The story of Finley begins on March 18th, 1902, a cold blustery day when George Finley, a poor Nebraska farmer, his wife, stepson Edwin Angell and his wife Winnie, and their son and adopted daughter came by wagon over the desert to a spot six miles south-east of Kennewick. Mrs. Winnie Lou Angell recalls their arrival: "My mother broke down and cried when she saw the desolation of the area. There was nothing but sand and sagebrush." The family had come first to Wenatchee, but found land much to expensive, and had moved on to start anew on land the railroad was developing for irrigation south of Kennewick. The family lived in a tent while the men cleared their forty acres. Soon George Finley and Edwin Angell were in the construction business building the roadbed for the Portland and Seattle Railroad.
By 1908, Finley was a community of 25 families who had purchased land from the Washington Reality Co. and had begun to raise wonderful crops of fruit and vegetables so glowingly described in the folders which had gone out to every part of the country. There was even a stagecoach from Kennewick to Hover by way of Finley. The coming of the railroad had caused Finley to boom and the community now boasted a hotel, store, barbershop, two lumber yards,hardware store, adepot, post office and of course a school.
A wagon bringing water out to Hover
The church and school were the social centers of the community. The Christmas Pageant and the Fourth of July were the big social events of the year. Some of the early families were Whaleys, Heddingtons, Smiths, Landes, Moores, Kuhs, Charlie Cox, Altrogges, Myers, Perkins, and the Coffin brothers who wintered their sheep in the Finley area. Finley farmers grew watermelons which were shipped to Portland and peaches which were sent to Ritzville. The post office was located in a store owned by Mr. Van Sychel who was also the first postmaster. Mr. Van Sychel was well known for his honest, once walking several miles to correct a five cent error. W.A. King bought the store from Mr. Van Sychel and in 1913, it was purchased by Kennewick Fruit and produce Co.,with Mr. Davidson as manager. Mr. Davidson was so large that all of his clothes had to be made to order. At the time of his death he weighed 465 pounds. He retired as physician to become store manager.
The first official mail from Finley was on July 1, 1906. In 1915, Mr. Davidson left the store and Winnie Lou Angell became manager. Her husband was deputized to assist her as postmistress and he carried the mail from the post office to the depot. In 1935, the post office was discontinued and Finley's mail went to Kennewick.
The first school in Finley was built in 1903, mainly through the efforts of George Finley. The following year School District #53 was organized. The arrival of irrigation in 1903, caused a mini-boom in the Finley area and in 1906, a new two story school was built to house the district's seventy four students. This building served the district's children until 1922, when shortly before Christmas vacation it was destroyed by fire. While a new was being built, the elementary students attended classes in a temporary wooden building. The new school was ready for use in 1923. By 1928, there were just eighteen students in Finley High school and there was talk of consolidation with Hover. The story of the consolidation is related in the chapter of Education.
When construction of McNary Dam began in 1954, the government began buying up land in Hover. Much of the town of Hover was destined to inundated by the water of Lake Wallula. Some Hover residents located closer to moved away. It was apparent that Finley would soon need to house all the students in the district. In 1949, land North of the school was purchased and a bus garage was built for $6000 but was used instead for 7th and 8th grade classrooms. In 1952, 17 acres was purchased for $353 an acre in a triangle bordering the railroad tracks and adjacent to the district owned land.
The old Hover High School
In order to accommodate the students the would be coming from Hover, a new elementary building was constructed in 1956. The school built in 1923, would become the high school. The new elementary building also contained a gym, and the first basketball game was played on December 3, 1957. This arrangement would continue until 1979, when the High School and Junior High student would move into a new $2,000,000 dollar building, and the old high school building would be torn down.
Today the Finley School district has an enrollment of about 1,111.50 students, with more then 365 of these in the high school, 275 in the middle school, and 470 at the grade school. The high school building has carpeted classrooms, central air conditioning, a theater type lecture, a large gym seating 2,000 with facilities for wrestling and gymnastics.
New Year's Day Rabbit Drive
In the days before television and bowl games the big event in Finley on New Year's day was the rabbit drive. Walt Gerards gives his account of the event: " Horse Heaven had its share of rabbits in those days and they were pests to farmers and orchards adjacent to the foothills. My father's place adjoining the hills, and a bridge over the irrigation canal led the rabbits to our fields. Rabbits at night could make quite a showing along the edge of the alfalfa fields, and could seriously damage fruit trees. Some orchards wrapped screens around the trunks to prevent girdling of the bark by the gnawing rabbits.
