Local History Collections

Collection ID: LH-72
Location: LH-72

(Description ID: 594565)

Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library & Museums

Reverend James B. Finley


Biographical Sketch
Scope and Content

The Reverend James B. Finley Collection was acquired by the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center in 1942. 

Biographical Sketch
Reverend James B. Finley was a Methodist clergyman and author born in western North Carolina in 1781.  He was the son of Robert W. Finley, a Presbyterian (later Methodist) minister, and Rebecca Bradley.  His father, who studied for the ministry at Princeton, engaged in missionary activity in North Carolina, Georgia, Virginia, and Kentucky. He later settled north of the Ohio River near Chillicothe, Ohio, in 1796.  Young Finley was educated at a school run by his father in Bourbon County, Kentucky.  He later studied medicine and was admitted to practice in Ohio, however, his love of farming and hunting proved more powerful.  He married Hannah Strane in 1801; they had one daughter.  The Finleys settled in an isolated log cabin in Highland County, Ohio.

In August 1801, Finley attended the great Cane Ridge camp meeting near Paris, Kentucky.  At the Cane Ridge Church, previously served by his father, Finley witnessed the dramatic outpouring of emotion experienced by Christian believers, and he underwent a conversion experience on his journey home.  It was not until 1808, however, following an incident in which he almost accidentally killed his brother, that Finley turned his life toward Christian ministry.  In 1809, Finley was licensed to preach in the Western Conference of the Methodist Church, which then included all of Ohio as well as neighboring states and territories.  Over the next fifty years, he served the Methodist cause in the West, traveling thousands of miles as a circuit rider, missionary, and presiding elder of frontier districts. 

Finley’s familiarity with Native-American customs prompted Methodist Bishop McKendree to station him at the newly created Wyandot Indian mission at Upper Sandusky, Ohio.  Under Finley’s leadership, the mission prospered with the establishment of a church, school, farm, and store. Finley significantly improved support for the mission during a trip east in 1826 to attend the anniversary of the Methodist Mission Society.  Wyandot preachers Between-the-Logs and Mononcue accompanied him.  Although poor health forced his resignation in 1827, Finley kept in close contact with the Upper Sandusky mission.  A sympathetic defender of Indian rights, he was harshly critical of the federal government’s removal policy that ultimately forced the Wyandot nation to relocate in Kansas in 1843.

Finley also served as a trustee of Ohio Wesleyan University at Delaware, Ohio.  In addition to his other duties, Finley served as the chaplain at the Ohio Penitentiary near Columbus, Ohio, from 1846 to 1849.  He was instrumental in prison reform, including a library program and the separation of youthful offenders from older prisoners.  Finley was also a force in the growing antislavery movement within Methodism.

He published several books based on his journals, the most important of which is his autobiography (1853).  His writings provide insights into pioneer life in Ohio during the early national and Jacksonian eras and important political issues such as Indian removal and the growth of popular denominations in the West.  He died in Eaton, Ohio, in 1857. 

Scope and Content
The bulk of this collection consists primarily of correspondence of Reverend James B. Finley, Methodist Church elders, and officials of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, United States Department of War between the years 1821 and 1838.  Most of the correspondence focuses on the establishment, development, and management of the Wyandot Mission at Upper Sandusky, Ohio. The collection also includes printed broadsides, reports, government documents, and circulars.  Of particular note is the manuscript containing a translation of the Lord’s Prayer in the Wyandot language. The inventory contains an item-level description of the collection. Note: Professor Emeritus Charles C. Cole, Jr., biographer of Finley (Lion of the Forest: James B. Finley, Frontier Reformer, 1994) believes the 1810 diary found in this collection and attributed to Finley is actually a copy made by Finley of the diary of Benjamin Lakin.  See: “A “Sweet Mystery: The Tale of Two Diaries,” Methodist History, 31: 4 (July 1993) pp. 255-261. 

Ac. 241, 295
53 items


1821, May 21. Walker, William, postmaster, Upper Sandusky, O., to Rev. J.B. Finley, Cincinnati, O.

1823, April 14.  Bishop W. McKendree, Baltimore, MD. to Rev. J.B. Finley

1823, Oct. 31.  Calhoun, John C.  Dept. of War.  To Rev. James B. Finley, Upper Sandusky,O.

1823, Nov. 18.  Bangs, Nathan, New York to Rev. J. B. Finley.

1824, March 27.  Johnston, John, Agent for Indian Affairs.  Certificate clearing J. B. Finley of certain implications

1824, April 25.   Walker, Willam, Upper Sandusky, O., to Rev. James B. Finley, Baltimore, Md. 

1824, May 4.  Brown, William, cor. secy., Baltimore, Md.  To Rev. J. B. Finley.

1824, May 17.  Walker, William, Upper Sandusky to Rev. James B. Finley, Barnesville, Ohio.

1824, May 22.  Reece, Richard, Baltimore, Md. to J. B. Finley.

1824, Aug. 9.  McKenney, Thomas L., Dept. of War, Office of Indian Affairs, to Rev. James B. Finley.

1824, Sept. 28.  Hand, Moses, Baltimore, Md., to The Rev. James B. Finley, Sandusky Mission.

1825, Feb. 2.  Brown, William, Franklin Street, Baltimore, Md.  To Rev. James B. Finley, Wyandott Mission, Upper Sandusky, Ohio.

1825, Feb. 15.  Finley, J. B., Upper Sandusky to Martin Kinton, Cincinnati, Ohio.

