Uncollected Pieces for Young Readers
Main Contents & Search
"Tame Indians"

A sketch of the lives of Henry Jewett Furber, Sr. and Jr.
By Terry Heller, Coe College.
June 2008, revised December 2013,
with assistance from Gretchen Furber

     The purpose of this page is to present facts about these two men and their relationship with the American author, Sarah Orne Jewett (1849-1909). This information helps to explain Jewett's visit to Green Bay, Wisconsin in 1872, where the family of Henry Jewett Furber, Sr. was living at that time.
     Gretchen Furber's research into her family has established that Henry, Senior, and Sarah were third cousins, but this does not by itself account for their knowing each other well enough that Sarah would make an extended stay with his Green Bay family in the late autumn of 1872.
     Sarah developed a fairly close relationship with Henry, Sr.'s wife, Elvira, listing Mrs. Furber in her diary as one of her important correspondents, and noting in her 23 May 1873 entry that she not only stayed with the Furbers, but traveled with them from New York City through Cleveland and Chicago to Green Bay in 1872.
     There are other potential connections between the Jewett and Furber families that might account for Henry receiving the middle name of Jewett and passing this along to one of his sons.
     The two families lived near each other when Henry, Sr. was young, the Jewetts in South Berwick, ME and the Furbers in nearby Somersworth, NH. Henry, Sr., was educated at Bowdoin College, as was Theodore Jewett, Sarah's father. Theodore served on the medical faculty at Bowdoin in the 1850s, when Henry, Sr., was an undergraduate.  The Furber family originally settled in Dover, NH, in the 1630s, also near South Berwick and Somersworth, where, in about 1840, the year of Henry's birth, Sarah's father, Theodore, completed his medical training under his future father-in-law, Dr. William Perry.  Not only were the families related, but they lived and worked in close proximity.
    The following genealogical information establishes these connections and suggests others.


    The following information is pieced together from History and Genealogy of the Jewetts of America by Frederic Clarke Jewett (1908), and from summary and sources provided by Gretchen Furber.

    The American Furber Family moves through these generations on the way to Henry, Sr. and Sarah Orne Jewett.

    William Furber (c1614-c1695)

He was born in London, England, and died in Great Bay, Dover, N. H. William Furber Jr's name appears on the list of passengers of the Sailing Ship "Angel Gabriel," which wrecked off Pemaquid Point, Maine in August of 1635, during a great storm.

    William Furber (1646-1707)
    William Furber (1672-1757)
    Richard Furber (1700-1725)
    Richard Furber (called "Ensign," 1725-1807), who married Elizabeth Downing

        Two of the children of Ensign Richard Furber and Elizabeth Downing were:

    Benjamin Furber (1752-1822), the great-grandfather of Henry Sr.   

    Mary (Furber) Jewett (1759-1837), who married Dearborn Jewett, Sarah Orne Jewett's great grandfather, in about 1786.  They named their first son Theodore Furber Jewett (1787-1860). T. F. Jewett's son, Theodore Herman Jewett (1815-1878) became Sarah's father.


    Chronology of Henry Jewett Furber, Sr.
This information comes mainly from the articles in the source lists at the end of the page.

1840 July 17 - Born in Great Falls, NH, July 1840.
     Obituaries say he was born at Rochester, in Stafford Country on July 17.
     And that he attended school at Great Falls (now Somersworth).

1857 - Began study at Bowdoin College.
     Accomplished in mathematics, taught at North Turner school to support himself.

1860 - (early in spring of Junior year) Traveled to Green Bay, Wisconsin to take charge of the public schools.

1862 January 7 - Married Elvira Irwin, daughter of Alexander J. Irwin, lawyer, postmaster and pioneer settler in Green Bay.
     Admitted to the bar in Wisconsin.

1863 March 17 - Son, William Elbert born at Green Bay.

1865 January - General Agent for Metropolitan Fire Insurance.
     April - General Manager MFI, headquarters in Chicago.
     May 12 - Son, Henry Jewett, Jr. born at Green Bay
     October - Vice-President MFI, move to New York.

1868 September 18 - Son, Frank Irwin born at Englewood, NJ. He married Clara Proby on June 28, 1889.

1874 October - Elected President of North America Life Insurance Company, uniting the company with Universal Life Insurance, with the aim of solving NAL's financial difficulty.

1875 - Was put in charge of Charter Oak Insurance Company, to help lead it out of financial difficulty.

1876 - Endowed Smyth Math Prize at Bowdoin.

      Letters of Sarah Orne Jewett to Anna Dawes show Jewett staying for about two weeks with Mrs. Henry J. Furber at the Windsor Hotel in New York City in mid-June ["Letters of Sarah Orne Jewett to Anna Laurens Dawes," by C. Carroll Hollis.  Colby Library Quarterly 8:3 (September 1968), 107-109].

