1869  — 1900

Horace Tracy Pitkin

American missiologist martyred during the Boxer Rebellion.

Pitkin, Horace Tracy, Yale graduate whose death during the 1900 Boxer Rebellion influenced the founding of the Yale China Mission. Pitkin was born in Philadelphia; his mother was a direct descendant of Elihu Yale, while his father came from a long line of Pitkins that settled in Manchester, Connecticut. Entering Phillips Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire, in 1884 Pitkin took a leading role in the campus Christian Endeavor movement. Entering Yale in 1888, he excelled in music, writing, and volunteer activities. He was widely admired for his sunny disposition and strong convictions.

In the summer of 1889 at Dwight L. Moody’s Northfield (Massachusetts) School, he signed the Student Volunteer Movement (SVM) pledge, indicating his intention to become a missionary. Following graduation from Yale in 1892, he entered Union Theological Seminary, New York, then spent an interim year as traveling secretary for the SVM. In 1894, with his financee, Letitia Thomas, a graduate of Mount Holyoke College, Massachusetts, he offered himself for service with the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. Following graduation from Union (1896), and then marriage to Letitia, he sailed from New York for China in November 1896, traveling via the Holy Land, Egypt, and India and reaching Tientsin (Tianjin) in May 1897. At Paoting (Baoting) barely three years later (Letitia and an infant son were then in America), Pitkin was beheaded by Chinese Boxers while defending two single missionary women. In all, fourteen Presbyterian, Congregational, amid China Inland Mission missionaries were martyred at Paoting.


This article is reprinted from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, Macmillan Reference USA, copyright (c) 1998 Gerald H. Anderson, by permission of The Gale Group; Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan. All rights reserved.


  • Sherwood Eddy, Pathfinders of the World Missionary Crusade (1945), pp. 48-53; Robert E. Speer, A Memorial of Horace Tracy Pitkin (1903) and Young Men Who Overcame (1905).

About the Author

James A. Scherer

Emeritus Professor of Christian Missions and Church History, Lutheran School of Theology, Chicago, Illinois, USA