Autobiography of A. T. Still
Andrew Taylor Still, D.O.
I WORRIED much by day and by night. I saw visions
I never saw before, although I was good at seeing visions all my life.
I believed in all the signs. I believed if a hen should crow, something
would happen; and if the tail feathers came out first when she shed, it
was a sure sign that you must sow your wheat late; and if the feathers
came off her head first, you must put your wheat in very early; and I believed
it was bad luck to see the new moon over the left shoulder. Oh, if
I would tell you all about the signs I know of, and how grandma made ma
wait till the sign was in my feet before she would wean me, and how much
better I did than brother Jim who was weaned when the sign was in the head,
you would be amazed.
Something about Infallible Signs
Appealing to My Little Preacher
Anxiety in Waiting for an Answer
The Charges and Specifications
Divine Law of Finger and Thumb
Ma wouldn't believe such nonsense about signs, and
talked mean to grandma. She said:
"I don't believe any such foolishness." She weaned
brother Jim when the sign was in the bead, and he has been bald ever since
he was old enough to be bald. After my ma found out the good of signs,
she weaned all the rest when the sign was in the feet and heel-string.
She expected us to trot, and we did trot. Granny never thought of
the heel-string until ma named it. I believe our feet are larger
than brother Jim's; yes, and our hair is longer, too. I am what you
can call a true blue, believing in signs. Wean them in the feet all
the time, even if they are more highly flavored. Knowing that I was
a great believer in signs, I went to my little preacher, and picked out
a text to have him preach to. It was something like this: "The Dutch
seek a sign, the Greasers seek wisdom, but we seek all truth and it crucified."
He asked me what I meant by such talk. I told him I saw in 1874 a
wee bit of light. It seemed to get as far away at first as it could,
then blaze up and go out. Soon it began to get closer, and wink and
blink at me, then get as big as a comet. Sometimes it would run off,
and come back and sneer at me again, "Kickapoo." At this time I thought
I would bring my torture to a change or an end. I said to my little
"Now, George, what do you think of the sign I told
you about?" He answered:
"I believe it is the evil spirit which the devil
has set to draw you into his rabbit snare. However, I will lay the
case before Brother D., and see you again tomorrow morning, and see what
he thinks of those signs.
The weary hours of the night dragged along one after
another, slow as a democratic Congress ever was on the sixteen-to-one question.
I thought I never saw one sixty minutes sixteen hours long before.
The ages spent in each hour of that night ran in the stupid vistas of the
morning hours. The rooster reached his neck into the dark and "cockadoodledooed."
It seemed an age before he got out "doodledoo," and five more hours before
I could see George and hear from Brother D. I would not have suffered
more had I been on an iceberg singing, "On Jordan's stormy banks I stand,
and cast a wistful eye." I looked at the slow creeping of the pendulum
of time, winding out one more hour of that endless anxiety, and prayed
to hear the rooster send forth his three-o'clock mean, a duck cackle, a
hen quack, a sheep bleat, a cow low, or the old man pound the floor with
his boot to wake up Joe or Nancy Ann, or anything to break up those hours
whose dying axles seemed to have never been greased for a thousand ages.
Still I was the prisoner of time. At last a stray dog came to my
window. He was a hungry tramp, and went to the back door to get a
hand-out, but it was a woeful time for him. The mother of seven half-grown
pups was guarding her young, and flew at him with great fury, and towseled
his bangs till his head wasn't fit to be seen. He left, and the rooster
roared out, " Whoop him up, doodle-doo!" I laughed myself to sleep about
tramps and hand-outs. I slept like an alligator watching for young
niggers till 7 A.M. I then awoke and ate a few' bites.
My little preacher came and said he had just received word that Brother
D. was quite sick. "However, he has sent his written opinion of your
case, which is very exhaustive. He wishes me to read it for you."
"George, what are those numbers in brackets on that
paper: (Firstly), (Secondly), (Thirdly), (Fourthly), (Fifthly), (Sixthly),
(Seventhly), (Eighthly), (Ninthly), and (Lastly)?" and he said it was the
divisions by sections of Brother D.'s opinion. Then we read:
Baldwin, July 7th, 1874.
DEAR BROTHER GEORGE: In the charges against Brother
Still, in paragraph number one, I see he is charged with overbelief.
SEC. 2. -- We believe Brother Still is very sacrilegious,
which is the worse of all. Brother T. F. says from '55 till '74 his
sack had plenty of golden X's, but it is now empty. He has only one
mule left, and we believe him quite sacrilegious.
