Massie Murder Case of 1914

Massie Murder Case of 1914

Submitted by Jeff Hayes

The following articles relate to the infamous Massie Murder Case of 1914. The articles are from the Gallipolis Daily Tribune.

Aged Woman and Daughter Butchered in Farm Home And Son Clubbed to Death Wednesday Night at Lecta

The Victims:

Nancy Massie, 76, throat cut
Mary Massie, 40, throat cut
Robert Massie, 44, skull crushed

The Suspect: John Beard, 18, farm hand

Scene of Crime: 
Farm house and yard near Lecta, half a mile from Gallia County line.

Harley Beard, Who Did Chores for Ironton, O., Farmer, Captured in Chicago
Says He was Abused and Slew Employer and Latter’s Sister

Somewhere along toward the end of the third chapter it is the usual thing for the bound-out farmer’s boy of juvenile fiction to mutiny against the tyranny of his employer, vanquish the tyrant in a hand -to-hand encounter, and flee to the city to make his fortune.
Harley Beard, who has been “doing chores for his keep” since he was thirteen-a matter of six years-landed in Chicago yesterday with just such an episode behind him and his own third chapter closed.

A few hours after he was locked up in a cell at the detective bureau and his real life story, in form of a confession to a triple murder, was in the hands of the police. Just about the time Harley reached the city the long distance operator succeeded in establishing a connection between the sheriff’s office in Ironton, O., and Chicago police headquarters.

Warning Comes from Ironton, O.
Look out for Harley Beard, warned the voice of the Ironton end of the wire. “Likely as not he’s headin’ for Chicago. He killed Bob Massey and Bob’s sister and mother on the farm out to Greasy Ridge. Folks say he has relatives, named Gay or Davis, at 1331 West Madison street, in Chicago.”
Detective Sergeants Ullmetcher and Fox were sent to the West Madison street address. They found neither Gays nor Davises, but the name D. E. Day on the door of the third floor front flat sounded promising. A woman opened the door.
“I am his sister,” she said when the detectives asked for Harley. “Yes he’s here.” She raised her voice. “Harley, there’s someone here to see you.”
Boy Tries to Hide Identity.
From the dining room came a slender boy an inch or two above five feet in height, sun tanned and clear-eyed. He sized up his visitors shrewdly.
“There isn’t any Harley Beard here,” he said, “My name’s Day.”
“I know who you are,” Ullmeicher answered, ”and you know what I want of you. Tell me what happened before you killed the Masseys.”
The boy looked quickly toward the door, through which his sister had just passed. “Have you told her?” he demanded. The detectives shook their heads. “Don’t then-and I’ll tell you everything
While his sister was preparing luncheon in the kitchen, singing at her work, the boy whispered his first confession. Subsequently he repealed it.
Boy Slayer Tells Life Story.
“I’ve been an orphan since I was twelve and I’ve been kicked around a good deal since then,” Harley said. I’ve been in an orphan asylum in Warren county, O., and except for the time I was there and a couple of months I spent with my sister, I’ve been doing farm work.
“A year ago I went to work for my brother-in-law’s father, old Sam Day, at Greasy Ridge. The Masseys over on the next farm wanted me to come to work for them and I did. That was last September.
“Bob Massey was a hard man. But I don’t believe in fighting and we didn’t have any trouble. When he yelled at me I just kept quiet. I never got more than a dollar at a time from Bob and didn’t keep track of what I did get, figuring he was honest and would pay me all that was coming to me when the time came.
Start of the Fatal Quarrel.
“Wednesday night Bob and I were nailing a board on a gate near the house. He’d been cursing and swearing at me and all at once he hit me on the face with the head of a hatchet-not hard enough to knock me down, but it hurt.
“You’ve been getting gay with my sister, he said. “Say, if I thought you’d been bothering her like she says, I’d just take this here hatchet and cut your head off.”
“I knew what Bob meant. Mary, his sister, had started it. She was about 45 years old. She made up a lie about me to get revenge.
“Well, I just took Bob’s abuse and said nothing. A while later, when we were going into the house, he struck at me again. I picked up the stake and let him have it. The first time I hit him he fell, but I gave it to him again.
Kills the Two Women.
“I ran into the house. Mary grabbed me by the arm. I broke away, ran back, and got the stake and let her have it too. The old lady, Mrs. Massey, she came up. I thought I might as well make a good job of it, and I hit her too. Then I changed my clothes and started away. Mary and her ma was moaning. I couldn’t stand that, and so I went and got a razor that Sam Day gave me and cut their throats.”
Outwardly the boy was unmoved as he described the work he had done with the haystack stake and razor, but when he was asked if he raced the horse on the way to Gallipolis he was stirred to protest.
“No, sir! Not a long ride like that!” he said. It would have been cruel.”
Harley said he had been struck by a falling limb several years ago and since had suffered from pains in his head.
Dispatches from Gallipolis describing the crime do not tally with Harley’s story. The dispatches say Mary Massey’s hands were tied behind her back when her body was found and that there were indications she had been the first of the family to die. 
[The Chicago Daily Tribune, Saturday, May 16, 1914]


