Historical Happenings

| No Comments

GHS Digital Archives

The Greenwich Historical Society has 40,000 images in its
digital archive.  Access a representative sample through the
link above.

Greenwich Library Digital Collections

Greenwich Library has uploaded 1000 images, which can be
accessed through our Digital Collections.  Return frequently
to see new images.

Town Historian William E. Finch, Jr.

| No Comments

Frequently people ask me if I'm the Town Historian.  I politely inform them that I am the Local History and Genealogy Librarian at Greenwich Library.  My job is to help people find sources to help them with their research.  By assimilation, I've learned a lot about Greenwich local history, but  I am by no means an expert historian.  That honor goes to Mr. William E. Finch, Jr., who devoted a good portion of his life to researching the history of the Town.

Mr. Finch was born on May 28, 1912 in Greenwich.  He was eleveneth in descent from Abraham Finch (1585 - 1638), who migrated from Massachusetts in 1634 to help found Wethersfield.  His son, John Finch, helped found Stamford, who's son, Joseph, purchased meadowland in Mianus Neck in 1664.  Later, he became one of the "27 Proprietors of Greenwich"  .  Joseph's son was William Edwin Finch.  He was the largest independent druggist in the state.  Finch owned 3 stores at one time - one on Greenwich Avenue, one on West Putnam Avenue and one in Glenville. (He also had ties to Finch's Country Store in Banksville.)  William was active in civic affairs and was a naturalist.  He was nicknamed "The First Citizen of Greenwich".  William E. Finch, Jr. was named after his father.



The Finch family has a storied history.  The family could trace its ancestors back to seven signers of the Mayflower Compact.  Four were original settlers of Greenwich in 1640, and seven were settlers of Horseneck. Captain John Finch was a member of George Washington's staff.  Grandfather Jared Finch was the first to volunteer from Greenwich during the Civil War.  They intermarried with many important families of Greenwich:  Close, Ferris, Knapp, Lockwood, Lyon, Mead, Palmer, Peck and Todd.  The name was derived from the occupation to train and sell Bullfinches. 

When William Jr. was 10 or 11, he began researching his family lineage by visiting the Greenwich Library.  In 1932, he graduated from Brunswick School.  Then he spent the next 20 years working in his father's drugstore.  He never gave up his interest in family history, and continued to research it at Greenwich Library as well as the New York Public Library.  William firmly believed we could all benefit from reading about the past.  He was a Charter Member of the Historical Society of the Town of Greenwich when it was founded in 1931 (at age 19), and became a Board member (1934) and served as President (1947).

The family sold the drugstore in 1947.  This freed William up to pursue history full-time.  In 1956, he became the first curator/historian.  He lived on the second floor of the Bush-Holley House on Strickland Road.  In 1978, the Board of Selectmen named Bill Finch the official Town Historian in honor of his dedication to preserving Greenwich history.  He retired in 1980, and became Curator Emeritus.  When the HSTG opened their records building in 1982, it was named the William E. Finch Jr. Archives. In 1990, a bust of William was unveiled at the Bush-Holley Historic site as a tribute.  He brought honor to his family, which became known as "The First Family of Greenwich".

William Finch.jpg



William E. Finch Jr. was also very active in other historical and civic groups.  He was a founding member of the Captain Matthews Mead Branch #11 of the Connecticut Sons of the American revolution.  He was awarded the Patriot Medal by the Historical Society of the Town of Greenwich - it's highest honor.  William was a member of the North Castle Historical Society, and Greenwich Rotary Club, which awarded him the Paul Harrish Fellowship.  He served 64 years on the Board of Directors of the Middle Patent Rural cemetery Association in Banksville, twenty-five years as President.  if that wasn't enough, he was a lifelong member of Christ Church, and served on the Vestry (Board of Deacons).

A funeral was held for William on September 27, 2000, at Christ Church in Greenwich.  Hundreds turned out to honor the resident history expert.  His body was laid to rest during a private ceremony at the Middle Patent Rural Cemetery. 

William E. Finch, Jr. was truly a Town Treasure.  His efforts helped preserve Greenwich history, and his passion is an example for us all. 

If you're looking for two knowledgable historians in town, then I suggest you talk to Davidde Strackbein or Susan Larkin at the Greenwich Historical Society. 


