THE STORY OF AUSTIN T. FINK AND THE LAMP TO LIGHT THE WAY
Many LaGrange residents are familiar with the small back road that runs parallel to a short section of Route 55 near Arlington High School named Dr. Fink Rd. – the same Dr. Fink Rd. where the little one room schoolhouse that once housed a mini-library is located.
But most residents don’t know who Dr. Fink was or why he has a street named after him. You might guess that he was a principal or schoolteacher, given the location of the old schoolhouse and the new high school, but you would be wrong.
According to the LaGrange Historical Society, Dr. Fink Rd. is named after Austin T. Fink, who really was a doctor. He was born in Peekskill in 1843 and served there as an assistant postmaster until he enlisted in the United States Navy and went off to fight in the Civil War. After being honorably discharged, he attended the University Medical College – perhaps because he saw so many who were wounded and permanently maimed in that terrible conflict, though we’ll never know for sure. When he graduated in 1869, he moved to LaGrange to practice medicine, a practice that lasted some 40 years.
Dr. Fink was certainly a busy man, serving as our town’s Postmaster (seems like he couldn’t get post-mastering out of his blood), Justice of the Peace, and Health Officer during his lifetime. The town’s mailboxes were right inside his home, but sometimes his medical duties meant he wasn’t home to let folks in to get their mail. So, he used a flagpole as his signal – if the flag was up, he was home and the mail was in!
No doubt the residents of LaGrange respected Dr. Fink for his knowledge and the position of authority he had in town. But the thing about Dr. Fink was that even as busy as he was, he went the extra mile for the people of LaGrange, and by the time of his death he was universally liked. People remembered that when there were times of drought, he let the townspeople bring their pails and draw water from his well (which seemed to never run dry). We can imagine that like many small-town doctors of his era, he probably traded his medical services for whatever folks could pay him with – eggs, milk, or manual labor around his property.
But the thing that struck us most about Dr. Fink, and what many residents of his day remembered about him, was his habit of leaving a burning kerosene lamp outside his home each night. He left it there to light the way for anyone who might need his help after dark.
Such a simple act, yet his spirit of simple service still speaks across the years to inspire us today. Dr. Fink died in 1913, but we can claim this inheritance and carry on his tradition.
Contact us to be part of our Capital Campaign and follow Dr. Fink’s example by leaving a lamp burning to light the way for a new generation of LaGrange residents.