George W. Finger
GEORGE W. FINGER, TARRANT COUNTY. The death of Hon. Geo. W. Finger a few months after he entered upon the discharge of his duties as Commissioner of the General Land Office of Texas, removed from public life one of its purest and brightest ornaments in this State, from the citizenship of Texas, a factor powerful for good, from the social circle a genial companion and steadfast friend, whose presence ever dispelled shadows of sadness and gloom, and from his home a devoted husband and father. The loss sustained by the public in his death is irreparable. While the work of the world will go forward, conducted by other hands, the place he occupied in the circle of his immediate fellow laborers of this generation and in the affections of those who were closely associated with him can never be filled.
A kind friend sent the following consolatory lines to
his widow in the first sad hours of her bereavement. They contain nearly
all that could have been said to soothe into the peace of Christian
resignation the grief of the members of his household, where, like Burns
good cottager, he was recognized as sage, priest, and king:
Louis Finger rendered valuable service upon the frontier in early days in sometimes preventing and in others repelling Indian raids. He went to California during the gold fever, but soon returned to Texas. In the great war between the States (1861-5), although he was past the age when military service could be exacted of him, he enlisted in the Confederate army, was assigned to duty in Texas, and for some time helped guard Federal prisoners at Tyler. After the war he devoted himself to his farm. He was for a number of years justice of the peace at Arlington. His wife was born July 19, 1818, and is now 85 years of agea venerable and beloved mother in Israel.
The following children were born to them: Mary J.,
wife of W. M. Harrison, a wealthy farmer at Arlington; Peter, who died in
the Confederate army; Susan, widow of R. C. Ford, now living at the old
home with her mother; Rachel, wife of Joseph C. Tolliver, a prominent
farmer in Tarrant county; John F., a cattleman in Hall county; Francis,
who died at nine years of age; Joseph, who resides with his mother and
conducts the farm, and Geo. W.
J.W. Stephens, Hon. James Taylor, now County Attorney of Dallas County; J. H. Walker, now Assistant Financial Agent of the State Penitentiaries; Hon. John T. Craddock, and a number of other men at this writing occupying prominent positions in Texas and who were then and in all later years his devoted friends. He was an apt student; graduated with honor at the age of 20; went to Fort Worth; read law in the office of Smith & Jarvis, and later in the office of Hon. John P. Templeton (subsequently Attorney-General of Texas), and was admitted to the bar in 1878.
December 19, 1880, he was united in marriage at Arlington to Miss Jessie L. Butler, daughter of Jesse S. and Mrs. Mary E. (Lott) Butler and granddaughter of Col. Everett E. Lott. The children of this marriage, now living, are: Olin W., who will be 21 years of age November 26, 1903, is recording clerk in the General Land Office, and is a young man of the brightest intellectual and moral promise; Grace, 14 years of age, now attending St. Marys Academy in Austin, and Geo. W. Jr., 8 years of age.
Mrs. Finger was born and reared in Smith County;
graduated from the college at Omen, in that county; moved to Arlington
with her widowed mother (who is now dead), in 1878; resides in Austin with
her family; holds a desk in the department of the Comptroller of Public
Accounts; is a most estimable Christian lady, and has a wide circle of
admiring friends, not only at the capital, but throughout the State.
Three children were born to Mrs. Fingers parents: Mrs. Finger, Fannie L., wife of L. C. Harrison, a merchant at Pryor Creek, I. T., and William Everett (Sam) Butler, from 1898 to 1902 (when he declined to further be a candidate), County Clerk of Tarrant county.
Mr. and Mrs. Geo. W. Finger lived at Arlington for four or five years, after their marriage, during which time he was elected and served as the first mayor of the town, and then moved to Fort Worth, where he was appointed Assistant County Attorney, and served as such for four years with County Attorney B. P. Ayres. He afterwards, until 1891, practiced law as a member of the law firm of Stedman, Ayres & Finger, his partners being Judge N. A. Stedman and Hon. B. P. Ayres.
Mr. Finger was reading clerk of the House of Representatives of the Eighteenth, Nineteenth, Twentieth, and Twenty-second Legislatures, chief clerk of the Twenty-third Legislature, and, in the absence of the Secretary of State, presided over the House of the Twenty-fourth Legislature until the election of a Speaker. The capacity he displayed in these positions and. the friends he gained, may be judged by the following, copied from the journals of the Nineteenth Legislature:
Representative Cravens being recognized, spoke as
follows: Mr. Finger, I have been deputized by my fellow Representatives
to present to you this cane as a slight testimonial of the high esteem in
which you are held by all the members of this retiring body.
The facility with which you have ever managed to discover a quorum upon all occasions where a vote was had by division, has endeared you to all who dread the dismal experience of a call of the ayes and noes, and that appreciation finds expression and culminates in this token of their avowed friendship.
May your pathway through life be gilded with the most beauteous hues of a bright prosperity, and may a long career of usefulness and unalloyed happiness dawn upon you ere declining nature bids you use this gold-capped staff to stay and support the tottering steps of a ripe and honored old age. Mr. Finger replied in a speech equally felicitous.