Usually the rabbits crossed the canal by way of various bridges, but in some instances where such crossings were not convenient, they swam. Let me here put to rest the notion that rabbits can't swim; they may not like swimming but when necessary they will do it. The rabbit drive at Finley was a sporting event--- a shotgun hunt, where as the drives in Idaho corral and club the rabbits for the sole purpose of reducing the rabbit population.
The New Year's drive began above the canal four or five miles southeast of Kennewick, with 30 or 40 hunters spread out supposedly a safe distance apart in along line extending from the canal to the lower foothills. They walked slowly along, jumping the jacks and shooting them on the run, it not being considered good sport to shoot at a sitting rabbit, although a good many shooters did so. After all, they were out to get rid of the pests. I never knew of anyone ever being injured on a drive, a matter of great fortune, considering that rabbits sometimes jumped up and ran back through the line between two hunters, leading to some wild shooting. There were kids tagging along behind and they also could have been hit. The drive ended at noon at the Finley Grange Hall, where the womenfolk had a big dinner ready.
I don't recall estimates as to the number of rabbits shot on the drive, but it would be a good guess that each hunter would shoot up a box during the drive and not many shots were wasted. I should mention that no use was made of the rabbits; they were not considered for food and were left lying where they fell. The rabbit population in Horse Heaven fluctuated a good deal. For the most part, coyote and rabbit kept each other in natural balance of slight ups and downs, but additionally rabbits seemed to suffer epidemics of disease which decimated them periodically. At such times, the rabbit drives died out likewise. Then with the influx of people in the forties and consequent over-hunting, the jackrabbit has been virtually wiped out. I believe the last drives held were in the late thirties. A rabbit drive in the near future is not likely.
The History of River View High School
The stagecoach, running once a day, was the main link between the hundred families of Hover and Kennewick, Washington. The state of Washington was only seventeen years old, when the citizens of Hover heard that their efforts toward organizing a school district had been successful. This was the beginning of the Hover High School: the year was 1906.
Picture of Sagebrush and old building foundation
The first classes were held in the Hover Opera House; with a faculty consisting of two sisters. In 1907, a temporary school building was erected, which in a short time, was replaced by a sturdy brick structure. However, during the Christmas Season of 1924, while everyone was on vacation, the Hover School met with a disaster. It burned to the ground. In answer to this catastrophe, the community constructed another school building during the summer of 1925. At this time the student body stood at thirty, ranging from the first to the tenth grades.
In approximately 1932, the Hover and Finley School Districts consolidated with the high school remaining at Hover and the grade school at Finley. It was at this time that the high school took on its new name of River View. The first superintendent of the new school district was H. Fisher. He remained for one year. The following years brought Harry Benson, Dr. Goldie P. Merrill, Alfred Donahue, Frank Shaw, and Hugh W. Jones (1950).
The year 1952 finds River View High School with a student body of seventy-five and a faculty of five teachers. The scene surrounding the school has changed; the stagecoach and the community of Hover have passed out of the picture. Nevertheless, the school with its roots buried deeply links the present with the early pioneers of Hover and their first school.
In 1956, the McNary Dam was completed, which flooded Hover, and the high school was moved to its present location in Finley. It kept its name of River View even though it wasn’t in site of the river any more. The high school has grown to more than 350 students as of 1999.
Consolidation of Finley
At one point in out early history of Finley and Hover there were two separate school districts. Each had their own elementary and high school.Hover school which had started in 1906, burned down in 1924. Finley school, which burned in 1923, was rebuilt to its present building. Now it will be torn down to make room for the incoming new school building.
Picture overlooking Finley
Then in 1936, plans were being made for consolidation of Finley and Hover School Districts. It was to be named the Finley-Hover School District. There was a slight problem. At times, Finley and Hover students were known to be rivals. Hover had a good basketball team, with a high school enrollment of approximately 50 students. The basketball games were played in the basement of the school building. They also had a good size football field, along with a pretty good team. The Finley High School students, in the beginning, had to go to Kennewick and rent the upper portion of "Woodsmen of the World" building to play their games.
It wasn’t long before progress was being made and Finley had the grade school and the little community of Hover had the high school. Hover which consisted of not much more than a two-story motel, combination store and small service station, and church. (The motel soon burned).
Mr. Melvin Dickinson ran the store and drove the little school bus, which was called Little Joe. It was also the only school bus they had. The elementary and high school totaled approximately 180 students.
One person who we had interviewed said that as the Finley kids were dropped off in front of the school building they would find a few resentful Hover students waiting for them at the doors. However I don’t think anything very severe ever happened. I can understand the resentment that each school had at first, but it wasn’t long before they had forgotten everything.