SEC. 3. -- We understand be keeps up his dues on
a thousand dollars in the Mutual Alliance, and that will bury the poor
fallen man six feet below, which is part of the way to his great and red-hot
SEC. 4. -- We will all pray to the Lord to remove
him to his deserved reward, and pray loud and long. We will say publicly
to all that be is guilty of high treason with his overbelief. Don't
you know he said, and stamped his foot at me with skinned eyes and stuck
his defiant finger in my face, that the "divine" law was good enough for
him? Listen here; I heard that he said he could take the divine law
between his thumb and fingers and stop flux, fever, diphtheria, mumps,
scarlet fever, or any disease of the climate or globe. Lord, Lord,
wilt Thou please stop him? Hast thou not made opium, calomel, quinine,
jallop, gamboge, blisters, and all these medicines for man? My, my,
Lord, Thou knowest our very best paying members have large drug-stores,
and Still will mash every dollar out of them if he is allowed to run wild
twenty-five years longer. Kentucky might as well be sunk. All
her hop industry will be dead as a nit. Why, Sister Reyma told me
with her own eyes that he took a garter as big as two hens' eggs off her
neck with his fingers, jist with his fingers, and she is truthful, and
that stops our iodine-weed business in the South Sea Islands, and kills
a big revenue, and the Government ought to catch him, for I believe in
He says be can rub your neck and twist it south by
southeast, and make a man and woman just as happy as if they had wine in
them. He says be can put the divine wine in old bottles and make
them new and jump for joy. That is bound to make France angry at us.
You know France has always been very friendly to America. See what
Lafayette did in our struggle. It will not do for one man to be let
loose and destroy one-half of our industries, brother. You know if
he goes on as he has started, that thousands of millions of kegs of beer
with billions of barrels of the very oldest and best of good Irish, English,
and Scotch whisky will be rolled into the sea, and not a friend to mourn
its loss. If he gets that divine hook in the people's noses, they
will be in the same fix that night-flies were when the arc-lights were
put up, all a-buzz, and a-whiz; and I solemnly fear, brother George, that
the fish will become inebriated, and get into a war and fight, chew, spear,
and kill so many of the monsters of the waters that their finnied dead
will poison the air so much as to cause disease to cover the earth and
kill all of us. You know three-fourths of the earth is water; then
who can he cure with his thumb and fingers and his boasted divine law?
He, too, will die by the stench of all the dead fish, whale, sea-cows,
seals, porpoises, and such, and he has made all that with his meddlesome
finger and thumb. Away with him! my pay is too small now.
My wife has to keep boarders, and what will it be
if he stops so many of our industries? Where will our living come
from? He has been as sour at me as a mad wolf ever since Katy was
married. You know we had a few bottles of grape wine on that occasion.
It was La Barriers' best wedding wine, which is rather more of the joyful
than the young and aged Americans can stand. He insulted my wife
and daughter the day after our wedding, and said, "You all look like you
had been on a big drunk," and he said more than that too. "You had
a glorious time with your wines, fiddle, and romping. Nice folks,
you are." He made my wife and daughter Betty sick. They were
just so sick at his mean talk that they both threw up; then he said: "Wine
buzzards, ha!" I didn't like that, and told him so.
I demanded an apology of Still, and asked him why
he sneered at our wedding. He grinned at me, and said:
"I believe in signs. Elder, I believe the color
of your wife and daughter's faces was a sign of something"; and he looked
at me kind o' funny, and said:
"Elder, what draws your shoulders so high up?
Have you any stomach trouble?"
Well, I told him I had what the doctor called flatulency."
He said: "Elder, how long have you had that trouble?"
I said: "Excuse me for the present." He has more
cheek than a hound, so he has. I did have right smart of pain in
my stomach and bowels, but I wasn't going to own it to him, and get fumbled
with his fingers and thumb right there, for I might just as well acknowledge
it in the first place as to let him fumble me. You know, brother
George, anciently much wine was used at weddings, and Christ made lots
of it at once, and Paul took some for his flatulency also. Now, brother
George, I think he is too hard on us. He made me as mad as a skillet
of popcorn. When my wife and little Betty came home they said be
was on a box talking awful big about this and that sign. Well, pa,
he just sniggered and said: "There goes another sign." He was making
fun of ma's teeth, and said if a woman as young as ma is had store
teeth that it was a sign she had been sick and the doctor who treated her
had more calomel than sense. Then he began about his divine law and
signs till I just got sick of the stuff. Now, brother George, I write
a line to you personally, and ask you to keep it out of my special opinion
in this case, as circumstances have more to do in this case than facts.
