HARRY D. MASSONI, a farmer and rancher on a broad scale of modern enterprises, with home in Fargo Township of Seward County, has been a resident of Kansas since early boyhood. The confidence felt in his judgment and his place of esteem among his fellow citizens are well indicated by the fact that he is one of the present board of county commissioners of Seward County.
Mr. Massoni was born near Wooster in Wayne County, Ohio, March 1, 1875. His father, Henry Massoni, was a native of Italy, born in the vicinity of the holy city of Rome. Henry, George and Eugene Massoni, brothers, came to the United States when young men, some of them not yet of age. They located at Wooster, Ohio. One took up the trade of boiler maker, another was a railroader, while Henry was a stone cutter. Henry Massoni followed his trade many years, until finally disabled by accident. He died in July, 1900, at the age of sixty-one. He had located at Wooster when that city was in the infancy of its development, and he and one of his brothers helped clear away timber from its main street. He also remembered the first child born in the town. All three of these brothers took out citizenship papers and developed into high class American citizens. They all supported the democratic party and all of them acquired a good and broad knowledge of the English language.
Henry Massoni married Miss Mary Shaefer, who was born in Pennsylvania, of German parentage, and was educated in the German language. The Shaefers as a family were brick makers. Mrs. Henry Massoni, who died in 1906, was the mother of the following children: Joseph and George, of Wooster, Ohio; Peter, who died at Wooster; Kate, of Wayne County, Ohio; Harry D.; Mamie, wife of Zack Cain, of Wooster; and Malinda, who died unmarried.
Harry D. Massoni was eleven years of age when he came to Kansas with his elder brother, Joseph Massoni. His uncle, George Massoni, had been an early homesteader in Kiowa County, and became a man of prominence in that section. Harry Massoni lived with this uncle for seven years and completed his education in the country schools there. At the age of eighteen he started out alone as a tenant farmer, his only capital consisting of four small ponies, harness and an old wagon. His first efforts as a farmer were directed to raising corn. After getting his crop planted he hired out his services to another farmer in Reno County and paid for getting his own corn plowed and cultivated, and from his fields he gathered a fair corn crop. After that he worked for a time for wages on a farm and afterward began raising wheat. After his marriage Mr. Massoni went to ranching for J. R. Kane, spending two years on the Kane ranch. While there he gathered together a small herd of cattle, and on leaving the ranch went with George Bidwell, one of the most prominent ranchers in the Mullinville section. While with Mr. Bidwell he was paid wages of $25 a month and was given the privilege of farming eighty acres of land, being permitted to have all that could be raised on this land. He remained about eighteen months with Mr. Bidwell, until the latter's death, and when the estate was sold he continued to rent the farm for a year. His next location was on Frank Krager's ranch north of Bucklin, where he was again on a salary basis, but made a contract to take his cattle and horses along and graze them on the range. At the end of six months he returned to occupy his own farm, which he had bought previously, and after finishing the year on his own land he rented the Cossell farm from his father-in-law, which was his home headquarters for about seven years. While on the Cossell place he raised grain and handled cattle, which in the meantime had become a considerable herd and demanded more and more of his attention.
The basis of Mr. Massoni's considerable fortune was made while he was in Kiowa County. For one who started so close to the bottom round of the ladder as he did his progress has been rather remarkable, being a steady climb in spite of every obstacle or hardship. Having accumulated considerable capital and the way being opened to larger prospects of farming and ranching Mr. Massoni decided to leave Kiowa County, where it was impossible to secure enough land for his needs, and on coming west he bought a section a mile west of Kismet for $5000. This land was unimproved and had been used only for pasturage. He at once put stock upon it, forty-five head of cattle and fourteen head of horses, and the next act of improvement was to build a house. He and his family got along with a two room frame structure for three years, after which it was extended by addition and in 1915 the makeshift gave way to one of the best country homes in Seward County, a substantial seven-room frame house with basement and everything modern. His first barn or stock shelter was a mere shed, 28 by 40 feet. It was succeeded by a real barn, 44 by 60 feet, with mow room for 100 tons, hut this had been in use only thirteen months when it was destroyed by fire. Its duplicate was soon erected on the same spot and now stands as a monument to the thrift and genius of Mr. Massoni as one of the actual developers of this region.
