The Culbertsons were part of a large group of Scotch-Irish who immigrated to America in the early 1700’s.  

American Generation 1:  William Culbertson

William Culbertson was born about 1660 in Ayrshire in the Scottish Lowlands.  He was a captain in the army of William III.  After enduring the siege of Londonderry and the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, the Culbertsons settled in Ulster.

Like the English Waynes who settled in the Irish pale, the Culbertsons remained in Ireland for about 25 years before immigrating to America.  

All these veterans brought to America first-hand experience as colonists in a hostile land.  The American Indians may have seemed tame after facing the “fighting Irish.”

While several of our ancestors were born in Ireland, none lived an entire generation in Ireland.  The heritages brought to America were “English” and “Scot.”

William Culbertson came to America about 1720.  The Culbertson’s settled in Chester County, PA near Brandywine Manor Presbyterian Church.  The family was very active in this congregation for several generations.  One of the principal roads in the vicinity is still named “Culbertson’s Run.”

American Generation 2: John(?) Culbertson

Genealogy sources give contradictory information on this generation.  William Culbertson had several sons–all of which seem to have named one of their sons, “Samuel.”

The “Vanleer Papers” believe Elizabeth Culbertson who married Isaac Van Leer was descended through John Culbertson.   Capt. John Culbertson served during the French and Indian War and was connected with Col. Moore’s Battalion in 1748.  He married Eliza Rogers (of Welsh descent) in 1731 and died Nov. 11, 1767.  They are both buried in the Brandywine Manor Presbyterian churchyard.

American Generation 3:  Samuel Culbertson

There were three Pennsylvania “Samuel Van Leers” during the American Revolution; 2 in Chester County and another in Cumberland County.

The “Vanleer Papers” report that Samuel Culbertson married Margaret Cloyd.  “Cloyd” is a common Ulster name derived from the Scottish clan Stuart of Bute.  The estate papers only refer to the widow as “Margaret.”  .

Elizabeth Culbertson’s father was definitely the “Samuel Culbertson” who was a caption in the Flying Camp and was captured at Ft. Washington on Nov. 16, 1776. 

Ft. Washington was on the New York side of the Hudson; Ft. Lee, on the opposite shore.  The George Washington Bridge now spans the Hudson at this junction.

In the early fall of 1776, Washington had assumed that the operations would halt for the winter.  The British, however, continued the offensive in the New York area into December, upsetting those calculations.

The British captured Ft. Washington (in New York) before it could be evacuated as planned.  In fact, some of the company’s captured at Ft. Washington had not yet joined their regiments.  This was a serious setback for the Continentals.   

British prison conditions were deplorable–filthy, disease-ridden, and so overcrowded that all prisoners could not even lie down at night.

Capt. Culbertson endured 4 years as a prisoner.  The following description appears in Saffell’s Records of the Revolutionary War:

“Captain Samuel Culbertson of Col. Montgomery’s Regiment of Flying Camp, a Fort Washington prisoner, was captured Nov. 16, 1776.  He was a prisoner, within certain bounds on Long Island until Aug. 16, 1779 when he was ordered into the city prisons of New York.  Lewis Pintard and Col. Palfrey supplied him in 1776 and 1777 with money.  He was exchanged Nov. 2, 1780 at Elizabethtown, New Jersey and made his way 100 miles to his place of abode at Yellow Springs, PA.  Captain Culbertson possessed fine literary abilities and military talents.”

After he was exchanged in December 1780, he was treated in the Yellow Springs Military Hospital, but he never recovered.  He died before January 8, 1782, when records were filed to settle his estate.  Since there was more than one “Samuel Culbertson” in Chester County, these documents are crucial in establishing that it was this Captain Samuel Culbertson who was a Revolutionary War patriot.  Documents clearly indicate that there were only 2 children–“Elizabeth” and “James.” The names of the children give circumstantial evidence of these assumptions:

  • “Elizabeth” could be named after Samuel Van Leer’s mother–Eliza Wilson Culbertson, wife of John Culbertson.
  • “James” could be named after Margaret Culbertson’s father–James Cloyd.

During their minority, the children were under the guardianship of John Culbertson–brother to their father Samuel Culbertson.  Since many of the documents were witnessed by various “Dennys,” this is probably the John Culbertson who married Sarah Denny.

Samuel Culbertson’s widow, Margaret,  died in 1811 in West Nantmeal.  Her will references daughter, Elizabeth Vanleer, and son, James Culbertson.  

As most Lowland Scots, the Culbertsons were Presbyterians.  The cemetery at Brandywine Presbyterian Church includes several generations of Culbertsons.  

Among the graves is that of Linford Lardner Van Leer.  This is the son of Isaac Van Leer and Elizabeth Culbertson who died from a fall on Oct. 5, 1808, when he was 2 years old.  Linford Lardner was the older brother of the Wayne Van Leer that moved to Texas in 1852.