The Massey Murder: A Maid, Her Master and the Trial that Shocked a Country by Charlotte Gray (HarperCollins, 2013) 308 pages
Few murders galvanized Torontonians in the last century like the murder of Charles Albert Massey, grandson of the industrialist and philanthropist Hart Massey, by his eighteen year old maid Carrie Davies. Here indeed was a clear and disturbing demarcation of the only two perceived classes that existed in Canada at the time: "the Masseys and the masses" quipped B.K. Sandwell, Saturday Night editor.
Charlotte Gray, a respected historian of Canadian figures, attempts to link the historical climate - specifically the turmoil of World War I in 1915 - and the murder of C.A. Massey. I'm not sure if she succeeds here even though the historical data collected about wartime Toronto is fascinating.
Carrie shot her employer on the steps of his Walmer Rd. home with his own gun because Massey had, in her words "ruined her" (more on that anon). She had been instructed on its use by the man's own unsuspecting son. Carrie was an unsophisticated British immigrant from an impoverished family residing in a gritty English railway town. She financially supported her widowed mother and three younger siblings with wages sent back to England. She had been forced into domestic service at thirteen due to the family's financial circumstances and her mother's poor health and had moved to Toronto to join her married sister to search for work.
Charles Albert Massey (known more commonly as "Bert") was the son of Charles Albert Massey Sr., the once favourite son of Hart Massey. With the untimely demise of Charles Albert Sr. at an early age and Hart Massey's unsuccessful attempts to have Bert and his younger sister Bessie live with their grandparents in their Jarvis St. mansion, Hart Massey turned against his daughter-in-law Jessie Massey, wife of Charles Albert Sr., and her children once she re-married.
|Euclid Hall, the one time home of Hart Massey, |
Charles Albert Massey's grandfather
The wealthier Masseys, such as Hart Massey and his unmarried daughter Lillian Massey, lived at Euclid Hall on Jarvis Street (shown above). I have been fascinated with this house and its former residents for some time and have written about it here.
Charles Albert's own more successful older brother Arthur Massey lived at the more upscale 165 Admiral Rd. in the Annex but Charles Albert, a modestly successful automobile salesman for York Motors, lived at 169 Walmer Rd. (shown below).
|169 Walmer Rd, the scene of the murder|