Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Wednesday search challenge (5/29/13): Who owned Edgewood Park before it was a park?

One of my very favorite places to go walking or running in the springtime is Edgewood Park.  It's in Redwood City, about 25 minutes from the Googleplex.  It's a large open space that's geologically interesting because it has a good deal of serpentine soils.  (Serpentine is a kind of stone that is has low calcium-to-magnesium ratio and few essential nutrients such as nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus.  That means it's not great for plants from other parts of the world--only native plants can grow well in serpentine soil!)

As a consequence, the place is full of wildflowers, and threaded through with trails that go from deep forest to open hillside.  In the spring, streams run down the hillside and bird song sounds throughout the whole place.  It's really wonderful.  

So, being a curious fellow, I wondered how such a large park in the heart of Silicon Valley came to be. 

I did a little research, and discovered a remarkable tale of a man who seems as though he stepped out of a storybook, which leads to today's challenge.  

Can you find: 

1.  Who owned the land that would become Edgewood Park between (around) 1908 until his death in 1930?   
2.  This man was quite a character: What was his job?  And what athletic records did he hold?   
3.  What did he hold a patent for?  
4.  And, if you have the time, where is he buried?  

As always, let us know HOW you found this information, and about how long it took you to do so.  

Search on!  



  1. 1. Henry C. Finkler

    2. a. California State Supreme Court Bailiff.
    2. b."In his early years, he competed in high-wheel (penny farthing) bicycle riding and became the state champion in both short and long distances."

    3. "He also obtained a United States patent for a bicycle roller-brake."

    4. Burial:
    Union Cemetery
    Redwood City
    San Mateo County
    California, USA

    I began searching by thinking what might a page about the history of Edgewood Park look like or more to the point what words would be used.

    I searched [ "what is now edgewood park" ] lots of results about saving a butterfly mentioning someone named Weiss. Searched [ "what is now edgewood park" -weiss ] and got results for Edgewood Park in Connecticut. Searched [ "what is now edgewood park" -weiss redwood ] and got 3 results.

    One of the results was Appendix B - San Mateo County "Edgewood Natural Preserve Master Plan"

    This PDF listed not only geological history but a lot of history about the owners.

    I found the time range you gave in the clues and focused on Henry C. Finkler. Searching [ "Henry C. Finkler" ] gave me his grave at the top of the results.

    Tried searching Google Patents for [ "Henry C. Finkler" ] and only got the find a grave link again.

    General web search for [ "Henry C. Finkler" patent ] gave me In Re Finkler: "Too Strange for Fiction" that answered the rest of the questions.

  2. First did a search of [Edgewood Park 1908] but came up with little. Also tried [Edgewood Park history] and still nothing. Did discover, however, that it is also called Edgewood County Park so I did a search using ["edgewood county park" 1908] and the 4th hit looked promising.

    The hit ( was an old newsletter put out by the Friends of Edgewood. In this issue, they talk about the influence of Henry C. Finkler who, along with his wife, purchased the land in 1908 and had 200 acres when he died in 1930. Well, those two dates correspond to the dates in your question, so...

    1) Henry Finkler

    What did he do? Oh boy, this guy WAS a character. After doing some searches using combinations of "Henry Finkler" (NO GOOGLE, I DIDN'T MEAN HENRY WINKLER), 1930, and Edgewood and coming up with little bits of things here and there, I was able to piece together that he was associated with the Supreme Court, so I tried a search using [Henry Winkler AND supreme court]. The first hit was it, a pdf of an article from Plaintiff Magazine (WHAT?!). Here it is:

    So apparently his father, a supreme court bailiff, committed suicide when Henry was 19. He took over for his father as bailiff and eventually became Senior Secretary. He was also obsessed with gathering weather stats, claiming that where he lived was one of only three perfect climates in the world. In fact, "His weather records were used to support the prize-winning slogan, “Climate Best by Government Test,” which is still Redwood City’s official slogan."

    Also in the article it talks about that in his early years, he "competed in high-wheel (pennyfarthing) bicycle riding and became the state champion in both short and long distances." So...

    2) Bailiff and Senior Secretary for the Supreme Court, amateur weather analyst, and (then) state champion in long and short distance high-wheel bicycle riding.

    What did he hold the patent for? Luckily this article mentions that "he also obtained a United States patent for a bicycle roller-brake." I wanted to verify using the Google patent search though.

    Easy peasy.

    3) Bicycle roller-brake

    Lastly, where is he buried? Just a search for ["Henry C. Finkler"] works as the first entry is from (

    4) Buried in Union Cemetary in Redwood City.

    Other things I learned about Finkler:
    -Committed suicide on his land.
    -Purchased land from John Isaac.
    -Designed his own on-site water supply from a hillside
    -Built a concrete bridge at the entrance that is still in use and the only thing that bears his name.

    Fun challenge and interesting dude.

    Total time was around 15 minutes. Once I found that one site, it was smooth sailing.

    1. I like it very much. Congratulations. I tried other ways and reading your post and Rosemary give me a new search path for this challenge. It was like always excellent challenge

  3. [property]

    [Henry Finkler]

    Henry Finkler became the owner of the land in 1908. He has been secretary at the California Supreme Court for more than 50 years and left this world on his property on November 18, 1930 by shooting himself through the heart a few years after the death of his wife. He is buried at the Union Cemetery, in the masonic order's plot (here's a pic of the grave, with the masonic symbol: Finkler has been state champion in high weel bicycle riding (long and short distances). He invented and patented a roller-brake (Patent number: 488066 Filing date: Aug 29, 1892 Issue date: Dec 13, 1892). The man had a special interest for weather statistics.

