Posted by: Cornwall Community Museum | September 5, 2015

Finch Ontario


scan0001The Village of Finch and Finch Township, according to historian J.G. Harkness were named after the Finch family, “related by marriage to Viscount Stormont,” for whom the county was called after.

Originally known as “Gray’s Corners,” after merchant Nelson Gray, the name was changed to South Finch and then just Finch after the CPR rail line went through in 1885.scan0002


An early 20th century photocard showing Main Street Finch looking south.

Nelson Gray was soon followed in business by blacksmith Dougall Park in 1856.  At the same time Alexander Cameron opened a grocery store, that was taken over by Angus and postmaster Duncan G. McMillan.scan0003


Situated on the Payne River, this stream was named in honour of Allan Glen Payne, one of the township’s first four settlers.  Using the waterpower from the river, Jerry Merkley, Mrs. H. McMonagle and Mrs. Gordon Ouderkirk built local mills.scan0005


A postcard of the Methodist Parsonage and Rev. A.J. Bolton, 1910.  The first Methodists held their services in the Orange Hall.  In 1885 this congregation became part of the circuit under Rev. A.H. Visser.scan0006


“A Bit of Dancing” at the Steam Show held in Finch in 1985.


A postcard showing the devastation after the great fire of May 16, 1907.

As the village grew, it attracted business men as Don “Tailor” MacMillan, piano salesmen John B. and Dan Mulheran, and A.J. McDougal”s furniture shop.  Seeing a coming trend the Brownlees operated a car dealership and garage while conducting their funeral business.  Like so many of the county’s villages, it also had a cheese factory operated by George L. McLean.scan0008


The first church, St. Luke’s Presbyterian was founded in 1840, predating the official establishment of the village by 14 years.  While the cornerstone of St. Bernard’s Roman Catholic Church was not laid until 1889.

According to the authors of the PIONEER HISTORY OF FINCH TOWNSHIP the first school was known as “The Fleming School.”  A log structure and without a clock, tradition related that the first Master Hector McLean told “the time by the sun’s shadow.”

Like so many settlements fire has destroyed much of the built-up heritage.  The most disastrous fire was started about 2:30 on May 16, 1907 when a bonfire got out of control.scan0011

Spreading rapidly it destroyed several stores, the bank, the Methodist Church, the IOOF Lodge Rooms, the library and several homes.  The next day around 10:30 pm, a second conflaguration brokje out in J.W. Low’s General Store consuming several other businesses, the telephone and telegraph office and the Presbyterian Church.  Causing over $91,000 in damage in two days the only protection the village had was the Bucket Brigade.scan0012



Interior Finch CPR/NYC Interlocking Tower – March 6, 1954. Photo facing north-west, showing the interior of the interlocking tower, second level at the CPR/NYC junction. The levers shown aligned signals, crossing diamonds and switches for trains from both lines to cross. Taken three years before the Feb. 15, 1957 abandonment of the NYC line. Tower demolished in the early 1960’s.scan0015


VON Nurse Marcella Curran, Finch.scan0016


Pre World War I postcard of Church Street, Finch.

This is just a small selection from Finch files in the archives at the Cornwall Community Museum in the Wood House in Cornwall.  The museum has 100s of files containing the histories of Stormont, Dundas and of course Cornwall.  We have transferred our Glengarry County material to the archive in Alexandria.

The museum is open for research Wed. to Sun., 11 am to 4 pm.

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