Exeter New Hampshire Artist & Botanist, Catherine "Kate" Furbish (1834-1931)

Image courtesy of Photograph of Kate Furbish. Pejepscot Historical Society via Maine Memory Network.

Image courtesy of Photograph of Kate Furbish. Pejepscot Historical Society via Maine Memory Network. Used with permission.

Most people called her “Kate.” She was born Catherine Furbish in Exeter, New Hampshire, on May 19, 1834, the daughter of Benjamin and Mary (Lane) Furbish.

By the age of one year, the family had moved to Brunswick, Maine, where young Catherine developed a passionate interest for wildflowers. Like many other well-off young girls of her time, Kate acquired a ‘genteel education,’ which included painting and the study of French literature. She even spent a year in Paris perfecting her painting. In 1860 she attended a series of botany lectures in Boston by George L. Goodale, later a professor of Botany at Harvard, and as a result developed a serious interest in science.

Around 1870, Kate began to collect local plants and produce highly detailed and beautiful botanical illustrations. She was a self-taught botanist, relying on public lectures attended during trips to Boston, and popular texts of the day, especially Asa Gray’s “Manual of the Botany of the Northern United States.”  She spent much of the rest her life collecting samples, then classifying and drawing these flora of Maine.

By 1880 she had earned respect among well-known naturalists, including the eminent American botanist Asa Gray. A January 19, 1892 edition of the Jackson Citizen (Jackson MI) announced: “Miss Kate Furbish, Maine’s botanist, has traveled thousands of miles over the state in connection with her “Flora of Maine.” She generally travels alone, carries no weapons, and says she has not in her twenty years’ experience encountered “anything to be afraid of.” In 1894, Furbish helped to found the Josselyn Botanical Society of Maine and she served as president in 1911.

The May 1892 Chicago Tribune reported that, “Miss Kate Furbish, Maine’s botanist, has traveled thousands of miles over that state in connection with her “Flora of Maine.” She generally travels alone, carries no weapons, and says she has not, in her twenty years’ experience, encountered “anything to be afraid of.”

In July of 1895 the newspaper, Bangor Daily Whig and Courier, reported that Miss Kate Furbish was elected as one of the vice presidents of the Maine Botanists (Society). In 1908, Furbish bequeathed her collection of 1,300 watercolor paintings and sketches to Bowdoin College. She died on December 6, 1931, and is buried in Pine Grove Cemetery, in Brunswick, Cumberland Co., Maine.

Boston Herald, Boston MA, December 7, 1931, page 11
BRUNSWICK, Me., Dec 6–Miss Kate Furbish who several years ago presented her collection of Maine plants and flowers to Harvard University, and her 16-volume collection of paintings of the plants and flowers of this state to Bowdoin College, died this evening, aged 77 years.

In 1976 Kate Furbish’s name came famous once again when the wild snapdragon, named the ‘Furbish lousewort,‘ was rediscovered after having been believed to be extinct. This discovery helped stall and eventually stop the building of the Dickey-Lincoln dam and reservoir on the St. John’s River, which would have flooded 88,000 acres of northern Maine forests.

“Kate had the true Maine perseverance about her (actually it was the New Hampshire perseverance!) She was driven, determined, and didn’t take no for an answer. She loved nothing more than being deep in the Maine woods. She has contributed greatly to the State, and I think it is wonderful that people will finally get to hear her story,” said Connie Bondeson, an environmental studies student at UMFK.


