William W. Finney

William W. Finney, who carried the magnificent title of General Agent of the Pacific, managed the operation over the Sierras into Sacramento, and represented the company's interests in San Francisco. His broader duties placed him a cut above a route superintendent. Some writers have placed Bolivar Roberts' management westward over the mountains as far as Sacramento, but the active bossing in that area was the responsibility of Finney and later his successor.

Of all the route managers employed by the Pony William Finney is the least known. Without fanfare, announcement or explanation, he simply appeared at the beginning, having journeyed by sea from New York to make the necessary arrangements on the Pacific Coast, and six months later departed without so much as a fond ado.

He was best friends with Ben Ficklin. He and Ficklin attended VMI together with William Finney graduating a year ahead of Ficklin. William Wood Finney named one of his sons Benjamin Ficklin Finney and the name still carries in family. ( We have a Benjamin Ficklin Johnson in South Carolina.)*

Finney's arrival in San Francisco was reported in the papers of March 15, 1860. He announced that Pony Express service would commence on April 3. On March 19 has placed an advertisement for ten or a dozen men, familiar with the management of horses, to be hostlers, or riders on the Overland Express Route via Salt Lake City. On March 23 it was reported that he had completed his arrangements for stocking that portion of the line assigned to him.

Full credit is his for organizing the route, single-handedly, all the way west from Roberts Creek, Nevada, a stretch of some 400 miles. On his shoulders alone rested the responsibility of locating suitable relay points, hiring men, buying stock and feed, laying in supplies of grub and equipment, and soliciting business.

According to the Pony's signed newspaper ads, it wasn't until after the middle of April, when the first two eastward trips had been dispatched, that he engaged Joseph Lambert, San Francisco agent for the Alta Telegraph Company, to act as the local Pony Express representative. Neither, until then, had he taken on John W. Coleman as agent in Sacramento, or P. Lovell at Carson City.

He was a man of resourceful initiative. How much easier it would have been, in the face of the frightful Pah-Ute attacks, to close up shop and await the outcome of the fighting. He must have had to swallow a choking lump of company and personal pride to wire Sacramento for public financial aid. Not that he was unaccustomed to a shortage of money. Earlier, when his operating funds had given out, he had gone to Ben Holladay in San Francisco and persuaded him to accept drafts for operating capital. Holladay was there on the persuasion of Finney's boss in an entirely different venture. Finney probably called on him at the Sacramento and Leidesdorff Street office of Holladay & Russell, brokers of "riding, work and pack" mules for travelers to the Washoe mines.

It seems incongruous, then, that this man of get-up-and-go, this successful persuader, would allow himself to be maneuvered into a public argument with important patrons of the Pony Express. As a service to the community, newspapers in San Francisco had taken it upon themselves to post an advance list of Pony mail addressees, received by wire from Carson City. The posting enabled commercial houses to learn of incoming letters more than 24 hours ahead of delivery, an obvious advantage when expected letters entailed shipping advices, rates of exchange and other money matters.

Finney ordered the papers to cease the practice, whereupon, on the sixth of September, 11 of the leading businessmen in San Francisco circulated a round robin to the General Agent, outlining the conveniences of the prior notices and asking that they be reinstated. The protest was sent off to him at Sacramento, and a copy to a local newspaper. Finney summarily rejected it without giving his reasons. The paper proceeded to publish the complaint for the whole town to read.

Thirteen days later William W. Finney was no longer the General Agent of the Pacific. W. C. Marley, formerly keeper of Buckland's Station, returned from entirely restocking the western division of the route and announced that he had accepted appointment to the job. Finney simply faded from the picture.

Source: Roy Bloss, Pony Express - The Great Gamble.

Mr. Finney was a Colonel for the south. He was caught smuggling guns for the south and was put in prison in New York, escaped and walked to New Orleans and caught a boat to Paris, France and sent for his family. Family rumor has it that he borrowed money from his mother to invest in Pony Express thus giving up his inheritance but I don't have any proof of this. *

* This information provided by Finney's great great grand daughter, Beverly Johnson, Ridgetop, Tennessee.