Julie McDonald Commentary: Family Seeks to Change Road’s Name to Honor Parents


A year before the United States plunged into Civil War, a 25-year-old Irishman born in County Cork boarded the HMS Edinburgh in Liverpool, England, and landed in New York April 13, 1860.

Eight years later, Jerry Buckley married an Irishwoman, Alice Hutchinson, and headed west, settling first in Nebraska, Nevada and Oregon (where their children were born) before traveling north to Washington Territory and settling on the Cowlitz Prairie outside present-day Toledo south of what became the local airport.

In early 1887, Buckley applied to Lewis County commissioners for creation of a road from the Cowlitz Trail (later Jackson Highway) to his property, which was on the J.B. Bouchard Donation Land Claim east of the St. Francis Xavier Mission and the late Horace Howe’s estate. He posted written notices and paid $8 to remove and rebuild a fence and $2 each to several adjoining landowners for property on which to build the road. Surveyors reviewed the proposed road and commissioners approved its construction.

For the past 134 years, that 35-foot-wide road ending at Jerry Buckley’s barn on a bluff above the Cowlitz River has been called Buckley Road. Shortly after receiving approval of the road, Jerry Buckley drowned in the Newaukum River Nov. 8, 1888.

According to a notice in the Nov. 16, 1888, Olympia Washington Standard, “Mr. Buckley, in company with Mr. Morrow and some other man, was fording the river at Johnson’s ford on horseback when Buckley’s saddle turned and threw him into the water. Although the river was not very high, the current was swift and strong, and the unfortunate man was quickly washed into deep water and drowned. Mr. Buckley was one of the best known and most energetic farmers on the Cowlitz prairie, and his death was the last expected. He leaves a wife and four children, who are pretty well provided for.”

The Seattle Post Intelligencer on Nov. 8, 1888, described Buckley as “an old citizen of Cowlitz prairie” although he was only in his early 50s when he died.

He was survived by his widow, Alice Buckley; four daughters, Mary, Nellie, Kate and Alice, and a son, Cornelius. His widow died in her early 80s on Feb. 10, 1915. Three of their daughters married — Mary Regan, Nellie Waltz and Kate DeLacey — while young Alice was declared insane by 1907. She spent much of her life at Western State Mental Hospital, where she died at 81 in September 1959. Another daughter, Tarisia, died in 1884 when she was only 6. A son, Cornelius, lived in Toledo until he died at 40 in 1925. Like his parents, he is buried at St. Francis Xavier Cemetery near the mission.

Fast forward to 1945, when Thomas Merle and Idris Leila (Hodges) Massey, a North Dakota couple, bought a farm near Toledo at the end of Buckley Road between Spencer Road and the Cowlitz River. They settled there the following year and farmed 149 acres for nearly three decades. They also let people who wanted to fish or just spend time at the Cowlitz River pass over their land to reach the waterfront.

“The farm bordered the Cowlitz River, which was, and continues to be, a good fishing spot,” wrote Arthur Massey, of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and Marian Massey Kloster of Junction City, Oregon, two of the Masseys’ adult children. For 75 years, their parents “allowed many to travel through their property to fish, traveling through their driveway, past their house and barn, then down the narrow road that led to the river.”

In the mid-1950s, when the state was building Interstate 5, the Masseys provided gravel to contractors for the freeway construction. But that effort wasn’t without its problems. In December 1956, a trial opened in Lewis County Superior Court after Elmer F. Boone filed a lawsuit against the state of Washington, Peter Kiewit and Sons, the Masseys and more than a dozen other defendants, contending that they used gravel from a sandbar in the Cowlitz River that didn’t belong to them. The lawsuit, which focused on the river’s changing flows since 1853, was dismissed, Kloster said.

The Masseys spent money to construct a road on their property for trucks to haul gravel from the river.

“The agreement required them to pay for a section of new road on their farm and to improve much of an existing road that it would tie into,” Kloster said. “To build the road, their garage, woodshed, and cellar were demolished. Once the new road was built, it provided better access to the river and many more people came to fish.”

In the early 1960s, Tom Massey received honors for his farming, including one for Grassland Farming from the Lewis County Grasslands Committee and Chehalis Chamber of Commerce and an honorary chapter farmer degree from the Toledo High School Future Farmers of America chapter.

In 1963, Tom and Idris Massey donated a perpetual easement to the Washington Department of Game (now the Department of Fish and Wildlife) to provide permanent access to the Cowlitz River for a boat ramp, today known as Massey Bar Launch Fishing. They also donated land for parking to allow “the free and unrestricted passage over and use of said stream bank property by sports fishermen in order to fish in the Cowlitz River.”

But Google Maps shows Buckley Road stretching along a private driveway all the way to the waterfront, which Kloster said prompted her and her brother to seek to change the road’s name between Spencer and the Cowlitz River — the land their family owned — to Massey Road, both to honor their parents’ contributions to the community and to simplify directions to the Massey Bar Boat Launch. The portion of Buckley Road from Spencer to Jackson Highway would remain unaffected.

They’ve been visiting neighbors who use Buckley Road and seeking names on petitions that they hope to submit to Lewis County commissioners. An internet search showed 13 families live on Buckley Road, but many more use it to access side streets.

“We definitely want to hear what people have to say,” Kloster said. “We’re only asking in this petition for really a little short distance. Mom and Dad’s property just went to Spencer, and so that’s all we’re going to do.”

They plan to circulate another petition to name the private driveway leading from the end of the county road to the riverfront after the Masseys, she said.

“We want as close to consensus as we possibly can because we want people to feel good about it,” Kloster said.

Tom and Idris Massey had just retired from farming and traveled east to visit family members and friends when, on their return home during the afternoon of Nov. 9, 1973, their small car slid on a slushy highway three miles east of St. Regis, Montana, directly into the path of an oncoming four-wheel-drive truck. They died instantly. Tom was 64 and Idris 65. They were buried at Claquato Cemetery.

According to their obituary, in addition to his parents in Ryderwood and their siblings, Tom and Idris Massey were survived by three daughters — Janis Schroeder of Boise, Idaho; Glennis Wasamer of Lumberton, Mississippi; and Marian Locust of Eugene — and two sons, Paul Massey of College Place near Walla Walla and Arthur Massey of Puyallup. They also had 20 grandchildren at the time of their deaths.

Kloster and Massey said their parents often helped the community, such as providing neighbors and those in need with firewood, plowing and working up their ground for gardens, donating light excavation work, repairing hand-dug wells, and giving people hens to provide eggs and produce from their garden. Many local people also fed their families with fish caught from the Massey riverfront.

“It is past time to recognize Thomas and Idris Massey for their generosity,” Kloster and Massey wrote. “They should be honored in a lasting and meaningful way for all they did for that community.”

They offered to cover reasonable and customary expenses for the name change.


Julie McDonald, a personal historian from Toledo, may be reached at memoirs@chaptersoflife.com.