Autobiography of A. T. Still
Andrew Taylor Still, D.O.
THE schoolboy days, the days of youthful trials and
sports, passed like vanished joys, and I arrived at man's estate.
I will omit my later schooling and medical training, and merely state that,
like my Father who art in heaven, I thought it not good to be alone, and
began to go on dress parade, to see how the girls would like the looks
of a young soldier. Like Bunyan, I shouldered my arms and marked
time until a loving eye was fixed on mine. Behind that eye was the
form of Mary M. Vaughn, the daughter of Philamon Vaughn. She was
to me beautiful, kind, active, and abounded in love and good sense.
She loved God and all His ways. After a few words by Rev. Lorenzo
Waugh at her mother's house on January 29th, 1849, her name was changed
to Mrs. M. M. Still. The memorable event was followed by a good supper,
and next day we journeyed for an infair dinner to my father's house.
After these formalities, so essential to frontier society, I took my wife
to her new home, on eighty acres of land one mile from my old home.
I was young and stout, worked early and late, put in sixty acres of corn
and kept it clean. It was a beauty, all in silk and tassel.
I was proud of it. I began to feel that I would soon have a crib
filled with many thousand bushels. The morning of the Fourth of July
(the day we love to celebrate) came, and I was full of joy and hope.
At 3 P.m. a dark cloud arose, and at 4 showered three inches of hail over
every acre of my corn, not leaving a single stalk nor a blade of fodder
in all my sixty acres. Nor did it leave a bird or rabbit on my farm.
All were gone. Some one consoled me and himself by the following
quotation: "The Lord loveth whom He chasteneth." I had no corn, and he,
whose crop was not torn to shreds like mine, would have some to sell, so
after all, things, as usual, were about evened up. I taught school
that fall and winter at $15 per month, and thus ended my first year of
In Which I Take a Wife
A Destructive Hail-Storm
At Wakarusa Mission
The Pro-Slavery Trouble
A Dangerous Ride
The Pro-Slavery Men Drilling
My Legislative Experience
In May, 1853, my wife and I moved to the Wakarusa
Mission, Kans., occupied by the Shawnee tribe. It was all Indian
there. There was not much English spoken outside the mission-school.
My wife taught the pappooses that summer, while I with six yoke of oxen
in a string, fastened to a twenty-inch plow, turned ninety acres of land,
closing the job the last of July. Some days I broke four acres of
sod. Then with my father I doctored the Indians all fall. The
erysipelas, fever, flux, pneumonia, and cholera prevailed among the Indians.
The Indian's treatment for cholera was not much more ridiculous than are
some of the treatments of some of the so-called scientific doctors of medicine.
They dug two holes in the ground, about twenty inches apart. The
patient lay stretched over the two, -- vomit in one hole and purge in the
other, and die stretched over the two, thus prepared, with a blanket thrown
over him. Here I witnessed cramps which go with cholera dislocate
hips and turn legs out from the body. I sometimes had to force the
hips back to get the corpse in the coffin. As curatives they gave
teas made of black-root, ladies' thumb, sagatee, muck-quaw, chenee olachee.
Thus they doctored and died, and went to Illinoywa Tapamalaqua, "the house
I soon learned to speak their tongue, and gave them
such drugs as white men used, cured most of the cases I met, and was well
received by the Shawnees. I was at the Shawnee mission of the M.
E. Church, located forty miles west of Kansas City on the Wakarusa, now
east of Lawrence, Kansas, about six miles. A treaty was made in 1864
with the Shawnees and other tribes of Indians, in which treaty the Government
purchased much of the Indian lands which were declared open to white settlement.
In 1855 the country was alive with home hunters, though some squatters
came into the territory in 1854. After the treaty was made, people
began to settle up the country. Then my wife, who had shared my misfortunes,
trials, and sorrows, and had lived with me until September 29th, 1859,
at which time the bread of life was cut, and she soared to that world of
love and glory for which she had lived all her life, left me to care for
her three children. Two of them have since gone to join her.