The Suspect Captured:

Word comes from Lawrence County this afternoon that Beard was captured by the Chicago police this morning and has agreed to return without requisition papers. He will be taken to the jail at Ironton.

At some time Wednesday night, Nancy Massie, aged 76, her daughter, Mary, aged 40, and her son, Robert, aged 44, were brutally murdered at their farm home near Lecta in Lawrence County, half a mile from the Gallia County line. The aged lady and her daughter had their throats cut with a butcher knife, and the son’s skull was crushed with a club. All the rest of the night, all day Thursday and all Thursday night the stiffening and bloody remains lay unattended, not being discovered until this Friday morning. Meanwhile, John or Howard Beard, a rover from Chicago, aged 18, who has lived with the Massies for two years, had left the place. On a big bay mare, he rode to Gallipolis, arriving here at 2:30 o’clock Thursday morning. He put up the horse at the Sheets livery stable where it still remains. He was well dressed but excessively nervous when he arrived at the stable, being unable to keep still for a moment. Orville sheets took him (unintelligible) with him for the rest of the night, but Beard could not stay even that light restraint, and left the place at 4 o’clock, inquiring for the first train he could get out on for Chicago. At 8 o’clock Beard showed up at the Hocking Valley station, still very nervous, and inquired about tickets to Dayton and Chicago. finding he could not touch Dayton over the K & M route, he bought a ticket to Chicago and left on a train that would put him in Chicago at 1 o’clock this Friday morning. When news of the tragedy reached Gallipolis through an inquiry of the Ironton Register to the Tribune, these facts were rapidly gathered by Mayor Kuhn and Sheriff Myers, the Tribune also receiving much information through W. Gomer Jones at Cora. Prosecuting Attorney Merriman immediately wired the chief of Police of Chicago the particulars, and if Beard went to his people in that city he will be arrested and charged with the terrible crime that has shocked everybody who has heard of it. Lecta lies about six miles south of Sandfork and eight miles west of Mercerville. The unfortunate women were slain in the house, but the body of Robert was found out in the yard. Presumably the crime was committed after the women went to sleep. There may have been a struggle when Robert was clubbed to death, else his body would not be out in the yard. Beard was apparently well supplied with money when he was at the railroad station, and robbery seems the only possible motive for the crime. We learn that he told Sheets so many different stories as to where he came from and where he was going, that sheets became doubtful about his sanity. In talks with Ironton, Huntington and Cora, Beard’s first name is given as both Howard and John, but John seems to the correct name. The Massies were inoffensive, law-abiding people, distant relatives of the Rev. J. B. Massie of this county. The sheriff of Lawrence County is reported on his way to Gallipolis this morning.
SOURCE: Gallipolis Daily Tribune, Friday, May 15, 1914, page one.