         Henry, Jr. reminiscence places the family in Green Bay for July 4 centennial celebrations.

         November - Purchased a lot on Broadway in New York City, 139.7 feet north of 77th St.

1877 - February - March. Suits were filed against Furber and the other officers of North America Life, accusing them of wrecking and looting the company.

     June. Charter Oak Insurance was found by investigators to be in danger of bankruptcy. Furber was accused of complicated financial manipulations of this company that profited him greatly.

     July. Suit filed against Furber and other officers of Universal Life Insurance, accusing Furber in particular of seeking to wreck and loot yet another company, Guardian Life Insurance.

     August. Furber defended himself against accusations of wrecking the Charter Oak Company in a public statement, published in the New York Times on 8/15.

1878 - January. Furber and other ex-officers of Charter Oak Life were indicted for conspiracy to defraud policy-holders, misappropriation of assets, and other crimes. Furber published a defense of his activities at Charter Oak in a letter reported in the New York Times of January 1/14.

         June. Charter Oak trial begins.

1879 - January. Furber and the other former officers of Charter Oak were found not guilty on all counts of their indictment.

     May. Moved to Chicago & joined Higgins law firm, until 1893.

     Obituary says he associated also with Matthew Laflin, to purchase National Life, Fidelity Safety Deposit, and the Hale Building.

1881 - A report in the New York Times indicated that Furber had a break-down due to over-work and had rested and recovered.

1892 - Built & supervised the Columbus Memorial Building in Chicago, at State & Washington.
     Contained Columbus Safe Deposit Company, of which he was president. The building also was a center of jewelry trade in the city.

1899 October 23 - Lewiston Journal (Maine) reported his summering at Monhegan.

     The feature story suggests that he planned to continue doing so, and that his visits to Maine had been fairly frequent in the past. Reported that he had been a Free & Accepted Mason for more than 20 years.
      Also, "The Furber Silver" reports that at about this time was the last occasion on which Furber's silver collection was used by the family. This was a dinner honoring Lillian Russell at the Furber home in Kenwood, IL. "Family history says that Henry J. Furber, by then one of the wealthiest men in the Middle west, took a fancy to the beautiful young actress, and soon after, Elvira Irwin Furber, Henry's wife, left suddenly for Italy, where, in Florence, she eventually died."   That he was estranged from his wife around this time is supported by her absence in the report of Furber summering in Maine.

1912 October 7 - Elvira died. She was born March 30, 1836.

1916 August 25 - died at Chicago, St. Luke's hospital, his frequent residence. He shot himself in despondency after long illness and while suffering from a heat wave. Accounts indicate that he suffered from diabetes for the last 15 years of his life (see "The Furber Silver"). A letter of March 1909 reports a recent surgery, and another of May 1913 reports the recent amputation of a toe. He left an estate valued at over $6 million.

Significant undated event.
     Apparently sometime after 1900, he endowed a free bed at the Highland Sanatorium, Somersworth, N.H.

Henry Jewett Furber, Jr.

     1865 May 12 - Born in Green Bay, Wisconsin. 

Lived at first with his parents in a large Colonial white house on Main Street, the finest residential district in Green Bay at the time. When he was a year old, he moved to New York City with his parents, residing there until he was 5; then he returned to Green Bay for his education at the Pine Street School and the Brick High School. He reports living with his grandmother during this period.

     1880 - Completes public education and leaves Green Bay.

     1880-83 - Preparatory School, presumably in Chicago.

     1886 - Old University of Chicago BS.

     1889 - Honorary AM, Bowdoin.

     1891 - Ph.D. in Economics, Halle University (after study at several German & Austrian universities).

     1891 - Publication of his book, Geshichte der Oekonomischen Theorien.

     1892-94 - Studied Law at Northwestern University.

     1893-4 - Professor of Economics at Northwestern University.

     1894-6 - Traveled in Europe, led in the process of opening French universities to foreign students.

     1897-1900 - First vice-president of National Insurance Co., Chicago.

     1899 - Admitted to bar in Illinois.

     1901 - President of the International Olympic Games Association of 1904.

     1904-1912 - General Counsel to the Chicago Board of Underwriters.

     1914-1918 - Invented a device that uses sound waves to locate submarines, aircraft, masked batteries, etc. For this accomplishment, he says, he came to be addressed as Colonel Furber. At some point, perhaps around this time, he was awarded the French Legion of Honor.

         Also invented the first calculating mechanism that managed decimal points.

     1956 - Died at home of cousin, Mrs. Henry Leach, on E. 68th St. NYC.
         His residence at this time was the Chicago Athletic Association, where his belongings were left.

