Underwood, Horace Grant (1859-1916)

Pioneer Presbyterian missionary in Korea

HGU Bible Translators (1)Born in London, Underwood immigrated with his family to the United States in 1872. He graduated from New York University and New Brunswick Theological Seminary and was ordained to the Dutch Reformed ministry (1884). Appointed by the Presbyterian Board of Missions to Korea, he arrived there on Easter Sunday, 1885, with his friends the Rev. and Mrs. Henry G. Appenzeller of the Methodist Episcopal Mission. He opened a Christian orphanage in Seoul, which was to become the John D. Wells Academy for Boys (1886), founded the Saemunan Presbyterian Church (1887), established the Korean Tract Society (1888), published the first Korean hymnal (1896), and chaired the board of translators of the Scriptures into Korean until his death. In Seoul in 1889 he married Lillias Stirling Horton (1851-1921), then a physician to the Korean queen, and they had one son, Horace Horton Underwood (1890-1951), who followed his parents into Korean mission work; three of his grandsons and one great-grandson also became missionaries to Korea. In 1891 Underwood helped persuade his mission to adopt John L. Nevius‘s plan for self-government, self-support, and self-propagation of newly established churches. Underwood helped organize the Seoul branch of the YMCA, founded the Pierson Bible Institute (now Pierson University), and in 1917 founded the Chosen Union Christian College, which is now Yonsei University in Seoul. He died in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

James M. Philips, “Underwood, Horace Grant,” in Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, ed. Gerald H. Anderson (New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 1998), 689.

This article is reprinted from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, Macmillan Reference USA, copyright © 1998 Gerald H. Anderson, by permission of Macmillan Reference USA, New York, NY. All rights reserved.


Digital Primary

Underwood, Horace Grant. The Call of Korea, Political–Social–Religious. New York: Fleming H. Revell Co, 1908.

_____. The Religions of Eastern Asia. New York: Macmillan Co, 1910.

Underwood, Horace Grant and Horace Horton Underwood. An Introduction to the Korean Spoken Language. New York: The MacMillan company, 1914.

Digital Secondary

Underwood, Lillias H. Underwood of Korea; Being an Intimate Record of the Life and Work of the Rev. H.G. Underwood, D.D., LL. D., for Thiry One Years a Missionary of the Presbyterian Board in Korea. New York: Fleming H. Revell Co, 1918.


Kim, In-su. Protestants and the Formation of Modern Korean Nationalism, 1885-1920: A Study of the Contributions of Horace G. Underwood and Sun Chu Kil. New York: P. Lang, 1996.


(Underwood is pictured with a group of Bible translators and is located in the center of the front row)
The photo is available in:

Underwood, Lillias H. Underwood of Korea: Being an Intimate Record of the Life and Word of the Rev. H. G. Underwood, D.D., L.L.F., for Thirty One Years a Missionary of the Presbyterian Board in Korea. New York: Fleming H. Revell Co, 1918.