Biography of Asa William Finley
Merced County, CA Biographies





ASA WILLIAM FINLEY
A very highly learned California pioneer, now eighty one years of age, is Asa William Finley, who is at present making his home at Hotel Stevinson with his daughter, Mrs. G. H. Blount of Stevinson, Cal. He is one of the oldest, if not indeed the oldest living settler in California, in point of time of residence, having been a boy baby of two years of age in his mother's arms when his father, mother and grandfather, Capt. William Campbell, crossed the plains to California in 1846. They landed at Santa Clara, Cal., in October, 1846, settling there when every able bodied male person, over fifteen years of age, enlisted and served under John C. Fremont. He was born in Saline County, Mo., July 23, 1844, a son of Asa Wallace and Sarah (Campbell) Finley, both born in Kentucky, where grandfather Campbell was a tanner, though they later moved to Missouri. The train started from Marshall, Saline County, Mo., in April, 1846. They were all ordered to rendezvous at St. Joseph, Mo. After traveling some days, there being a train of 100 wagons, it was found that the train was too large; so they decided to divide up the train. This was done and William Campbell was duly elected captain of his division or train. Campbell's company elected Kit Carson as their guide to take them over the Sierras. The other company, which was a part of the original train and known as the Donner party, ill fated in history, selected Hastings as their guide. Kit Carson hurried his train through, while Hastings' dilatoriness led to being caught in the snows and the sad fate of the Donner party. A son of Capt. William Campbell, namely Benjamin Campbell, took up 160 acres of government land located between two Spanish grants in Santa Clara County; and when the railroad from San Jose to Santa Cruz went through, Benjamin Campbell donated the depot site, and the town of Campbell, Santa Clara County, was named after him. The Finley family originally came from Ireland. The Campbells were of Scotch origin. The father and William Campbell and his two sons, Benjamin and David, all served under Fremont. Asa Wallace Finley became a farmer and raised wheat two miles south of Santa Clara. Capt. William Campbell, together with Asa Wallace Finley, built the first sawmill in Santa Clara County. It was built near what is now Saratoga, back in the mountains, and was operated by them. They manufactured fir and redwood lumber, which at that time was worth $300 per thousand. Capt. William Campbell then built the first American store building in San Jose and was San Jose's first American merchant. There the Finley children grew up. The parents had seven children, of whom our subject is the second, and the youngest born in Missouri. The mother died in Kern County, when forty five years of age. The father married a second time, to Miss Jane Steele, who also died, leaving one child. He was married a third time in Missouri to Mrs. Bessie Loper. He died at Stevinson on February 4, 1910, and was the first person buried in the Stevinson Cemetery.

Asa William Finley was educated in the early public schools of Santa Clara and San Jose and grew up on his father's farm. He was married the first time in Watsonville, Cal., in 1866, to Miss Frances Whisman, born in California. The Whismans and Moodys were members of the Campbell train crossing the plains. She died within three years after the marriage, leaving no children. He was married a second time at Hollister, San Benito County, on October 9, 1872, to Miss Elmira Hastings, a daughter of John Hastings, who died in Missouri. Elmira Hastings came out to California in 1871 with her mother and stepfather and settled that year at Hollister. By this union there were seven children. The first two children, Rufus and Charles, both died in infancy. The others are: Lelia, the wife of G. H. Blount, of Stevinson; Edgar, who died at the age of twenty three years; LeRoy, who married Mrs. Carrie (Eular) Pascoe, and is employed by the Standard Oil Company at Richmond; Ella, the wife of William James of Kernville, Kern County, an extensive stockman; and Nannie L., who passed away at the age of ten years. The wife and mother died on July 30, 1915.

Mr. Finley was engaged in farming and stock raising for the greater part of his life. He bought twenty acres in the Stevinson Colony in 1907, and in 1912 he traded his land for the Hotel Stevinson property. This property he sold to his daughter, Mrs. G. H. Blount, in May, 1925, and she is now conducting the hotel. Mr. Finley is still in the real estate business, having been a licensed realtor for the past five years, and is considered an expert on land values. He has been a consistent and lifelong Democrat and is one of the best preserved men of his years in California. He helped to organize and build the Christian Church at Stevinson, and was called the "father of the Christian Church in Stevinson."

From:
History of Merced County, California
With a Biographical Review
History by John Outcalt
Historic Record Company
Los Angeles, California 1925


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