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Robert Wilkinson Furnas

Gov. Robert Wilkinson Furnas

  • January 13, 1873 - January 12, 1975
  • Republican
  • May 5, 1824
  • June 1, 1905
  • Ohio
  • Married twice--Mary Elizabeth McComas, Susannah Jameson; eight children
  • Army, National Guard


ROBERT W. FURNAS, the third governor of Nebraska, was born near Troy, Ohio, on May 5, 1824. His education was limited and attained in the common schools of his native state. Furnas worked as a printer, tinsmith, insurance salesman, postmaster, publisher, and farmer. After moving to the Nebraska Territory in 1856, he established and ran the Nebraska Advertiser, a newspaper that publicized the state’s agricultural and industrial potential. Furnas first entered politics as a member of the Nebraska Territorial Council, a position he was elected to in 1856 and 1858. He also served as the public printer for the Nebraska Territory in 1857, and was the chief clerk of the Territorial Council in 1861. During the Civil War, he served as colonel in the Territorial Militia, and later was promoted to the rank of brigadier general. He also served as colonel of the U.S. Army, and was in charge of recruiting and organizing three Indian regiments. After his military duty, he served as the Indian agent for the Omaha tribe; and was a member of the University of Nebraska Board of Regents from 1869 to 1873. Furnas next secured the Republican gubernatorial nomination, and was elected governor by a popular vote in November 1872. He was sworn into office on January 13, 1873. During his tenure, a severe drought was dealt with, as well as a grasshopper outbreak. Also, the state’s declining economy was addressed. After completing his term, Furnas left office on January 12, 1875. He later served as an agent for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He also served as president of the Nebraska State Historical Society from 1878 to 1891 and 1902 to 1905; and was president and secretary of the Nebraska State Board of Agriculture, serving from 1869 to 1874 and 1884 to 1905. Governor Robert W. Furnas passed away on June 1, 1905, and was buried in the Brownville Cemetery in Brownville, Nebraska.


Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 3, Westport, Conn.; Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.

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