He may be right about his divine law, but we must use a saving amount of
policy as we go along. You know if we can keep him on the unpopular
side, it will be best, as our meat and bread have a casting vote at this
day and time; therefore let bad continue that good may come.
SEC. 5. Now, brother George, I think I have a clue,
which will help us very much in handling this fallen angel, and that is
this: He is a Methodist preacher's son, and some of them are mighty bad
boys, and I want to post you on his methods, then you can combat him more
successfully. First, he hates and fears alcohol worse than all the
devils and hell combined. He is no policy man: will say just what
he thinks or die in the attempt. He hates a hypocrite, a liar, a
thief, a drone, a two-faced man or woman, and a lazy man. He pays
all his debts and is good to the poor, makes money easily, is possibly
the best anatomist now living. He knows what he says and says what
he knows only. Now, you know his weak point and will have to meet
him in open fields. The enriching of his mind is the blunders of
fools. Well, brother George, that we may more successfully combat
the doctor (if combats be necessary), I think it good advice to get his
written opinion on a few very important questions which are arranged, and
I think he will kindly answer them. I am told he is very outspoken.
Please ask him what he thinks of our churches, and carefully note his answer.
Doctor says: "Well, George, I have no use for the
churches of the world if I take them as a whole. I think there is
good and bad in all of them. I see rivers of blood running from the
most of them, and more coming. I look on them as clandestine in effect,
and fallen far short of the great need of the world. To be a Methodist
means to hate a Campbellite, and to be a Campbellite is to hate the Baptist,
and so on; and all will unite as one to fight the Roman Catholic.
I believe the principle given to man is high above all churches, and it
is love to all mankind, with all the soul, body, and mind as the law and
gift of God to man. It is bloodless rivers of love given for man
to drink in all time and eternity. My confidence is fully builded
and will ever stand upon the goodness and love of God outside of all church
"What does Still think of the personal-God idea?"
"Well, I have asked him all about that."
"What did be say?"
"He said there would be less fools born, and fewer
made after birth, if people would let well enough alone, and said:
"'I believe no man ever saw God, and the greatest
man now living or in the past has no mind or method by which he can grasp
enough to take him beyond the field of amazement, wonder, and admiration.'
And said when he was through the study of anatomy of man, and the laws
that govern animal life, he would try a few thousand years in the juvenile
class of the school of the infinite. At present he was willing to
leave that with the knowing ones."
Well, brother George, I have to still ask you to
listen to me, and not make this part public: I do not know just what to
do or say. Now, this is on the square, and I hope you will receive
it as such. I will tell you. I disguised myself and went to
headquarters to investigate the so-called science of Osteopathy.
I was met at the door by the sexton, and on asking for the discoverer of
that wonderful science be conducted me to the secretary's office, where
he said I would receive all the necessary information. While interviewing
the secretary, a lady came in to make arrangements for a month's treatment.
She had been there two weeks, and had been very much benefited. She
was suffering with asthma, heart trouble, constipation, epilepsy, and
cramp in both feet. While reaching for her ticket, I recognized
in her my wife by the ring on her finger. My heart throbbed.
I felt a choking sensation in my throat, and fell to the floor unconscious.
I was taken to one of the treatment rooms, and there brought back to consciousness
by his divine law, thumb and fingers. We threw aside our masks and
were conducted to his private room.
The very first thing the old doctor said when we
entered was: "Hello, elder. I told my wife some strangers were coming
who wanted dinner, because the rooster stood right plump in the door and
crowed twice, then turned around and went to eating, and I told her that
was a sign some persons were coming for dinner, and granny said that sign
never failed if the rooster went to eating as soon as he crowed.
You see he crowed twice, which meant sister and you. Our dog made
me almost cry, he howled so pitiful twice last night. I told my wife
that was a sign that never fails. We would soon get news that some
of our friends were dead because the dog howled two times. Well,
elder, how is everything around Baldwin?"
"All well," he said.
"How is old friend H.?"
"Why, he is dead."
"How's friend C.?"
"He is dead also."
"Now, I will tell ma not to make fun any more when
our dog howls. He howled twice so pitiful, and the elder tells me
friends H. and C. are both dead, and granny says them signs never fail."
SEC. 8. Well, brother George, in charge number 8,
"Too much Divine," his disciples have rolled and pulled me and my wife,
I declare, till I don't know what to do. I felt so well after they
treated me that I just took a half-month's treatment. Had you missed
"No, you've had your hat on ever since you came back."
Well, brother George, I left it as security with the secretary
for my treatment. I believe an open confession is good for the soul.