Finley Family

Transcribed by Martha J. Kounse

The following article was prepared by the Women’s Civil Club and pays a tribute to the FINLEY Family, who came to Ironton by wagon train.
Ironton Tribune, July 25, 1976

Mrs. Flossie COPNEY, the great-great-granddaughter of a slave owner from Va., celebrated her 89th birthday recently. It was a beautiful Thursday afternoon in June that Mrs. COPNEY reminiscence about the family life to her niece by marriage. Mrs. COPNEY is the last surviving member of a family of thirteen great-grandchildren of Josh. Josh, was a horseman for a slave owner named Mr. FINLEY. Flossie does not remember the name of her great-grandfather, only that he was called Josh. In upper Va. lived an Indian Princess whose name was Polly, who had been stolen and sold as a slave. The Quakers in that area got her to sue for her freedom. As a result, she was awarded her freedom, $100.00 in cash and a horse. She took this and left upper Va. and on to the Plantation of Mr. FINLEY and went to work in the house where Josh worked and lived. Mr. FINLEY was successful in getting Josh and Polly to marry. To this union were born several children, one whose name was Thomas who was the grandfather of Mrs. COPNEY. Thomas died at the age of 91.

Mr. FINLEY was the slave owner had been a school teacher and had taught Josh to read and write and also taught several of the children of Josh and Polly to read and write. At this time he was getting on in age and passed away, but before he died he gave Polly and Josh his land possessions, and also their freedom. They enjoyed the freedom with the family, but at the death of Polly and Josh and their children inherited land and other possessions, there was not happiness any longer for the children. Neighboring white felt that it was too much for Negroes to own because of pressure they were forced to sell.

They took the money and purchased three covered wagons which made the train. The fact that Josh had been a slave of Mr. FINLEY, he naturally took is name. It was now that Thomas FINLEY took his children and his sisters and brothers and left Va., traveling the mountainous roads by covered wagon and came to Ironton. They traveled during the warm weather leaving Va. in the spring of the year, reaching Ironton about Sept, before the weather became cold. The first night in Ironton, they camped in a field on South 9th Street between Madison & Quincy Streets, which is now a Housing Development. They camped just across the street from the home of a Mrs.. SINKFORD.

Mrs. SINKFORD made the wagon train welcome to draw water from her well, which they carried across the street to the camp. The family camped there for a short period of time, then moving the wagon train onto Vesuvius Furnace where the men were able to go to work making charcoal.

A young man worked there whose name was John EVANS, whose father was Indian and mother white, met and later married Lucy Ann FINLEY of the wagon train. To this union came these children: Thomas, Addie, Ella, Rebecca, Sophie, Myrtle, Wilma, Edwin, Blanche, Arthur, Flossie of whom we pay tribute today, was born June 9, 1887. She was born on the GILRUTH farm below Hanging Rock and attended her first school in a two-room building at LaGrange Station. Her brothers and sisters attended the school for blacks which was located on Jefferson Street between 8th Street and Depot Square. The school was integrated in the late 1800’s.