The eldest, Rusha H., at the age of eighteen years, was married to John
W. Cowgill, of Ottawa, Kansas, and at the present time is living on a farm
near that place. Since our friends by legions become celestial beings,
and to be with them any more in this life is hopeless, we are left to make
the best of the few years left to us in this world and seek the company
of the terrestrial beings. Some are angels of mercy, love, wisdom,
and kindness, and say, Come unto me and I will help you bear the burden
of life, which has been proven to me to be true in one Mary E. Turner,
who on November 20tb, 1860, became Mrs. Mary E. Still. She is the
mother of four children living, -- three boys and one girl. All are
leaders in the division of the greatest war ever known on earth -- the
war for truth under the banner of Osteopathy.
But to return to my narrative, and in order to do
so it will be necessary to briefly recount some of the history of the period.
About 1835 some of the good people began to argue
that human slavery was an evil, and existed only by force of arms and injustice.
That it was ungodly, unprogressive, unmanly, a shame and a disgrace to
be tolerated by a people who would claim to be proud of the word "freedom,"
and at the same time by force of law forbid under heavy penalties any and
all persons to pass the sweet cup of liberty to any of the six millions
of famishing beings. Souls whom their masters taught were accountable
to God equally with the white race were held in bondage. This feeling
of duty to free all and let each person have an equal chance to so live
this life as a part of a vast eternity, preparatory to joys immortal, which
were bought and paid for by the life and blood of the Son of God, continued
to grow. Still our laws made one person lord and master, the other
slave, with all that ambition could crave forever barred from his mind.
On this subject arguments arose in the thirties among
the churches, -- one for, and the other against, master and servant, until
early in the forties an open rupture and a division of one of the strong
and influential churches was the result. Previous to the thirties
a fear arose in Congress that the slave by law would get freedom unless
a majority of the States were admitted as slave States. And when
Missouri asked to be christened a member of the States of America, much
anxiety arose over the progress of freedom. Illinois was a free State,
and to make Missouri free would give the balance of power in the Senate.
And with the State and Church interested, an ambition existed to get and
keep slavery equal in the national law-making councils, as
there was doubt as to the vote of the "Territory of Missouri," when
cast, whether it was free by a majority of fourteen votes or not.
After much talk for and against, in about the year 1820 Missouri was awarded
to slavery by a compromise to let all lands be forever free north of 36'
30' north latitude, and west of a line beginning at the mouth of the Kaw
River and running due south to 36' 30' north latitude, and north to the
north boundary of "Nebraska"; so here began the struggle in earnest.
To let Kansas come in as a slave State and Nebraska free was the bone of
contention. I give this short history not for its historical worth
so much as to say that in the early days of Kansas much dispute arose among
the "squatters" as to whether it would be admitted as a slave state or
free. The contest was bitter, and not without bloodshed. I
cast my lot and vote for freedom, which meant to the pro-slavery element
a "bad man," and one who would steal a lawful piece of property from its
owner. As the Government recognized the right of one man to use another
as lawful property, to be bought and sold as land by deed and record, they
agreed that opposers of slavery were dishonest. I chose the side
of freedom. I could not do otherwise, for no man can have delegated
to him by statute a just right to any man's liberty, either on account
of race or color. With these truths before me I entered all combats
for the abolition of slavery at home and abroad, and soon had a best of
bitter political enemies, which resulted in many thrilling and curious
adventures, some of which it will be proper to narrate.
Sometimes a man will take great risks, particularly
in times of war, high waters, fire, and sickness. Then he will volunteer
and do such things as he could not be hired to repeat for love or money.
We never know what we will do until we get into a tight place. To
economize time and distance often becomes very precious in hours of danger.
Armies are lost by being a few minutes too late; crops fail for not being
put in at the proper time; thus the importance of punctuality is very necessary
at all times. During the bloody days of the Kansas war in the fifties,
the man who loved freedom was hated upon the face of the earth, and the
enemies of freedom thought he had no right to live, so he was hunted with
shotguns and revolvers. It was dangerous for a free-state man to
be found alone, and as I was one of the freedom-loving men of the Territory
of Kansas, and was practicing medicine all over the country, I usually
traveled roads I knew to be safe, especially during periods of the highest
excitement, at which time the pro-slavery element of the country was assembled
together for the purpose of war, and the free-state men collected together
at one common headquarters. Both armies armed and equipped -- on
the one side to extend slavery, on the other to prohibit it. During
the year 1855 the territory was in a condition of civil war. Partisan
bands were arrayed against each other, and skirmishes and assassinations
of daily occurrence.
