Louisa Massey Avenges Her Brother’s Murder


Found of Church Was Murdered and Young Sister Avenged His Death.

Dubuque, Ia. Dec. 25. — The celebration of the diamond jubilee of St.[1st?] church found by Methodists north of the Missouri line, began Sunday with an eloquent address by Bishop McIntyre, of St. Paul. The founding of St. Luke’s recalls to the memory of old residents the most sensational episode in the early history of the Upper Mississippi settlements.

Among the organizers of the church was Woodbury Massey. He was the first trustee, and his name let the list of those who subscribed the $225 that built the log chapel. One year after he became implicated in a feud which resulted in the tragic death of himself and two other men. Mrs. Reuben Noble, of McGregor, who as a child lived on the farm adjoining that of Mr. Massey on Otter creek Jersey county, Illinois, tells the story of the tragedy as follows:

“Mr. Massey, with his wife, two children and a younger brother, left the farm in Illinois in 1833 and came to Iowa to prospect in the mining region about Dubuque. No sooner had the two brothers staked out a claim than their right to it was disputed by one Smith and his son. The case was carried into court and decided in favor of the Masseys. When they returned to take possession the elder Smith appeared and shot Woodbury Massey, killing him instantly. The younger Massey retaliated by killing Smith.

“A few days after the tragedy Louisa Massey, the 16-year-old sister of Woodbury, came to Dubuque. On finding one brother dead, and hearing that the son of Mr. Smith had threatened to kill the other brother on sight, she secured a pistol and went in search of the young man. She found him in a grocery store, stepped up in front of him, and with the words, ‘If you are Smith, defend yourself.’ fired. The ball struck against a bundle of papers in his pocket and his life was temporarily saved. He died as the result of the wound two years later.

“The young girl had no sooner thus avenged one brother’s death and protected the life of the other than the upper river county went wild with her praise. No war hero was ever welcomed with greater enthusiasm than she when she returned by boat to the old home at the mouth of the Illinois. Cheering throngs greeted her at every stop on the river, and nearly sunk the boat at the final landing near Otter creek in their eagerness to greet her. Some years afterward a new county was organized in southeastern Iowa and named Louisa in her honor.”

The Carroll Herald – Dec 30, 1908

Woodbury Massey Gravestone

Image can be found on Find-A-Grave at this LINK

Murder at Dubuque.

The last Salt River Journal states, on the authority of a gentleman who had just arrived there from Dubuque, that Mr. Woodbury Massey, a worthy merchant of that place, was shot dead on the 7th alt. by capt. Wm. B. Smith and his son. Smith shot first and his son immediately afterwards. Massey’s hand being raised the ball passed through it, entered his left breast and lodged in the right side. The parties had been engaged in a law suit, in which Massey had the better, after which Smith was frequently heard to threaten his life. when he had shot Massey, he immediately gave himself up to the civil authorities, but his son tried to escape, and was shortly after taken. They were held to bail in the sum of five hundred dollars each, to appear at the next circuit court. The grand jury being in session, found a bill, and they are safely lodged in jail to await their trial. Mr. Massey was buried on the next day, and was accompanied by about four hundred of the most worthy citizens of Dubuque. He as a man of high reputation, and left a wife, four children and a great many friends to mourn their loss.

Niles’ Weekly Register, Volume 49 By Hezekiah Niles, William Odgen Niles Oct 10, 1835

Galena, Illinois (Image from http://www.visitgalena.org)

