Robert W. Furnas, in addition to service as Nebraska governor (1873-75) and as a founder of the State Historical Society (1878), was a tireless promoter of agriculture. He served on the Nebraska State Board of Agriculture and as a commissioner to several world’s fairs and expositions. At the St. Louis Fair in 1881 Furnas acquired an ear of corn grown on ex-Confederate President Jefferson Davis’s Mississippi farm. Furnas planted the corn in Nebraska, where “both ear and kernel doubled in size.” He then asked J. T. Allan, superintendent of Nebraska’s exhibit at St. Louis, to send a sample of the corn to Davis. The story of the corn, and Davis’s response, was published in Nebraska newspapers, including the St. Paul Phonograph, June 19, 1885.
Beauvior, Miss., May 15, 1885 J.T. Allan: Dear Sir: Your letter of the 7th instant would have been sooner answered but for my absence from home. I was grateful and much satisfied at the receipt of the white corn grown in Nebraska from the seed off my place. The great improvement was recognized and I have some of the seed planted on the sea-coast and some sent to my former home on the Mississippi River bottom. With grateful acknowledgements to Gov. Furnas and yourself for your very kind consideration, I am respectfully and truly yours,
Twenty years after the end of the Civil War, a common interest in agriculture forged a brief connection between a former Union officer from Nebraska, and the leader of the great rebellion.