HENRY HART MASSEY

Source: Album of Genealogy and Biography, Cook County, Illinois with Portraits 3rd ed. revised and extended (Chicago: Calumet Book & Engraving Co., 1895), pp. 501-502

HENRY HART MASSEY, one of the pioneers of northern Illinois, now living in Blue Island, has since an early day witnessed the growth and development of this part of the State, and has borne his part in its progress and advancement.  A native of New York, he was born in Watertown, February 25, 1828, and is a son of Hart and Nancy (Matteson) Massey.  His mother, who was a devout member of the Presbyterian Church and an earnest Christian lady, died in Watertown October 11, 1845, at the age of thirty-nine.  The father afterward married Emeline Utley, and about 1855 removed to Jacksonville, Ill., where he engaged in the lumber business for a few years.  He then came to Blue Island and carried on a fire and life insurance agency.  He, too, was a member of the Presbyterian Church, and was a highly respected citizen.  His death occurred on the 31st of January, 1882, at the ripe old age of seventy-nine.

To Hart and Nancy Massey were born eight children:  Harriet Amelia, who died December 14, 1846; Henry H. of this sketch; Julia Jane, who became the wife of A. B. Safford, of Cairo, Ill., and died January 31, 1862; Heman Whelpley, who died in Santa Rosa, Cal., November 25, 1891; James Bates, who is living in Oakland, Cal.; Emily Elizabeth, who died in Blue Island, April 18, 1894; Ann Eliza, widow of A. H. Irvin, and a resident of Blue Island; and Charles M., who died in Blue Island, August 15, 1864.

The children of the second marriage are: Ella Amelia, wife of Rev. Samuel F. Dickenson, now of Grand Junction, Colo.; and Harriet Holmes, wife of George T. Hughes, of Downer’s Grove, Ill.  The mother died in Blue Island April 20, 1876.

H. H. Massey of this sketch was reared to manhood on his father’s farm, and in 1847 removed to Joliet, Ill., where he was employed as clerk in a general store for two years.  He then went to Chicago and secured a position in the dry-goods store of O. Sherman & Co., at No. 104 Lake Street, then one of the leading dry-goods establishments of the city.  Nearly all of the business was done on Lake Street, while the present commercial center of the city was a residence district.  In the fall of 1851, Mr. Massey went to Blue Island as clerk for the contractor who graded the Rock Island Railroad.  The following year he became Treasurer of the southern division of the Illinois Central Railroad, with headquarters at Jonesboro, until the road was completed to Centralia, when his office was removed thither.  He also acted as pay-master between Wapello and Cairo, Ill., until 1855, when he resigned and returned to Blue Island.  Soon after he bought an interest in a general merchandise store, and carried on business along that line for twelve years.

Mr. Massey has since been prominently identified with the business of this locality.  In 1868 he engaged in the grain and commission business on the Chicago Board of Trade, with which he was connected until 1871.  From that time until 1876 he dealt in real estate in the city and in Blue Island, after which he was appointed Cashier in the County Recorder’s office, and served for five years.  During the succeeding year he was employed in the real-estate department of the Chicago & Western Indiana Railroad Company, and was then in the grain commission business until 1892, when he retired to private life.  He now occupies his time and attention with improving his grounds and looking after his real-estate interests in Blue Island.  He has added a number of subdivisions to the village at various times.

On the 4th of August, 1853, in Blue Island, was celebrated the marriage of Mr. Massey and Miss Clarissa C. Rexford, daughter of Norman Rexford.  They have become the parents of five children: Willie R., who died at the age of six years; Mary S., now the wife of Charles R. Clark, of Chicago; Julia R., wife of W. N. Rudd, of Blue Island; Harry A.; and Fred F., who is now a clerk in the Continental National Bank of Chicago.

The members of the family are all communicants of the Universalist Church of Blue Island, and Mr. Massey has served as one of its Trustees and as Treasurer during the greater part of the time since its organization.   Socially, he is a member of the Masonic fraternity, and is Treasurer of the Illinois Universalist State Convention, of which organization he was a charter member.  In politics, he is a stalwart Republican, and never fails to vote in support of the men and measures of his party, although he has never sought office for himself.  With the educational interests of the community he has long been identified, serving as School Treasurer of Worth Township for twenty years.  He has also been Notary Public since 1856.  He takes a commendable interest in all questions of public concern, and is one of the most esteemed citizens of Blue Island.  Mr. Massey remembers when there was only one house at Washington Heights and one at Auburn Park.

                                -- Submitted on March 19, 2000 by Sherri Hessick ( shessick@flash.net )