McCulloch, Thomas

Thomas McCulloch, educator, theologian, author (b at Ferenze, Scot 1776; d at Halifax 9 Sept 1843). One of the most prominent educators and theologians in the Maritimes, McCulloch was a prolific letter writer, as well as the author of books on theology and Letters of Mephibosheth Stepsure. Educated at Glasgow University and at Divinity Hall, Whitburn, McCulloch was a member of the secession branch of the Presbyterian Church. He set out for PEI in 1803 as an ordained minister but landed, because of bad weather, at PICTOU, NS. Here he accepted a call to the church and soon became involved in many other public activities.

He founded Pictou Academy (incorporated 1816) but was unable to obtain government financial assistance or the privilege to confer degrees. The question of public support for all educational endeavours, not just the Anglican schools and colleges, became a lively political issue. McCulloch and his supporters founded a reform newspaper in Pictou, the Colonial Patriot (1827), in which they set forth their views. He expanded his educational interests by founding a theological college at West River, Pictou County. Some of McCulloch's theological students were granted degrees by Glasgow, an institution with which he maintained close connections throughout his life. McCulloch was an inspired and versatile teacher and was named first president of Dalhousie in 1838, a position he held until his death. During his busy life he devoted much time to his scientific interests and collected a large number of bird specimens, which came to the attention of John James Audubon who visited him in Pictou in 1833.

McCulloch's best-known fictional work, "Letters of Mephibosheth Stepsure" first appeared in serial form (22 Dec 1821-Mar 1823) in the Acadian Recorder. The letters were reprinted in 1862 and then in 1960 as The Stepsure Letters. In an effort to arouse his fellow Pictonians to improve their farming practices and style of life in general, he chided them in a humorous, satirical fashion. His writings influenced Thomas HALIBURTON's Sam Slick. He also wrote 2 highly moral tales, called William and Melville (1826), about the fortunes and misfortunes of immigrants to the New World.

On the subjects of education and religion, McCulloch's works included Popery Condemned by Scripture and the Fathers (1808), Popery Condemned Again (1810), The Nature and Uses of a Liberal Education (1819) and Calvinism: The Doctrine of the Scriptures (1849). The titles of these substantial works provide some indication of McCulloch's dedication to his role as an educator and theologian in 19th-century NS.