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Original title:  Daniel Massey

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MASSEY, DANIEL, improver, farmer, and manufacturer; b. 24 Feb. 1798 in Windsor, Vt, son of Daniel Massey and Rebecca Kelley; m. January 1820 Lucina Bradley, and they had three sons and seven daughters; d. 15 Nov. 1856 in Newcastle, Upper Canada.

The founder of the Massey farm-implement business, Daniel Massey was a member of the seventh generation of Masseys to have lived in America since the emigration from England of Geoffrey Massy about 1630. Daniel was brought to Upper Canada between 1802 and 1807, when his father began farming in Haldimand Township, on the north shore of Lake Ontario, near the site of present-day Grafton. The reasons why this branch of the family moved to Upper Canada are not clear.

Daniel apparently was sent at an early age to live with relatives in Watertown, N.Y., where he received a few years of schooling. At age 14 he is said to have taken over the management of the family farm while his father worked as a teamster for the Upper Canadian militia. Daniel left home in 1817; within a year or two he was engaged in extensive land-clearing operations in the area. These involved buying wooded land, employing as many as 100 men (usually recent immigrants) to clear it, disposing of the timber, and then reselling the cleared farm-land. By 1830 he had cleared 1,200 acres and was known as an expert on the subject. About that time, however, he settled down to farm his own land in Haldimand and raise his growing family.

Massey’s land-clearing operations and experience as an employer probably stimulated his interest in labour-saving machinery. In 1844 he turned the management of his farm over to his eldest son, Hart Almerrin* (b. 1823), and then spent much of his time in a small workshop he had built on the farm to repair implements. Many of his own early implements were brought back from visits to the United States. In January 1847 he sold his farm to Hart and moved with his family to the Newcastle vicinity, where he soon entered into partnership with Richard F. Vaughan, the owner of a small foundry and blacksmith shop. Vaughan left the partnership in 1849, the same year in which the business was moved to a new two-storey brick factory in Newcastle. Hart Massey joined his father in 1851, acting first as superintendent, then becoming an equal partner and manager in 1853, and finally buying out his father’s interest in 1856, the year in which the elder Massey died.

Available sources contain only fragmentary information on the early years of what eventually became a great multi-national enterprise. Apparently known as Daniel Massey and Company, then H. A. Massey and Company, and later (or perhaps simultaneously) the Newcastle Agricultural Works and the Newcastle Foundry and Machine Manufactory, C.W., the business existed to manufacture farm implements and general machinery such as steam-engines. It was evidently Hart who, overcoming his father’s inertia in the early 1850s, developed the important strategy of obtaining the rights to manufacture the latest American mowers and reapers in Canada. Earlier the firm may have served as sales agent for some American manufacturers. At the time of Daniel’s death, the enterprise was apparently prosperous, but it was still a small local firm, one of dozens jostling to meet the demands of Upper Canada’s flourishing farmers for ways of reducing the high cost of labour.

The Masseys were of Puritan background and Methodist persuasion. Daniel Massey was said by his son Hart to have been a strict, stern father, but also “the most tender-hearted man that ever breathed.” He was reputedly an early temperance advocate who pioneered in abjuring the custom of giving free liquor to the men who cleared land for him; he also refused to take medicinal alcohol on his deathbed. Daniel Massey was not prominent in the life of his community. Nor was his business particularly outstanding during his lifetime. He was a founder, whose chief contribution to Canadian history lay in the genetic and cultural traits inherited by the Masseys who took over the family enterprise.

Michael Bliss

AO, RG 21, United counties of Northumberland and Durham, Haldimand Township, census records, 1807–10. PAC, MG 32, A1; RG 1, L3, 379: M leases, 1798–1832/124. U.C., Board of Agriculture, Journal and Trans. (Toronto), 1 (1851–56): 594. Christian Guardian, 10 Dec 1856. Cyclopædia of Canadian biog. (Rose and Charlesworth), 1: 774. The Massey family, 1591–1961, comp. M. [L.] Massey Nicholson (Saskatoon, Sask., 1961). Pioneer life on the Bay of Quinte, including genealogies of old families and biographical sketches of representative citizens (Toronto, 1904; repr. Belleville, Ont., 1972), 54950. Merrill Denison, Harvest triumphant: the story of Massey-Harris (Toronto, 1948). 1847–1947: Massey-Harris, 100th anniversary (n.p., n.d.). Mollie Gillen, The Masseys: founding family (Toronto, 1965). James Allen, “Address delivered by the Rev. James Allen, M.A., at the funeral service of the late Hart A. Massey, on Saturday, February 22,” Christian Guardian, 11 March 1896: 162. “H. A. Massey dead . . . ,” Globe, 21 Feb. 1896: 7.

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Michael Bliss, “MASSEY, DANIEL,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 8, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed September 1, 2014, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/massey_daniel_8E.html.

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Permalink: http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/massey_daniel_8E.html
Author of Article: Michael Bliss
Title of Article: MASSEY, DANIEL
Publication Name: Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 8
Publisher: University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication: 1985
Year of revision: 1985
Access Date: September 1, 2014