Aside from crops Mr. Massoni's chief success as a farmer has been in raising wheat and stock feed. The best yield of wheat he ever secured was thirty-three bushels to the acre, and his average yields have been twenty-one bushels. Some of his wheat went to market at a price of 67 cents a bushel, and then again he sold some wheat for $2.95 a bushel. In 1912 he invested in a threshing outfit and operated a machine throughout a large area of country surrounding his home. It was a profitable business. When the traction engine was not in use for hauling and operating his threshing outfit he used it one season for breaking and other heavy work of farming, and was so well satisfied with this demonstration of the possibilities of the tractor that he subsequently bought a regular farm tractor. For the man who has large fields to plow and work Mr. Massoni regards the tractor as the best solution of the labor problem, and in fact the best form of assurance to get the ground broken and ready for sowing or planting at the most favorable time.
Since coming to Seward County Mr. Massoni has invested in five other quarter sections of land, and has half of his land in cultivation, chiefly in wheat. He has failed to harvest a wheat crop only three years since he came to this county. As a stockman he handles the Polled Durham cattle and is a grower rather than a feeder. He has bred his stock up almost to pure blood, and has shipped his own animals and at times has furnished a market for other growers.
Mr. Massoni became president of the Farmers Equity of Kismet on its organization, and was one of the factors in the building of the Equity Elevator at Kismet and one of the prime movers in the organization of the Kismet State Bank, in which he was made a director.
A more public spirited citizen Seward County does not have. Schools and good advantages for children are matters seldom absent long from his thoughts and plans. He was one of the local directors of the Kismet schools for three years. Politically he began voting as a democrat but cast his first ballot for McKinley, and in 1912 he voted for Mr. Wilson. Mrs. Massoni voted her first presidential ballot for the prohibition candidate, J. Frank Hanley, in 1916. Mr. Massoni has served as treasurer of Fargo Township and was elected a county commissioner in 1915, as the successor to W. C. Stout. His colleagues on the board are William Antrim and Joseph Fuest. One of the principal matters to come before this board outside of routine affairs has been good roads and the general improvement of the public highways. They have adopted an adequate plan and have already carried out some of the details and have connected up their work with the public road systems of adjoining counties. The board is giving much time and thought to the solution of the problem by which the bridges over the Cimarron can be prevented from washing away during flood seasons and also for handling sand impediments to road maintenance along north and south roads.
In the spring of 1916 Mr. Massoni took the initiative in agitating the movement in the Kismet community for a new Rock Island station and also stock yard pens. An old box car had served long as a station and afforded little accommodation to the growing passenger business.
As a large shipper of live stock from Kismet the lack of pens and loading facilities seriously hampered his operations, and he made the two railroad needs a common cause and entered formal complaint to the company, and asked them to make the needed improvements. When the company by delayed action showed their unwillingness to act Mr. Massoni took his complaint to the State Utilities Commission, who, May 4, 1916, ordered the Rock Island Railroad Company to construct "Within a reasonable time, at Kismet, a station building capable of reasonably accommodating all the passengers, who may wish to board or leave their trains at that point." The station and stock yards were both ready for the public in autumn of that year. All official correspondence pertaining to the matter was addressed to Mr. Massoni for Kismet and he conducted the business for his community with the company.
On September 22, 1897, in Kiowa County, Mr. Massoni married Miss Mary Cossell, who was born in Coles County, Illinois, June 12, 1879, a daughter of Ira and Jennie (Andrews) Cossell. Her father was born in Coles County, Illinois, May 26, 1849, and her mother was born in Ohio March 12, 1852. Mrs. Massoni's paternal grandfather was William Cossell, a native of Pennsylvania, a farmer and an early settler in Coles County, Illinois. William Cossell had six children, and those to grow up were Sophia, Wesley, Ira, Michael and Hamlin. Mrs. Jennie Cossell was a daughter of Philip and Mary A. (Wilson) Andrews, and was the oldest of their four children, the others being William, John and Charles. Ira Cossell was for ten years a railway engineer with the Big Four Railway in Illinois, and after coming to Kansas he spent eight years in the same occupation with the Santa Fe Company, and since then has devoted his energies chiefly to farming. Mrs. Ira Cossell died November 28, 1913. Her children are: Harry H., of Gotebo, Oklahoma; Mrs. Massoni; and Nell, wife of Beler Burr, of Seward County.
Mr. and Mrs. Massoni have two children, Hazel Vesta and Floyd H. Mr. Massoni is an entered apprentice in Masonry and is also affiliated with both branches of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.
Transcribed from A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. [Revised ed.] Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1919, c1918. 5 v. (xlviii, 2530 p.,  leaves of plates): ill., maps (some fold.), ports.; 27 cm.
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