Absalom Sydenstricker (1852–1931) was an American Presbyterian missionary to China from 1880 to 1931. The Sydenstricker log house at what later became the Pearl S. Buck Birthplace in Hillsboro, West Virginia was Absalom's early childhood home. His sister Elizabeth Sydenstricker Hughart married and moved to Illinois, she had a daughter named Sarah Ward. Elizabeth was buried in Charleston, Illinois.
His daughter, Pearl S. Buck, became an award-winning author. The book Fighting Angel, written as a companion to her memoir of her mother, The Exile, recounts the life and work of Absalom (called "Andrew" in the book). Her representation of her father was conflicted between respect for his steadfastness, and bitterness for his treatment of her mother and for his closed minded attitude towards China. She wrote that his was
the story... of one soul and its march through time to its appointed end. For this soul there was birth, predestined, a duty to be done and it was done, and there was heaven at the end – that was the whole story. There was nothing of the lives of people in it, no merriment of feasts, no love of joy, no tales of death. ... There was nothing in it of empire or emperors or revolutions or of all the stir of changing human times. There was no reflection upon the minds and manners of men or any subtlety of philosophies. The tale was told as simply as the sun rises out of the dawn, marches swiftly across the firmament, to set in its own glory.
This brief summary of the family life and missionary work of Absalom and Caroline "Carie" Sydenstricker (Stulting) (1857–1921) shows the perseverance, under extreme hardships, of missionaries to China during this time period.
The names of the family members appear in quotes as they are given in the books The Exile and Fighting Angel. Absalom is called "Andrew", Caroline is called "Carie", Pearl is called "Comfort". Names of cities of China are given in the modern Pinyin form, with names used in the books given in parentheses.
|1880||Absalom "Andrew" and Caroline "Carie" married. Sail for China. Land in Shanghai.|
|1880–83||Divide time between Hangzhou (Hangchow) and Suzhou (Soochow).|
|1881||Son Edgar "Edwin" born.|
|1883||Family moves to Zhenjiang (Chinkiang, Tsingkiang) Jiangsu Province. Absalom travels throughout Jiangsu Province (Kiangsu).|
|1884||Daughter "Maude" born (b. 1884 d. 1884)|
|1886||Daughter "Edith" born.|
|1884?||Live briefly in Yantai (Chefoo), Shandong Province. Caroline recovers from Tuberculosis.|
|1888||Son "Arthur" born.|
|1887||Family transfers to T'sinkiang-p'u (now the main district of Huai'an, Jiangsu Province), a small city more than 100 miles north of Zhenjiang.|
|1887–||Absalom publishes a series of articles on oral and written Chinese in the Chinese Recorder.|
|1890||"Arthur" and "Edith" die within a month. Cholera epidemic in Shanghai. "Arthur" (b. 1888 d. 1890). "Edith" (b. 1886 d. 1890). Buried Shanghai (with "Maude").|
|1891–92||Family on furlough in USA.|
|1892||Daughter Pearl "Comfort" born (b. 1892 d. 1973)|
|1892||Family returns to Ts'inkiang-p'u (now the main district of Huai'an, Jiangsu Province).|
|1893||Caroline contracts dysentery. Son "Clyde" born (b. 1893 d. 1899)|
|1894?||Absalom begins Chinese New Testament translation, from Greek New Testament. Translated to vernacular of the common people. Several editions published until Absalom's death.|
|1896–21||Family lives in Zhenjiang. Absalom travels, establishing churches.|
|1899||"Clyde" dies. Buried Zhenjiang. Pearl sick (Diphtheria?) and survives.|
|1900||Daughter Grace "Faith" born. Adopted daughter "Precious Cloud."|
|1901||Family moves to Shanghai temporarily. Absalom stays in Zhenjiang.|
|1901–2||Family on furlough in USA. Edgar enrolled at Washington and Lee College.|
|1902||Family (without Edgar) returns to Zhenjiang.|
|1905||Famine in Yangtze valley – ministry of relief amongst great need.|
|1910–11||Family on furlough in USA. Travel by way of Russia and Europe. Pearl enrolled at Randolph-Macon Woman's College (1911–14).|
|1911||Family (without Pearl) returns to Zhenjiang.|
|1911–12||Revolution. Republic of China declared by Sun-Yatsen. Qing dynasty falls.|
|1914||Caroline takes ill with "tropical disease." Pearl returns to Zhenjiang.|
|1915||Caroline recovers mostly.|
|1917||Pearl married to John Lossing Buck (Zhenjiang).|
|1920||Absalom and Grace on furlough in USA. Grace enrolled in college. "Carie" stays in China. Absalom returns to Zhenjiang.|
|1921||Caroline dies. Buried Zhenjiang.|
|1921||Nanjing. Absalom lives with Pearl and husband; works at Theological Seminary.|
|1927||"Nanjing Incident." Absalom, Pearl, Grace and families sheltered for 1 day during revolutionary turmoil.|
|1927||Absalom in Korea. Pearl in Japan.|
|1928||Absalom returns to Nanjing. Some time later, Pearl returns.|
|1931||Absalom dies. Buried Guling, Lu Shan mountains.|
|1934||Pearl leaves China for last time.|
- Buck, Pearl S (2009) , Fighting Angel: Portrait of a Soul, D'asia Vu Reprint Library, Norwalk, CT: EastBridge, ISBN 978-1-59988-006-8, originally New York: John Day.
- Buck, Pearl S. The Exile. Portrait of an American Mother (John Day, 1936; rpr. with a new Introduction, Norwalk, CT: EastBridge, D'Asia Vu Reprint Library, 2009 ISBN 978-1-59988-005-1).
- Conn, Peter (1996), Pearl S. Buck: A Cultural Biography, Cambridge: Cambridge UP.
- Zetzsche, Jost (2005), "Absalom Sydenstricker", in Lodwick, Kathleen; Kwan, Wah Cheng, eds., The Missionary Kaleidoscope: Portraits of Six China Missionaries, EastBridge.