 General Sources

    Items followed by "Bowdoin," are from the George J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections & Archives, Bowdoin College.
     Items followed by "Neville," are from the Neville Public Museum of Brown County, Green Bay, Wisconsin.

     "American Students in Paris." New York Times. 22 January 1899. 4, col. 2.
        "A Badger Boy Abroad," by E. S. M. Green Bay Sentinel 4 September 1899.
      du Chateau, Nancy. "Col. Furber Visits F. J. B. Du Chateau." Unidentified Green Bay newspaper. 9 July 1953, 12.
     "Dr. Henry Furber, Lawyer, Inventor." New York Times. 7 June 1956. 31, col. 5.
     "Death of Henry J. Furber." by F. L. D. Unidentified newspaper obituary, probably in Bowdoin College publication. (Bowdoin)
     Furber, Henry Jr. "Centennial Fourth of July 1876." from an unidentified publication of July 1948. (Neville)
     "Furber, Henry Jewett, Jr." The Book of Chicagoans. Chicago: Marquis, 1905, 251-2.
     Furber, Henry, Sr. Letter to Professor George T. Little, dated from Chicago, 25 March, 1909. (Bowdoin)
     Furber, Henry, Sr. Letter to Professor George T. Little, dated from Chicago, 31 May, 1913. (Bowdoin)
     "The Furber Silver." Providence Sunday Journal. 19 July 1959. 10-13. (Bowdoin)
     "A Great Captain of Industry." Lewiston (Maine) Saturday Journal. 28 October 1899. 10. (Bowdoin)
     "Henry Furber, Widely Known Native Dies." Unidentified newspaper obituary from Green Bay. 1956. (Neville)
     "Henry J. Furber Shoots Himself." Chicago Daily Tribune. 26 August 1916. 3.
     "Letters of Sarah Orne Jewett to Anna Laurens Dawes," by C. Carroll Hollis.  Colby Library Quarterly 8:3 (September 1968), 107-109.
     "Many Maine people will be interested." Unidentified newspaper clipping. (Bowdoin)
     "Millionaire Hospital Patient Kills Himself." Boston Herald. 26 August 1916. (Bowdoin)
     "Mr. Furber's Court." Lewiston (Maine) Evening Journal. 6 May 1901. (Bowdoin)
     "The Real Estate Market." New York Times. 23 November 1876. p. 6. col. 2.
     Skrivseth, Janet. "Internationally Known Green Bay Native is Museum Donor." Unidentified newspaper article from Green Bay, hand dated August 1949. (Neville)
     Stanwood, Edward. "Henry Jewett Ferber." The Class of 1861, Bowdoin College. Boston, 1897, 20. (Bowdoin)
     "The Sudden Death of Hon. Henry J. Furber." Unidentified newspaper obituary. 1916 (Bowdoin)

     New York Times Articles Dealing with Henry Furber, Sr.'s New York insurance career.

        Chronological Order

     "North America Life Insurance Company." 10/27/1874, p. 5.
     "North America Life's Troubles." 2/28/1877, p. 8, c. 1.
     "The Insurance Troubles." 3/3/1877, p. 10, c. 1.
     "Looking for a Plaintiff." 3/23/1877, p. 2, c. 5.
     "Another Rotten Company." 6/30/1877, p. 8, c. 1.
     "The Charter Oak Life." 7/1/1877, p. 12, c. 1-2.
     "The Universal Life." 7/14/1877, p. 8, c. 1.
     "Sued for Four Millions." 7/18/1877, p. 8, c. 1-2.
     "Charter Oak Troubles." 8/15/1877, p. 2, c. 1-2.
     "Charter Oak Life and Furber." 9/14/1877, p. 2, c. 1.
     "The Great Insurance Financier." 11/29/1877, p. 5, c. 3.
     "Ex-Insurance Officers Indicted." 1/4/1878, p. 1, c. 6.
     "The Charter Oak Life." 1/6/1878, p. 1.
     "The Charter Oak Bargain." 1/14/1878, p. 3, c. 1-3.
     "The Charter Oak Life Trials." 3/9/1878, p. 5, c. 2.
     "The Charter Oak Investigation." 12/10/1878, p. 5, c. 1.
     "Asking for a Verdict of Guilty." 1/1/1879, p. 1, c. 2.
     "Furber Found Not Guilty." 1/8/1879, p. 5, c. 3.
     "Former Officers of The Charter Oak." 6/24/1881, p. 2, c. 2.
     "The North American Life." 3/12/1882, p. 7, c. 1-2.
     "The Wrecked Companies." 3/19/1882, p. 14, c. 3-4.
     "Further Light on the Rotten Insurance Companies." 4/15/1882, p. 2.

Uncollected Pieces for Young Readers
Main Contents & Search
"Tame Indians"