric ranch for about a year. He then went to work for C. H. Douglas of Sun City, in which position he remained about four years. While in this capacity he acted as a peace officer and was familiar with most affairs of Sun City and surrounding country. In February, 1889, he resigned his position as foreman and went to Pawnee county and was married to Miss Vanhorn early April of the same year. They immediately came to Barber county to make their home and settled on the Samuel Holloway ranch which he later purchased and where he lived until the time of his death.

To the union of Joseph Massey and Artha Vanhorn five children were born as follows: Ralph Nathan, Joseph Raymond, Lillian Ruth, Ruby E. and Robert L. Massey, aged respectively, 18, 16, 13, 11 and 6. Mr. Massey prospered abundantly on the above homestead and became one of the leading ranch men of the county, owning at the time of his death 1800 acres of land much of which is fine alfalfa land with some set in that crop.

Joseph Massey has long been prominent in the affairs of the county and his community, being for over twenty years trustee of his township and a member of the Sun City school board for the same period, and always stood out boldly for advancement and better education.

Any community seldom has such a man as J. P. Massey. He did not hesitate to help any worthy person and was always considerate about the rights of other people; and by his sterling worth, his indomitable will, honesty and industry had amassed considerable of this worlds goods and by his faithfulness as a friend and neighbor has endeared himself to the community in which he lived as it is the lot of few men to do.

Joseph Massey was a true friend, a kind and loving husband and a fond and indulgent father and from that day that his great soul passed into eternity, the entire community was grief stricken and realized that the community had sustained a loss in his death that could not be repaired, and he was laid to rest in the Lake City cemetery amid the gathering of a sympathetic and grief stricken people and will be long missed and mourned by the entire community.

A Friend.

Gravestone for Joseph P. and Artha L. Massey,

Lake City Cemetery, Barber County, Kansas.

Photo by Kim Fowles.
Gravestone for Joseph P. and Artha L. Massey, Lake City cemetery, Barber County, Kansas.
Photo by Kim Fowles.

The Massey Ranch north of Sun City, Barber County, Kansas.

Photo from the collection of Brenda McLain, courtesy of Kim Fowles.
The Massey Ranch north of Sun City, Barber County, Kansas.
Photo from the collection of Brenda McLain, courtesy of Kim Fowles.

Artha Lee (Van Horn) Massey Surber with her children:

Joseph Raymond Massey Sr., Ruby Ellen Massey, Lilian Ruth McLain, Artha Lee Surber, Ralph Nathan Massey Sr., Robert E. Lee Massey.

Photo from the collection of Kim Fowles.
Artha Lee (Van Horn) Massey Surber with her children:
Joseph Raymond Massey Sr., Ruby Ellen Massey, Lilian Ruth McLain, Artha Lee Surber, Ralph Nathan Massey Sr., Robert E. Lee Massey.
The photo is captioned in Artha's handwriting.
(Ruby Ellen Massey later married Thomas J. Murphy, then Lyle Bullock.)
Photo courtesy of Kim Fowles.
View Larger Image

Land owned by J.P. Massey in Barber County, Kansas.

Detail from Map of Township 30 South, Range XV West of the 5th P.M., 1905 atlas.

Map courtesy of Kim Fowles.
Land owned by J.P. Massey in Barber County, Kansas
Detail from Map of Township 30 South, Range XV West of the 5th P.M.
Note that one of his neighbors was John Young
Map courtesy of Kim Fowles.

Also see:

Hylon Hope (Massey) Howard, grand-daughter of J.P. and Artha Massey.

Ralph Nathan Massey, son of Joseph Pierce Massey.

Joseph Raymond "Ray" Massey, son of Joseph Pierce Massey.

Michael Massey, son of Nate Massey, grandson of Raph Nathan Massey, great-grandson of Joseph Pierce Massey.

Artha Lee (Van Horn) Massey Surber

Marion Francis McLain, husband of Ruth Massey.

Ruth (Massey) McLain, daughter of Joseph Pierce Massey.

Kent Meadors Massey, grandson of J.P. and Artha Massey.

Massey Farm Machinery on the Massey Ranch near Sun City, Kansas. The page features photos of Ray and Ralph Massey.

Thanks to Shirley Brier for finding, transcribing and contributing the above news articles to this web site, to Lee (Massey) Ives for the photo of her grandfather reproduced on this page and to Kim Fowles for the gravestone photo!

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