1825, Feb. 19.  Chubb, Samuel, Jr., secy, to Rev. James Finley, Upper Sandusky, O. Dated Philadelphia, Pa.

1825, March 25, Cass, Lewis, Detroit, Mich., to Rev. J. B. Finley.

1825, Apr. 27.  Jackson, Thomas, cor. secy, to Rev. Jas. B. Finley.  Dated Philadelphia, Pa.

1825, Sept. 1.  Lamplin, Susan, Secy.  To Rev. J. Finley, Missionary.  Dated New York. (inc. note of Daniel DeVinne.

1825, Sept. 16.  Dando, Stephen, New York, to Rev. J. B. Finley, Upper Sandusky, Ohio.

1825, Dec. 15.  Finley, James B., Upper Sandusky, O., to Susan Lamplin, New York.

1826, Feb. 6.  Cass, Lewis, Detroit, Mich., to Rev. James B. Finley, Upper Sandusky, O.

1826, Feb. 6.  McKenney, Thomas L., Dept. of War, Office of Indian Affairs, to Rev. James. B. Finley.

1826, Feb. 16.  Bangs, Nathan, New York to Rev. J. B. Finley.

1826, March 22.  Cass, Lewis, Detroit, Mich., to Rev. J. B. Finley.

1826, May 6.  Cass, Lewis, Detroit, Mich., to Rev. J. B. Finley, Upper Sandusky, O.

1826, May 12.  Bangs, Nathan, New York to Rev. J. B. Finley.

1826, May 12.  Jackson, Thomas, cor. secy, to Philadelphia, Pa.  To Rev. James B. Finley, Upper Sandusky, Ohio.

1826, May 23.  Cass, Lewis.  Detroit, Mich.  To the Superintendents of the Indian Schools at Upper Sandusky, The Miami, The St. Joseph, Mackinac and Green Bay.  Circular.

1827, Feb. 2.  Foreman, Edward, Baltimore, Md., to Rev. James B. Finley, Wyandott Mission School, Upper Sandusky. O.

1827, Feb 9.  McKenny, Thomas L., Dept. of War, Office of Indian Affairs , to Rev. Jas. B. Finley, Supt. Indian School

1827, Oct. 7.  Leib, John L., dated Leibton, 2 miles above Detroit, to Rev. James B. Finley, Upper Sandusky, O.

1827, Oct. 31.  Bangs, Nathan, New York to Rev. J. B. Finley.

1828, May 14.  Foreman, Edward, Baltimore, Md., to Rev. James B. Finley, Pittsburgh, Pa.

1846, April 7.  James Shields, General Land Office to Samuel Williams; enclosed sketch of Cherokee Bay Reservation

Manuscripts, circulars, broadsides

1810, Finley, James B.  Diary of a trip to Upper Sandusky in 1810.

1820, Aug. 16.  Roberts, R. R.  and Springer, C., Secy.  Address to the Chiefs of the Wyandots at Upper Sandusky and the Big Springs, from the council at Chillicothe.

1821, Printed Form (missing possible second page?)

1824, March 31.  Sargent, John, Philadelphia, to James B. Finley, Redghill, Warren County, O.

1825, May 2.  (Finley, J. B.) Council of the Chiefs of the Wyandot Nations, agreeing to make sand brick at the mission.

1825,  Nov.  Emory, Hohn, Cor. Secy.  Circular dated New York.

1826. Finley, J.B.  Inventory of property at the Wyandot Mission.

1826. Report of the Wyandot Indian Mission School, Upper Sandusky.  J. B. Finley, supt.

1826, January 31.  Resolution of the Chiefs of the Wyandot Nation, granting Indian name to Rev. J. B. Finley.  Signed in presence of Isaac Walker, U.S. Interpreter.

1826, Nov. 12.  Articles of J. B. Finley and C. L. Cass for operation of the Mission store at Upper Sandusky.

1827. McKendree, Bishop.  Notes in a Council at Upper Sandusky

1828, January 21.  Letter from the Postmaster General transmitting the information required by the resolution of the House of Representatives of the 8th inst. in relation to a Road through the Wyandot Reservation, between Cincinnati and Portland in the State of Ohio.  Washington, Gales & Seaton, 1828.  House Doc. No. 73, 20th Con., 1st session.

1829-1830. Report of the Wyandot Mission School to Bishop and members of Ohio Annual Conference, Thomas Thompson, Missionary.

1830-1831. Report of the Wyandot Mission School, dated Sept. 6, 1831.

1833. Report of the Missionary of Wyandot and Shawnee Mission.  Elijah H. Pilcher, Missionary.

1834-1835. Report of the Wyandot Mission School, Upper Sandusky.  Thomas Thompson.

1838, Jan. 24. Crume, Moses, Oxford, O., to J. B. Finley.

1838, Feb. 2.  Elliott, Charles; Christie, W. B.; Hamline, L. L. Cincinnati, Ohio.  Copy of the Report of the Committee in relation to Bro. Finley’s manuscript.

n.d. Finley, Rev. James B.  History of the Wyandot Mission.

n.d.  Finley, J. B. Manuscript re: the Omahas or OMauhan Chief tribes.

n.d.  Preble, Joshua.  Lord’s Prayer in Wyandot, and Glossary of Wyandot words. [Oversize]

n.d.  Finley, J. B.  Lord’s Prayer in the Wyandot and English languages.

n.d.  Broadside.  “To the Honorable the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States.”