Horace Tracy Pitkin (d. 1900)

Mark Fackler

READ : Psalm 110

Like dew, your youth will come to you. (v. 3)

Horace Pitkin was an East Coast blue-blood whose forefathers founded the Connecticut colony. Pitkin finished his training at Yale (also founded by a family member) in 1892, when America was full of optimism and the American church looked forward to the coming “Christian century.”

For Yale men, the great challenge—the arena where all virtues would meet their test—was China. Pitkin organized Yale’s first Student Volunteer Band for foreign missions before sailing with his wife for Hunan Province.

Pitkin was not blind to the risks. He knew of the dangers from the Boxer rebellion. He could see trouble ahead for people like himself, a “foreign devil” in China preaching a strange religion. As the Boxer movement gained momentum, he sent his wife and child back to America.

On June 30, 1900, Pitkin heard that the Presbyterian compound north of Paoting had been attacked. All were killed. On the south side of Paoting, Pitkin and two staff women were trapped by Boxers later that morning. Pitkin died in a futile defense of the others. He was 31 years old.

Back in Connecticut, four of Pitkin’s friends created the Yale Foreign Missionary Society. Members built a hospital in Hunan and continued what Horace had only begun.


Lord, we are fragile. Cover our backs, and direct our front, forward in your strength.