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Hudson-Mohawk Genealogical and Family Memoirs:
Finley

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[This information is from Vol. I, pp. 323-326 of Hudson-Mohawk Genealogical and Family Memoirs, edited by Cuyler Reynolds (New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1911). It is in the Reference collection of the Schenectady County Public Library at R 929.1 R45. Some of the formatting of the original, especially in lists of descendants, may have been altered slightly for ease of reading.]

The clan Finley of Scotland, a Highland family of the country in the vicinity of Inverness, is said to be one of the most ancient of all Highland clans. The late Rev. John Borland Finley, Ph.D., Kithaurny, Pennsylvania, who was an ardent lover of family history and devoted much time and labor in researches, says: "The Clan Finley is the most ancient and whole family of Scotland, and existed before a Campbell or a Stewart or a Cameron or a MacDonald had an existence." By the same authority the origin of the clan is derived from "Macbeth." The Encyclopedia Britannica says in substance "Macbeth (son of Finley, a Celtic chieftain in Scotland, and mormaor of Moray, son of Ruadher) succeeded his father as mormaor of Moray, became a successful general under and afterwards revolted against and killed in battle, Duncan, King of Scotland. Upon Duncan's death he succeeded to the crown and reigned as king of Scotland from A.D. 1040 until his death in 1057." Dr. Finley ascribes the downfall of the clan to Macbeth's death, which was brought about by a mere party combination, after which the clan was declared to be illegal, and the tartan and the clan were known as that of Farquharson. It is possible that some kinship may have existed between the families of Finley and Farquharson, one of the latter name who was slain at Pinkie in 1547, bore the name of Finley Mor on account of his great height and strength. The clan was in existence as a clan long after the days of Macbeth. This fact is certain and also the facts are certain of its existence during the sixteenth century, and that some time before the seventeenth century the fortunes of the clan had fallen. At some time after the beginning of the seventeenth century the clan began to migrate from Inverness, southward into the lowlands and southwesterly toward the western coast of Scotland. Certain members stopped on the westerly coast of Scotland, others crossed over into the north of Ireland. The Irish branches are very numerous, perhaps the best known individual of the Irish settlers was late Sir Thomas Finley, of Sugarloaf, Betterby county, Caran. The earliest known spelling of the name is Finlig, subsequently Finligh and Finley. According to Dr. Finley, the names Finley, Finlay, Findlay, Findley, are identical in origin, the name Finley being Scotch, pure and simple, and all others modern and merely an attempt to Anglicize it. The name itself certainly suggests Celtic ancestry, and it is more than probable that when the Finleys of Inverness crossed over during the seventeenth century into the northern part of Ireland they were simply returning to the "Scotch Magir" whence their ancestors had departed many centuries before.

During the period between 1700 and 1750 there was considerable and continuous emigration of the Scotch-Irish to America, and among them were many of the clan Finley, who gave of their sterling stock for the settling of the colonies. On the 24th of September, 1734, Michael Finley with seven sons, the names of five of whom are definitely known, arrived in this country from the county of Armagh, province of Ulster, Ireland, and settled in Pennsylvania, ultimately in Chester county. Michael Finley was a farmer by occupation, a Presbyterian in religion, and among his sons is one Samuel Finley, who became the Rev. Samuel Finley, M.A., D.D., president of Princeton College, New Jersey. The other brothers were the Rev. James Finley, John, William, and Michael Finley. It is known that the first five married, and now have descendants living in various parts of this country. Samuel was nineteen when he came to America. He was ordained a minister in 1743, settled in West Nottingham, Maryland, where in an academy which he established he qualified many youths for usefulness. His intense application to his duties impaired his health and he went to Philadelphia, where he died, July 16, 1766, in the fifty-first year of his age. His grave is in Arlington, Pennsylvania. He received the degree of Doctor of Divinity from the University of Glasgow. Dr. Finley was twice married, his first wife being Sarah Hall, an aunt of Dr. Benjamin Rush, and they had the following children:

  1. Susannah, married Isaac Snowdon, and from this marriage most of the present Snowdons of Pennsylvania descend.
  2. Rebecca, married Samuel Breese, and their daughter, Ann Breese, married Rev. J. Morse, one of their children being Samuel Finley Breese Morse, the inventor of the telegraph.
  3. Ebenezer; a captain in the Maryland line during the revolution; and, who later settled in Ohio, leaving no children.
  4. James Edward Burr, a surgeon in the revolutionary war, who ultimately settled in Charlestown, South Carolina.
  5. Joseph, a physician, who died in early life.
  6. John H., a lieutenant in the Pennsylvania line during the revolution and a graduate of Princeton College; he married Martha Berkley and settled in Westmoreland county, Pennsylvania. Samuel, a graduate of Princeton, a physician and surgeon in the Massachusetts line during the revolutionary war.

