Joe Finnicum, the Chico Stage Driver


Pres Longley wrote a poetical tribute to Joe Finnicum, a local stage driver. The poem appeared in the Chico Enterprise, on December 23, 1892.


Joe Finnicum, the Jehu,
Who drives upon the grade,
From Chico up to Powelton,
Moves onward undismayed.

Joe goes off when he’s loaded,
Goes off just like a gun,
And his team is never goaded,
But dash off just for fun.

He likes to hall the widows,
For they’re talking all the time,
And Joe still holds that kissing
Should not be called a crime;

And when the pretty maidens come,
So handsome, tall and slim,
They climb upon the forward seat,
And ride along with him.

They say they like to ride with Joe,
For his rig is nice and “nifty,”
They say he loves the feminines,
From fifteen up to fifty;

He holds the pretty schoolma’ms on,
While dashing ‘round the curves,
And whatever else he may not have,
You bet he’s got the nerves.

The term “Jehu” for a fast driver comes from the Bible; Jehu was a king noted for his chariot-driving. So we read in Kings 9:20 “the driving is like the driving of Jehu the son of Nimshi; for he driveth furiously.” In fact, Jehu even drove right over the body of the notorious queen Jezebel. Joe is a different sort of jehu; he is beloved of the ladies.

Joe Finnicum was a real person.  “Finnicum the stage-driver” is mentioned in a news story in the Sacramento Daily Union from August 14, 1886.

A Joke with a Back Action.—The Chico Register has the following : Samuel West, the forger, and another man were sent down from Chico some days ago, by Finnicum, the stage-driver. The Deputy sheriff at Chico did not think to say which was West and which was not to Finnicum, and the shrewd rascals noticing this, put up a job on the county officials. They changed names and offenses for the time being, and the ” vag.” answered to the name of West when he was spoken to. At the end of fifteen days the ” vag.” was turned loose, as he had served out his time, and yesterday, when West was called up to plead he stated that he was not West, but that he had skipped the country under his —the ” vag’s” names of Hines. Deputy Sheriff Guidery at once telephoned to Chico asking for a description of the two men, and when the reply came sure enough West was gone, and the ” vag.” was there in his place. He thought it a rich joke on the officers, but District Attorney Gray turned the joke on him by having him indicted for assisting a prisoner to escape, and for the offense he is liable to be sent to State Prison for the next five years.

About nancyleek

Nancy is a retired librarian who lives in Chico, California. She is the author of John Bidwell: The Adventurous Life of a California Pioneer.
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2 Responses to Joe Finnicum, the Chico Stage Driver

  1. Lisa Pack Finnicum says:

    Merriman “Joe” Finnicum is the son of James Duncan Finnicum (my husbands 2nd great-grandfather), who was a stage proprietor there in Chico. We were so excited to run across your blog today and see this poem! Would love to know if there are any stories you have about James Duncan Finnicum or his stage company. Thank you for your interesting historical work.

    • nancyleek says:

      I’m delighted to hear from a relative of Joe Finnicum. I don’t know any more about him — I didn’t even know that his first name was Merriman. I think I’ll do some more research though. It’s easier to access local newspapers now that they are online through CSUChico.

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