Dr. Mary Jordan Finley was born November 26, 1849, in Pennsylvania to William Augustus Finley and Amanda Jane Irwin/Erwin. There is no record of her parents getting married. The 1850 U.S. Census shows them living with Amanda’s mother, Mary Irwin, in Fannett, Franklin County, Pennsylvania, where 23-year-old Amanda J. is still listed with the surname Irwin. Also listed in the household are various other Irwin’s including Amanda’s brother, Alexander J. Irwin, and the Finley’s, including William (28), Mary (2), and Augustus (0). Amanda disappears after 1850 and, in the 1860 U.S. Census, Mary J. is still living with her grandmother. William Finley had moved to Clay, Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania, and is living with the family of James Galaher. William would go on to marry James’s 17-year-old daughter, Margaret, two years later, having four more children: Edward, John, Lewis, and Amanda.
It was Mary Jordan Finley’s uncle Alexander that would eventually bring her to Mansfield, Ohio. Dr. Alexander J. Erwin, who was practicing medicine in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, had met a Mansfield girl name, Mary C. Johnson. The two would be married in Mansfield on November 26, 1867, and return to Ft. Wayne. In 1870 by the “urgent solicitation of friends,” Dr. Erwin and his wife returned to Mansfield, where he soon set up a practice. On November 27, 1874, Mary C. Erwin died at the age of 35 of consumption. Dr. Erwin and his wife had recently returned from Europe, where it was hoped her condition would improve, but it seemed to have little benefit. Dr. Erwin poured himself into his work after the death of his wife, becoming coroner. In 1877 the first mentions of Mary Finley living in Mansfield are seen. She is active in the Mansfield Lyceum, reading poems and lectures. She is also listed in the 1877-78 city directory as living with her uncle at 124 West Market St. (Park Ave. West). A short time later, Mary would return to Pennsylvania to attend the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, graduating in 1881.
In 1881 reports circulated that Dr. Erwin intended to lease the Sherman House on the corner of Fourth and Diamond Streets with intentions to make it a hospital for the treatment of chronic diseases. Dr. Mary Finley was going to join him and be in charge of the treatment of women’s diseases. Dr. Finley arrived in Mansfield around February of 1882 and began practicing out of the Sherman House, sometimes referred to as the “invalid hotel.” In the summer of 1885, along with Dr. Rebecca S. Hunt, of Philadelphia, and Mrs. H. M. Weaver and Mrs. M. D. Harter of Mansfield, Dr. Finley traveled to Europe. While there, Drs. Finley and Hunt studied medicine at the Imperial University of Vienna. Drs. Erwin and Finley stayed in the Sherman House until the end of 1886 and, in 1888, Dr. Finley bought property to the east of Dr. Craig’s home on Park Ave. West for $4,000 with intentions to build a new house that would “be an ornament to that part of the avenue.” Dr. Finley did erect a building that still stands today at 46 and 48 Park Avenue West. The building has been recently renovated with the upstairs being made into apartments with two storefronts on the ground level.
Dr. Finley worked out of her office at 48 Park Ave West until around 1900. The 1901 city directory lists a dentist by the name of Dr. Benedict located in her former office. Dr. Finley continued to keep her residence upstairs, but would split her time over the next few years between Mansfield and Cuernavaca, Mexico. In 1907 Dr. Finley wrote home to her cousin, W. E. Orbison, about her participation in a reception for U. S. Secretary of State, Elihu Root. Root, who was with his daughter and the American Ambassador, was welcomed by Finley on behalf of the American Residents of Cuernavaca. Dr. Finley’s date for the evening was Major Porfirio Diaz, the only son of the then Mexican President. That same year, she wrote to her uncle Dr. A. J. Erwin about Aztec pyramids discovered nearby and how they resembled the pyramids in Egypt.
On March 4, 1912, Dr. Finley would write her last letter to the people of Mansfield detailing her experiences living in Mexico during the early days of the Mexican Revolution. Finley described how troops would go into the smaller villages outside of Cuernavaca and burn them and take the inhabitants prisoner. Most of the villagers were supporters of Emiliano Zapata, the main leader of the peasant revolution. Though she was not a supporter of the revolution, the sight of men, women, and children being marched through the streets saddened her. The men would be lined up against a wall and shot while the women and children were “turned loose in Cuernavaca without food or shelter.” She closed her letter by saying “the greatest kindness the United States can do us is to keep their hand off and let the counter revolution go on as rapidly as possible.”
Dr. Mary Jordan Finley died on December 17, 1912, in Philadelphia, PA. In addition to the many great achievements in her life, she was also a member of many civic, literary, and social organizations and was an ardent supporter of the Mansfield Library Association, writing one of the earliest histories on library service in Mansfield. Susan M. Sturges was able to see Dr. Finley while she was in the hospital in Philadelphia shortly before her death and, while speaking to her, remarked that the doctor said she “longed to come to Mansfield, [her] old home.” Dr. Finley is buried in Mansfield Cemetery.
- Richland Shield and Banner (Mansfield, Ohio). 27 Nov 1867, p. 3.
- Mansfield Herald (Mansfield, Ohio). 15 Dec 1870, p. 3
- Richland Shield and Banner (Mansfield, Ohio). 05 Dec 1874, p. 3.
- Bodley, R. L., & Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania. (1881). Valedictory address: To the twenty-ninth graduating class of the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania. Philadelphia: Grant, Faires & Rogers, Printers.
- Mansfield Herald (Mansfield, Ohio). 28 Jul 1881, p. 3.
- Ohio Liberal (Mansfield, Ohio). 15 Feb 1882, p. 3.
- Mansfield Herald (Mansfield, Ohio). 07 May 1885, p. 4,
- Daily Shield and Banner (Mansfield, Ohio). 01 Nov 1888, p. 4.
- News-Journal (Mansfield, Ohio), 25 Oct 1907, p. 8.
- News-Journal (Mansfield, Ohio), 04 Nov 1907, p. 6.
- News-Journal (Mansfield, Ohio), 11 Mar 1912, p. 3.
- News-Journal (Mansfield, Ohio), 07 Dec 1912, p. 9.