BRYAN COUNTY HISTORY: Finchtown- A Community under Water

Bryan County Genealogy Library
Boats fill Lake Texoma Memorial Day holiday weekend in 2018.

There has always been a bit of confusion about Finchtown, a community that ceased to exist when Lake Texoma was filled.  Sources say that a post office named Finch was established two miles northwest of Colbert in 1898, also briefly known as Finchville, and in 1901 was permanently changed to Platter.  

Finchtown, just northwest of Platter where a ferry crossed the Washita, was founded in 1870 by Ode Finch, a Chickasaw. J. M. Finch, a descendent of Ode, celebrated his sixty-third anniversary in 1963 and told the Democrat that he and his bride, Vada, got married on the Finchtown Ferry boat in 1900. In 1905 the newspaper in nearby Woodville reported: “Work has begun and is progressing nicely on the road to the Finchtown Ferry and it will not be long before we will begin to reap the reward for our labor.” Mr. Bowen was in charge of the ferry. 

It seems ironic that a community that worked hard to be able to cross the water, is now under it. When the dam was constructed and Lake Texoma was created in the forties, several farms and communities were flooded. Many people are familiar with Preston Bend, Hagerman, Cedar Mills and Woodville, but Finchtown has gotten little recognition.  

Finchtown was an active community with a school and a variety of church activities. There are no specific mentions of businesses, but the Woodville editor did comment that with a better road the two communities could trade and market produce.  

Like most Oklahoma communities Finchtown had some problems with crime, especially prohibition. In 1913 the Stewart boys eluded Durant Sheriff Lib Hart and Deputy Ruel Taylor, despite their all-night vigil.  Tom Coffey, constable of Woodville finally managed to bring them in and take them to jail.  

The Durant Democrat published community news columns for several years and Finchtown was included from the twenties through the forties. The heyday of Finchtown seems to be the thirties.   

In October of 1932 the school house burned down, leaving two teachers and fifty students without a place to learn. The community quickly chose a new location, on the Mead-Platter highway, east of the old building, and hired the James brothers of Durant to construct a new school. It was opened the first week of December. Later there was a Christmas tree and program at the school. Rev. Barnes, from the Finchtown Baptist Church was one of the speakers.   

In 1933 Mrs. Works was one of the primary teachers in Finchtown. Tragically, her husband, Abe, was shot and killed during a quarrel at a dance in Madill. He was a deputy sheriff in Marshall county, but had been off the force five days when he was killed. 

The Finchtown baseball team play Denison and lost 4 to 16, in August of 1935. Baseball was popular and other games are mentioned during that era.  

Plans for the Denison Dam changed the whole area, and certainly sealed the fate of Finchtown. Platter residents held fund raisers and were “working to raise $300” in 1940 so they could have the school house moved to Platter as a “place to worship God”. In April of 1943 Mr. G. W. Peppers moved his “old house place from Finchtown to Platter” and the paper reported “three other houses moved in town in the last few months”.  

Finchtown lies buried underwater, but a few people may still recall the little town. In her 2002 obituary it says Willie Mae White “taught school several years at Finchtown, where part of Lake Texoma is now located.”

Bryan County History is a weekly feature contributed by members of the Bryan County Genealogy Library and Archives in Calera. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Texoma Marketing and Media Group. Is there a historic event or topic you want to read about? Contact the library at P.O. Box 153, Calera, OK 74730.