Superintendent of the County Almshouse

 Bio-Pen Pictures

            There is nothing so decidedly characteristic of the American people as their ability to turn their hands quickly to different occupations, and at the same time make a success of them.  It is this facility which makes this country the home of invention, and places our people at the head of progress.  A gentleman who exemplifies this fact very fully is Mr. James Finley, the Superintendent of the County Almshouse, a man of no common order.

            He was born in the county of Antrim, Ireland, in 1845, the son of William and Eliza (Hanna) Finley, his father being of Scotch descent and his mother of English.  His father was a farmer, and at this calling James was reared, until at the age of eighteen he left the farm and went to flax-dressing, becoming foreman of the flax-mills.  In 1867 he came to the United States, going to Painesville, Ohio, where he worked for Stores, Harrison & Co. in their nurseries.  In 1868 the greater promise of California tempted him hither, since which time he has been a resident.  After visiting the southern portion of the State he came to Santa Clara County, and took a position as engineer in the Saratoga Paper Mills, learning there the trade of paper-making, and continuing at it for four years.  After leaving Saratoga he was engaged for a year in the redwoods of the Santa Cruz Mountains, in the tannery business.  He then went to Sonoma County, acting as engineer for two years.  On his return to San Jose, Mr. Finley entered the machine shops of Joseph Enright as an engineer, also acting as salesman and traveling agent.

 In 1880 he entered the fire department of San Jose as an engineer, and was so engaged until March, 1885, when he received the appointment of Superintendent of the Santa Clara Almshouse, a position which he still retains.  A description of this institution appears in another portion of this work, hence it will not be necessary to say further than that, under the able management of Mr. Finley, it is considered one of the best-conducted institutions of the kind in the country.  His estimable wife acts as matron, and worthily seconds her husband in the conduct of affairs.  It should be stated, however, before dismissing the subject, that under Mr. Finley’s management the institution is self-sustaining.  In the management of the almshouse Mr. Finley displays ability of no mean order, as it is a large and important institution.  He gives universal satisfaction in his position. 

In 1884 he visited Los Angeles County, where he purchased forty acres of fine orchard and vineyard land, thinking then of making his residence there.  He is still the owner of this, excepting only six acres deeded to his father-in-law. In 1881 he married Miss Sarah E. McGary, the daughter of Garret W. and Catherine (Sparks) McGary. Her father was a native of Kentucky, who came to California in the days of ’49.  Her mother was a native of North Carolina, who came to California in 1851.  Mr. and Mrs. Finley have two children, Bessie, born September 24, 1882, and William J., born September 26, 1884.

            In politics Mr. Finley is Republican, of consistent principles, believing in the protection of American interests and industries.  He is a member of the American Legion of Honor, in high standing.

Pen Pictures From The Garden of the World or Santa Clara County, California, Illustrated. - Edited by H. S. Foote.- Chicago:  The Lewis Publishing Company, 1888. p. 220-221

Transcribed by Kathy Sedler


SANTA CLARA COUNTY The Valley of Heart's Delight