Greenwich Time; Time Warner Company, Southwestern Connecticut Newspapers, Stamford CT;  

Greenwich Magazine,: Moffly Publications, Inc., [1990-], Greenwich CT

Nutmegger: the Magazine of Greenwich: Tucker Communications, Greenwich, 1989


Historical Happenings

| No Comments

The Great Patent Medicine Era
Saturday - November 14 - 2 PM
Greenwich Library

This program will briefly trace the history of Patent Medicine from the 1800s to the present day. Bill Cameron will illustrate stories of the charlatans who got very rich and famous while manufacturing these sometimes deadly elixirs.

This FREE program is open to all.  Registration is required.

Navigating Key Genealogy Websites
Saturday - November 21 - 10:30 PM
Cos Cob Library

Tony Lauriano explains how easily one can use KEY websites from the comfort
of your home to research your ancestors. 

Free and open to all.

Ghost Stories of Greenwich

| No Comments

Note:  This article is written primarily for entertainment purposes.  There is no way to verify this data.  It's presented in the spirit of Halloween, and is based on "urban legend".  Furthermore, I've embellished them to make them more interesing.  I guess you could consider them "fiction". Many years ago, I remember seeing an article in the Greenwich Time about Halloween legends in Town.  Since Halloween is now upon us, I decided to research some of these local tales.  I was surprised to find so much information.  Here I present a few of the ghostly tales!

Pumkin Heads.jpg

As the story goes, there was an Irish girl (an immigrant) who worked in a mansion in Belle Haven in the late 1800s. She met and fell in love with a piper. He worked as a servant in another Belle Haven residence, and loved to serenade people with his flute - especially his love interest. They spent a lot of time together in the area near the Bruce mansion.  The two were very much in love, and planned to marry.  However, the man mysteriously disappeared and was never to be seen again.  The girl was heartbroken, and became very homesick.  She decided to return to her family in Ireland.  So she booked passage on a ship out of New York, and returned to her native homeland.  Unfortunately, she contracted Consumption (Tuberculosis) and died.

Years later (early 1900s), people began reporting that they had spotted two ghostly apparitions outside of what is now the Bruce Museum.  A man would be playing a small flute for a young girl, who listened very attentively.  On occassion an evil voice could be herad, beckoning the two to come into the mansion to play the flute and sing; but the couple refused to go inside because they said they knew they would never be able to come out!  They would then suddenly disapper into thin air.

In 1996, a young girl claims she was driving through Bruce Park at night, when suddenly a line of approximately 10 cars cut her off.  She had to slam on her brakes to avoid a collision.  Several passengers appeared to have a terrified look on their faces as they looked back into the dark woods.  She also tried to look in that general direction, but spotted nothing.  Once all the traffic had gone, she continued on her way.

As it so happened, the next day the young lady pulled into a gas station to fill up her car.  When she went in to the station to pay for her gas, she overheard several men talking about an incident in Bruce Park durihg the previous night.  Seveal teenagers were drinikng beer and raising Cain in one of the park's picnic areas.  When they became very rowdy, a ghost suddenly appeared!  The body was that of a woman, but the head was a collection of snakes, which twisted and hissed at the teenagers!  Needless to say, the teens jumped in their cars and fled the scene!  The girl makes a point to avoid Bruce Park when she drives at night.
Local author Anya Seton - who wrote The Winthrop Woman and other historic novels - was a strong believer in ghosts.  She swore there was a ghost of a slave girl living in an old wash house on the Bush-Holley property.  As many people know, the owners of the inn had slaves living in the attic.  These men and women were servants and kitchen help.  Living in such tight qurters, they could very easily contract any number of diseases.  It's very possible that the young girl died while living at Bush-Holley.  Anya even reported that the apparition of the young child would scream from time to time.  Perhaps there is some truth to the story.


One of the most popular (and historical) hotels in town is the Homestead Inn of Belle Haven.  Indians and settlers first used the land for horse pasture and farmland. It's situated on land purchased by the Mead family in 1799. Over the years, it was passed down from generation to generation.  A circular summer house was built, and became an Inn and restaurant for travelers and summer guests. One of the attractions of the Inn was a ship's figurehead, which was located on the proch.  It had rosy cheeks, black eyes and a flowing white robe over a hoop skirt. Originally, this was mounted on the bow of the Lady Lancashire.  A Captain, who lived next door to the Inn, had carved the piece in 1830.  It had been removed from the ship for maintenance one time before the ship set sail.  Eerily, the ship subsequently sank and the figurehead had no home.  So it was given to the Mead family, who placed it on the front porch.

Over the years, there were reports of strange noises by guests who stayed at the Inn.  One guest claimed she heard unexplained footsteps in the second floor Bride's Room.  It sounded like someone was pacing all night long!  In another bedroom - the Groom's Room - a woman claims she saw the figure of a ghostly woman dressed in an old fashioned white dress.  The woman appeared to be looking out the window, as if waiting for a sailor to return.  Coincidently, the figurehead was directly below this window.  Perhaps it's the ghostly figure of a woman waiting for the return of someone from the Lady Lancashire.