Daniel Forbush, b. 1620 in Kinellar Scotland; d. Oct 1687 in Marlboro, Middlesex Co MA. He m. 26 March 1660 in Cambridge MA to Rebecca Perriman, dau of John & Mary (Snelling) Perriman.  She b. 1639 in Cambridge MA and d. 3 May 1677 in Cambridge MA. He married 2nd 23 May 1679 in Concord MA to Deborah Rediat, dau of John and Ann (Dolt) Rediat).  She b. 24 Apr 1652 in Concord MA and d. 20 Apr 1720 in Marlboro MA
Children of Daniel & Rebecca (Perriman) Forbush
1. +Daniel Forbush, b. 20 March 1664 in Cambridge MA
2. Thomas Forbush, b. 6 March 1667 in Cambridge MA
3. Elizabeth Forbush, b. 16 March 1669 in Cambridge MA
4. Rebecca Forbush, b. 15 Feb 1672 in Concord, Middlesex Co MA
5. Samuel Forbes/Forbush b 8 March 1672 in Concord MA
Children of Daniel & Deborah (Rediat) Forbush
6. Mehitable Farrabus?
7. Thomas Forbush, b. 6 March 1667 at Cambridge MA
8. John Forbush, b. 1681 in Marlborough MA
9. Isaac Forbush, b. 30 Oct 1682 in Marlborough, Middlesex Co MA
10. Jonathon Forbush, b. 12 March 1684 in Marlboro MA
11. Deborah Forbush, b. 1687 in Marlboro MA

Daniel Forbush, b. 20 March 1664 in Cambridge MA, d. bef 11 Feb 1745 in Kittery/Elliot area, York Co ME. He married bef 9 March 1690 in York Co ME to Dorothy PRAY. She b. 29 Jan 1664 in Braintree MA.
Children of Daniel & Dorothy (Pray) Furbish:
1. Daniel Furbish, b. 9 March 1690; married Anna Lord
2. Rebecca Furbish, b. 16 Apr 1694 in Kittery/Eliot, York Co ME; m. 9 Feb 1715-6 to Benjamin GOULD
3. +Lieut. John Furbish, b. 19 Apr 1699 in Kittery/Eliot, York Co ME
4. Joanna Furbish, b. 14 July 1701; m. 20 Feb 1732-2 Samuel Fernald
5. William Furbish, b. 19 March 1703-4; m. Sarah Preble
6. Dorothy Furbish, b. 1704; m Joseph Hartford
7. Sarah Furbish, b abt 1706; m. 13 April 1733 Hatevil Hall; moved to Falmouth Maine
8. Joseph Furbish, b. abt 1712; m. 1740 Hannah Hussey of Dover; settled in Lebanon ME. Children: Benjamin, possibly Hannah, Abigail and Charles.
9. Katharine Furbish, b. abt 1708; m. 1730 Robert Allen of Kittery
10. Mary Furbish, b abt 1715; m. 1743 Benjamin Roberts

Lt. John Furbish, b. 19 Apr 1699 in Eliot, ME, and d. by 5 Jan 1756 in Wells, York Co ME; m. Hannah Littlefield, dau of Dependance & Hannah (Snell) Littlefield. She b. abt 1708 in Wells ME, and d. aft 1760 in Wells ME. Lt. Furbish served during “Dummer’s War (Old Kittery, by Stackpole 1903, p 438-439). He was baptized and received into the church at South Berwick 9 Sept. 1716. Lieutenent in military service in 1722. Widow Hannah was made administratrix of his estate 5 January 1756. She was on the tax list of 1760. Lived south of the Third Hill, near York line.
Children of Lt. John & Hannah (Littlefield) Furbish:
1. Samuel Furbish, baptized 2 Sep 1726 in South Berwick, York ME; m. 5 Jan 1764 in Berwick ME to Sarah Gubtail, dau of Nathaniel & Mary (Brawn) Gubtail. She b. 2 Sep 1726 in South Berwick ME
2. Dorothy Furbish, baptized 1730 in Kittery, York Co ME; m. 26 June 1754 in Kittery ME
3. John Furbish, baptized 2 August 1734 in Wells ME; m. 27 July 1751 Katherine Tobey
to John DENNETT. He b. 20 May 1730 in Kittery ME and d. 5 Dec 1812 in Lyman, York Co ME; had 8 ch
4. Hannah Furbish baptized July 1735 in Wells ME; m. 22 Sep 1753 to John EMERY
5. James Furbish, baptized July 1735 in Wells ME; m. 21 Jan 1768 to Sarah Emery
6. Phoebe Furbish, b. Apr 1738 in Wells ME; m. 25 Feb 1755 to Elisha LITTLEFIELD. Had 12 children.
7. +Joshua Furbish, b. abt 1748 in Wells ME
8. Hepzibah Furbish, b. abt 1751 in Wells ME; m. 4 Jan 1773 to John LEWIS
9. Elizabeth Furbish, b. abt 1753

