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Fearing Burr (1815 - 1897)

Fearing Burr
Born in Hingham, Plymouth, Massachusetts, United Statesmap
Ancestors ancestors
Died in Hingham, Plymouth, Massachusetts, United Statesmap
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The following is take from Hingham Historical Society's biography of Fearing Burr.[1]

Fearing Burr was born on December 11, 1815 to Fearing and Emma (Jacob) Burr. He was the oldest of four surviving children, having two sisters and one brother: Meriel, Peter, and Margaret. He grew up in Hingham, Mass. on the large family homestead at 289 Main Street, where he spent a great deal of time learning how to conduct horticultural and agricultural activities. These early experiences helped him to develop a lifelong passion for these endeavors, which he would pursue in earnest.

As a young man Fearing became more active in the family store located at 285 Main Street, which sold foodstuffs, confectioneries, as well as household wares. He not only served as clerk and cashier, but would also frequently travel to Boston in order to replenish the store’s supplies. Although a substantial number of the items sold in the store were obtained this way, many of the foodstuffs were grown on the family estate. Every year Fearing worked with his father, brother, and several hired hands to plant and harvest large crops of produce, including grapes, apples, currants, and beans. They were diligent in their efforts to cultivate hardy products that would be appealing to Hingham residents.

At some point between 1840 and 1852 Fearing went into business with his cousin, Matthew H. Burr. The business was named M & F Burr, Seedsmen of Boston, and focused on developing and selling seeds internationally to farmers, businesses, and horticulturists. Fearing served as copartner for approximately twelve years, during which time he developed positive relationships with prominent horticulturalists throughout the Americas and Europe as well as cultivated a reputation as an expert seedsman.

In the late 1850s Fearing used his extensive knowledge of horticulture and agriculture to begin writing his first book, entitled The Field and Vegetable Gardens of America, which was 674 pages in length. It was published in 1865 and provided detailed descriptions of over onethousand plants, including their uses and tips for successful cultivation. The volume solidified Fearing’s reputation as an expert horticulturist, becoming a very influential and frequently cited tome.

Fearing Burr was also extremely active in local and regional organizations. In 1852 he was elected a life member of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society and often visited its headquarters in Boston when he traveled to the city. He also participated in the Society’s yearly exhibitions, judging both fruits and vegetables as well as exhibiting his own produce. He received several medals throughout the years for his exemplary samples of corn, beans, and other foodstuffs. He also wrote horticultural columns for local and regional newspapers.

In 1858 Fearing Burr worked with several other individuals to found the Hingham Agricultural and Horticultural Society, serving on the governing board as well as participating in its many events and exhibitions. His other activities in Hingham including serving on the Hingham Public Library Board of Trustees, participating in the Croquet and Ombre Clubs, serving as a fireman for the local engine company, as well as serving as a Sunday School Teacher for the First Parish Church.

Fearing was a very close friend of George Lincoln, with the two often meeting for meals and social gatherings. They were both very interested in history and would often discuss all aspects of Hingham’s history from its founding to the 19th century. In the mid-1860s the two began working on a history of Hingham residents’ participation in the Civil War. They spent several years researching and writing this volume, which was entitled The Town of Hingham in the LatevCivil War. Published in 1876, the volume included lists and descriptions of the various regiments in which Hingham men served, biographies of Hingham soldiers, descriptions of the battles in which these residents fought, and the activities of men and women who supported the war from home. The volume was extremely popular and is still regarded as an important historical resource.

Fearing also spent many years working with George Lincoln to research and write a new history of Hingham. The two men worked with several other individuals to create genealogies for many of Hingham’s important families as well as write chapters relating to various aspects of the town’s history. The book, entitled History of the Town of Hingham, Massachusetts, was published in 1893 and has become one of the most useful volumes for researchers looking to learn more about Hingham.

Fearing Burr was well-liked throughout Hingham. He was well-known for his conversation and debate skills, enthusiasm for reading, and dedication to the subjects on which he was passionate.

He was a lifelong member of the First Parish Church and often served on its committees and governing bodies. He never married, living with his brothers and sisters on the family homestead until his death from apoplexy on October 4, 1897.


  1. Burr Journals]

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