  4. 1. Who owned the land that would become Edgewood Park between (around) 1908 until his death in 1930?   
    Query Land Records San Mateo County - I don't have legal description or landowner so finding results would prove difficult. On to another direction...
    Location and time frame are known. Query to begin with history of the park EdgewoodPark>Bill and Jean Education Center>Friends of Edgewood
    Francis “Butch” Taylor reminisces about his family growing up on the land that would become Edgewood County Park. He describes his father-in law, Benjamin Grant Taylor and his connection to the Finklers and the land. He reflects on his experiences raising a family and assorted pets at Edgewood, and life in general in rural San Mateo County in the mid 20th century.
    Taylors were connected to the Finklers. Query Finkler Edgewood Park (important to note the family name Taylor when it comes to the legal battle over his will, very interesting and leaves you wondering).
    Newletter "Friends of Edgewood" August 1997
    #1 Answer "In 1908 Henry C. Finkler purchased the land"(200 acres) Confirmation needed
    Pdf re Finkler "too strange for fiction"
    More details about his life and afterlife court battle over his will and state of mind.
    2.  This man was quite a character: What was his job?  And what athletic records did he hold?
    #2a Following his father at 19 years of age in 1878 he became secretary to the State Supreme Court. He held the office for over fifty years. (Nepotism at work but he excelled in his position)
    #2b Answer (from above pdf) "In his early years Finkler was active in outdoor sports and took up competitive high wheel bicycle riding. He became the state champion".
    3.  What did he hold a patent for?  
    Query [ Henry C. Finkler]
    Result Henry 'G.' Finkler but it's a typo due to scanned document
    Roller Brake  Patent number: 488066 Filing date: 29 Aug 1892 Issue date: 13 Dec 1892
    An improved anti-friction braking system for bicycles.
    4.  And, if you have the time, where is he buried?
    #4 Answer Birth: 1858 Death: 1930 Burial:Union Cemetery Redwood City San Mateo County California, Grave Memorial # 6528313
    I personally think instead of remembering how he died that it be said he died of a broken heart. See pdf's for details of a most interesting man.
    Additional information learned along the way...
    #1Here's the court case documented

    #2 History of the park- downloaded pdf file
    by Carolyn Curtis
    In the summer of 1993, after 13 years as the centerpiece of the most bitter and protracted controver- sy in the history of San Mateo County, the serpentine habitat of Edgewood Park was saved from development as a golf course.

  5. Well, this looked a good project for Wikipedia and so it proved. Edgewood Park has its own heading and not much inside except for a vital link to Friends of EP which has a nice WWW site. And best of all a Google Search box ! I punched in [1930] and up popped Henry C Finkler and a brief note that he bought the land starting in 1908 eventually amounting to 200 acres. A simple SEARCH on [henry c finkler] produced loads of info about a Henry Winkler. By adding " " at each end of my search Mr Winkler went away.
    Now it was an easy romp with › Opinions showing that HCF Had suicided in 1930 and Find a Grave says he is buried in Union Cemetery. Patent US488066 - ROLLER-BRAKE - Google Patents is his.
    The most interesting find was: Excellent long write-up about him in which is mentioned Our Man was state high-wheel bicycle champion.
    So, all questions answered in about 2 minutes.
    However, my Wikipedia insight was preceded by more than half an hour reading about serpentine rocks and the park generally before I got serious.

    What transpired after his death is really curious so take a couple of minutes back at article "too strange for fiction"

    This was a dandy project. (pun noted)


  6. Forgot to add HCF was Senior Secretary of the Supreme Court


  7. I believe Henry C. Finkler owned the land.

    He was the Supreme Court bailiff. He was the state champion in high wheel bicycle riding. He held a patent for bicycle roller brake.

    He is buried in Union Cemetery in Redwood City, CA.

  8. Interesting challenge this time. Like others my searches quickly led to the friends of Edgewood website. I did find it interesting that the main history tab for both the friends of Edgewood and the parks website itself have very little in their history sections. From searching the friends site I was led to an article in one of their newsletters on the important people who lived in the park previously –

    This talked about the death of Henry Finkler by suicide. To confirm the date etc. I turned to the Newspaper Archives ( which I had access to via our local library. This led me to numerous articles on Henry Finkler and confirmed that he died on November 18th. What was interesting reading the articles was that his estate was actually left a coworker at the supreme court and a relative of his wife who had died in 1927 rather than his sister.

    The patent was easy to find using Google patents. He held patent 488066 which was issued on December 13, 1892. I do a lot of patent searches so I knew this would be easy to find but it’s interesting to note that you won’t find his patent if you searched the USPTO website as it’s no longer current and is considered to be abandoned. Google patents also has the inventors name wrong and has him marked as Henry G Finkler. As I simply searched for Henry Finkler it wasn’t a problem for me but this is a good case where searching for less is better.

    One side note not related to the original topic. When searching newspaper archives for Henry Finkler I found an article on his funeral but my eye was drawn to another article on the page. Its headline read – “Alleged Modern Fagan Arrested”. This led me down the road to find out what the heck a modern Fagan was, not used nowadays but was fun to read about it.

  9. AND...from 1930 until 1967, who owned the 200 acres of this property that included the "Finkler house" and that now form the heart of today's Edgewood County Park?
    My family! My grandfather, Benjamin Grant Taylor, Clerk of the CA State Supreme Court, co-inherited this property and bought out the other beneficiary. My siblings and I were blessed to grow up in the "Finkler house" and on this incredible property! Trish Taylor, 6-21-2021