George Upham Hay
George Upham Hay (author, botanist, editor, principal, and teacher) was born in Norton Parish, NB, on 18 June 1843 and died on 23 April 1913. Hay’s parents were William Hay, shoemaker and farmer, and Eliza (Fahy) Hay (Clayden). His early education came from local schools and later he was “apprenticed in the printing trade in St. Stephen” (Clayden). His brother, John Smith Hay, founded a weekly newspaper there called the St. Croix Herald, where Hay worked. In 1867, he attended the Normal School in Saint John and obtained “a second-class teaching license in April and a first-class license on re-examination in 1867” (Clayden). Afterwards, he started instructing at the Norton Superior School, where he later became Master.
Besides teaching, Hay was interested in botany. In 1870–71, he took a course at Cornell University on languages and botany. Later, in 1886, he earned a Bachelor of Philosophy from Illinois Wesleyan University through correspondence, its focus the natural world. After attending Cornell, Hay went back to instructing, supplementing that with a job as a reporter for the Saint John Daily News. On 20 December 1876, he married Frances Annetta Hartt in Saint John (Clayden).
Hay delighted in exploring the New Brunswick landscape by foot and canoe. William Francis Ganong was one of his frequent companions. On these trips, Hay would make observations about the plants he encountered as well as his experiences. His colourful advice was always worth reading: "Never sleep on a sand beach; choose a ground a trifle elevated and leafy; build two or three fires not far from the tent door; keep good hours and close up the tent early; then, if you haven’t been dodging the fish warden through the fay, and your conscience is clean in other respects, you will probably sleep soundly" (“Restigouche” 18).
In 1880, Hay became a member of the Natural History Society of New Brunswick (NHSNB), creating “a herbarium in the society’s museum in 1881 with the donation of his personal collection” (Clayden). He also played an important role as president of the Society from 1896 to 1899. He took charge of teaching botany in the summer camps, summer schools, lecture series, and university courses the NHSNB started, all in an effort to increase scientific knowledge about the province. Hay became an editor again in 1886, this time of the “new bi-weekly New Brunswick Journal of Education (Saint John),” soon renamed The Educational Review (Clayden). The journal was a useful resource for educators, providing “practical material and suggestions, especially for nature study” (Clayden). Hay supplemented these materials with his own studies of the New Brunswick wilderness.
Hay’s work ranged across the disciplines of education, history, natural science, and botany. Some of his more notable works include “Marine Algae of the Maritime Provinces” [1887?], “Marine Algae of New Brunswick” (1888), “A Wilderness Journey in New Brunswick with the Discovery of Some Rare Plants” (1889), “Ideal School Discipline and How to Secure It” [1893?], “John Goldie, Botanist” (1897), “The Annual Address of the President of the Natural History Society of New Brunswick” [1898?], “The South Tobique Lakes” [1902?], Public School History of England and Public School History of Canada (1902), A History of New Brunswick: For Use in Public Schools (1903), The History of Canada (1905), and “Observations on Weather and Plants, 1907” (1908).
Hay’s scientific writing is far from dry. His nature narratives combine objective observation and wit. He can deftly shift from identifying a specific plant to describing a mosquito attack, as the following illustrates: “They came in swarms─mosquitoes, black flies, sandflies, bite- ‘em-no-see-‘ems and others … We used all the resources at our command … but they would not off. They wanted tribute and, like Macbeth, they would have blood” (“Restigouche” 17). Moreover, his nature narratives reflect his passion for provincial landscapes and, even, at times, echo the work of New Brunswick’s Confederation poets: “It is not to be wondered at that we bade good-bye to civilization … on that hot July day, and betook ourselves to the grateful shade of the forest with the liveliest relief and satisfaction” (“Restigouche” 14). Like his poetic brethren, he also scolds settlers whose actions ruin plants and landscape (“Restigouche” 16).
Hay’s most lasting influence came from writing textbooks and tracts for education purposes. In these works, such as “Ideal School Discipline and How to Secure it” [1893?], he fixates on the importance of teachers as “guides and directors of the world” (“Ideal School Discipline” 5). In the early 1900s, his textbook, Public School History of England and Public School History of Canada (1902), was the only one written by a Canadian that the schools in New Brunswick used until December 1919, when changes had to be made (Helyar 69). Hay also produced a History of New Brunswick: For Use in Public Schools (1903), which sought to “make the language simple and natural and to create an interest not only among children but among grown people in the natural features and the people and events of this province” (History of New Brunswick 3). In this work, Hay presciently acknowledged Indigenous people and dedicated space to their beliefs and culture, such as “Glooscap” (History of New Brunswick 14).