Joshua Furbish, b. abt 1748 in Wells ME; m. 27 Dec 1770 to Katherine Davis. She b. abt 1750 in Wells ME.
Children of Joshua & Katherine (Davis) Furbish: [from Records of the First Church of Wells, Maine, Communicated by George Sawin Stewart AB of Watertown MA, cont. from Vol 75, page 315]
1. Moses Forbush baptized [April 25 1773]  Moses, Son of Joshua & Katharine Forbush
2. Enoch Forbush, baptized [March 12 1775] Enoch, son of Joshua & Katharine Forbush
3. +Joshua Forbush, baptized [May 11, 1777] Joshua, son of Joshua & Katharine Forbush
4. John Forbush and
5. Enoch Forbush (twins) baptized [October 3, 1779] John & Enoch, sons of Joshua & Katharine Forbush.  Enoch m. 29 Aug 1807 in Wells Maine to Hepzibah Eldridge, and had 5 daughters: Katharine, Hepsibah, Alice P., Harriet S., and Permelia.

Dr. Joshua Forbush, baptized May 11, 1777 in Wells Maine, died [before 25th] May 1832 (see obituary below).  According to the website SoMeOldNeWs, “Kate Furbish and her Drakes Island Legacy” “Dr. Furbish, born lame, was provided with a good education to help him compensate for his limited physical capacity. He became a renaissance man, excelling in Latin and mathematics far beyond his education. In addition to being a successful cobbler, he was a self-taught inventor with remarkable mechanical gifts. He taught the young mariners of Wells to navigate even though his own mobility was challenged. Joshua also taught himself to play the organ and built two organs for the First Unitarian Universalist Parish in Kennebunk.”  The website, First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church of Kennebunk, in a story, Our Hooks & Hastings Church Organ, states: “First Organ: In 1819, Joseph Dane, Esq. and others petitioned the Parish to place an organ in the church and to build “a suitable case for the same.” This organ was built by Dr. Joshua Furbish of Wells, known as a mechanic and mathematician and a self taught organ builder.”  He married 1st) before 1807 —; He married 2nd) 1 August 1816 in York, York, Maine to Susanna Wells, daughter of Robert Wells, as her 2nd husband.  She was b. 30 July 1783, and married 1st)  — Tibbetts. [page 22 Wells book]  Her father Robert Wells bequeathed to her,  “I give to m daughter Susanna Furbish, wife of Joshua Furbish, one bed, and bedding thereto belonging, m large looking-glass, a brass candlestick, and three flowered stone plates, and two silver spoons.” [page page 35 Wells] [Book: Genealogy of the Wells family, of Wells, Maine, by Charles Kimball Wells, 1874]
Died–In Wells, Dr. Joshua Furbish, aged 55.” from Tuesday, May 29, 1832 Portland Weekly Advertiser (Portland ME), page 3
Children of Joshua & ? (?) Forbush: [may be more children]
1. +Benjamin Furbush, b. 2 May 1807 in Wells, Maine.

