Finks Family History

This is only the beginning of a family history. Lee began working on this after he retired and has concentrated on the Finks clan that originally settled in Madison County, Virginia.  Despite entreaties from Martha and Cat to include more on the women involved, this is basically the history of the male Finks line. The stories of such women as Laura Camper, Molly Martin, Alice Thomas, and Evelyn Finks, will certainly be included in a future family history, one that will strive to tell these tales more fully.  As Lee said at the time, "Come on y'all, just coming up with this has been tough enough."

The original Mark Finks (1691-1764) came to America in 1725, after the Robinson River valley, in what is now Madison County, Va., had been chosen for settlement by those Germans who had just been released from their seven years of servitude in Governor Spotswood's infamous iron mines in Germanna. (For a long time, we were under the impression that Mark himself had come to Germanna in 1717 and slaved away with the rest of them, but that appears not to be true.) Mark became a farmer, about the only occupation available at that time and place, save being a Lutheran pastor. He was married to Elizabeth, whose last name and background are unknown. Surely she was German and probably from the Rhine Palatinate, the area where all of these settlers came from. They were Lutherans fleeing the religious persecution and warfare that were sweeping that part of Germany. They had nine children together in Virginia, one of whom was Mark, the younger, born in 1744.

Mark Finks Jr. (1744-1834) was also a farmer. He probably grew up speaking only German, but he lived through the period during which this clannish settlement began to be integrated into the English-speaking world around them. His name shows up repeatedly in old records, such as serving on juries, witnessing deeds, and even signing a petition in 1776 to the Colonial government to have their church (Hebron Lutheran, still standing and still an active congregation) relieved of having to pay taxes to the Church of England. He was also a captain in the Virginia Militia, organized to help fight the British, but we don't know if they ever went into battle. He and his wife, Eve Fisher, also had a large family and appeared to be prosperous in the county real estate records. In 1787, they had four horses, nine cattle, and (oh no!) four slaves. One of their children was Lewis, born in 1788.

Lewis Finks (1788-1873) was also a farmer. He lived at a time when other occupations were becoming commonplace in farming communities, occupations such as blacksmiths, millers, tanners and harness makers, clerks, and merchants, but it is likely that running the Finks family farm by that time was a rewarding endeavor. We know less about their lives, except the odd fact that Lewis left the Hebron Lutheran Church and joined a Baptist church, the Robinson River Regular Baptist Church. (Martha and Lee saw a beautiful little Baptist church right on the banks of the Robinson when they were up there in the spring of 2000.) He and his wife, Juriah Berry (1792-1878), herself from a prosperous farming family, had ten children, one of whom was James Robert, born in 1825.

James Robert Finks (1825-1907), continuing the family tradition and probably owning some of the same land, was also a farmer, although we know that as a young man he was a schoolmaster and that he fought in the Civil War (Company C, 4th Virginia Cavalry, "The Madison Invincibles"). His farm, now called Spring Oak Farm, and the home he and his family lived in are still there in Madison County, on the Robinson River near Finks Run, a mile or so above Criglersville. Martha and Lee saw the entrance to it and the "no trespassing" signs when they were up there driving around in that Miata they rented. He married Louisa Story, also of Madison County, and they had seven children, one of whom was Lee Walton, born in 1867.

Lee Walton Finks (1867-1922) was born in Madison County, in the Robinson River valley, where four previous generations had lived. For reasons we may never know, perhaps just the desire to live somewhere more interesting and exciting (like Pulaski!), he left that area and moved down to Southwestern Virginia and met and married Laura Camper, herself a descendant of Germanna immigrants, although ones who were part of the group that moved north and settled in Fauquier County, instead of south to Madison. They were married in Blacksburg but moved to Pulaski in 1895, settling in the home on Lake Street that they lived in for the rest of their lives. Lee Walton went to work for the Bertha Mineral Company as a timekeeper, gained a reputation as an intelligent, reliable, and meticulous fellow, and eventually took over the management of all their local properties when their mining operations in Pulaski ceased. We should not be surprised to learn that he (like his father and grandfather and great-grandfather before him) began to farm, and the family operated a small dairy farm until his death.

Lee Walton Finks, Jr., called Walton, was born on August 4, 1899, in Pulaski and grew up in a remarkable and locally renown family that included his older sister, Evelyn, a talented musician and writer, who spent her twenties as Pulaski High School’s lead English teacher, and his younger brother, Bob, a champion at debating and tennis, who went on to become the first pediatrician west of the Brazos. Walton was in officer training when the First World War ended, went to Virginia Tech, became an officer in the cadet corps, president of the Cotillion Club, and the starting first baseman on the varsity baseball team, and got a degree in civil engineering. After a few years of working for the Norfolk and Western and playing semi-pro baseball, he met Alice Thomas in Roanoke, stole her away from Ben Hogan (no, not the golfer), and married her in 1928.

Lee Walton, the third, called Lee, came out of this union and shared with his parents the rough times of the depression, being reduced to living in places like Toledo, Ohio, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and even Bluefield, West Virginia, plus a year or so in the relative Eden of Pulaski. In the late thirties, they settled in Roanoke, moving into the family home on Allison Avenue. Walton got a job with the federal government in one of the depression-era agencies, the Farm Home Security Administration, visiting farms throughout the state and helping the farmers by designing various structures and buildings. In the 1950’s, he was transferred to Syracuse, New York, but rather than leave Roanoke and the south, he became an independent engineering sales representative, mainly working on dust-control systems for mills of various sorts for the Day Company. He was very happy to retire in the 1960s and he and Alice continued to enjoy their many friends and their grandchildren until their deaths in the late 80s and early 90s.

Lee is hardly history yet, but for the record you should know that he became first a librarian and then a professor of library science, married first Laura Wilson and had four children, Elizabeth (1961-1963), Wilson (b1964), Catherine (b1967), and Charlie (b1969), and later married Martha Harris of Chapel Hill. There is plenty of interesting information about many of these people here on this very website.