Absalom Sydenstricker

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Sydenstricker Family 1894.GIF

Absalom Sydenstricker (1852–1931) was an American Presbyterian missionary to China from 1880 to 1931.[1][2] 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).[3] 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.[4]

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.

The family life and missionary work of Absalom and Caroline Sydenstricker (Stulting)
Date Event
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.
1898–1901 Boxer Rebellion.
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.


  1. ^ Jost Zetzsche. "Absalom Sydenstricker," in K. Lodwick and W. C. Kwan, (ed.), The Missionary Kaleidoscope: Portraits of Six China Missionaries EastBridge, 2005).
  2. ^ Conn 1996, pp. 3–4.
  3. ^ Buck 2009.
  4. ^ Buck 2009, p. 3.


  • Buck, Pearl S (2009) [1936], 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 .