He served also as Secretary of State Democratic conventions, and other conventions of the party, and widened the circle of his acquaintances, all of whom speedily became his fast friends, as he was one of those rare men who are better liked the longer and more intimately they are known.
In 1894 he accepted the position of legal examiner in the General Land Office and served as such during the closing year of Hon. W. L. McGaugheys administration as Commissioner. During the succeeding administration of Commissioner A. J. Baker he was chief corresponding clerk. His modest and solid worth and eminent fitness to discharge the duties of any public trust had now become fully known, and the rank and file of the dominant political party, whose victories he had so often helped achieve, felt that he should be honored with preferment commensurate with his merits, and that might, perchance, prove a stepping stone to still greater honors and usefulness. This feeling found expression in the following address issued by a mass meeting held at Arlington, February 10, 1898:
To the Democrats of Texas:
We, the Democrats of Arlington precinct, in Tarrant county, consisting of five hundred Democratic voters, in mass meeting assembled, through a committee appointed for the purpose of passing resolutions as to the fitness of Hon. Geo. W. Finger, of Tarrant county, for Land Commissioner of Texas, do take pleasure in submitting the following:
We most earnestly support him and recommend him as a man every way worthy to fill the position to which he aspires.
He was born and reared to manhood in this community, where he has lived the greater part of his life. He has always been a citizen of this county, removing to Fort Worth in 1886, where he continued to reside until 1894, when he accepted a position in the General Land Office, voluntarily resigning that position on the 1st inst. to make his canvass for this position. Tarrant county has never before had one of her native born sons a candidate for a State office, and feels that she deserves, at this time, the nomination and election of Geo. W. Finger to the position of Land Commissioner.
Having known him all these years, we know his capabilities. He is sober, industrious and a thorough Christian gentleman, a man well equipped by nature, by education and by four years practical experience in the workings of the Land Office to fill acceptably the position which he seeks.
Born and reared on a farm, his every impulse is in touch with the common people. By his energy, industry and exemplary character, he has attained the position in the esteem of the people which he now holds.
His Democracy can not be questioned, and his fidelity to his friends can not be excelled. He stands squarely upon the Chicago platform and the last Democratic State platform and has never scratched a. Democratic ticket.
For the above reasons and many others, which space
forbids us to mention, we most earnestly and loyally support the candidacy
of Mr. Finger and urge his nomination, asking your support in his behalf,
knowing if nominated and elected, which we believe will come to pass, he
will so conduct the affairs of the Land Office that the whole State will
be pleased and you will be fully compensated for any efforts that you may
make in his behalf. Respectfully submitted, Frank McKnight, J. W. Ditto,
B. B. Bryan, J. H. Watson, S. Yates, Joe W. Burney, W. F. Elliott, T. B.
Collins, W. M. Dugan, G. F. Thomas, C. P. King, Thos. Spruanee, J. S.
Hill, W. C. Weeks, M. J. Brinson, B. W. Collins, J. P. Rose, B. A. Mathers,
M. T. Brinson, J. P. Cooper, R. H. Bordin, committee.
He qualified as Land Commissioner January 16, 1899, and, with the assistance of Mr. John J. Terrell, whom he appointed his chief clerk, perfected organization of the office force and the establishment of such system in the dispatch of the business of the department as he desired. Suffering another attack of rheumatism, he went to the Bethesda sanitarium at Marlin, February 1, was benefited, and in about ten days returned to his work, which he prosecuted vigorously until the middle of April. Then a still more violent attack threatening, he again went to Marlin. At 12 oclock, May 1, he rolled Mr. McGinnis (formerly an employe in the General Land Office) in an invalids chair to a bath room to take a bath and after Mr. McGinnis had been carried inside by the attendants, sat down in a chair in the hallway. While thus seated he suffered a slight stroke of paralysis of the brain and became unconscious. Drs. Cook and Torbett (the former an old school friend), physicians at the Bethesda, shortly thereafter found him in this condition, did all that medical skill could to relieve him, had him conveyed to his apartment and made comfortable, and then telegraphed for his wife.
A newspaper account of his death contains the
following: During the night he rallied and next morning was able to sit
up. Mrs. Finger arrived at 1 oclock p. in., Tuesday, May 2, and gave him
every attention a devoted wife could. At about 11 oclock Tuesday night
Mr. Finger was prostrated by another paralytic stroke. Death occurred at 8
:30 oclock Thursday night, May 4.
The casket was followed to the train by a large number of citizens, including members of the bar and county and city officials. Judge Hunnicutt, Maj. J. J. Swann, Marshal Coleman, Alderman Samuels and Mayor Kennedy acted as an escort as far as Bremond.
