Autobiography of A. T. Still
Andrew Taylor Still, D.O.


  • In Which I Take a Wife
  • The Infair
  • A Destructive Hail-Storm
  • At Wakarusa Mission
  • Bereavement
  • The Pro-Slavery Trouble
  • A Dangerous Ride
  • The Pro-Slavery Men Drilling
  • My Legislative Experience
    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 married life.

    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 of God."

    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."


    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 armed guard.                          I

    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 asked:

    "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, anyway?"

    "We propose to break every link in the pro-slavery chain, and do all Jim Lane requires, to make Kansas free from master and slave."

    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 said:

    "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," they answered.

    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 ran away.


    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 Convention.

    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.