Mr. Woodberry Massey resided in St. Charles county a short time after his marriage, and about 1830, crossed the river into Illinois, and settled on the present site of upper Grafton, where he entered some land. Not long after he moved to the forks of Otter creek, where for a short time, he carried on merchandise, after which he removed with his family to Galena, and there engaged in mining and merchandise, residing there about one year, when he moved to Dubuque, where he was engaged in the same pursuit. After a while he withdrew from mercantile pursuits and devoted his whole attention to mining. Soon he commenced working an abandoned claim, which proved to be quite rich in lead ore, and in going on the grounds with his men on the afternoon of September 7th, 1835, and there meeting some of the former operators of the mine, and a dispute arising, without any notice he was shot and killed by two men, father and son, by the name of Smith, both of whom afterwards paid the penalty of their crime by their death. The elder Smith was shot by Henry I. Massey, a brother of the one that was killed. The circumstances were that Smith came riding through Galena, asserting that he would exterminate the Mssey family, whereupon Mr. Massey rushed into the street and shot Smith dead while sitting on his horse. He then rushed through his shop and mounted a horse and crossed the river into Iowa. Miss Louisa Massey, sister of Woodberry Massey, entered a store in Dubuque with the avowed intention of purchasing goods, and the younger Smith being poin ted out to her by a small boy, she quickly drew a pistol and shot him in the breast, giving him a mortal wound. The general verdict of the people was that the brother and sister of Mr. Massey did right in avenging his tragical death. After the event we have mentioned occurred, Mrs. Massey retired with her family to St. Charles, Missouri, and in 1837 settled in the present limits of this county, and in the winter of that year was married to B. F. Massey, a brother of her former husband. She died at her residence on the 4th of January 1852.

Henry Massey served under General Dodge and assisted capturing Chief Black Hawk at the Battle of the Bad Axe which open up the land west of the Mississippi for settlement. Henry later opened up a harness shop in Galena, Illinois. His brother, Woodbury, along with his wife Maria and one child, was one of the firsst to cross the river and move to the area of the Dubuque lead mines. His brother Benjamin and sister Louisa came shortly after along with the Langworthy girls. Shortly thereafter, Woodbury was murdered in a dispute over a mining claim called “The Irish Lot” by a Mr. Smith and his son William. They were arrested but later released because the judge ruled that the Wisconsin court where they were tried had no jurisdiction over Iowa cases.

From: Biographies in the Atlas Map of Jersey County, Illinois – 1872 (USgenweb site – Jersey Co. IL)


More HERE: The Black Hawk Wars 1832

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9 Responses to “Louisa Massey Avenges Her Brother’s Murder”

  1. Johnny Says:

    Is there a way to find out what happened to Louisa Massey after that event? Where did she go,who did she marry,when did she die? thanks

  2. mrstkdsd Says:

    You might take a look at the following book:

    Title: History of Louisa County, Iowa, from Its Earliest Settlement to 1912, Vol. 1
    Author: Arthur Springer
    Publisher: S.J. Clarke Pub. Co., 1912
    Pages 70-73

    On pg. 73 it mentions that Louisa married a Mr. Williamson, but I am not sure how accurate that is. On one of the other pages, it says something about her marrying a merchant from St. Louis, I think, but didn’t name him. I would imagine these could be the same man being referenced.

    I didn’t read any further than pg 73, so I don’t know if anything else is mentioned about her.

  3. mrstkdsd Says:

    I forgot to mention that the book is online, just google the title, or even “Louisa Massey” and it will come up in the first page of results.

  4. LauraK Says:

    I don’t know what happened to Louisa but would love to. I do know that one branch of the Woodbury Massey family moved to Nebraska because I am a descendant! HIs son, Solon is my great-great grandfather. Love this story and would enjoy hearing more!

  5. Jan Christoher Says:

    Louisa fled to her brother Benjamin Franklin Massey in Jersey Co, IL after the shooting. There she met, and later married, George H Hodskins. They had 9 childern and she lived the rest of her life there. Did you know that Woodbury’s father-in-law was the sole survivor of a Commanche attack

  6. Jan Christoher Says:

    Nicholas Coonts was saved by the chief, kidnapped, taken to Nebreska and raised by the tribe. He later stole two horses and rode them into the ground escaping. He walked the last 100 miles to the St. Charles. It was written that the fort commander had to ransom him back from the tribe several times.

  7. Jan Christoher Says:

    Sorry, mis-spelled name, should be George H. Hodgkins.

  8. jean wilke Says:

    George H Hodgkins is on the 1860 census Louisa and three children Henderson IL. He is also on the 1870 cenus in Jerseyville, Jersey, IL, Louisa and six children. He is also on the 1880 census in Jerseyville, Jersey, IL, Louisa and seven children. In 1885 George and Louisa were still alive. she is buried in the Oak Grove Cen in Jeresyville, Jersey, IL. There is no marker and no dates.

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