The Finley High School took the name River View High School, which is what it was called at Hover because of the good view of the river. The arrival of the name came from a freshman girl who had entered the name in a contest held by the school board to get an appropriate name for the school.
In 1956, things began to change even more. During these years of consolidation, the McNary Dam was in the process of being built. It was 1956 that it was completed. This meant flooding most of the housing area of Hover. Also no power or irrigation. Therefore, the year 1956 was an ending for Hover. The town and school were moved to Finley. The elementary part would be Finley Elementary School District in honor of Mr. George Finley (whose house still stands in Finley). The high school remained River View High School.
Now all that remains of Hover is the foundation of the school. Also a few concrete slabs where something once stood, maybe a store or a service station. Most of the housing foundations are under water. If you go out to Hover now, it would be hard to imagine that there ever was really a town where people existed. It’s a lonely feeling to stand on a foundation and try to believe that this is where people once lived long ago.
Early History of Hover, Washington
Who knows the story behind a new born town? Where the Indians trod, settlers passed, a town grew. People arrived, some stopped briefly, others remained.
Long before the Spanish explorers brought horses to the far west, the moccasined feet of generations of Indians walked this path and tool the canoes at the streams, the Nez Perce, Walla Walla, Yakima, Klickitat, Cayuse, and Umatilla came to hunt, gather and visit.
The Wallula Gap with its million year history, the Horse Heaven Hills, Lewis and Clark, the fur trade era, burial grounds, the Rawhide Railroad, Twin Buttes, wagons, competitive railroads, steamboats on the rivers, the Oregon Trail, and the earliest settlers hold the undiluted secrets that folks seek to unveil.
At this writing, we have not exposed a chronological sequence to diary the Hover story.
Long before the white man infiltrated the territory of the Pacific Northwest, the original inhabitants bathed in their sorts of prosperity, conflicts, and rituals. The river, wagon trails, and railroads were the hub that brought birth to Hover.
Indians traversed the rivers by horse, canoe, and bulboats. The river ferry system was in operation to some degree at Wallula in 1847. It was February 27, 1854 when a bill was read in the House of Representatives creating and act that would authorize Mr. E. J. Allen to establish and keep a river current and horse drawn ferry in operation across the Columbia river three miles upstream from Wallula, now spoken of as Fort Walla Walla, at a point where the Emigrant Road from the States led into Washington Territory. This Emigrant Road is also known as the Naches Road and the Cascade Wagon Road. This road crossed the Columbia River at the Wallula ferry and over the Horse Heaven Hills into the Yakima Valley and the Puget Sound.
In the late 1870’s, the Wallula ferry was operated by Joe Cummings, who later sold to Hugh Blakely. In 1915, John Mills bought a newly built ferry that employed horses for power to operate at Wallula. We can see here that Hover was not born by name as much as by early time occupancy and settlement of people with an insight of anticipated prosperity.
After the primitive canoe and ferry, stagecoaches provided the most used form of transportation in the Pacific Northwest and east of the Cascades, until the coming of the railroads.
The first stagecoach to operate a business out of Wallula, or Fort Walla Walla was in 1859 and belonged to a J. F. Abbott. The amount of business done by this pioneer stage line was astonishing. By 1862, 150 tons of freight each week moved in and out of Fort Walla Walla and up to 600 passengers paid the $5.00 fare to ferry and stagecoach from Fort Walla Walla west across the Columbia enroute to the Yakima Valley and Puget Sound.
The arrival of the stages was announced by great clouds of dust and the sharp cracking of whips. The coaches did not have springs to cushion the ride. The body of the vehicle swung on heavy straps. Riding was not exactly comfortable.
The river steamers, most of which belonged to the Oregon Steamship Navigation Company, focused much activity at Fort Walla Walla as they plied for business on up the Columbia and Snake Rivers.
This region was not to be denied the attention and promise that unfolded with the coming of the railroads.
Mr. James J. Hill was responsible for the consolidated efforts of the Great Northern and Northern Pacific railroad companies to establish a line from Spokane to Portland along the south banks of the Snake and Columbia rivers. A corporate named Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railway Company was established after construction began in 1905.
It is recorded that the Indians that lived along the Western shores of the Columbia in the Hover region between 1820 and 1850 was a blood of both the Wallula and the Walla Walla tribes.
Following the Indian Wars of 1855-1856, and to escape life on a reservation, a band of 1000 tribesmen moved from Hover to Priest Rapids about 60 miles upstream on the Columbia to the security of regional missionaries and to harbor away from so much immigrant activity. By the 1890’s the bands had divided, dwindled and scattered.
