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William E. Finch, Jr. Collection Edit


Finding Aid Author
Ashley Aberg
Finding Aid Date
February 9, 2023
Description Rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Finding Aid Note
Part of the Manuscript Collections, Greenwich Historical Society Contact: Christopher Shields, Curator of Library and Archives 47 Strickland Road Cos Cob, CT 06807 United Stated


  • 1717-2000 (Creation)


  • 26 Linear Feet (Whole)



  • Conditions Governing Access

    There are no conditions governing access to this material.

  • Biographical / Historical

    "[William E. Finch, Jr.] was born on May 28, 1912, in Greenwich. He was eleventh in descent from Abraham Finch (1585 – 1638), who migrated from Massachusetts in 1634 to help found Wethersfield. His son, John Finch, helped found Stamford, whose son, Joseph, purchased meadowland in Mianus Neck in 1664. Later, he became one of the “27 Proprietors of Greenwich.” Joseph’s son was William Edwin Finch. He was the largest independent druggist in the state. Finch owned 3 stores at one time – one on Greenwich Avenue, one on West Putnam Avenue, and one in Glenville. (He also had ties to Finch’s Country Store in Banksville.) William was active in civic affairs and was a naturalist. He was nicknamed “The First Citizen of Greenwich.” William Finch Jr. was named after his father.

    The Finch family has a storied history. The family could trace its ancestors back to seven signers of the Mayflower Compact. Four were original settlers of Greenwich in 1640, and seven were settlers of Horseneck. Captain John Finch was a member of George Washington’s staff. Grandfather Jared Finch was the first to volunteer from Greenwich during the Civil War. They intermarried with many important families of Greenwich: Close, Ferris, Knapp, Lockwood, Lyon, Mead, Palmer, Peck, and Todd. The name was derived from the occupation to train and sell Bullfinches.

    When William Finch Jr. was 10 or 11, he began researching his family lineage by visiting the Greenwich Library. In 1932, he graduated from Brunswick School. Then he spent the next 20 years working in his father’s drugstore. He never gave up his interest in family history and continued to research it at Greenwich Library as well as the New York Public Library. William firmly believed we could all benefit from reading about the past. He was a Charter Member of the Historical Society of the Town of Greenwich when it was founded in 1931 (at age 19), became a Board member (1934), and served as President (1947).

    The family sold the drugstore in 1947. This freed William up to pursue history full-time. In 1956, he became the first curator/historian. He lived on the second floor of the Bush-Holley House on Strickland Road. In 1978, the Board of Selectmen named Bill Finch the official Town Historian in honor of his dedication to preserving Greenwich’s history. He retired in 1980 and became Curator Emeritus. When the HSTG opened its records building in 1982, it was named the William E. Finch Jr. Archives. In 1990, a bust of William was unveiled at the Bush-Holley Historic site as a tribute. He brought honor to his family, which became known as “The First Family of Greenwich.”

    William Finch Jr. was also very active in other historical and civic groups. He was a founding member of Captain Matthews Mead Branch #11 of the Connecticut Sons of the American Revolution. He was awarded the Patriot Medal by the Historical Society of the Town of Greenwich – its highest honor. William was a member of the North Castle Historical Society, and Greenwich Rotary Club, which awarded him the Paul Harrish Fellowship. He served 64 years on the Board of Directors of the Middle Patent Rural Cemetery Association in Banksville and twenty-five years as President. If that wasn’t enough, he was a lifelong member of Christ Church and served on the Vestry (Board of Deacons).

    A funeral was held for William on September 27, 2000, at Christ Church in Greenwich. Hundreds turned out to honor the resident history expert. His body was laid to rest during a private ceremony at the Middle Patent Rural Cemetery.

    William Finch Jr. was truly a Town Treasure. His efforts helped preserve Greenwich’s history, and his passion is an example for us all."

    Reproduced from the Greenwich Library page on William E. Finch, Jr. written November, 2015 by Carl White (

  • Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], The William E. Finch, Jr. Collection, Greenwich Historical Society

  • Scope and Contents

    This collection has been arranged into three series, original order has been preserved where it is known. Series I: Personal Papers Series II: Scrapbooks Series III: Photo Albums

  • Scope and Contents

    This collection is primarily comprised of Bill’s collected research and documents. Bill was often asked to write histories and biographies of people and places in town, but also researched and collected documents on his own particular interests. He was especially interested in mail, postmasters, stamps, post offices, etc.; in Christ Church, as his mother was a devoted member and he was close friends with many of the congregation and clergy; and in his family’s and related families genealogies. The collected research and documents include correspondence, early town documents, deeds, genealogical and lineage research, pamphlets, ephemera, autographs, newspaper clippings, photographs, scrapbooks, and journals. These cover a range of dates, from town documents dating back to 1717, and all the way into 2000 with personal research and photographs. The bulk of the materials date from 1925-2000.

  • General

    Related Accession Numbers: A.2001.017, A.2001.018