During this period I once found myself in a dangerous position.
On returning home from one of my professional visits I suddenly found myself
cut off by a creek with steep banks. The only means of crossing this stream
was a log hewn on the upper side to a face of fourteen inches, with the ends
imbedded in the banks. The log was a cottonwood about twenty feet long, twenty
inches in diameter. The two ends were made fast in the banks on both sides
of the creek. This log was used for a foot-log for the people of the neighborhood.
I must cross the stream at this point to reach home or take a four-mile circuit,
with many chances of being killed by the pro-slavery party, who hated me with
the gall of political bitterness, which had long ceased to be a joke. Thus I
took the choice with my life in my hands and my body upon the back of a trusty
mule that had just been roughly shod. She pressed her nose down to the
log, which was ten feet above the surface of the ice-covered water. The
ice was not over an inch thick, then two feet of water, with two feet more of
mud under it, while the distance from bank to bank was sixteen feet. My
mule placed first one foot and then another upon the log and boldly undertook
with firm and cautious feet, and nose to the log, to transfer me to the adjacent
bank. She succeeded, and in one minute's time the log and all dangers
were left behind me. I was soon in the camps of my friends, about a half-mile
on my way home.
When I told my mule and log story in camp I made
many unbelievers. Having a great admiration for the truth, and not
relishing the accusation of false statements, I requested the Captain to
give me a committee of three, and I would prove that the mule had crossed
it. As the log was less than a half-mile off, the Captain said: "We
will resolve ourselves in a committee of a whole," and all went with me,
saying that if they found I had told a lie they would put me in the creek.
On reaching the place the Captain said:
"Here are marks of horseshoes all over the log, and
as they correspond with the shoes on the mule's feet, Still has told the
truth, and the shoe marks are his witnesses."
A few months after the mule and foot-log adventure
I was called to visit a sick lady named Jones, about ten miles from my
home, and in order to make the trip to and from short as possible I took
near cuts, some of which led through the woods. On this particular
occasion, by going through a thick body of timber I could save about two
miles. Entering the timber, I followed a path at full gallop.
All at once my mule began to slack up and threw her ears forward, walked
carefully and very reluctantly, by which I knew that men were close.
Knowing that the blood of the opposition was up to a fever beat, I brought
my revolvers front in my belt, unslung my sharpshooter, and prepared for
any emergency. Not knowing the exact position or the number of
the enemy, I concluded the best plan to be safe was to prepare to be
dangerous. In a minute's time I was in an open space of about one
acre in the timber, in presence of a company of fifty or more pro-slavery
men, my deadly enemies in politics, who had assembled in this secluded
and secret place to drill for the purpose of fighting anti-slavery men
within a very few days. I cannot say that my hair stood on end.
Under the circumstances, I didn't consider there was any time to fool with
hair, and knowing that the bulge counts much in all engagements, I spoke
with a loud, firm and commanding voice:
"What in the d--l are you fellows up to?" I was answered
by the Captain in command:
"Where in the h--l are you going?" I saw in a moment
that my firmness had produced good effect, and there was no further danger.
I rode up and stopped in front of the company, shook hands with the Captain,
told him to give the command to me and I would drill his men, and show
him how Jim Lane and John Brown did it, concluding with:
"If you don't have your men better trained, and Jim
Lane ever meets you, he will shake you up."
[graphic 70: "WHAT IN THE D--L ARE YOU
FELLOWS UP TO?"]
The Captain turned his men over to me, and I drew
them up in line, put them through all the cavalry movements, tangled them
up, straightened them out, and told the Captain he must drill better, so
they could get out of tight places when they met us. Then I turned
the company over to the original Captain Owens, who said:
"Attention, company; this is Dr. Still, the oldest
abolitionist out of h--l, who is not afraid of h--l or high water.
