Derrow, Nathan B.

Pioneer, Missionary, Minister

Birth: August 16, 1773, New London, New London County, Connecticut
Death: November 18, 1828, Vienna, Trumbull County, Ohio
Burial: Vienna Township Cemetery, Vienna, Trumbull County, Ohio
Find a Grave memorial

Nathan Bailey Derrow, sent to the Western Reserve by the Connecticut Missionary Society, first arrived in Vienna Township in 1807. He returned to live in the Township the following year. From Vienna Derrow traveled to other settlements to preach and to organize churches in Aurora, Geauga County, and Painesville, Lake County. He was installed as the pastor of the Vienna Presbyterian Church in 1811 and served for four years. After a mission to settlements in Indiana and Illinois, he returned to Vienna, where he again became pastor of the Presbyterian Church in 1825 until his death in 1828.

On June 24, 1812, Derrow offered the prayer at the first execution in the Connecticut Western Reserve, at the hanging of a 21-year-old Native American named O'Mic (or Omic) at Cleveland's Public Square. O'Mic was tried and found guilty of killing two white trappers named Buel and Gibbs in Sandusky.

Derrow married three times. Little is known of his first two marriages. His second wife was Betsey Fobes, of Kinsman, Trumbull County, Ohio. He married his third wife, Laura Loomis (born February 22, 1787), on September 3, 1823. He had one daughter, Esther Bouton Derrow.[1]

Textbook Author

While serving in the pastorate at Vienna, Derrow wrote a pamphlet entitled A Catechetical Orthography: Introductory to a New Spelling Book, Intended Hereafter to be Published by Nathan B. Derrow, VDM, in New Connecticut. This 17-page work was printed in Pittsburgh by Cramer, Spear and Eichbaum in 1813. The full work may not have been published.

Township Postmaster

In 1816, Derrow's name appears as deputy postmaster in the federal government's annual publication of salaries. He was paid $9.03 that year for his work.[2]


In his will (below), Derrow gave half of his large library to his wife Laura and the rest "to the theological and literary institution or college of the Connecticut Western Reserve." This institution was Western Reserve College in Hudson, Summit County, Ohio. The College was relocated to Cleveland, Ohio, and with it the College's pre-1850 library collection, including Derrow's library of sermons and other works. These are now housed in the Special Collections Research Center at Case Western Reserve University.

Published Biographies

From William Sloane Kennedy, The Plan of Union, or, A History of the Presbyterian and Congregational Churches of the Western Reserve; with Biographical Sketches of the Early Missionaries (Hudson, O.: Pentagon Steam Press, 1856), p. 56:


Rev. Nathan B. Derrow, was born at New London, Ct., in 1773, studied at Hamilton College, and afterward studied Theology at Clinton, N.Y.; was licensed by the Oneida Association in 1801; received a missionary appointment in the Spring of 1809; was employed as stated supply at Painesville in June, 1810, and installed pastor of the church at Vienna, in 1811, where he remained four years. He then left the Reserve, buried his wife during his absence, returned after six years, and was reinstalled over the Vienna church; and continued until his death, in 1828. He was called an eccentric man, but his Vienna pastorate speaks well for his fidelity.

From Augustus Theodore Norton, History of the Presbyterian Church in the State of Illinois, Volume I (St. Louis: W. S. Bryan, Publisher, 1879), p. 46:

NATHAN B. DERROW, originally from New England, was settled over the church of Homer, New York, February 2, 1802, where his labors were blessed with successive revivals. In 1807 he removed to Ohio and made his home in Vienna, Trumbull county. During the nine years he was in New Connecticut, he traveled 11,868 miles; preached seven hundred and eighty-six times; baptized one hundred and twenty-three persons; administered the supper thirty times, and planted seven churches.

In June, 1816, he left that field, having accepted a missionary appointment from the Connecticut Missionary Society, for Indiana and Illinois. He passed through Ohio to Jeffersonville, on the Ohio river, opposite Louisville. Here he spent a few weeks, and from thence proceeded to Fort Harrison, on the Wabash, about three miles north of Terre Haute. He found that country at once destitute and inviting. The population was rapidly increasing. Illiterate and enthusiastic preachers were numerous. Many whole families were found without a book of any kind. When tracts were presented, he was asked to read them by those who could not read themselves.

His labors in the general region of Fort Harrison and Terre Haute were in the fall of 1817, and perhaps the beginning of 1818. He organized at that time a church west of the Wabash, and very near the Illinois line, called at first Hopewell and afterwards New Hope. Its members resided along the valley of Sugar creek, partly in the State of Indiana and partly in the Territory of Illinois. As noticed above, he organized the church of Golconda, October 24, 1819.

He was back again at Vienna, Ohio, in 1825. I can find no further account of him. He belonged, evidently, to that class of pioneer laborers who delighted in frontier work, and in laying the foundations of many generations.

