Finnicum, Father and Son

When Randy Taylor posted this business card on Facebook, I figured that J.D. Finnicum must be the same man as “Joe Finnicum, the Jehu” immortalized in poetry by Pres Longley. But that is not the case. James Duncan Finnicum, stage proprietor and veterinary surgeon, was the father of Merriman “Joe” Finnicum, who, like his father, was well-known around Butte County as a stagecoach driver.

Longley’s poetic tribute appeared in the Chico Weekly 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 widders,
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.

James D. Finnicum was born in Pennsylvania in 1827. He came to California by sea with his wife and three children in 1858. He began driving a stagecoach in 1860. According to George Mansfield’s History of Butte County:

In 1870 he came to Chico and entered the employ of the California Stage Company, driving from Chico to Red Bluff, one trip daily. In 1872 the company moved their office from Chico to Tehama and he became their agent. From there they removed to Red Bluff, running their stages to Redding, Mr. Finnicum still continuing as their agent. Leaving the service of this company, he returned to Chico and purchased the stage line from Chico to Oroville. He continued driving himself, one round trip a day. He continued the business for about twenty-four years, until twenty years ago, when he sold out. Sometime in the fall of that year he began running a stage from Chico to Newville. He also ran a line from Oroville to Biggs. During his long career as stage-driver he often carried large sums of money, which, as well as the passengers who accompanied him, were safely delivered. He was an excellent judge of horses and his long experience in connection with them enabled him to successfully doctor them when sick. (pp. 519-520)

Chico Weekly Enterprise 18 March 1871

James D. Finnicum died at the age of 97 on April 6. 1925 and is buried in the Chico Cemetery.

James’s son Merriman, known as Joe, was born in Ohio in 1855 and came to California at the age of three. He began driving his father’s stage between Oroville and Chico at the age of seventeen, making a round trip every day. He drove for his father for about ten years, and then took a variety of other stage-driving jobs around the North State. His popularity as a “ribbon-manipulator” is attested to by this news item:

“From Butte Creek” Chico Weekly Enterprise 17 Nov1893

Later he worked for the Northern Electric Railroad, the city of Chico, and at the time of his death was working for the Sacramento Northern Railroad. It was a life spent in transportation.

Joe Finnicum died before his father at the age of 65 and is also buried in Chico Cemetery.

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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