Liriodendron tulipifera flower

The University of North Carolina
A Department of the North Carolina Botanical Garden


Collectors of the UNC Herbarium
Written by Carol Ann McCormick, Asst. Curator, University of North Carolina Herbarium
Dr. Wenxian Zhang, Associate Professor, Dept. of Archives & Special Collections, Rollins College (Winter Park, Florida)
with contributions by Jennifer K. Nieves, Archivist/Museum Registrar, Dittrick Medical History Center, Case Western University (Cleveland, Ohio)

Nathan Barrows
(20 February 1830 - 3 March 1900)



“Rex Beach (kneeling at left) helps his classmates in Dr. Barrows' survey class in 1894”
Dr. Barrows was a professor of mathamatics and survey and also a
Charter Trustee [of Rollins College].
In photo above:
Rex Beach (kneeling, left) , Fred Ensminger, Ruth Ford (third from left) ,
Albert Barrows (Nathan Barrows’ son) , Fitz Frank,
Dr. Barrows (third from right),  Walter Fairchild, and two unnamed.
Date Original (ca.) 1894

The University of North Carolina Herbarium has catalogued about thirty plants collected by Nathan Barrows, who signed his herbarium labels "N. Barrows, M.D." All were collected in Winter Park, Florida, in 1894 - 1895. Many of Barrows' specimens were in the Jesup Herbarium of Dartmouth College given to NCU in 2002. As only about 10% of the Herbarium's collection is databased, it is likely that more will be found.

Nathan Barrows was born in Hartford, Connecticut on 20 February 1830. He was the eldest son of Rev. Elijah Porter Barrows and Sophia M. Lee Barrows. He earned an A.B. degree from the Western Reserve College (Hudson, Ohio) in 1850 and an A.M. in 1853 from the same institution. He graduated with an M.D. from Cleveland Medical College, Western Reserve University in 1855. The topic of his medical thesis was "The Study of the Natural Sciences Necessary to the Physician".

Upon graduating from the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University in New York City in 1857, he was house surgeon in Belleview Hospital in that city. He moved to Falmouth, Massachusetts in 1859 and practiced medicine there until 1864. While in Falmouth in 1862, he married Susan Haines, and together they had five children, of whom only Porter and Albert reached adulthood. "After six years devoted to medical practice he gave it up altogether, for the more congenial work of teaching, and to this Profession he gave the remainder of his life" (3, pg. 3). This is confirmed by Jennifer Nieves of the Dittrick Medical History Center of Case Western Reserve University, who reports that Barrows does not appear in the Polk Medical and Surgical Directories from 1874 through 1890.

From 1865 to 1880 Barrows was teacher and principal of several academies in New England, including Philips Academy (Andover, Massachusetts), Kendall Free Academy and Hartford High School (Connecticut). He was the organizer and first principal of Stephens High School in Claremont, New Hampshire. In 1882 he moved to Orange City, Florida to farm fruit (3).

In 1884 the First Annual Meeting of the Congregational Association of Florida appointed Dr. Barrows, Rev. J.A. Ball, and Rev. A. B. Dilley to a committee to explore founding a college in central Florida (1, p. 6). Rollins College was established in Winter Park, Florida in 1885, and Nathan Barrows was one of the Charter Trustees. "Charges for the three-term academic year of thirty-two weeks were: Tuition, $18 per term, Board, $48 (later reduced to $36), Furnished Room with Light, $12; total for the year, $234." (1, p. 13).

Nathan Barrows taught at Rollins College from its beginning in 1885. Barrows, Lewis A. Austin, J.H. Ford, and Annie Morton were appointed full, permanent professors in 1888 at an annual salary of $1,000 (with a promise of $1,200 if the finances of the college permitted). Barrows taught mathematics, served as Assistant Treasurer, and was the secretary of the Board of Trustees at Rollins College. "He was also an amateur naturalist who led the students on many expeditions into the Florida wilderness." (2, pg. 24) He was involved in a "shipwreck experience off Tybee [Georgia] in 1892" , and experienced ill health afterward (3, pg. 5). Barrows retired from Rollins College in 1895, and died on 3 March 1900 in East Bridgewater, Massachusetts.

Why Barrows collected plants, and how they came to be in the Jesup Herbarium of Dartmouth College is not known. It is intriguing that Charles Henry Hitchcock, a professor of geology at Dartmouth College, collected plants in Winter Park, Florida in the 1890's. Given both Barrows' and Hitchcock's wide interests in science and natural history, it is possible that they were friends or professional acquaintances, and that Hitchcock persuaded Barrows to deposit his herbarium specimens at Dartmouth.


Undated image of Nathan Barrows from "In Memoriam of Nathan Barrows" digitized by Central Florida Memory (3).



1. The first seven years of Rollins College. Rollins College Bulletin, vol. LI, no. 1, December 1955. accessed on 8 May 2007.

2. Lane, Jack C. (1980 ) Rollins College: A Pictorial History. Rose Printing Company, Inc., Tallahassee, Florida. accessed on 9 May 2007.

3. In Memoriam of Dr. Nathan Barrows. Undated, ca. 1900. accessed on 9 May 2007.


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University of North Carolina Herbarium
CB# 3280, Coker Hall
University of North Carolina
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3280
phone: (919) 962-6931
fax: (919) 962-6930
Last Updated: 10 July 2012