John Finch was another ambitious young man in early Arnold history. Ephriam “Swain” Finch and wife Sarah were John’s uncle and aunt. Brothers Swain, Thomas, and David had all come with their families to the Loup Valley, having prospered in Hardin County, Iowa. Free range for cattle was gone by 1873, so they drove their herd of cattle to Nebraska. They stayed at Pawnee Creek, near Brady, for two years before moving on to the South Loup Valley. While at Pawnee Creek, Swain and Sarah lost their only child, a 13 year old foster daughter. Brother Thomas Finch and three of his children all died of typhoid fever the year of the move, leaving two sons John Finch, who came to live with Sarah and Swain, and Will who came to the area around 1905. The David Finch family returned to Iowa. John Finch rode and “punched cows” for the “Olive” outfit, near Callaway, and became lifelong friends with Ira Olive. (A Sentinel article in a 1936 newspaper stated that John Finch, “had received two
prized mementos of the earliest pioneer days in this territory, which he had such an honorable and prominent part.” Those two items were Ira’s Colt 44 six-shooter, and a Winchester saddle rifle. John Finch’s grandson, Faylin Finch (deceased), became the new owner of the “prized” guns.)~ In early 1886, John Finch, who had married May Kelley from Cozad in 1883, tired of working in R.E. Allen’s store as a clerk and postmaster for two years, bought out Virgil Cannon’s interest in the Long Drug Store. (John and May’s first home was a little house in back of the drug store, that had to be moved to make room for Dierks Lumber in 1912.) John hired Dr. Murray to run his drug store for him until Charlie Root took over. ~Root, a druggist from Iowa, had filed a claim east of Devil’s Den, staying until he proved up in the early spring. Realizing that Callaway was going to have a Railroad before Arnold, he backed his wagon up to the Drug Store, loaded all his possessions and proceeded down the river to Callaway.~ After Root’s departure, Finch briefly hired retired druggist Long to run the store, then John took over. This was the beginning of John Finch’s sixty year business (1886-1946) as a druggist, learning about “every drug in existence” from Long and the “National Dispensatory, 1884 ed.” After 16 months in the Long Store, he moved to Editor Miller’s Print Shop (present site), which had been built in 1884. ~Miller was run out of town for his unpopular position on division of the county.~ John and May added a back room to the print shop, and used it for their drug store, until they built the new brick building in 1913-14, Finch Drug Store. Finch’s new drug store featured a splendid marble-topped soda fountain, and old-timers remember the spittoon that sat in the middle of the floor. The second floor of the Finch building was designed for use as a Lodge Hall, with both Masons and O.E.S using it for their meetings. May and John had two children, Rex who died as an infant, and Fay who became a business partner with his father. ~The Rex Chapter of O. E. S. was named for their child.~ John’s son Fay married Ruth McFarland from Callaway in 1921, and their children were Faylin and Patsy (Mrs. Elvin ‘Bub’ Kilmer). The years 1940- 1946 saw closings of four of the oldest businesses in Arnold including T.L. Jones Mercantile, John Jameson’s Custer Hotel, L.P. Rose Hardware, and the oldest of all Finch Drug Store. In 1946, John and son Fay Finch closed their doors and sold the store to Joe Hill, a Rexall representative for the area. By 1951, Joe Hill had passed away, and his wife, Loretta, kept the store open until 1954. The business was then sold to Bill Frazier; the building and lot were sold to Mynor and Cecil Smith. Marge Corbin-Hagler used the building as a café for a short time, and Ken Myer used it as an electrical shop. ~The Ken and Jeanne Myer family made their home in the spacious upstairs living quarters, 1987-1989. Myer Electric, Plumbing & Heating was their family business on the main floor. Kim (Myer) Beshaler stated, “It was the ‘funnest’ place I ever lived!”~ Norris and Fern Harding purchased the building in 1970, running it as Harding’s Used Furniture store, before the building was sold to Wayne Preston. In 1975, Wayne Preston and Leron Wright moved Preston Insurance from their location on Main Street to the Finch Building. ~Rich Brengleman’s Sandhills Insurance then moved into the building they vacated on Main Street.~ Joe Bob and Randi Atkins purchased the property from Wayne Preston in December of 2000. Needing more space, the Atkins moved Arnold Insurance Agency to their present location in 2016. Echo Pelster became the new and present owner of this historic building, Principal Financial Group, in April 2016.~. As renovations took place by the new and present owner, many of its beautiful old secrets were revealed, including an angled doorway, original gas lights still hanging, and beautiful tin ceilings.
(Some information for the markers was taken from the book “One Hundred Years on the South Loup” by Norene Hall Mills. Written and prepared by Berni Crow 6/11/20)