EDITOR’S NOTE–This is another article on Findlay-area history adapted from a series written from 1959 to 1974 by the late R.L. Heminger, publisher and editor of The Courier.
By R.L. HEMINGER
The Mercersburg, Pa., historical work, from which we drew considerable information in last week’s article with regard to Col. James Findlay, for whom our city is named, and the Findlay family back in Pennsylvania, contains other facts of much interest about the Findlays.
Mrs. James Findlay, who had become a widow in 1835, lived in the White House at Washington for a brief period of one month, in 1841. A niece, Jane Irwin, had been brought up by the Findlays, and she married Col. William Henry Harrison Jr., whose father, bearing the same name, had been elected president of the United States in the 1840 election.
When March 4, 1841, the time for the Harrison inauguration, arrived, the new president’s wife was unable to go to Washington because of illness. The family home was at North Bend, Ohio. So, her daughter-in-law, the wife of the Harrison son, went instead, taking with her aunt, Mrs. James Findlay.
PRESIDENT HARRISON CAUGHT pneumonia at the inauguration and died April 4, only a month after he became chief executive. Mrs. Findlay was at the White House during the president’s illness, with her niece.
James and William Findlay married sisters, whose last names were Irwin. James’ wife was named Jane. Robert Smith, an uncle of the Findlay brothers, married a third Irwin sister, thus making the uncle brother-in-law to his tow nephews. Robert Smith was a prominent figure in public life in Pennsylvania, having been speaker of the state’s House of Representatives and later becoming a judge.
William Findlay was born three years after his brother James. He was elected governor of Pennsylvania in 1817. He remained governor until 1820 when he lost to the candidate whom he had defeated back in 1817. He soon became United States senator and at the expiration of his term at Washington was appointed director of the United States mint at Philadelphia. A daughter was the wife of a later governor of the state, passing away in their home in 1846.
He was active early in his career in public life in a movement which transferred the state capital from Lancaster to Harrisburg. He served as a member of the Pennsylvania legislature and also as state treasurer.
John Findlay, the oldest son in the Findlay family, served in Congress from a Pennsylvania district from 1821 to 1827. He later was appointed postmaster of Chambersburg, Pa., by President Andrew Jackson, a close friend.
Jonathan Findlay, a younger brother of James, decided to go west and went to Missouri where he became an outstanding leader. He made his home in the Kansas City area. He helped to bring the state of Missouri into being and was an active member of the commission that framed the new constitution, under which the new state asked for admission to the Union.
The Mercersburg volume makes this statement with regard to the Findlay family:
“Such a record of four of six brothers entitles that early family to some notice in the annals of Mercersburg and while their progeny may not have followed the footsteps of the public careers of these brothers, they derive much satisfaction from the fact that the private life of the Findlay brothers is as open to inspection as their public life and that these were honest, hardworking, kindly, God-fearing men who ‘owed no man, but to love one another.’”
AT THE OUTSET OF THE article is the Mercersburg history, the statement is made that “Not one person is now living in the state named Findlay,” although there are direct descendants of the line within the state.
“But the Findlay name has passed out of the state’s life,” comments the author of the article.
By way of completion of the record of Col. James Findlay, who built the fort here in 1812 and whose name the city now bears, served as mayor of the city of Cincinnati in 1805 and 1806 and again in 1810 and 1811. He was an unsuccessful candidate for governor of Ohio in 1834 as the Whig nominee, but was defeated by Robert Lucas. He died a year later.