From Hanford Abram Edson, Contributions to the Early History of the Presbyterian Church in Indiana, Together with Biographical Notices of the Pioneer Ministers (Cincinnati, Indianapolis, and Chicago: Winona Publishing Company, 1898), pp. 83-84:

NATHAN B. DERROW appears to have been the earliest of all these devoted laborers from New England. Coming from Connecticut to western New York in 1802, on the 2d of February, 1803, he was ordained and installed over the home church, which he happily served until 1807. He then moved westward again to “New Connecticut” (what is now known as the Ohio Reserve), and settled at Vienna, Trumbull County. In 1815 he spent “eighteen weeks in various parts of New Connecticut,” “publishing the gospel, reproving error, and strengthening the weak.” It was in 1816 that he came to Indiana, commissioned by the Connecticut society. “He traveled extensively through the state, and besides the church of Graham he constituted a church at Brownstown” which soon became extinct.

Document: Will of Nathan B. Derrow

I, Nathan B. Derrow of Vienna in the County of Trumbull and State of Ohio, sensible of my own mortality and of the importance of having my worldly concerns so arranged as to [illegible] them agreeable to my own mind, do now before God and the elect angels, of my own free will and accord, make this my last will and bequest with regard to my worldly estate, to wit:

First--To my true and loving wife, Laura L. Derrow, I bequeath all that I possess in this world excepting so much as is herein otherwise bequeathed, to have and to hold and to dispose of at her own election.

Secondly--The farm on which I now live, or the avails of it, with whatsoever thereunto belongs, I bequeath to my daughter and only child, Est(her) Bouton Derrow if she should outlive my wife.

Thirdly--To the Connecticut Missionary Society I bequeath a quarter section of land lying in Indiana about thirty miles westward from the great Ohio falls. Also, one hundred acres of land contiguous to Honey Creek Prairie in Indiana.

Fourthly--To the Church of Christ of the Presbyterian Order of Honey Creek in the County of Vigo and State of Indiana, I bequeath for a Calvinistic Presbyterian Parsonage 25 acres of lands, it being the place of my former residence in that county.

Fifthly, It is my will that my verbal agreement with Col. Abel Tyler concerning an acre of land lying at the southeast corner of my farm be fulfilled as soon as convenient. Also that a number of lots of land deeded to my by John [illegible] Esp. lying in the State of Illinois to be given and transferred to William Woodruff, son of Jonathan Woodruff.

Sixthly, To my true and loving wife, Laura L. Derrow, one half of my libra[ry] such books as she shall select. And to the theological and literary institution or college of the Connecticut Western Reserve, the other half of my books.

Seventhly--An old case of drawers left me by my first wife, I leave to the discretion of her mother.

Eighthly--To Miss Chloe Fobes of Kinsman, I bequeath a bed which was left me by her sister, my second wife.

Ninthly--Should my daughter, Esther, die without leaving son or daughter, I bequeath my farm, or the avails of it, to the New York Domestic Missionary Society after the [illegible] of my wife.

Tenthly--Also, I bequeath 25 dollars to be given in five years to such bible or tract society as my wife shall think proper.

Nathan B. Derrow
Vienna, Ohio, November the 3rd, 1828.

Witnessed by Elisha Wilson, Dexter Clinton, and Charles Woodruff.

Proven July 14, 1829.

Updated 8/13/2020
[1] Esther Bouton Derrow was born in 1826. In 1846 she married D. David Acheson (1811-1851), a physician. The couple had two children, Nathan Bailey (born September 3, 1847) and Laura L. (born 1849). David Acheson died while on a trip to Iowa in 1851. Esther Acheson died on March 18, 1853.
Her death was reported in the Hudson, Ohio, newspaper, The Ohio Observer, on May 3, 1854, p. 3:In Vienna, Trumbull Co., at the house of Rev. X. Betts, March 18th., Mrs. ESTHER B. ACHISON, aged 28.
Mrs. A. was the widow of the late D. David Achison, of Vienna, and the daughter of the late Rev. Nathan B. Derrow a former pastor of the church in the same place. She left a son, seven years of age—the only remaining member of Mr. Derrow’s family. In her last sickness, and death, she was sustained by her faith in Christ as her Saviour, and her only hope. To Him she committed her little son, as his only sure Protector in his orphanage; presenting him for the seal of the covenant, with the assured confidence that He was able to save all that she had committed to Him.
Their son Nathan was raised by Vienna farmer Adam McClurg and later enjoyed a career as a dentist and inventor. The 1930 Federal Census locates him as living in San Francisco, California. For a short biography, see History of Trumbull and Mahoning Counties, with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches (Cleveland, Ohio: H. Z. Williams & Bros., 1882), Volume 2, p. 413.
[2] See A Register of All Officers and Agents, Civil, Military, and Naval, in the Service of the United States On the Thirtieth day of September 1816; Together With the Names, Force and Condition of All Ships and Vessels Belonging to the United States, and When and Where Built (Washington, D.C.: Printed by Jonathan Elliot, 1816), page 64.
Letter of recommendation, New York, November 9, 1908.