On this day in 1900, Horace Tracy Pitkin, missionary to China, died during the Boxer Rebellion.

While studying at Yale University, Horace attending a conference sponsored by Moody at his Northfield school.  At the meeting, Horace, his heart set astir, signed the Student Volunteer Movement pledge, which read “We are willing and desirous, God permitting, to become foreign missionaries.”  When he returned to Yale the next semester, his heart was set aflame for the foreign mission movement.  A popular student, he encouraged and challenged other students to get involved with missions.

Under his leadership, the Yale Band was formed. By his senior year, the Yale Band had 24 student volunteers, many of them prominent men in the college, who later served in foreign countries as Christian missionaries.  One of the young men, who later went on to China, said of Horace: “He was perhaps the most consecrated man in the class. It was he, among the two thousand in the university, who was first ready to hear God’s call to the foreign field. The rest of us, I think, were not within calling distance. Each had his own ambitions and plans. He was the first to be ambitious for God and his kingdom. And having yielded his own life, he became a tireless worker where he was. He did not postpone his life, he lived then.”  While talking to a fellow student once on the importance of the Mission work, he said, “I would die for it.”  Little did he realize how prophetic these words would be.

Upon completion of Yale, Horace entered Union Theological Seminary and served as a traveling secretary for the SVM.  In 1894, with his financee, Letitia Thomas, he offered himself for service with the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. Following graduation from seminary and then marriage to Letitia, he sailed from New York for China in November 1896.  The young couple happily settled into their new mission in China.  Their days were filled with language study, witnessing, preaching, and studying the Gospel.  The built a small mission and church in the city Pitkin and prepared to build a prosperous work.

But trouble was brewing.  After just three short years in China, Horace was faced with the fierce, sudden outbreak of the Boxer rebellion.  Angered by the control foreign powers were taking of their country, thousands of Chinese formed mobs and attacked foreign compounds.  The mission stations were among their favorite targets.  The mobs would burn down the compounds and kill any foreigner or Chinese Christian they found inside.  When the rebellions started to break out, Horace sent his wife and son to safety, but chose to stay behind with the Chinese Christians in his church, who faced as much danger as he did.

On the morning of July 1st, Horace received news that a large mob was headed towards the mission.  Going inside his office, he wrote a letter to his wife, part of which read, “Tell my boy Horace that, when he grows up and receives the proper training, that it is the request of his dying father that he come out here and take up the work which I must now lay down.”  Sealing the letter and sending it away with a native worker, he went to the front of the mission to try to bar the door and protect the women and children inside.  When the mob finally broke through, they unleashed the fury upon the assembled Christians.  While attempting to protect two women form death, Horace was beheaded.  He was the first graduate of Yale University to die on the foreign field as a missionary.

Greater than any work that Horace did on the field was the influence he had on others.  His death shook Yale University and many of the Christians back in the states.  The Yale Band that he formed took up his battle cry and soon formed the Yale Mission in China, a mission that sent other young men to the shores of China to take up the work left behind by Horace.  Dozens of missionaries were sent out. Though young, Horace made a profound impact on China.  In the hall of Yale University, where there are plaques commemorating those who died in the military conflicts of the nation, there hangs a lone plaque remembering him who died in the Heavenly conflict for the souls of men.


Dictionary of Chinese Christians

Yale Standard

Check out bcwe.org

Leave a comment