Michael Simpson Culbertson

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Michael Simpson Culbertson (January 18, 1819 – August 25, 1862) was an American Presbyterian clergyman, missionary to China, academic and author.

Early life[edit]

Michael Simpson Culbertson was born in 1819 in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. He entered United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, on 1 July 1835. United States Military Academy graduated him 6th of 31 in the class of 1839, and he received a commission as a second lieutenant in the First Artillery on 1 July 1839. Second Lieutenant Culbertson served at Rouses Point, New York, during the Aroostook War. He served briefly as assistant professor of mathematics at United States Military Academy 1 January to 1 February 1840. Second Lieutenant Culbertson then served with the First Artillery at Fort Preble in Portland, Maine, and Hancock Barracks in Houlton, Maine.

On 15 April 1841, Second Lieutenant Culbertson resigned his commission to study theology at Princeton Theological Seminary.[1]


Upon his graduation in 1844, Culbertson was ordained by the Presbyterian Church and was sent as a missionary to China by the American Presbyterian Mission. He was stationed in Ningbo from 1845 to 1851 and in Shanghai from 1851 to 1862,[1] where he acted as member of the Committee of Delegates on the revision of the Old Testament.[2] Culbertson later withdrew from the Committee of Delegates and co-published a variant of the "Delegate's Version" with Rev. Elijah Coleman Bridgman in 1855,[3] with the help of Episcopal Bishop William Jones Boone.[4] He died of cholera in Shanghai in 1862.[5]


Michael Simpson Culbertson was of Irish descent, his paternal great-grandfather having emigrated from County Antrim, Ireland, to Franklin County, Pennsylvania, around the mid-18th century. His father Joseph (1779–1858) was a banker. Michael was the first born of his father's second wife, Frances (1785–1867) whom he married in 1818. He had five older brothers, and one sister from his father's previous union to Mary (died 1817). Michael had two brothers noteworthy in American History: Alexander (1809–1879), a fur trader and pathfinder for whom the town of Culbertson Montana is named; and Thaddeus Ainsworth (1823–1850), a Yale graduate, who explored with brother Alexander and authored, Journal of an expedition to the Mauvaises Terres and the Upper Missouri in 1850[6] Another brother, Cyrus (1812–1869) was an Officer in the Union Army during the Civil War.[7] Michael Simpson Culbertson and his wife had two daughters, who returned to New York with their mother upon his death. Josephine (1852–1939), born in China; studied art in New York, settled in Carmel, California becoming a noted artist. She co-founded the Carmel Art Association in 1927.[7]

Published works[edit]

  • Papers relating to the Shanghai revision of the Chinese scriptures (Shanghai, 1851)[8]
  • Reply to the Strictures on the remarks made on the translation of Genesis and Exodus in the revision of the Chinese scriptures (Canton, 1852)[8]
  • Essay on the bearing of the publications of the Tai-ping dynasty insurgents on the controversy respecting the proper term for translating the words Elohim and Theos in the Chinese version of the Scriptures (1853)[8]
  • The Old Testament (translated by Rev. E. C. Bridgman and Rev. M. S. Culbertson, 1855)
  • The Religious Condition of the Chinese, and Their Claims on the Church: A Sermon Preached for the Board of Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church (1857)[9]
  • Darkness in the Flowery Land; or Religious Notions and Popular Superstitions in North China (New York: Scribner, 1857)


  1. ^ a b "The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod Christian Cyclopedia". Retrieved 2008-02-08. 
  2. ^ Elijah Coleman Bridgman, Samuel Wells Williams (1851). "Protestant Missions among the Chinese" (PDF). The Chinese Repository. Canton: Printed for the proprietors. XX: 537. Retrieved 2006-06-29. 
  3. ^ Eber, Irene (1993). "Translating the Ancestors: S. I. J. Schereschewsky's 1875 Chinese Version of Genesis". Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. London: School of Oriental and African Studies. 56 (2): 219–233. doi:10.1017/S0041977X00005486. 
  4. ^ North (Ed.), Eric (1938). The Book of A Thousand Tongues Being Some Account of the Translation and Publication of All or Part of The Holy Scriptures Into More Than a Thousand Languages and Dialects With Over 1100 Examples from the Text. London and New York: Harper & Brothers. 
  5. ^ "William A. Karges Fine Art: Josephine Culbertson (1852-1939)". Retrieved 2008-02-08. 
  6. ^ Ainsworth, Thaddeus (1952). Journal of an Expedition to the Mauvaises Terres and the Upper Missouri in 1850. U.S. GPO. 
  7. ^ a b "Stray Leaves: A James Family in America since 1650". 2004-01-20. Retrieved 2008-02-08.  Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "james" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  8. ^ a b c "Consolidated List of Titles in SOAS China Pamphlets, compiled by Michael Poon". October 2004. Retrieved 2008-02-04. 
  9. ^ Crouch, Archie (1989). CHRISTIANITY IN CHINA: A Scholars' Guide to Resources in the Libraries and Archives of the United States. Armonk, N.Y.: M. E. Sharpe, Inc.