When you are sick, go for him; he saved my wife's life in cholera, and
I know him to be successful any place you are a mind to put him.
In politics he is our enemy, in sickness he has proven to be our friend."
And closed by saying: "Doc, go home to dinner with me, and I will go with
you to see Mrs. Jones." I went with the Captain to dinner, and be
made his word good by going with me. From that, time until the close
of the pro-slavery question in 1857 I met, passed, and repassed his men
without fear or molestation.
I was chosen by the people to represent Douglas County,
Kansas, in the Legislature. Among my colleagues were such men as
John Speer, George Ditzler, and Hiram Appleman, all ardent "free-state
men," who loved to hate slavery, in all its forms, believing it to be opposed
to all progress of men and nations.
I was chafed to know that my old State Missouri,
my home for twenty years, had 150,000 acres of school lands, of which not
a dollar was applied to school purposes. When I wanted schooling
in my young days this money, over a million dollars, was being used to
buy "mules and niggers," and I, cheated of my rights, paid for my schooling
by mauling rails. As a legislator I was determined that no such tyranny
should lord it over Kansas. The Legislature was for freedom by a
large majority. Both houses and the territorial Governor, Reeder,
were with us heart and soul.
When first elected to the Kansas Legislature, which
was in 1857, the free-state men agreed to meet at Lawrence and Topeka and
march to Lecompton in a body. Being in the lower district, I was
with the party that met at Lawrence. Ten-thirty was the hour agreed
upon where the free-state men were to march into the town escorted by an
We entered before the others by several minutes,
and hitching our horses, scattered about the town, talking in small groups.
Our conduct soon aroused the apprehensions of the pro-slavery men.
When not far from the state house, I was accosted
by some pro-slavery men, Judge Elmore, a man named Kato, another Brindle,
and the third, Hall, with:
"Whar ar' you'ns from?"
I answered that I was from Douglas County, and Elmore
"What ye here for?"
"I was sent by Jim Laine," I answered.
"What ye goin' to do?"
"Whatever Jim Lane wants done."
They began to talk quite loud, interspersing their
remarks with unholy adjectives, among which "d-d abolitionist," "d-d fools,"
"d-d nigger-thieves" were the least complimentary.
At this time a little Yankee of about one hundred
and ten pounds, from Massachusetts, named G. F. Warren, came up, took me
by the arm, and said be wished to speak with me on a private matter, and
hoped my friends would excuse me, as be was in a great hurry. With
the assurance that I would return, I excused myself, and when we were apart
from the others, asked:
"What do you want, Warren?"
"I want you to keep away from those fellows; I am
afraid they will kill you."
I had on my overcoat, with pockets on the inside.
I opened it, showed him the two Colt's revolvers in the inside pockets,
and told him to go on and attend to his own business, that I wanted to
talk to those gentlemen myself. If in the course of our discussion
I found need of his aid I would surely call on him.
Leaving Warren, I went back to the pro-slavery men,
whose numbers bad been reinforced by several additionals, among them Colonel
Young. The Colonel wore a meat-knife, or what people not accustomed
to polite language would call a "bowie," in his belt. A glance showed
me that Warren was watching me with considerable anxiety from the corner.
I took care to keep the pro-slavery men in front while talking to them.
Young, in a milder tone than any of the others had used, asked:
"What do you expect to accomplish in this assembly,
"We propose to break every link in the pro-slavery
chain, and do all Jim Lane requires, to make Kansas free from master and
They grew boisterous, and Judge Elmore became insulting.
I looked him in the face and said:
"The angels are coming. The Lord is on our
side, and His angels will soon be with us; then you will hear the music
from on high." One of the gentlemen said:
"Listen to the d-d fool; he is crazy." I answered:
"I am not crazy, Judge," then looked at my watch,
which had been set the evening before to correspond with the watches of
our friends. It lacked less than two minutes of the time designated.
"I can almost smell the breath of the angels.
