Was formed out of Donegal on the 6th of May, 1788. Its boundaries were Donegal on the north, Franklin, Cumberland, and Greene on the east, Mason and Dixon's line on the south, and Virginia on the west.
It was subdivided into East and West Finley December 24, 1828, by a decree of the court. The history of each we shall give after referring to some other subjects.
About the year 1807 there existed in this township several religious sects, of which we shall speak, to show the influence which superstition has upon the human mind. The leader of this sect was a man by the name of Sergeant. He professed to have a revelation direct from heaven, through the ministry of an angel, in which was communicated to him the very convenient doctrine that there was no hell. He preached in that and the adjoining townships for about three years, and had many followers. Firmly believing in this doctrine, and concluding that there was no punishment hereafter, he committed forgery and was imprisoned in Cumberland, Maryland. However, before he committed this crime his fame as a minister had preceded him to Wheeling, and thither he went and preached. His services were interrupted by a lawyer, and Sergeant instituted suit against him for disturbing the solemnity of the sanctuary and the religious services in which he and his followers were engaged. The trial came off; the lawyer was acquitted and the HALYCONITES were declared not to be a religious sect. It was immediately after this that he was arrested and sent to Cumberland, Maryland, for trial. As soon as the lawyer heard of this, he composed the following poetry, which is still repeated from memory by some of the old inhabitants of Finley township. The lawyer styles himself St. David's son, and Sergeant, St. Bones. It reads as follows:
1. Saint Bones, to show that all his ways
Demand the most unbounded praise,
Returned St. David's son to court,
Of which St. Bones became the sport,
With all the Halycon union.
2. Saint David's son did prove full well,
St. Bones did preach there is no hell;
It was thus decided by the laws
That his was not a Christian cause,
With all the Halycon union.
3.Saint David's son to Bacchus bows,
And in his temple pays his vows;
Being thus inspired he moves along,
Amidst the enthusiastic throng
Who compose the Halycon union.
4. Now adieu, St. Bones, whene'er you die,
Directly to heaven you will fly,
But father Abraham, with a club,
Will beat you down to Belzebub,
With all the Halycon union.
This lawyer, whose name we are not authorized to give, wrote another piece upon this man Sergeant-upon his confinement-which we also give as a relic of the olden times. The lawyer represented the devil as saying:
1. Now I'll away to Cumberland
To see a friend in iron bands;
To see a friend in awful dwell,
Who always preached there was no hell.
2. He took his leave, away did go,
He found his friend both mean and low,
He found his friend in iron band,
Which put the Devil to a stand.
3. Oh, now, dear son, what brought you here?
Oh, father, pray, don't be severe;
The truth to you I won't deny,
They put me here for forgery.
4. Oh, now, dear father, if you can,
Release me from these iron hands
Release me now-don't let me swing,
And I'll to you new subjects bring.
5. Oh, yes, dear son, that I can do,
And soon he burst the bands in two.
For this here thing you shall not swing,
This day I'll crown you HALYCON King.
This was a death-blow to the Halyconites, but on their ruins arose a more wonderful sect. Among the followers of Sergeant was an old lady by the name of Rhoda Fordyce, who, in addition to the doctrine that there was no hell, taught that it were possible for persons to live entirely on a vegetable diet, such as parched corn, sassafras buds, &c. &c., for a certain number of days and then be bodily translated to heaven. This sect was called Rhodianites, after their founder.
A man by the name of Parker, it is said, in attempting to carry out this doctrine, was absolutely starved to death in the house of this woman Fordyce. She kept the body concealed in her house for three days and three nights, and as he did not make the ascension in his lifetime, it was not probable that he would after death. The neighbors, missing Parker, and knowing the influence she was exercising upon his mind, went to the house and were refused admittance. They broke the door open, found the body and buried it.
To the doctrine of passing bodily to heaven, she added another point, which was required of all her followers, viz: That of forming a chain. To perfect this chain required a man and woman to make the link. The way it was formed was on this wise: Each were sewed up in separate sacks, with their head out, arms tied close against the body, and feet tied together; they were then put to bed by the old lady. In the morning they were brought before the old woman as Inspector-General, and if they stated that tbey had slept innocently together, they became a link in the chain of the Rhodianite church. Tradition tells us that many husbands were separated from their wives to form a link in the Rhodianite church.
After this sect arose a new sect, called New Lights, who made converts from the ranks of both the Halyconites and the Rhodianites by scores. They believed in immersion as the true mode of baptism, and that the Saviour was not equal to God, the Father, and was not from everlasting. They also believed in washing each other's feet at their communion. They would strip off their feet, get a basin of water and a towel, and go amongst all the brethren and sisters and wash their feet. These New Lights increased rapidly for a few years on the borders of Washington and Greene County, Marshall County, Virginia, and the adjoining counties of Ohio. They held both camp and bush-meetings.
In connection with this subject we might say that" Mormonism" had its origin in Amity, in the township of Amwell, whose history we have given under that township. Thus have we finished the history of superstition, which exerts so baneful an influence upon the human mind.
Alexander Frazer, Esq., of this place, informs me that the first school taught in the western part of Finley township commenced in the spring of 1799 and continued for one year. The teacher's name was McDonald, who could read, write, and cipher to the double rule of three. The books used were Dilworth's spelling book, the Old and New Testament, and the Shorter Catechism.
1801. A young man by the name of Carroll, of Finley township, with another by the name of Richmond, went out early in the morning to hunt wild turkeys. The experienced hunter can give the turkey call so exact that the turkeys themselves are deceived by it. This unfortunately was the result of this case. These hunters became separated, and after a time Carroll, who was hid in the bushes, gave the turkey call. Richmond being a long distance off, hearing the call and seeing something dark moving in the brush, shot, and the ball passed through the head of his companion. Richmond, at the accident, became almost frantic, took up Carroll's gun, shot it off and laid it across his body and went home. He revealed the secret to his sister, who advised him to keep the secret, fearing he might be apprehended for murder, they being ignorant of the law. Richmond and his sister went that night and watched the corpse lest the wolves might devour it. The next day Carroll was missing, search was made, the body found, and the opinion was he had shot himself. This remained a profound secret until Richmond, on his death-bed, revealed the secret.