Autobiography of A. T. Still
Andrew Taylor Still, D.O.
DURING the autumn I had an excellent opportunity to
test Osteopathy on fall diseases, such as flux among children, bowel complaint,
and fevers. My first case of flux was a little boy of about four
summers. I was walking down the streets of Macon in company with
a Colonel Eberman, when I drew his attention to fresh blood which had dripped
along the street for fifty yards. A little in advance of us was a
lady and two or three children slowly moving in the same direction we were
going. We soon caught up with them, and discovered that her little
boy, about four years old, was very sick. He had only a calico dress
on, and to our wonder and surprise his less and feet, which were bare,
were covered with blood from his body down to the ground. A single
glance was sufficient to convince us that they were poor, and the Colonel
and I, feeling a wave of pity in our hearts, spoke gently to the mother,
and offered our aid to get her sick children home. She accepted.
I picked up the little sick boy, while the Colonel took one from the mother's
arms that she had carried until she was almost exhausted. I placed
my band on the back of the little fellow I carried, in the region of the
lumbar, which was very warm, even hot, while the abdomen was cold.
My First Case of Flux
Believed to be Possessed of the Devil
Prayers from Fools
A Dislocated Neck
Dr. F. A. Grove
Chinn's Cheering Way
A Helpless Cripple
Feeble in Health and Purse
Punching for Inebriacy
An Ointment for Drunkenness
My only thought was to help the woman and her children
home, and little dreamed that I was to make a discovery that would bless
future generations. While walking along I thought it strange that
the back was so hot and the belly so cold; then the neck and back of his
bead were very warm, and the face, nose, and forehead cold. I began
to reason, for I knew very little about flux, more than it killed young
and old, and was worse in Kentucky in warm weather than in some other States.
In all my life I had never asked myself what flux was, and no medical author
that I had read had told me whether it was a being, such as symptomatology
would divide up by symptoms, and put together and call the creature he
had made out of guesses, flux.
I did not know how to reason on diseases, because
all the authorities I had read or met in council could not get their eyes
off the effects rather than cause. They met pain by anti-pain medicines,
and bleeding of bowels by astringents that closed the issues from which
the blood came, following such remedies to death's door, and then lined
up for another battle and defeat with the same old failing remedies, and
open fire all along the line on symptoms only. I wondered why doctors
were so badly frightened when flux visited their own families if their
remedies were to be trusted.
I knew that a person had a spinal cord, but really
I knew little, if anything, of its use. I had seen in reading anatomy
that at the upper portion of the body the front side of the spinal cord
supplied the motor nerves, and the back side of the cord the sensory nerves,
but that gave no very great clue to what to do for flux. As I began
at the bases of the brain, and thought by pressures and rubbings I could
push some of the hot to the cold places, and in so doing I found rigid
and loose places on the muscles and ligaments of the whole spine, while
the lumbar was in a very congested condition. I worked for a few
minutes on that philosophy, and told the mother to report next day, and
if I could do anything more for her boy I would cheerfully do so.
She came early next morning with the news that her child was well.
Flux was in a large percent of the families of Macon. The reader
will remember that my home at that time was still in Baldwin, Kans., and
I was only visiting in Macon.
The lady whose child I had cured brought many others
and their sick children to me for treatment. As nearly as I can remember,
I had seventeen severe cases of flux in a few days, and cured all without
Other cases of summer and fall diseases appeared
in the city, and I was called to treat many, which I did with success.
I soon found myself in possession of a large practice. I was not
so much surprised to learn that all kinds of fevers, summer and fall diseases
could be cured without drugs as to hear that a Methodist preacher bad assembled
my brother's wife and children for the purpose of prayers. He turned
fool, or was born that way, as many hurried births have in all ages produced
idiots, and the old theological blank poured out his idiotic soul to the
Lord; telling him my father was a good man and a saint in heaven, while
he was of the opinion that I was a hopeless sinner, and had better have
the wind taken away before I got any worse. He stirred up such a
hurrah and hatred in Macon, and it ran in such a stage, that those whom
he could influence believed I was crazy. Children gave me all the
road, because I said I did not believe God was a whisky and opium-drug
doctor; that I believed when He made man that He had put as many legs,
doses, tongues, and qualities as he needed for any purpose in life for
remedies and comfort. For such arguments I was called an infidel,
crank, crazy, and God was advised by such theological hooting owls to kill
me and save the lambs.
During this early crusade against me I was called
to see a young lady said to be hopelessly ill with nervous prostration
from fall heats. All hope had been abandoned, and she had been given
up to die. At the end of a number of medical councils her father
came to me and said:
"My daughter is very sick, and the doctors say cannot
live." He then asked me to step in and look at her. He was a pleasant
and appeared to be a very sensible man, so I just went to please him.
I found the young lady in bed, and from the twisted way her bead lay on
the pillow I suspected a partial dislocation of her neck. On examination
I found the atlas or first joint of her neck one-half inch too far back,
so it had shut off the vertebral artery from supplying the brain.
