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Fayette County, Iowa  

 History Directory

Past and Present of Fayette County Iowa, 1910

Author: G. Blessin


B. F. Bowen & Company, Indianapolis, Indiana


Vol. I, Biographical Sketches



~Page 1245~


Benoni W. Finch


There are many reasons why the life record of the late Benoni W. Finch of West Union, should be given a conspicuous position in a history of Fayette county, partly because of his long residence here and his commendable work in the general development of the locality, and partly because of the exemplary life he led, setting the youth of the land a worthy example, which, if they would but follow, would doubtless be of great assistance to them in all walks of life. During the days of national peril in the early sixties Mr. Finch was one of those patriots of the North who proved his love and loyalty to the government on the long and tiresome marches, on the tented field and amid the carnage of battle. To such men the country is under a debt of gratitude which it cannot pay, and in centuries yet to be, posterity will commemorate their chivalry in fitting eulogy and tell their knightly deeds in story and song. Like thousands of comrades equally as brave and self-sacrificing as himself, Mr. Finch did his duty nobly and well, as, indeed, he did in all walks of life, never betraying any trust reposed in him. Thus, for this and many another praise-worthy trait of character he deserved the eminent esteem in which he was held by a host of friends and acquaintances.

Mr. Finch was one of the pioneers of Fayette county and a native of Niles, Berrien county, Michigan, where his birth occurred on March 1, 1831, the son of Moses and Huldah (Gardner) Finch. According to tradition, three Finch brothers came to America from England just before the Revolutionary war, and from one of the trio was descended the subject. Family records show that Moses Finch was born in Genesee Flats, New York, in November. 1799, and died in November, 1848. His wife, a native of Ohio, died in 1837. In 1830 the Finch family moved to Michigan, where Moses and three brothers purchased an Indian reservation near Niles and settled thereon. The family moved to Jefferson county, Wisconsin, in 1845, and settled near Lake Koshonong, where the father died three years later, leaving two sons and four daughters. Hannah, the eldest, married Cyrus Hyde, of Ft. Atkinson, Wisconsin, he being deceased at this writing; Gilbert B. is a farmer in Westfield township, Fayette county, Iowa, now living retired in Fayette.

Benoni W. Finch came to Fayette county, Iowa, on June 18, 1857, and located at Albany, Westfield township, where he taught school during the winter season, spending the summer months in a cabinet shop. While still living in Westfield township, October 31, 1861, he married Mary E. Butler, a native of Muskingum county, Ohio, born February 15, 1843, and a daughter of Harrison Butler and wife. To this union five children were born: Eugene, born November 21, 1862, died in February, 1863; Gilbert Benoni, born August 3, 1866; William H., born December 29, 1868, died March 3, 1885; Margaret G., born July 9, 1870, married Earl B. Branch, of West Union; and Ella, born July, 12, 1872, lives in West Union, and is the wife of M. 0. Musser. The oldest living child, Gilbert B., is a resident of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. He was educated in the West Union schools, and for some time he was a traveling salesman. He is a very successful business man.

On August 11, 1862, Benoni W. Finch enlisted in Company G, Thirty-eighth Iowa Volunteer Infantry, and he participated in the siege of Vicksburg, the siege and capture of Fort Morgan, Alabama, the siege, charge and capture of Fort Blakely, the defense of Mobile and the charge against the stronghold on April 9, 1865. He made seven voyages with his regiment on the gulf of Mexico and also traveled thousands of miles by rail and steamship, crossing the gulf to Texas, was in the garrison on the border of Mexico from November, 1863, to July, 1864, thence went to Fort Morgan, Alabama, thence to Donaldsonville, Louisiana, where he did garrison duty two months, thence to Morganza, Mississippi, December 12, 1864, where his regiment was consolidated with the Thirty-fourth Iowa Infantry. The troops were then sent to Kenner Station, eight miles above New Orleans, thence to Barrancas. Florida, later to Pensacola, then to Fort Blakey, Alabama, and Mobile, then to Selma, that state, then again to Mobile, where it witnessed the explosion of the magazine, hundreds being killed. The regiment was sent to Houston, Texas, and mustered out at that place on August 15, 1865, being finally discharged at Davenport, Iowa, September 6th following. Mr. Finch served three years and twenty-five days, during which time he was never off duty except when sick, proving a very gallant soldier. Although his health was permanently impaired during the service, he never regretted that he had been of some use to his country.

Mr. Finch returned to Fayette county after the war. and, in company with his brother, purchased a farm near Fayette where he remained actively engaged in work on the same until October, 1872, at which time he came to West Union, where he was employed as clerk in a grocery store. He and Frank Ward embarked in the grocery business in 1874. Later Joseph Butler bought Mr. Ward's interest and subsequently sold to A. C. Gunsalus, whose interest Mr. Finch purchased in 1882. He conducted the business alone for two years, then sold out, having enjoyed a very satisfactory patronage all the while. He subsequently had to take back the realty and in July, 1889, again resumed the grocery business, selling out the following November. In April, 1887, Mr. Finch was appointed justice of the peace, serving out an unexpired term, and was elected to that office the following November and he continued to serve in that capacity until his death, giving eminent satisfaction, his decisions always being considered as fair and according to the law governing such. During the latter part of his life he represented a number of first-class fire insurance companies. He was a Republican in politics and for many years he served in the city council of West Union. He was an active member of Abernathy Post No. 48, Grand Army of the Republic, and of West Union Lodge No. 25, Ancient Order of United Workmen, and was recorder for some time of the same.

The death of this excellent citizen occurred on June 25, 1909. His health had been failing rapidly for some years, and he spent the winter of 1904 and 1903 in California and the Winter of 1908 and 1909 in Florida. He was a member of the Methodist Episcopal church of West Union. He was a fine type of the self-made man, growing up in a frontier country as an orphan, securing his education under most adverse circumstances, but he became an intelligent and refined man. In an active life in West Union of over thirty years no one could say aught against him in any way, his character always being strong and courageous. In his private life his character shone with peculiar luster, and as a public spirited citizen and patriot he was well known and admired by all classes for his many praiseworthy attributes.

~transcribed for the Fayette Co IAGenWeb Project by Cheryl Walker


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