Dr. John H. Finley, president of the College of the City of New York, is a descendant of one of the brothers of President Samuel Finley, of Princeton. Lieutenant John H. Finley, sixth child of President Samuel Finley, probably settled in Westmoreland, Pennsylvania. His first son, Major John Finley, was the first white man to visit the country now forming the state of Kentucky. He settled at Blue Licks, Kentucky. The second son, Michael, settled at Mud Licks, Kentucky. The third son, Major Samuel Finley, was a major in the Virginia line at the time of the revolution, and commanded a regigent of riflemen in the war of 1812. Robert Finley, D.D., president of Franklin College, Athens, Georgia, was a native of Princeton, and graduated at that college in 1787. He died in 1817, aged forty-five years. John Harris, whose son was the founder of Harrisburg, settled on the Susquehanna before 1730. Associated with him after that date is John Finley, who married the daughter of Harris in 1744. He made trading trips from the Harris settlement during that decade as far west as the present state of Ohio, and there is reason to believe that he penetrated to the Yadkin Valley before 1750. In 1752 he traversed northern Kentucky as far as the falls of the Ohio river. He served in Braddock's campaign of 1755 as a companion of Daniel Boone, whose father had removed from Bucks county and settled on the Yadkin at Homan's Ford in 1748.

Dr. John McMillan and the Finleys established more than a dozen colleges in the west and south. It has been the boast of Ulstermen that the first general who fell in the revolution was an Ulsterman, Richard Montgomery, who fought at the siege of Quebec; and that Samuel Finley, president of Princeton College, and Francis Allison, had a conspicuous place in educating the American mind to independence.

(I) The Finleys now resident in Troy, descend from an Irish ancestor, Goin Finley, a descendant of the Scotch family previously chronicled. Goin Finley came to this country about 1730. In 1734 he was a resident of Edgartown and in 1739 was received into the church, as from Ireland, with his wife Mary, and on August 2 of that year their children, Samuel, John, William, Margaret, Elizabeth and Mary were baptized. In the next year Jane was baptized.

The church records show the admission of Abraham Finley and wife Elizabeth a few weeks after Goin was received. Agnes Wheir, a sister of Goin, was also a resident in Edgartown. His son Samuel married Hannah, daughter of James Hamlin, of Edgartown, probably a widow of John Selew, of Glastonbury. Some time between 1739 and 1746 Goin Finley settled with his brother John and possibly sister Elizabeth at Glastonbury, Connecticut. In 1746 Goin Finley bought one hundred acres of land from Elizabeth Bingham. Another deed, April 28, 1752, bears his name.

His will dated June 29, 1767, and probated July 2, 1771, mentions his wife Mary, daughters Margaret Couel, and Elizabeth Chamberlain, sons Samuel and John, and daughters Jane and Anne. It gives the land in the "Parish of Marlborough where Samuel now lives."

(II) Captain Samuel Finley, son of Goin and Mary Finley, in will dated Glastonbury, Connecticut, February 7, 1793, mentions "my wife, Lydia," "son Samuel to have house where he now lifes (Parish of Marlborough); my grandsons John Jones and Samuel Finley Jones and my son David." Captain Samuel Finley's will was probated October 6, 1797. A codicil dated January 18, 1797 "having intelligence that John Jones has gone to sea and all on board ship lost." Samuel Finley Jones was to have his brother's part of the bequest. He died August 1, 1797, aged seventy-five years. He had Samuel, David and a daughter who married John Jones.

As showing the strength of religious conviction in that period, the following incident as quoted by Mr. Hanna (author of The Scotch-Irish in America) is interesting, it being understood that the established religion of New England was according to the Congregational form, while Princeton, New Jersey, and Philadelphia were Scotch Presbyterian. In Milford, New Haven county, Connecticut, in 1741, a considerable minority of the people left the established Congregational church and "professed themselves to be Presbyterians according to the church of Scotland." Thirty-nine of these people qualified themselves under the Toleration Act and established a Presbyterian church there in 1742. The Rev. Benajah Case preached to them on the 17th of that month, for which offense he was fined and imprisoned. The people made preparations to build a meeting house in May, 1742, but the town refused to let them build it on the common. In 1743, at the request of the congregation, the New Brunswick Presbytry sent them as a supply the Rev. Samuel Finley, afterward president of Princeton College. He preached at Milford, August 25, and at New Haven on September 1. For this offense he was prosecuted, tried and condemned. For disturbing the peace of the community, Governor Law ordered him transported as a vagrant from town to town out of the colony. This treatment was considered by some of the foremost civilians of Connecticut, and of the city of New York, to be so contrary to the spirit and letter of the British constitution as to work a forfeiture of the colonial charter.

