Collector’s Stories: George Upham Hay (1843-1913)

George Upham Hay, about 1910, © New Brunswick Museum

George Upham Hay was born in Norton Parish, New Brunswick on June 18th, 1843 to William Hay and Eliza Fahy. Hay’s father started out as a shoemaker and later became a farmer in Norton Parish. Hay went to local schools before becoming an apprentice in the printing trade. He worked alongside his brother for the St. Croix Herald, during a time of tension because of the American Civil War. This press was looted by a mob in December 1861. In the next month, Hay moved to Saint John to attend the Normal School and by 1867 he obtained his first-class teaching licence.

An article by James Fowler in the Stewart’s Quarterly in 1870 was titled, “Plea for the study of natural history,” and this may have peaked Hay’s interest in the subject. In the following year, Hay attended Cornell University in Ithaca, New York where he took courses in languages and botany. For a few years he worked as a reporter and night editor for the Saint John Daily News. In 1876, he returned to teaching and married Frances Annetta Hartt in Saint John, New Brunswick. By 1880, Hay was one of the leading members of the Natural History Society of New Brunswick. He was chair of its committee on botany for over 33 years, developed an herbarium and compiled catalogues of New Brunswick plants. Hay was also interested in marine algae and fungi. Hay taught until 1897, after which he focused on educational writing. He was president of prominent Canadian organizations: the Natural History Society of New Brunswick (1896-9), the Royal Society of Canada (1903-4), the Botanical Club of Canada (1904-6). He passed away in Saint John, New Brunswick on April 23rd, 1913 from heart failure.

“The Restigouche – with Notes Especially on its Flora” by G.U. Hay.
Bulletin of the Natural History Society of New Brunswick, 1906.

Written Works

He wrote many articles and books concerning botany, plants and history. Hay compiled a series of articles such as “Canadian History Readings,” but he also wrote textbooks of the histories of Canada and New Brunswick for school curriculum. Examples are, A History of New Brunswick: For Use in Public Schools. 1903 and Public School History of Canada, 1908.

As well as land plants, Hay published books on algae, “Marine Algae of New Brunswick,” and “Marine Algae of the Maritime Provinces.”

He wrote articles titled “Notes of a Wild Garden,” and “The Restigouche – with Notes Especially on its Flora.” for the Bulletin of the Natural History Society of New Brunswick and “John Goldie, Botanist” for the Royal Society of Canada.

By Jillian Richard, UNB 2017

* The Connell Memorial Herbarium holds 3 specimens collected by G. U. Hay and the New Brunswick Museum holds approximately 1,460 specimens.


Stephen R. Clayden, “HAY, GEORGE UPHAM,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 14, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed July 31, 2017.

New Brunswick Literary Encyclopedia

Author: UNB Herbarium

Vascular Plant Collection at University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, New Brunswick

%d bloggers like this: