St. Thomas owes its existence to William Finn: He gave Archbishop John Ireland the land to build the school on.

Closing on a house can be a interesting moment, but usually not for the reason of being connected back to more than 150 years of family history and the origins of a university.

That’s exactly what happened to Pat Finn last year, though, as he closed on a house on Cleveland Avenue that his son now lives in as he attends St. Thomas.

The campus of the St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary, later called College of St. Thomas, can be seen behind Lake Mennith in 1886. The original property for St. Thomas was donated by the Finn family.

The campus of the St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary, later called College of St. Thomas, can be seen behind Lake Mennith in 1886. The original property for St. Thomas was donated by the Finn family.

“At the closing they brought the deeds and titles, and there’s the original deed of land going from the government to William Finn, my great-great-grandfather,” Pat said.

Finn received the land after a losing a finger through a self-inflicted gunshot accident in 1847. The disability allowed him a bounty land warrant for a piece of property within the Fort Snelling military reservation.

St. Thomas owes its existence to William Finn: He gave Archbishop John Ireland the land to build the school on. Eventually Finn bequeathed to Ireland all his property in the area, which encompassed most of the area now found between Marshall, Fairview, and St. Clair avenues, and the Mississippi River.

“We always knew there was Finn Street and heard stories about great-great-grandfather having a farm here,” Pat said of growing up in the Highland Park area. “It’s pretty cool, with the land being given to him and him passing it on.

“I always joke that I pay property taxes on land we gave away, and I pay tuition to the school we gave the land away to,” Pat added with a smile.

The Finn Legacy Society at St. Thomas honors the Finn family’s legacy gift to the school, and recognizes the nearly 800 other donors who have since included St. Thomas in their will or given an estate gift. Donors are also listed in perpetuity on the annual honor roll wall outside on the third floor of the Anderson Student Center.

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