(III) Samuel (2), son of Captain Samuel (1) and Lydia Finley, was born in 1749. He married, 1772, Delight, daughter of Solomon Phelps, of Hebron, Connecticut; died at Geneseo, New York, October 6, 1806. Children: Samuel and David were baptized in 1778, Delight in June, 1780, Sophia Barber, in September, 1794. In 1805, Samuel Finley removed with his wife and four children to the opening of the Geneseo Valley by the Wadsworth family and settled at Geneseo, New York. (See report of the Centennial of the town of Marlborough.) A considerable number of the residents of the town of Marlborough went to Geneseo in 1805 and later. Among those were the following who were dismissed from the church that year: Joseph Kneeland, David Kneeland and wife, Samuel Finley and wife, Deacon Skinner and wife, several of the sons going with them, all recommended to the church of Christ in Geneseo. The Congregational Society was organized in Geneseo, May 5, 1810, with twenty-five members, among them David Skinner, Jerusha Skinner, David Kneeland, Mercy Kneeland, Dolly R. Beach, Delight Finley, Betsy Finley and Abigail Case. James Wadsworth, son of John Wadsworth of Durham, Connecticut, and a descendant of William Wadsworth, of Hartford, Connecticut, was born in Durham, April 20, 1768. In 1790 James Wadsworth. and his brother William removed to the Geneseo Valley. All provisions had to be hauled through the forests, and they took several laborers with them to clear the land. They ascended the Hudson to the mouth of the Mohawk, thence to Schenectady. Within a few years they had erected a grist mill and a saw mill at Geneseo. James attended to the duties of the land office while William farmed and raised stock. Geneseo was then considered to be the "far west." Wadsworth, in 1805, wrote to Samuel Finley that he was desirous of securing settlers and offered three farms in Geneseo in exchange for an old farm at the old residence, Marlborough, provided the families were thrifty and of good principle. In 1803 Wadsworth had fixed the value of the land at four and five dollars per acre and offered five thousand acres for sale. The journey from New York City to Geneseo, two hundred and twenty miles, was made in twenty days in November, 1804, one hundred bushels of wheat in one load being drawn by four yoke of oxen. Major-General William Wadsworth held the office of supervisor for twenty-one years. In 1834 the Congregational Society adopted the form of government of the Presbyterians, becoming the Second Presbyterian Church of Geneseo; the first was organized in 1795 by settlers from Pennsylvania of Scotch-Irish descent. Temple Hill was early selected by Wadsworth for an academy site. In 1827 the present (1876) academy buildings were complete.

(IV) David, son of Samuel (2) and Delight (Phelps) Finley, was born in Marlborough, Connecticut, 1777, died in Avon, New York, December 23, 1812. He married, November 5, 1800, Jerusha Skinner. Children:

  1. Frances, born August 6, 1801; married George Paddock.
  2. Jerusha, May 11, 1804, died in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, March 14, 1841; married Gustavus Foster.
  3. Homer Skinner, October 30, 1808, died in Cobden, Illinois, July 5, 1881; married Eliza Barrows.
  4. David, see forward.

(V) David (2), son of David (1) and Jerusha (Skinner) Finley, was born August 10, 1812, in Avon, New York. He spent the early years of his life in the then "far west" of Indiana and Wisconsin. He was settled at Michigan city in 1836 where he married (first) Lucy Ann (Sumner) Thorndyke, who died December 21, 1839; no issue. David Finley then removed to Milwaukee, remaining in Wisconsin until about 1845, when he came east, settling in Champlain, New York, where he lived until his death, August 30, 1881. He established in Champlain a foundry and machine shop, which is still continued as the Sheridan Iron Works. He married (second) Susan Barlow Weeks, of St. Albans, Vermont, who still resides at Champlain. Children: William, Frances Aurelia, Margaret Cornelia, Helen Maria, Charles Homer, Horace Blunt, William, David. Horace Blunt Finley has been a resident of Troy since 1883.

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