The town of Finley is just over one hundred years old. The story of this small settlement began in 1902, when a farming family from Nebraska arrived in the area. On March 18th of that year, the wagon journey of George Finley, his wife, their son and his family came to an end at a desolate desert spot just six miles south-east of Kennewick. Having found land too expensive in other areas, they had decided to start a new life in an undeveloped area, where land was more affordable. The family soon owned forty acres here, and George and his son were employed by the Portland and Seattle Railroad Company.
New families began to trickle into the area as the railroad was built, and as the surrounding land became irrigated. The community raised crops, including watermelons, which were shipped to Portland, and peaches, which were shipped to Ritzville. The little town experienced a surge of industry, adding a hotel, stores, lumber yards, depot, post office, and a school. Just six years later, 25 families lived in the area, and the settlement had become known as Finley.
Church, School, and Farming
As with most small towns of that era, the church and the school formed the social center for the citizens of Finley. For this small farming settlement, Fourth of July and Christmas were the biggest events of the year. And just as natural for these families, who relied on farming to earn their livings, the annual Rabbit Drive on January 1st was also an important event, where thirty or forty hunters would gather in an effort to cull the rabbit population and thus reduce damage to field crops and fruit trees in the coming year.
In the end, the Portland and Seattle Railroad Company chose another town for the railroad terminal which was originally designated for the Finley area. The much-anticipated boom which was expected to occur in Finley was over almost before it had started.
Expantion During the 1950s
Finley expanded again during the 1950s, when the citizens of the nearby town of Hover were displaced due to the construction of a damn and reservoir on that town’s land. Many Hover residents moved to Finley, and the size of the town and its school increased considerably. That school became River View High School, still alive and well today, educating the town’s teenagers.
During the 1950s and 1960s, several new manufacturing plants opened up in the area. With access to a well-developed power grid, three transcontinental railroads, and abundant water for industrial purposes, Finley was a desirable area for such companies. Many industries built in this area, including Allied Chemicals, and the Collier Carbon and Chemical Company.
These days, Finley is often thought of as a Kennewick school district, rather than as a town in its own right. Finley definitely has an ambience that’s all its own, though. With less than six thousand residents, it remains a small, tight-knit community of fewer than two thousand families.