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Finch’s Store in Rock Stream

Yates Past - September 2006

Among the many country general stores that dotted Yates County in the early 20th Century, Finch’s Store on the triangle in “downtown” Rock Stream was a fixture for 43 years. In 1891, Charles L. Finch gave up his door-to-door grocery peddling business in the southern part of the Town of Starkey and bought an old tavern, the Merrick Weaver Hotel. He substantially remodeled the building into a dwelling for his family as well as a general store. He opened for business that year and ran it until his death in 1934. The business dealt in groceries, coal, kerosene, ice, and medicines. In 1898, Finch was appointed Postmaster for Rock Stream by President McKinley, so the business was not just a store, a hotel, and a private residence but it was also the Rock Stream Post Office for many years.

Charles and his wife Josephine raised two children while operating the store, a son Ray and a daughter Kit. Ray Finch later wrote down some of his memories about growing up in Rock Stream. He recalled, for example, some of the people who stayed in their hotel..... “One regular customer was a Mr. Palmer who drove a pair of horses for a grocery concern. Another was a Mr. Belvidere for some medicine supply company. There was also a one-eyed man who came into the sitting room nights and would tell me bear stories while I sat on his knees. A Charles Bissell boarded there for years. I remember a watch tinker called Andy who repaired watches in the front of the store.” Josephine Finch kept a diary and her entries from 1906 mentioned that every member of the family and Charles Bissell (the boarder) “tended store” from time to time and helped sort the mail. She also mentioned that the store was one of the few places in the community that had a telephone, so neighbors would come in to use it from time to time. The goods that they dealt in were delivered by train to Rock Stream depot and Charles Finch would have to take some help down to load the wagon and haul the load up the hill to the store.
Across the “triangle” formed by the three roads that intersect in the center of Rock Stream was another general store owned by the Barnes family. From Ray Finch’s memoirs: “The old Barnes store had been the leading one in the community for many years before Father arrived on the scene. I think at one time Mr. Barnes must have been postmaster for I remember going after the mail at that place. When Father opened up the store, Barnes became as disagreeable as the law would allow.” The two businessmen were serious competitors for many years.

After Charles Finch’s death in 1934, his son Ray sold the building. It was used as a private residence and apartments for many years until it was torn down sometime in the 1970s. There is a house on the lot today and one would never suspect that the site was once part of the commercial nerve center of Rock Stream.

by Rich MacAlpine

Finch's Store in Rock Stream (ca. 1912)
 
The store interior - Charles an Josephine Finch behind the counter

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