James "Old Virginny" Finney (1817-1861) was a miner on the Comstock in the 1850s. He was one of the first to discover gold in Gold Hill, and the man for whom Virginia City is named.

About Finney’s naming of Virginia City. The popular Virginia City legend is that an inebriated Finney was stumbling down the town’s main street when he stumbled and broke a bottle of whiskey.

According to the story, he was embarrassed about his clumsiness wasting the whiskey and he decided to use the occasion to “christen” the community “Virginia City” after his state of birth.
James Finney, State of Virginia native, died Chinatown Dayton June 20, 1861. About 44 years old, one of the first gold miners in Gold Canon, arriving in 1850 or 1851.

Old Virginny was so revered by other Comstock miners, they named Virginia City after him, voting at a community meeting. What little is known about him indicates he was a hard drinking but skillful miner.

Also generous, honorable, congenial, charitable and picturesque. History notes he located the first claims on the Comstock, at Gold Hill at the Comstock Lode.

He later sold his claim for a horse, a couple of blankets and a bottle of whiskey. He died in Dayton NV in 1861 from a fall from his horse while drunk.
Part of the reason for different takes on the man often called the father of Virginia City is that actual details about his life are sketchy.

For example, even his real name is in dispute. In some accounts he is James Fennimore (or even, Fenimore) while in others he is named James Finney.

What is known is that Finney was born in about 1817 in the state of Virginia—hence his nickname, “Old Virginny.” Little is known about his early years but apparently he headed to California during that state’s gold rush of 1849.
Comstock writer Dan DeQuille, who generally comingled facts with fanciful tales, later claimed that his name was originally Fennimore but he changed it to Finney after allegedly killing a man in California.

He also said that sometime in 1851, Finney crossed the Sierra Nevada to the Gold Canyon area near present-day Virginia City, where he began prospecting for gold.
There appears to be a consensus that Finney resided in Gold Canyon during the decade between 1851 and 1861. It was during this time that he worked as a miner.

In 1859, Finney moved up the canyon, which had become depleted of mineral wealth, along with a handful of other miners and began working a promising outcropping that was named “Gold Hill.”

A handful of accounts, mostly written years later, generally describe Finney as a well-liked and hardworking miner who was mostly likely illiterate and had a weakness for alcohol.