Waddington, St. Lawrence County
St. Lawrence River Decoy Carver & Storyteller
Bill Massey was one of the last of the St. Lawrence River guides and traditional decoy makers. He always lived close to the water. He was given his first boat at the age of 6 so that he could commute to school from the family’s island home in Chippewa Bay. Massey learned the art of carving decoys from his grandfather and father, as well as from the great Alexandria Bay carver, Chauncey Wheeler. For more than 70 years, Massey carved countless decoys, both for hunting and for prized decorations. He didn’t use photographs as models; rather he relied on his vast knowledge of St. Lawrence River birds, gained through the first-hand contact. Over the years Bill Massey participated in many exhibitions and competitions, often winning prizes for his carvings or his sharpshooting skills. He participated in the National Folk Festival in Vienna, Virginia, in 1980 and was nominated for the prestigious National Heritage Fellowship in 1991.
In the video clip below, William Massey discusses childhood on St. Lawrence, and influences on his decoy carving.
Click and listen to the audio clips below to learn more about William Massey:
Winter mornings in the days of market hunting ducks.
On ‘Miss Hazelton’: a teenager with a fast boat.