A special press dispatch from Fort Worth, May 6, was
The committee from the Senate were composed of Messrs. Potter, Hanger, and Odell; from the House, Messrs. Smith of Grayson, Adams of Lavaca, Grubbs of Hunt, Ayres of Tarrant, and Rountree, chief clerk of the House. Others from Austin were John W. Bobbins of Wilbarger, State Treasurer; R. W. Finley, Comptroller, and the following attaches of the Land Office: Messrs. A. Ragland of McLennan, Chief Clerk John J. Terrell of Wise, E. J. Roberts of Grayson, and J. A. Yancey of Tarrant. These State officials were joined here by nearly all the county officials of Tarrant county and a large concourse of citizens.
Out of respect to the dead man, all branches of the District Court were closed last evening.
The remains of the late Land Commissioner arrived in Arlington last night and were conveyed to the home of his mother, from which place the interment occurred. The funeral services were held in the Methodist church, which was filled with members of the family and intimate friends of deceased. The casket was bedecked with a profusion of floral wreaths, unique and pretty in design, the most conspicuous of which was sent by the clerks in the office of the late Land Commissioner. The design consisted of a pillow of white and pink flowers and green smilax from which extended an arch of white flowers; in the center was suspended a heart of red flowers, across which was a ribbon bearing the name G. W. Finger. Surmounting the arch was a reproduction of the seal of Texas, the wreath in white flowers and the inclosed star in pink carnations. The funeral was the largest that has occurred in North Texas for many years, for no citizen of the State was more widely known and respected than was George W. Finger. The State officials returned to the city this afternoon and departed for Austin on the Katy to-night.
The flag over the State capitol was kept at half mast from the time of Mr. Fingers death until May 7, and on the day of the funeral all the State departments remained closed, in compliance with a request of Gov. Sayers and established custom. The Governor sent a message to the Legislature on the 5th, announcing the death of Mr. Finger. In the Senate the following resolution was immediately presented by Senator Hanger and unanimously adopted by a rising vote:
Whereas, The Senate has learned with profound regret of the death of the Hon. George W. Finger, Land Commissioner of Texas, and,
Whereas, Mr. Finger has endeared himself to the
people of this State by his many noble traits of character; therefore, be
In the House on the same day similar resolutions were presented by Mr. Ayres of Tarrant, and Henderson of Lamar, and unanimously adopted. The House, as a further mark of respect to his memory, adjourned until the following Monday.
The City Council of Arlington adopted the following
May 12, 1899:
Resolved, First, that the City Council of the city of Arlington deeply regrets the loss of one so capable of being of great service not alone to our town, but the State at large, and that in his death we lose a kind friend and a useful and distinguished citizen whose place can never be filled.
Resolved, Second, that we humbly submit to the will of him that doeth all things well.
Resolved, Third, that we extend to the bereaved, family our heartfelt sympathy in their great loss.
Resolved, Fourth, that a copy of these resolutions be spread on our minutes and also a copy sent to the family and to our home paper and the Tarrant County Citizen.
A copy was sent to Mrs. Finger by Aldermen Thos. Spruane and J. W. Litton, a committee acting for the council.
The employes in the General Land Office held a meeting and passed resolutions expressing their sense of loss. The resolutions are too lengthy to be reproduced here. It may be said, however, they were excelled in depth of feeling by none adopted in the State. The daily and country newspapers throughout Texas of one accord expressed regret at the death of Mr. Finger and eulogized without qualification his services and character.
Mr. Terrell continued chief clerk under Judge Chas. Rogan, Mr. Fingers successor as Commissioner of the General Land Office, and was himself elected Commissioner in 1902. He manifests the interest and regard of a father for his departed friends son, who appreciates and reciprocates his kind sentiments. Consequently the young man has in the struggle of life a clear headed, able, and resourceful ally, the weight of whose influence thrown into the scale of destiny will come as near depressing it in his favor as that of any other man living in the State could.
Mr. Finger joined the M. E. Church, South, in his boyhood and from his earliest years to his death was an earnest Christian, who believed that faith without works is dead. He was for a time one of the stewards of the Tenth Street M. E. Church, South, and later of the Twenty-fourth Street M. E. Church, South, at Austin, and was one of the Sunday School teachers.
Rev. E. W. Solomon says of him: My acquaintance with
him began in 1895, when as pastor of the Tenth Street Church in Austin, I
met him and began to know and love and appreciate him. * * * I have known
no man tenderer or more devoted in his family life. * * * He was true to
the church of Christ in his private and public life * * * I found him
ready always for every good word and work and unhesitating in every duty
that was presented to him.
Year Book for Texas: party conventions, election returns, inauguration of Governor Lanham and Lieutenant-Governor Neal, legislative work, public officials and current reports of departments and state institutions, important events, obituaries of distinguished dead, industrial development, statistics, biographical sketches, and historical manuscripts never before published. Raines, Cadwell Walton, Austin, Tex.: Gammel-Statesman Pub. Co., 1903, pages 151-156. View image of this page on line. Search Hundreds of 1880s-1920s Texas History Books for biographies and historical information on your ancestors. View the book page images on line and print them out for your genealogy file! Try the family history collection for free for 14 days!