I hear the rustling of their wings." To which Elmore cried:
"The d-d fool is either drunk or crazy; what is the
matter with him?"
His deep-toned voice, trained to command negroes
when be rawhided them, had scarce died on the air, when:
"Boom! boom! boom!" went the big bass-drum, and the
fifes' shrill shriek rose on the air.
"What the h--l is that?" roared Judge El-more.
"That is the music of the Lord's cavalry, coming
to help us knock the shackles from every slave."
By this time the head of Jim Lane's column, seven
hundred strong, could be seen coming over the hill, with colors flying
and drums beating.
Judge Elmore, Colonel Young, and the followers started
to run. I called to them to halt.
We are afraid of personal violence from Yankee fools,"
There is no danger whatever," I answered. We
are free-state men, and I will see you are protected, for I am at the head
of a company, and not a hair of your beads shall be touched." But their
legs controlled their bodies, and they could not be persuaded. They
[graphic 76: "BY THIS TIME THE HEAD
OF JIM LANE'S COLUMN COULD BE SEEN."]
We assembled and made a temporary organization.
On that night the free-state members of the assembly and some friends to
the number of three hundred went to a night session of a Pro-Slavery Constitutional
The convention was assembled in a hall capable of
holding about seven hundred persons. We took our seats in the rear,
and though every man was armed with one and many with two revolvers, we
were inclined to be peaceable if unmolested.
The pro-slavery men were very quiet, and their proceedings
quite orderly. We listened to them for about thirty minutes, when
a member began a tirade upon us, denominating us as the sons of feminine
dogs, prefixed by an abundance of brimstone adjectives.
In a moment the cup was filled and running over.
Captain Walker, of our side, leaped to his feet and yelled:
"G-d d-n you, take that back!"
I looked about and was surprised to find in addition
to my own revolvers five hundred more covering every drop of pro-slavery
blood in the house, from the chairman down.
Striking his gavel on the desk, the chairman sprang
to his feet, crying:
"For God's sake, don't shoot! That man is drunk
and don't know what be is doing!" Captain Walker quickly retorted:
"Trot him out of there then, and do it pretty G-d
d-n quick, or I will order them to fire, and keep it up until the last
dirty pro-slavery cuss is dead, pitched out of the window, and in h--1.
We're not here to take any such stuff."
In a second's time four men had the drunken member
by the legs and arms, hurried him out and ran him off, we never knew where.
Captain Walker then addressed the chairman, asking if it was true that
we began this trouble.
"No, you have been gentlemen," was the answer.
"Now, Mr. Chairman, I want you to so report us.
If I find that you have not so reported us over your own signature I will
kill you, G-d d-n you!"
When the Legislature was assembled next morning,
there was no opposition for us, and we had our own way. After the
permanent organization we adjourned to meet at Lawrence.
At the close of our deliberations, March, 1858, we
had territorial law that was all new, except that referring to the records
of deeds and marriages, which was thankfully received, and peace followed.
I went home to follow the practice of medicine and
saw lumber, which I did from 1856 to 1860, except the time spent in the
Legislature. During the fall of 1860 we elected "Abraham Lincoln"
to champion the coming conflict between Slavery and Freedom -- not of Kansas
alone, but of all North America. Then the struggle began, and lasted
until he dipped his pen and wrote the golden words: "Forever free, without
regard to race or color." When the war of the Rebellion was declared
against the laws and authorities of the United States, I saw at once another
move whose object was to extend slavery and illiteracy by a division of
the Territory, which could only be an example for other States to imitate
when any political party was unsuccessful in an election, and divide the
country up into a "North and South" and East, Middle and West, Southern
Confederacy. Then the East Middle, and West, Northern Confederacy,
and thus have six empires of quarreling fools, who would ruin all our forefathers
had given us under a sworn pledge to keep inviolate to the end of time.
Lincoln said: "I will keep that pledge. Who will help me?"
With a roar all the loyal legions from over the nation answered
"I!" War was on us, with all its diabolical fury, and ran with rivers of blood
and death until over a million fell to rise no more.