Mycologist Moses A. Curtis of Hillsborough

Moses A. Curtis of HillsboroughOn April 10, 1872, prominent botanist, author and Episcopal priest Moses A. Curtis died in Orange County.

Born in Massachusetts, Curtis attended Williams College before beginning his ministry in Wilmington. He soon moved to Raleigh to teach at what’s now St. Mary’s School and worked at a parish in Washington for a short time before coming to St. Matthew’s Church in Hillsborough in 1841. He would remain there for much of the rest of his life.

A dedicated priest and talented musician and composer, Curtis is best known for his contributions to botany, particularly in the field of mycology, the study of fungi. He was widely considered a national authority on the subject at the time and corresponded with other well-known scientists of the day including Asa Gray, H. W. Ravenel, William Sullivant, Edward Tuckerman and A. W. Chapman. He contributed to numerous publications and regularly identified specimens harvested on expeditions by others.

Curtis reported eating forty different species of mushrooms collected within two miles of his house and believed that if people had a better knowledge of edible fungi, food shortages for southern armies during the Civil War would have been less severe.

He is buried at St. Matthew’s in Hillsborough.

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