Hay’s passion for provincial education and natural science makes him a significant figure in New Brunswick history. His diverse areas of interest admitted him to the company of important amateur scholars whose work filled nineteenth-century museums. His “Preliminary List of New Brunswick Fungi” (1901), for example, is considered “the first noteworthy published account” of this species “in the Bulletin of the Natural History Society of New Brunswick” (Estey 252). In a note appended to the back of Hay’s text “The Restigouche,” praised his work similarly, a Dr. Matthew saying “Mr. Hay’s paper [is the] most important contribution to the botany of the province” (“Critical Comment” 35).
Some of Hay’s works have been republished, such as The History of Canada; A History of New Brunswick: For Use in Public Schools; “John Goldie, Botanist”; and Canadian History Readings. This attests to the continued importance of a figure of the province’s past.
Holly Sullivan, Spring 2019
St. Thomas University
Bibliography of Primary Sources
Hay, George Upham. “The Annual Address of the President of the Natural History Society of New Brunswick.” [Saint John, NB?]: n.p., [1898?]: N. pag.
---. Canadian History Readings. Saint John, NB: G.U. Hay, 1900.
---. A History of New Brunswick: For Use in Public Schools. Toronto, ON: W.J. Gage & Co. Ltd., 1903.
---. “Ideal School Discipline and How to Secure It.” [Canada?]: n.p., [1893?]: 1-7.
---. “John Goldie, Botanist.” Proceedings and Transactions of The Royal Society of Canada. 2nd ser. Vol. 3. Ottawa, ON: John Durie & Son, 1897. 125-130.
---. “Marine Algae of the Maritime Provinces.” Bulletin of The Natural History Society of New Brunswick 6 [1887?]: 1-7.
---. “Notes of a Wild Garden.” Bulletin of the Natural History Society of New Brunswick 3 [1897?]: 108-113.
---. “Observations on Weather and Plants, 1907.” Bulletin of The Natural History Society of New Brunswick 6.26 (1908): 44-45.
---. “Preliminary List of New Brunswick Fungi.” Bulletin of The Natural History Society of New Brunswick 19.4. (1901): 341-344.
---. Public School History of Canada. Toronto, ON: The Copp Clark Co., 1908.
---. “The Restigouche: With Notes Especially on Its Flora.” Bulletin of The Natural History Society of New Brunswick 14.2 (1896): 1-35.
---. “Section of the Geological and Biological Sciences.” Science 15.391 (1902): 1009–1012.
---. “Some Features of the Flora of Northern New Brunswick.” Proceedings and Transactions of The Royal Society of Canada. 2nd ser. Vol. 8. Ottawa, ON: James Hope & Son, 1902. 125-134.
---. “The South Tobique Lakes.” Bulletin of The Natural History Society of New Brunswick 20 [1902?]: 472-482.
---. “A Wilderness Journey in New Brunswick with the Discovery of Some Rare Plants.” Bulletin XVII of The Natural Society of New Brunswick (1889): 153-169.
Hay, George Upham, and A.H. Anderson. The History of Canada. Toronto, ON: The Copp Clark Co., 1905.
Hay, George Upham, and A.H. Mackay. “Marine Algae of New Brunswick.” Proceedings and Transactions of The Royal Society of Canada, Vol. 5. Montreal, QC: Dawson Brothers, 1888. 167-174.
Robertson, W.J., and George Upham Hay. Public School History of England and Public School History of Canada. Halifax, NS: A. & W. Mackinlay, 1902.
Bibliography of Secondary Sources
Clayden, Stephen R. “Hay, George Upham.” Dictionary of Canadian Biography. Vol. 14. Toronto, ON: U of Toronto P, 1998. Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online. 2003. U of Toronto/U Laval. 26 June 2020
Estey, Ralph H. Essays on the Early History of Plant Pathology and Mycology in Canada. Montreal, QC & Kingston, ON: McGill-Queen’s UP, 1994.
Helyar, Frances. “Bureaucratic Rationalism, Political Partisanship and Acadian Nationalism: The 1920 New Brunswick History Textbook Controversy.” Diss. McGill U, 2010.
Matthew, Dr. “Critical Comment.” In George Upham Hay’s “The Restigouche: With Notes Especially on Its Flora.” Bulletin of The Natural History Society of New Brunswick 14.2 (1896): 35.