By Peggy Magee
It looks out of place . . . that "Castle on the Creek" in the new Fain Park in Prescott Valley. The Gay Nineties' architecture, prevalent along Mount Vemon Street, just doesn't fit in with the surroundings along Lynx Creek. Old houses conjure up visions of families gathered together for holidays, the warmth of togetherness and memories of the happiness shared with loved ones. If the walls of the Castle could talk, you would expect to hear tales of joy and laughter. However, these walls have a much different tale to tell.
The story of the Castle on the creek starts in England with the Massicks family and a man named William Pedley. William had been doing some work in San Bernardino, California in the 1880s. He filed some mining claims during his stay in that area and upon his return to England in 1889 he married the sister of Thomas Gibson Barlow Massicks, the "Castle's" builder.
The Massicks family back in England had been involved with the mining industry. Thomas' father managed a local mine in Cumberland. Young Thomas was ripe for adventure. It is very probable that Pedley's tales of the American West lured Thomas Gibson Barlow Massicks to Arizona. Thomas was about 30 years old when he arrived in the early 1890s in the Arizona Territory.
By the mid-1890's the Lynx Creek Gold and Land Company with Thomas Gibson Barlow Massicks as Vice-President had been incorporated in The Arizona Territory. He built the 'Castle' as a British Manor House to be utilized for formal entertaining. Thomas included in the floor plan a ballroom and a wine cellar. Not many houses in The Arizona Territory were designed with those features. Today, when you stand and look at the "Castle on the Creek," you can almost go back and hear the music in the ballroom, the clipped British accents, the Chinese cook yelling at a stray chicken - times of joy and laughter. Thomas maintained close ties to his homeland. He made frequent business and pleasure trips to England. It was said that the Castle was designed to remind Thomas of his family's home, 'The Oaks', in Britain.
Not all of the entertaining done at the Castle was for business. Various items published in the local newspapers in the 1890s mention cricketeers as well as officers from Fort Whipple being wined and dined at the Castle. Thomas never married. At first his sister and brother-in-law, Mr. & Mrs.William Pedley, helped oversee the property and hosted the social activities. But for whatever the reason, (possibly the failure of the dam that Pedley built), the Pedleys left and returned to England. It is suspected that there may have been a falling-out between the brothers-in-law. The Pedleys did return to the United States but not to Arizona. The son of William Pedley, when contacted twenty years ago, knew very little of Thomas and his many interests in Arizona. Subsequently the running of the house was left to servants. The culinary skills of his Chinese cook were known throughout the northern parts of The Arizona Territory. Thomas entertained investors from England and the eastern United States.
Besides operating the Manor House and the Lynx Creek Gold and Land Company, he was also an inventor. Many invitations to his home were extended to secure capital for his inventions. The "Castle" was one way to show potential backers the prosperity and civility of Yavapai County and, of course, Thomas, himself. John W. McConnel, a merchant from Manchester, England, was a backer of the Bucyrus Steam Shovel, one of Thomas' patented inventions.
As the decade of the Gay Nineties was drawing to a close, so was the life of the 'Castle's' owner. One day Thomas Gibson Barlow Massicks was driving in his buckboard after inspecting one of his mines. His six-shooter fell out of his holster, hit the floor of his buckboard and discharged. The bullet went through his kidney and entered his lung. He fought death for almost a year but he succumbed in April 1899. When Thomas died at the age of thirty-seven, so did the formality of the prim and proper British culture which had reigned in this little comer of The Arizona Territory. There is sadness in knowing that Thomas enjoyed his Castle for less than a decade and had such an untimely and painful demise.
Almost a century has passed since Thomas' death. The Castle had many occupants, but none as colorful as its first resident and builder. Many myths have been printed about Thomas Gibson Barlow Massicks and his family. Those myths and the uncovered truths will be presented at the Northern Arizona Conference of Historical Organizations, which is scheduled to meet October 18, 1997 at the Sharlot Hall Museum. Afternoon sessions begin at 1:30 p.m. and will have papers presented about Yavapai County history. Call the museum for details.
Peggy Magee is on the Board of Directors of the Prescott Valley Historical Society. She teaches genealogy at Yavapai College and has been listed in "Who's Who in Genealogy and Heraldry" and "The World's Who's Who of Women." She conducts genealogical and historical tours to the British Isles.
Sharlot Hall Museum Photograph Call Number: (bure4132p)
Reuse only by permission.
This picture taken circa 1894 shows Thomas Gibson Barlow Massicks, Mr. and Mrs. John W. McConnel, Sharlot M. Hall with her father, James Hall.