By 1902 settlers were focusing their keen attention to the Finley-Hover area as a result of the efforts of real estate promotions, the projections of the Northern Pacific Railroad and the forthcoming Yakima Irrigation Company and Northern Pacific Irrigation Company canal and holdings which now supplied irrigation to the lower Yakima Valley.
In 1902, the Northern Pacific Irrigation Company began work on the Horn Rapids ditch which was to be the Kennewick Valley Canal network. This same year, 3000 acres of land was offered for applicants to attract settlers from every part of the nation. This activity proved to be a real estate man’s dream. Among these real estate men was a Mr. H. A. Hover and his wife, Mata C. Mr. Hover came to Kennewick from Ohio by way of California, Seattle and Spokane. He became President of the Kennewick Land Company and he transacted one of the largest real estate deals in this section of the country by negotiating with the Northern Pacific Railroad Company for thousands of acres of irrigable lands about 12 miles south of Kennewick ( Kennewick had a population of 300 in 1902) along the right-of-way of a future SP&S Railroad on the north banks of the Columbia River.
On March 3, 1905, legislation was enacted and signed by the governor to bring birth to the County of Benton. Among the first acts of this governing body was to approve on October 4, 1905 a plat for the town of Hover, as filed by H.A. and Mata C. Hover.
The townsite called Hover offered promise as it nestled protected beneath the rolling Horse Heaven Hills and situated ideally along the route of the ferry traffic, stagecoach routes, between Walla Walla and Yakima.
In 1905, Mr. Hover and the Kennewick Land Company issued 18,000 pamphlets to excite promotion and settlement. In 1905 the Yakima Herald was quoted as saying: "The new town of Hover is, we believe, one of the most promising areas for irrigable farming in this section of the country. It is exposing immense fields of alfalfa, orchards, strawberries, and melons upon its gentle slopes to the river.
The Hover Sunshine newspaper on March 15, 1906 displayed large advertisements promoting Hover as the land of fruit, flowers, health, and content. Also-the Banner Fruit District of the West, first in fertility, first in opportunity, first in market. Soon the Hover Sunshine newspaper adopted a motto for Hover—Columbia River Fruitbelt.
By 1906 and 1907, Hover was unveiling its new school, livery stable, hotel, saloon, railroad track and depot, grocery store, blacksmith shop, and a Presbyterian Church—only too soon to fall prey to devastation by fires.
The outlying Horse Heaven Hills folks, with their wheat, cattle and sheep, frequented Hover daily to shop, draw river water and ship by rail.
The stagecoach, running once a day, was the main link between the hundred families from Hover and Kennewick. The state of Washington was only 17 years old when the citizens of Hover heard that their efforts toward organizing a school district had been successful. This was the beginning of the Hover school district in 1906.
As the years moved on, Hover stood tall with her boardwalks, streets, new paint covered homes, the irrigation canal, the new ferries, the steamboats at dock, the railroad traffic, the post office, the mail that came by train and that home-town feeling.
By 1920, much of the town of Hover had died. She was now mainly a community of small farms and orchards with their dependency on the SP&S Railroad, a post office, general store, community Methodist church and a school. Wild horses became a passing memory as the community looked forward to rabbit drives, PTA’s, box socials, and quilting bees and community fairs.
By the 1930’s, residents saw the coming of frequented automobiles, asphalted highways, electricity, telephones, multi-community sports and the consolidation of Hover and Finley schools.
The town of Hover and a skirting of Finley is to die and pass from the holdings of its pioneers. The farms, irrigation canal, roads, power lines, school, church, post office, store, railroad line and depot, fishing holes, lovers lanes, the ornate environment and homes were going to become history. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had issued notices of vacancy as the construction of McNary Dam would inundate much of Hover with the waters of Lake Wallula. Long faces, emotions on ebb, and aching memories were exposed as house movers carried away the memories so entangled in a community’s self made style and pride. House movers were trailed by transplanted beings with their shrubs, trees, livestock and addresses. With destruction came construction of future power, irrigation, flood control, recreation and the relocation of the new SP&S Railway through Hover, making it necessary to put the Columbia Irrigation system to sleep—leaving the region barren and thirsty for several years until a new life-giving water supply was delivered to the parched lands by the Kennewick Irrigation District. New life in irrigation still left death in the story of Hover.
Information gathered for this project came from Mr. Tom Mercer and Mr. Wilbert Mills. Thank you!