Otterbein College's Courtright Memorial Library

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Otterbein in Sierra Leone:

A History of Missions Work in the Sierra Leone Region








      In 1767 the Church of the United Brethren in Christ was formed under the direction of Martin Boehm, a Mennonite preacher, and Philip William Otterbein, a German reformed pastor. Both Boehm and Otterbein were elected as bishops of this new Christian denomination. In 1847, Otterbein University was the first college founded by the Church of the United Brethren in Christ.


     The United Brethren church began its mission work in 1853 with the creation of a denominational mission board entitled, “Home, Frontier, and Foreign Missionary Society.” This newly created board began a five month journey along the Oregon Trail with 98 persons in 38 oxen-pulled wagons; by 1861 the Church had 600 new members. In 1856, the United Brethren church expanded its missions work overseas, constructing churches in Sierra Leone, West Africa. In 1860, C. O. Wilson became the first Otterbein College student to become involved in missions work overseas in Sierra Leone, West Africa.


     By 1882, the United Brethren church joined forces with the American Missionary Association (A.M.A.) establishing preaching points, churches, schools and clinics in numerous villages. Finally, as a result of denominational mergers in both 1946 and 1948, mission work in Sierra Leone emerged as the Sierra Leone Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. Today, there are more than 85,000 United Methodist Christians in Sierra Leone, West Africa.


Click here to learn more about how Otterbein College became actively involved in missions work in Sierra Leone.




Church of the United Brethren in Christ (2008). Our history and heritage. Retrieved May 31, 2008 from


Garst, H. (1907). History of Otterbein University. Dayton, OH: United Brethren Publishing House. (located in Otterbein’s Main Collection and The Otterbein Room- Archives)


Waldron, B. (1961, November 5). Otterbein in Africa. The Columbus Dispatch Magazine, 8-12. (From the Sierra Leone Collection: Located in The Otterbein Room- Archives)


If you have any additional knowledge, photographs, articles or other materials regarding Otterbein's missionary work in Sierra Leone please e-mail the library's archivist at:


Created by: Mindy VanHouten, Kent State University practicum student, July 2008