Autobiography of A. T. Still
Andrew Taylor Still, D.O.
As I speak of Rev. Abram Still (my father), I
will notify the reader that memory alone is my guide, and by it give my
generalized history. The reminiscences I find written of him by others
are simply nice stories, written by persons who personally knew but little
Transferred to Missouri
The First Steamboat
At St. Louis
An Unscrupulous Divine
Hardships in The West
The First Methodist Preacher in Northeast Missouri
Trouble in the M.E. Church
Stand Taken by Elder Abram Still
Removal to Kansas
[graphic 51: "REV. ABRAM STILL."]
In the spring of 1836, as I now remember, while father
was a member of the Holston conference of the M. E. Church of Tennessee,
he was transferred by that body to Missouri as a missionary.
We left Tennessee from New Market, Jefferson County,
with two wagons, seven horses, and eight in family, and began an overland
journey of seven weeks to Macon County, Mo. We had a pleasant time,
good roads, and nice traveling until we reached the low land on the Ohio-River
bottoms opposite Cairo, Ill. Here we began to find some deep mud
for a few miles until we reached the river. But long before we reached
it, we heard the whistle of a steamboat. We all wanted to see the
mouth that could pucker and whistle so squealing loud. "Oh, my! we
could hear it roar just as plain as you could hear a rooster crow if he
were on top your head." Just think of that! Meeting a man in the
road, father asked how far it was to the river, and he said it was six
or seven miles. We whipped up all the teams and pushed on, for we
were determined to see that boat, -- see it pucker its mouth and whistle.
Our ideas of steam were very crude, and we had much company then of the
kind that knew but little of steam-engines or any other kind of machinery.
We drove up to the banks of the river, and there
it was, big as life, full of people, cattle, horses, sheep, merchandise,
and movers, -- but they cut no figure with us. The boat was the sight;
we saw it, and knew all that could be known. We bad seen a real steamboat,
and it was a whopper, too.
It soon steamed up the river and went out of sight,
but we supposed we knew all about steam-boats, and this one afforded food
for conversation for many days after.
We were now ready to go to North Missouri as missionaries,
and educate the heathens, and tell them all about steam.
We were taken across the river by a ferry boat which
ran by horse-power, or a treadwheel; the driver whipped his horse, shouting:
"Water up! water up!" to make them go faster.
In about one-half hour we landed in the State of
Illinois, and set out through the mud and water from Cairo to St. Louis.
We had to hire pilots to guide us through the mud and water of the Illinois
bottoms, for by missing the road a few feet we would sink into the mire
and never get out.
We crossed the State of Illinois with no bad luck,
and drove up to the Mississippi River in sight of St. Louis, went on to
a steam ferry-boat that landed us on the Missouri side of that muddy stream.
We concluded to stay a day or two and hunt up the stationed preacher of
the M. E. Church of that place. We found him and stayed over Sunday,
as was father's custom. I believe his name was Harmon. He borrowed
"Brother Still's" money, seven hundred dollars. Father took his note
without security, payable in six months, and left for Macon County, Mo.,
with Brother Harmon's "God bless you."
[graphic 54: "MRS. MARTHA P. STILL."]
Mother had a little bag of money ($350), and that
was our pile for the wilderness life before us for six months or longer.
Brother Harmon did not pay father for eight years, then only paid the principal.
By this time father learned that some preachers were not men of God, but
dirty liars, just the same as other people. He was very much disappointed
and disgusted to learn that a professed minister would play a confidence
game and rob him of the money given him by the Tennessee Conference to
support his family in his missionary work in the wilds of North Missouri.
Hard times soon began to close upon us. Money all gone, clothing
worn out, and winter on us with all its fury. Our show for shoes
was to tan deerskins and make moccasins, or go barefooted -- deerskin pants
or naked legs. Labor by the day was worth twenty-five cents, so you
see money meant much work.
As I have stated in another chapter, in the beginning
we had no schools, churches, nor any of the comforts of older-settled States.
We had to make all our comforts or do without them for many years.
But we brought grit with us, and went to work with a will.
Father worked with us three boys all he could in
the spring, and harvest-time gave us a start in our work; then mounting
his horse, started across the wild prairies to preach the Gospel to the
pioneers. His missionary journeys usually lasted six weeks.
During his absence, mother had to manage the farm, which she did as well
as any one could. She spun, wove, cut and made clothing, butchered
hogs or a beef, and managed it just as well as father, or a little better,
for she was fully master of the situation.
Father was the first minister of the M. E. Church
in North Missouri, and held the fort, preached and established the first
churches and classes of Methodists and Methodism in all North Missouri.
He stood his ground until 1844, at which time the M. E. Church was divided;
those that believed the Bible justified human slavery left the old M. E.
organization and organized the church known as the M. E. Church South.
[graphic 56: "STARTED ACROSS THE WILD
PRAIRIE TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE PIONEERS."]
Father did not believe that "human slavery was of
Divine origin," and refused to go with the new church. Committees
of the M. E. Church South waited on him to induce him to go with them,
but all was of no avail. He stayed with the old church, and preached
that slavery was a sin, which did not suit his brethren with the pro-slavery
sentiments. He attached himself to the Iowa conference of the M.
E. Church, and was appointed Presiding Elder (as I now remember) to look
after those Missouri Methodists who opposed slavery. His brothers
who went with the new organization informed him he must join them or leave
Missouri, as his anti-slavery teachings could not be tolerated; but he
did not heed their warning, and after a few year's preaching in his old
territory, where be had established Methodism, he was appointed as missionary
to the Shawnee Indians in Kansas. This ended his fight in Missouri.
The latter part of that struggle was full of bitterness, and tar and feathers
were strong arguments at that time freely used, which, not being strong
enough, gave place to ropes and bullets.
He was a man of strong convictions, which he maintained
at all times and places. He took a bold stand for abolition, which
be maintained until be saw human slavery wiped from every foot of North
America, whether it was Divine or devilish, and died rejoicing that he
had been permitted to live to see all men in his country, whether white
or black, free.
I could give much history of his life from 1844 until he
moved to Kansas, such as being threatened with violence, having his cane broken
by the enemies of his religious stand with the M. E. Church, in the belief that
he might have a spear cane to defend himself, and much more of the wars of the
heated prejudice and church disputes, but I think I have said enough for the
reader to know the character of the man and the time in which he lived.