Benjamin Furbish, b. 2 May 1807 in Wells, Maine, d. in Brunswick ME, 27 February 1873. He is buried in Pine Grove Cemetery, Brunswick, Cumberland Co. Maine; He m. 1834 to Mary B. Lane of Exeter NH. She b. 1811 NH, and died January 27, 1873. They resided at first in Exeter NH. He learned the trade of a tin-plate and sheer-iron worker, and worked a year or two in St. Andrews, New Brunswick Canada. In 1831 he went to Exeter NH, and in 1836 to Brunswick ME.  There, from 1835 to 1866 he was engaged in the manufacture of tinware, to which he later added stoves, hardware, agricultural implements, crockery, and glassware.In 1842 he was one of the officers (vice-president) of the newly formed Mechanic’s Association of Brunswick. He was the inventor and manufacturer of one of the first cooking-stoves in the country. He was the first person in Brunswick Maine to keep a general assortment of hardware. His health was broken down early in life, but a strong constitution enabled him to battle with disease through many years. He was one of the earlier and most earnest supporters of the graded school system in Brunswick and a member of the first board of agents, in which position he served for a number of years. He was also one of the building committee for the erection of both the grammar schools and Union Street primary school-houses. He was a Freemason. He was a representative in 1854 and in 1861, selectman in 1851, and also town treasurer, and in the discharge of his public duties secured the full approbation of his fellow citizens. “Mr. Furbish was a man who exhibited marked characteristics, a person of strong individuality, great frankness of expression, but tolerant of the faith and opinions of others. He was reserved, uncommunicative at times, but still, beneath all this reserve, there flowed a vein of humor which rendered him a most desirable companion in social life, and which was the charm of home. He was keen in his criticisms, but no ill nature marked them. A man with a clear judgment, enlarged and liberal views of men and things, reaching much, he proved an excellent citizen, ready to promote any good object…. A member of the Congregational Church for many years, he maintained a Christian character, to the sincerity of which others have borne testimony.”
U.S. Census > 1860 United States Federal Census > Maine > Cumberland > Brunswick
Benjamin Furbish 53 M Stove Dealer 3000/7500 ME
Mary Furbish 49 F NH
Catharine Furbish 26 F NH
John Furbish 23 M Clerk Maine
Edward P. Furbish 19 M Maine
Frank L. Furbish 11 M Maine
U.S. Census > 1870 United States Federal Census > Maine > Cumberland > Brunswick
Furbish, Benjamin 63 M W Retired Hardware Merchant 900/13000 Maine
Furbish, Mary 58 F W Keeping House NH
Furbish, Catharine 36 F W at home NH
Furbish, Frank L. 21 M W student in college Maine
Children of Benjamin & Mary (Lane) Furbish:
1. +Catherine “Kate” Furbish, b. 19 May 1834 in Exeter NH (also recorded in Brunswick, Cumberland Co., Maine) artist and botanist
2. John Furbish, b. 20 June 1836 in Brunswick, Cumberland Co ME, died 8 August 1905 in Brunswick Maine; m. 25 Nov 1863 to Marie Louise Day, dau of Lorenzo & Mary Louise (Hopkins) Day. She b. 12 Aug 1841
3. George W. Furbish, b. 3 September 1838 in Maine, d. 24 January 1841 Brunswick, ME
4. Edward P. Furbish, b. 20 September 1840 in Maine, d. 2 August 1863 Brunswick, Maine
5. Henry C. Furbish, b. 15 January 1845 in Maine, d. 27 August 1846 in Brunswick, Maine
6. Frank L. Furbish, b. 2 May 1849 in Maine.


– History of Brunswick, Topsham and Harpswell, Maine : including the ancient territory known as Pejepscot, by George Augustus Wheeler; Boston: A. Mudge & Son, printers, 1877.
– Family Search, Church of the Latter-Day Saints, www.familysearch.org
Old Kittery and her families, by Everett S. Stackpole, Lewiston, Maine 1903, page 437
– History of Brunswick, Topsham, and Harpswell, Maine: Including the Ancient, by George Augustus Wheeler, A. Mudge & sons printers, 1878, p 742-743

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