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Robert Hamill Nassau
1835 to 1921
Presbyterian
Gabon

Robert Hamill Nassau was a Presbyterian pioneer in Gabon. Born in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania, he was an ordained minister and a medical doctor. Appointed in 1861 to the Presbyterian mission on Corisco Island off the coast of present-day Equatorial Guinea, he and his first wife, Mary C. (Latta), served there and at Benito on the mainland until her death in 1870.

A mission on the Ogowe River (begun at Baraka in 1842 by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions) was transferred to the Presbyterian U.S.A. Board of Foreign Missions in 1871. In 1874 the Presbyterians determined to press into the Ogowe interior, and Nassau established a station at Balimbila, some 200 miles inland. That work was moved to Kangwe two years later. In 1879 the Ogowe church was organized at Kangwe, the beginning of a flourishing work among the Mpongwe people, Nassau's second wife, Mary (Foster) (d. 1884), and his sister, Isabel Nassau, were the first white women to live in the Ogowe region.

In 1892 and 1893 France claimed Gabon and the Ogowe as a colony. The Presbyterian transferred their work in those areas to the Paris Evangelical Mission Society. In 1894 Nassau and his sister were assigned to Batanga station in German Kamerun, where they served until their retirement in 1906. After serving churches in Florida for several years, Nassau died in retirement in Ambler, Pennsylvania.

Norman A. Horner


Bibliography:

Robert Hamill Nassau, Corisco Days (1892), Fetishism in West Africa (1904), The Path She Trod: A Memorial of Mary Foster Nassau (1909), and Tales out of School (1911). See also W. Reginald Wheeler, The Words of God in an African Forest (1931), pp. 67-78.


This article is reproduced, with permission, from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, copyright © 1998, by Gerald H. Anderson, W. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan. All rights reserved.