Thomas McCulloch

Rev. Thomas McCulloch, D.D.

In November 1803, a ship arrived at Pictou from Scotland. Among its passengers were Reverend Thomas McCulloch and his family, bound for Prince Edward Island, where McCulloch was to minister a Presbyterian congregation.

A man of Thomas McCulloch's sort was much needed in Pictou in 1803. Born in Renfrewshire, Scotland, in 1776, and educated at Glasgow University, he intended to study medicine at Whitburn, but instead chose theology.  Once ordained as a minister in Ayrshire, he offered his services as a missionary to the colonies and the call was sent from Prince Edward Island.

Reverend McCulloch never reached the island. On June 6th, 1804 he was inducted as minister of the "Harbour" congregation of the Prince Street Church, Pictou.  McCulloch also served as town physician at this time as Pictou was without a practicing doctor. 

In 1816, Rev Thomas McCulloch founded Pictou Academy and was appointed the first principal. The students were taught a curriculum equal to that of any university.  Studies in divinity were also offered. This was the first school of its level where the students were not required to belong to the Church of England.  In 1838, Thomas McCulloch became the first president of Dalhousie College, a position he held until his death in 1843. 

Thomas McCulloch, husband, father, Presbyterian minister, healer, educator, Justice of the Peace, political reformer, naturalist, and author, but is most likely best remembered as the father of liberal education in Nova Scotia.


Isabella Walker McCulloch

Unfortunately, little is known of Isabella McCulloch. However, from what is written of her, we can confidently claim she lived a long life as a devoted wife, loving mother and a valuable member of her community.  Gentle, cheerful and ever hopeful, she tried her utmost to cultivate in her family the same spirit, mind and faith.

Mrs. McCulloch was the daughter of Helen Hall Walker and Rev. David Walker of the "Auld Light" Burgher congregation of Pollokshaws, near Glasgow, Scotland.  Isabella met Thomas McCulloch when her father took him under his professional wing, aiding him in his ministry and divinity studies. Thomas and Isabella made public their engagement not long after and married on July 27th, 1799.  By the time the young family began their voyage to the New World, Isabella already had three young children, and was believed to be expecting another.  Imagine the mindset of Isabella and other thousands of women in her state and circumstance. In the late summer of 1803, the McCulloch's boarded a ship as did many others to endure a 6-7 week-long voyage across the Atlantic to the Canadian destination they had only read about.  As every other hopeful mother on those ships, Isabella must have born the courage and faith of a solider. 

The McCulloch Family

Dr. Thomas McCulloch and his wife Isabella married in 1799 and raised nine children in their humble brick cottage in Pictou. The McCulloch's first three children, Michael (1800-1881), Helen (1801-1875), and Elizabeth (1802-1834) were born in Scotland. At the time they began their voyage to Pictou, all three children were under the age of four. After the family settled in their new home, Thomas and Isabella had six more children: David (1805-1891), Isabella (1808-1883), Thomas (1808-1865), William (1811-1895), James (1819-1835) and finally their youngest, Robert (1817-1817).

Most of the McCulloch children went on to live lives of service with various degrees of education. All the children received some form of elementary and higher education through their father and his Academy. The McCulloch sons, Michael, David, Thomas (Jr.), and especially William, were noted to have joined their father in the teaching and/or ministry field. Michael McCulloch helped teach at Pictou Academy and later moved around to smaller towns in the county to teach where in communities with no schools. David and Thomas Jr. were eager to enter the teaching profession as noted by their father in a personal letter to a friend. Similar to his father, William McCulloch studied education and ministry and received his Doctorate of Divinity.