Another story involves a woman who was walking into a local church one Sunday morning.  The young girl is met in the lobby by a man who asks her if she is alright.  Although she finds this to be a strange question, she says she is alright and continues into the sanctuary.  Just as she is going to sit in a pew, the man touches her on the shoulder, and asks her again if she is alright!  She again states that she's fine. The man disappeared, and she didn't see him anymore.

That night, she is looking through her deceased grandmother's photo album.  The young girl is startled to see the image of a man who is wearing the same clothes as the man who talked to her in the church.  She asks her mother who the man is in the photo.  Her mother explains that this is her grandmother's husband - her grandfather that she had never met!  He had met an untimely death, right around the time that the girl was born. A horse and buggy had accidently struck him while he was crossing the street.  His spirit was apparently attempting to make contact from the spirit world.

A family in Cos Cob - which will remain anonymous - experienced a strange occurence several years ago.  One night, a young boy woke up from a sound sleep in his bedroom on the second floor.   He was screaming and crying.  The boy was all scratched up and was shaking like a leaf - as if he had seen a ghost!  He claimed a man had come into the room, and was trying to drag him somewhere.  The man kept on repeating the words "Johnson Maddey".  Furthermore, the man's face appeared to be on fire!

There's also the story of a girl in Riversville, who experienced contact with a ghostly spirit in the 1990s.  She decided to take a shortcut through some woods near the intersection of Riversville Road and John Street.  It was dusk, and there were many piles of leaves on the ground.  As she walked uphill on a curving trail, she heard the sound of leaves rustling behind her as if someone was following.  When she stopped, it stopped.  When she walked, it walked. So she decided to stop suddenly.  The leaves rustled about 50-feet behind her until it suddenly stopped.  She started to walk again, then heard something (or someone) stop.  This time she stopped and cried out "Who's there?"  The rustling started again, and it seemed as if something had come within 10-feet of her. She screamed and ran up the hill.  It felt as though something was very close to her!  The young lady ran frightened all the way home.  She never walked in those woods at dusk ever again!

Happy Halloween, everybody!




Historical Happenings

| No Comments

Newspapers and Genealogy: Tracking Your family One Character At A Time
Saturday - October 31 - 10:30 AM
Cos Cob Library

Janeen Bjork will show participants her tricks and techniques for
searching her family history.  Free and open to all.

Community Mapping Project
October 29 to December 9
Flinn Gallery - Greenwich Library

In conjunction with the 375th Anniversary of Greenwich,
The Flinn Gallery at Greenwich Library invites you to
participate in a community mapping project. Stop by
the Flinn Gallery during the month of October to create
your own hand drawn map of Greenwich. All materials will
be provided and maps will be displayed within the Library.

The Great Patent Medicine Era
Saturday - November 17 - 2 PM
Second Floor Meeting Room

Bill Cameron will talk about the charlatans who took advantage of
people with their bogus elixirs.  Free and open to all.
Registration required.

Recent Comments

  • Carl White: Loyal reader - Thank you for your comment and reading read more
  • https://me.yahoo.com/a/anopZx97kMitoOAFG7cua2fLKBMwkg--#fd1cc: Thanks for this article. My mother took several classes at read more
  • Carl White: Thank you for that clarification. Since there are no physical read more
  • https://me.yahoo.com/a/d3p2HHgbw8iSI08pyfHfdO.Ui2PO#f3ba4: Very nice discussion. One correction: the map is wrong. Chickahominy read more
  • Carl White: Thank you for that information. I came across several people read more
  • pfalexla: LOTS MORE Thank you for this great effort. Not to read more
  • Michael A. Clar: Carl, I was surfing the web the other day for read more
  • Carl White: Heather - Thanks for this information. Could you tell me read more
  • Heather Converse: According to ancestry.com Edmund and Marquis were cousins. Please edit read more
  • Al Brecken: Carl , a brilliant musical composition is the "Second read more

Recent Assets

  • bILL fINCH012.jpg
  • William Finch.jpg
  • Bat.jpg
  • Pumkin Heads.jpg
  • Art Eisel165.jpg
  • Art Barn164.jpg
  • WTC1068.jpg
  • 25wabin.jpg
  • FullSizeRender (4).jpg
  • FullSizeRender (2).jpg

Find recent content on the main index, or to browse all entries look in the all entries list or the archives.