The Story Beard Told the Chicago Police

I started in to work for Massie last September and worked with him all winter,” he said. “I got along pretty good with them, but as a whole they treated me rather roughly. I got along with the mother and daughter pretty good, but Bob kept on fighting with me. Monday morning about 3:30 or 4 o’clock, Bob got (unintelligible) so did Mary and myself. We hitched up the horse and wagon for Bob, and Bob said he was either going to town or to Arlington to buy some furniture. After Bob went, I returned to my room. Mary followed me and when I ordered her out, we quarreled. Then her mother came and scolded me and when I tried to answer back that I was not at fault she wouldn’t listen. Bob got home about 11 o’clock that night. Mary told him I had come into her room. I didn’t know she had told him until at supper time; Tuesday. Then Bob came up to me and laid a hand ax up against my cheek and said: “If you ever bother my sister again, I’ll cut your head off.” I told him I didn’t bother his sister. Bob turned around and started toward me. He raised the ax and I thought he was going to hit me. I had a long stake in my hand which I had been using in bailing hay. It had a heavy ring in one end. I hit him with the stake and busted his head in. Mary came out and when she saw Bob on the ground , she jumped at me. I hit her on the head. Then the old lady came out and I hit her too. I thought I saw the old lady move a little, so I went and got Bob’s razor and cut her head off. But, I did not cut Bob’s head off. I didn’t look at him after I hit him the first time. I came to my sister’s home, in Chicago, to get away, but you arrested me. Police say they found a gold watch and $20 in Beard’s pockets. he is alleged to have admitted the watch belonged to Miss Massie, while the money was taken from her brother. The police say the boy is a degenerate.
SOURCE: The Gallipolis Daily Tribune, Saturday, May 16, 1914, page one.


How the Bodies Were Found by John Clary, a Neighbor

Lying face downward in a clump of weeds, the back of his head reduced almost to a pulp, Robert Massie, aged 48, one of the wealthiest farmers of Lawrence County was found a few yards from the front door of his home on Greasy Ridge, Friday morning by John Clary a neighbor. Within the house, Clary found Mrs. Nancy Ann Massie, aged 76, mother of the farmer, her head crushed and Mary Ann Massie, aged 44, a sister, with her throat cut. All were dead when found. Massie is known to have had almost $2,000 in the house on the day before the triple murder. The money found not be found this morning. Clary went to the Massie home early this morning to borrow a bridle. He wondered at the absence of activity about the house and a moment later stumbled over the body of Massie. Blows rained upon the back of the murdered man’s head has reduced it to a mere mass of pulp. The body was covered with blood and the ground marked with signs of a desperate struggle. Horrified, Clary returned for aid. The searchers pushed open the door of a front room and found the aged woman’s body on the floor. She had been beaten in the same manner as had her son and her face was almost (un)recognizable. In the kitchen, the men found Miss Mary Massie. The woman’s hands were tied behind her while the floor was spattered with blood. Her head had been almost severed by a sharp instrument supposed to have been a razor. Throughout the house were evidences of the struggle which occurred before the fiendish murderer succeeded in taking his toll of three lives. Chairs were overturned; curtains torn down and dishes broken.
SOURCE: Gallipolis Daily Tribune, Friday, May 15, 1914, page one.



Draws Great Crowd Sunday to Scene of Triple Murder
A throng of people variously estimated at from one to three thousand, with over a hundred automobiles and unnumbered vehicles of other kinds, gathered at the Greasy Ridge Baptist Church Sunday to attend the funeral of the three victims of Harley Beard. Because of the mutilation of the bodies they were not uncovered at the church. Mrs. Nancy A. Massie, Miss Mary Massie, her daughter, and Robert Massie, her son, were buried side by side in the Massie lot in the cemetery on Greasy Ridge, near the little church. Much feeling was expressed against the confessed murderer by the Lawrence county people at the funeral. The Massies were among the most prominent farmers in the county. Robert Massie and his brothers were also prominent in politics. The family has lived in Lawrence County for more than a century. Late last night, Sheriff Sloan had not returned from Chicago with Beard. It was expected by the authorities there who had not been advised of the sheriff’s intentions that the man would be spirited into Ironton and placed in the jail sometime during the night or early morning, in order that there would be no demonstration. The Ironton police said there is no feeling noticed in that city, but understood in Mason Township the people were still at a high pitch of excitement. It was rumored in Ironton yesterday that Sheriff Sloan would leave the train with the prisoner in Portsmouth. Whether he was on the Norfolk & Western or Chesapeake & Ohio road was not known. If Sheriff Sloan left the train at Portsmouth he was expected to bring Beard in by way of motor car. A telegram from Chicago says the Sheriff will not take Beard to Ironton until the feeling has subsided.
SOURCE: Gallipolis Daily Tribune, Monday, May 18, 1914, page one.



