[from “The Towpath” – April 1996]
Henry Conrad Finke was born in New Bremen on January 14, 1843, the son of William Jobst Finke and Elizabeth Barbara Kuenzel. After completing his education, he assisted his father in managing the farm and carrying out contracts on road building and the like.
On August 27, 1861, at the age of eighteen, he was one of the first to enlist with Company C, 37th Regiment of the Ohio Volunteer Infantry, and served the entire four years of the Civil War, suffering many hardships and taking part in many deadly conflicts. He was discharged on August 20, 1865, as a First Lieutenant, having been elected to that position in the week following his enlistment. He became an active member of the local post of the Grand Army of the Republic at New Bremen.
After the war, Mr. Finke returned home to New Bremen and again became associated with his father in the flour mill business. On November 28, 1867, he married Louise Wehrman. They had seven children, all of whom are still living (1911).
Together with his father, they founded the woolen industry in New Bremen. In 1866, he assisted personally in the erection of the woolen mills, taking personal charge of the business as soon as the building was completed, and retaining that position until death. When the Bakhaus & Kuenzel Company was organized in 1899 and assumed ownership of the mills, Mr. Finke was elected Superintendent. He later became Treasurer and retained that position until death. Keen insight into business affairs and sound judgment gave Mr. Finke a prominent position with the wool manufacturers and dealers all over the country. A Chicago firm declared him the shrewdest wool-buyer with whom they had ever come into contact.
In 1886, Mr. Finke was one of the organizers of the Citizens Building & Loan Association. He was elected Secretary and later served as President. He devoted much time in this capacity to the public good without remuneration.
Mr. Finke was an active member of New Bremen's volunteer firemen, being a member of the Cataract Fire Company which was formed around 1869 and was located in the fire house on South Washington Street.
Henry Finke was a man of positive convictions and firm character, but was always kind to his loved ones and ever ready to help the poor and needy.
On Saturday, January 14, 1911, he celebrated his 68th birthday surrounded by a number of his children and grandchildren, also being visited by members and employees of the Woolen Mills. On Sunday morning, he rose at the usual time and ate breakfast with his family. He had scarcely left the table when he complained of feeling ill and within a few minutes, he had passed away at the age of 68 years and 1 day. He is survived by his wife, 7 children, 15 grandchildren, a brother, and 2 sisters.
Funeral services were conducted in Christ Church by Rev. Ph. Wittich. His associates at Bakhaus & Kuenzel acted as pall bearers. Others attending his funeral were the old veterans from New Bremen, Minster, St. Marys, Wapakoneta, and Lima along with the members of the Volunteer Fire Dept. and the directors of the Citizens Building & Loan Association. He was laid to rest in German Protestant Cemetery.
(New Bremen Sun - 1/20/1911)
A native of New Bremen, Mrs. Finke was born February 16, 1849, to Fred and Marie (Schoenfeld) Wehrman and named Marie Louise. Her parents died of cholera, her father on July 22, 1849, and her mother on July 27, 1849. She was raised by a Mr. & Mrs. Wilhelmi of Lock Two.
On November 28, 1867, she married Henry Finke, a veteran of the Civil War and later one of New Bremen's foremost citizens and leading industrialists, prominently connected with The Kuenzel Mills Co. Mr. Finke died in 1911 after 44 years of marriage.
Mr. & Mrs. Finke had seven children: Mrs. Chris (Clara) Roettger - Otoe, Nebraska; Mrs. Charles (Alice) Garmhausen - Warren, Ohio; Mrs. George (Laura) Kuenning - Columbus, Ohio; Julius Finke - Omaha, Nebraska; Mrs. Fred (Minerva) Schroeder - Grenola, Kansas; Arthur Finke; and Mrs. Fred (Pearl) Longworth, both of New Bremen.
Mrs. Finke was New Bremen's oldest resident at 98 years, 4 months, and 3 days when she died June 19, 1947 at the home of Mrs. Longworth on South Washington Street. She had 19 grandchildren, 32 great-grandchildren and 11 great-great-grandchildren - a total of 69 direct descendants.
Funeral services were held at Vornholt Funeral Home with the Rev. Lewis G. Fritz conducting services. She was buried in German Protestant Cemetery beside her husband.
(New Bremen Sun - 6/27/1947)
How did the Finkes become associated with Bakhaus and Kuenzel? Henry's mother and his step-mother were both Kuenzels. His sister, Sophia Caroline Finke married a Dietrich William Backhaus on January 31, 1879. William Finke was a witness.