Further Particulars of the Big Funeral of Murdered Family

At the funeral of the victims held Sunday in the Baptist church near the crime scene, Judge Corn was in the throng and acting for the surviving members of the family, mounted the steps of the church and addressed the great crowd. He explained that it was always better to allow the law to take its course, that in this particular case there would be no delay, that justice was certain. He spoke calmly and with dignity, and in no way compromising himself. He had made arrangements for a grand jury investigation and there was nothing in sight to indicate a delay in the trial. He assured the people that the truth would be learned by the grand jury investigation. Judge Corn said that it was the personal request of Mr. Elmer Massie that no violence be attempted, but that the law be allowed to take its course. The words of the judge seemed to meet with the approval of every one and sober second thought indicates that there will be no attempt at violence. It is now believed the youthful fiend can be brought here in perfect safety. More than 2000 persons filed past the caskets containing the bodies of the three members of the Massie family. By actual time noted by the undertaker it took one hour and thirty-five minutes for the people to file past the coffins for a last look upon the faces of the victims. As early as 6 o’clock Sunday morning Ironton people in machines and other vehicles began to leave for the scene of the funeral and a constant stream of humanity flowed through every road leading to the little church where the services were to be held. At 10:45 there was at least 3,500 people around the church and the four roads leading away from the little building were choked for a mile in every direction with automobiles and rigs. Ironton sent at least 75 automobiles, while Jackson, Wellston, Huntington, Gallipolis, Cattlettsburg, Ashland and Portsmouth each sent a limited number. Country people came from every direction and while some persons who viewed the great crowd estimated it at seven or eight thousand, a conservative estimate places the number about 3,500. J. B. Massie, a relative of the deceased, delivered the funeral oration, and his address was most impressive and solemn. At the conclusion of the services the caskets were opened and the friends invited to look the last look. The people in the church filed past the caskets first and then those from the outside came in and by actual count 1750 persons came from the outside and timed by Undertaker Chas. Jones it took them an hour and thirty-five minutes to pass.         Harley Beard, the eighteen year old farm hand who has confessed to murdering three members of the Massie family of Mason Township. He is charged with first degree murder. Thirteen witnesses were examined, Sheriff Sloan to whom Beard confessed, John Clary, the neighbor who found the bodies, A. C. Neal, a nephew of Mrs. Massie, and others. It is understood that the trial will not take place for thirty days.
Portsmouth, O., May 21. — Harley Beard, confessed murderer of the Massie family of Lawrence County, broke down and wept bitterly today when visited by his sister. The sister, said to be his only living relative, was also much affected by the meeting. Beard will not be taken to Ironton for some days. He was informed of the action of the grand jury today and paled at mention of the crime. A prisoner developed smallpox in the Scioto county jail today. All prisoners including Beard were vaccinated. SOURCE: Gallipolis Daily Tribune, Friday, May 22, 1914, page one.



To Charge of First Degree Murder Without a Tremor

GUILTY” — The fateful word fell from the lips of Harley Beard this morning at 10 0’clock in answer to the query of Judge Edward E. Corn at the conclusion of the reading of the indictment charging him with first degree murder upon his arraignment in Common Pleas Court. The indictment charging him with the killing of Mrs. Nancy Massie, was the only one read to the prisoner and standing with his eyes fixed upon the Judge he answered “guilty” without a tremor.   

Is your client ready for arraignment?” inquired the court of Attorney P. C. Booth. He is, your honor,” replied Mr. Booth. Stand up,” ordered the court and the young man walked half way up to the judge’s bench and leaned on the jury box. The handcuffs had been removed from his hands and the deputy sheriff stood directly behind him. Clerk Mountain then read the indictment and at the conclusion of the reading the court inquired of the prisoner:
“What is your plea, guilty or not guilty?” “Guilty”, was the simple reply, yet how fraught with significance to this young man. The case will be passed for the present,” said the judge, “until the degree of guilt can be determined. That is all” said the judge, and Deputy Sheriff Hutchinson took charge of the prisoner. Beard pulled up one sleeve of his coat while the officer adjusted the cuff and offering his other arm raised it in the air so the sleeve would fall back from his wrist. As he held out his hands and arms there was no tremor or shaking. He was as steady as a clock and seemed absolutely unconcerned in the things going on about him. Beard is a very small lad, and has been confined long enough to acquire the pallor of prison. His face is deathlike in color. There is no doubt of the low order of they boy’s mentality. His hair grows low on his forehead and the forehead is not more than three inches across. His head is exceptionally small and tapers to the top.
SOURCE: Gallipolis Daily Tribune, Tuesday, June 2, 1914, page one.