I carefully adjusted her neck, and in four hours she was out of bed sticking
up for company. Then other prayers were soon sent up to tell the
Lord that I was possessed of the devil. Her pa said the devil must
have fifty dollars, so he gave it to me to send to my wife and babies in
Kansas, who were in need of grub, as Kansas was then eaten up by grasshoppers.
I don't think the Lord listened to such howling old
fools, who would kill the cow with the carnal sword if she gave a bushel
of milk with a drop of progress in it.
My father was a preacher, but no fool for popularity
among the ignorant.
I was like good old Paul, who could not be in person
always with sensible people, but was with them in spirit.
Long since Osteopathy has had a big welcome in Macon
city. They weep and mourn because they did not know a truth from
a lie, and help me build an infirmary there and make Macon the Athens of
learning, instead of the rival town in an adjoining county.
I bade them adieu in 1875, went to Kirksville, found
some three or four thinking people who welcomed me and my baby, Osteopathy.
One dear old mother by the name of Ivie gave me rooms and board without
charge for a month. I had no money, but she was an old Baptist who
said "Feed My lambs" was her religion. Long since she has been at
rest, but her kind old face will never fade from my memory. A dear
man named F. A. Grove, M.D., proved another friend. He was a man
of principle, and finely educated. He came to me, he said, to welcome
me to the town of Kirksville, then with about fifteen hundred inhabitants.
He had been around the world and found that some spots grew little trees
of progress. He and I were friends to his grave. He helped
me much to unfold the truths of this science. Had he lived today,
he would be my helper in the flesh, but while he lived he aided me to oil
the wheels of progress.
When I began to prove my work by actual results in
Mother Ivie's hotel, a good-hearted man of sense named Charley Chinn rented
to me a full suit of rooms over his store, though he knew I had no money.
Judge Linder, who knew me from a boy, came to me and said: "I will stay
with you and help you for six months, for I see truth all over your philosophy."
He stayed through the summer, and did well. He had mines of silver
in Arizona, and left for them. I never saw him again, but I remember
his strong arm and good advice, and will love him with my last breath.
Charlie Chinn acted the man, and while I was with
him, although he was a "Campbellite, " I felt as if I was at a good old
He always had something good to say that would cheer
me up in my gloomiest hours. He would pat me on the back and say,
"Shout on, brother, one day you will outride the storm." He never
said, "Your rent is due, I must have my pay or possession of my rooms."
He proved himself the kind of a man to tie to. I tied to him, and
he got all the money I owed him, but the debt of gratitude I can never
pay, unless I take the benefit of the bankrupt law, and I am opposed to
that, for it never pays debts. So I will ever let the debt hang over
me, paying a little at a time, and leaving the remainder for my children
to settle when I am gone.
Early in my career at Kirksville I met Robert Harris,
one of the best men I have seen since our banner felt the breezes.
He was a mechanic, machinist, and an ex-government gunsmith. I spent
hours, days, months, and years with him, in fact all the time I could spare.
When I wanted to talk of man as a machine containing all the varied parts
and principles of life in man, and the wisdom of God in His work as found,
and bow beautifully all worked together, be reasoned that man was the machine
of all machines, and all others were only imitations of the parts and principles
found in him. The ability of God was to do work to a finish.
I asked my friend Mr. Harris why man was so slow to see and adopt a truth
when brought to him, and I shall never forget his answer. It was
not a wordy harangue of Greek, Hebrew, French, and Latin adjectives, but
plain and sensible.
"Man naturally fears that which be does not understand.
He does not understand life nor death, therefore be dreads to think or
talk on such subjects." He ended with, "Only few men allow themselves to
think outside of popular ruts." That was the phrase of all phrases which
gave me comfort and support when men rejected the truth and did not accept
it. Some men are by truth like a Texas steer is by corn; he dreads
to go near it because he does not understand it. They say: "Don't
expect too much of a man, for many cannot think till they evolute some."
After a while I found a few beginning to think, and
from 1875 the change has been beyond all dreams or realities. Today
Kirksville has a population of eight thousand, among whom none are so blind
but that they can see that Osteopathy has come to dwell and bless with
all other great truths throughout all ages.
Among the many interesting cases of my early experience
was a little boy who bad no use of his legs or hips. He was about
four years old. His mother (Mrs. Truit) carried him to me for six
months in her arms to be treated for his helpless limbs. On examination
I found q spine imperfect in form, as I thought from my knowledge of the
spine at that time. I proceeded to articulate vertebra as best I
could, during each two weeks for six months. The mother showed that
grit which no one but a mother can. All summer she carried him to
me, a distance of four miles through the hot timber. His father was
sceptical on new ways, and never helped his wife try to restore the boy,
because some old gimlet-eyed blatherskite bad told him that Still was a
crazy crank, and could do the boy no good. At the end of six months
the family moved West, and I heard no more
from the boy for ten years. Then came the news of the father's
death, also that the poor little fellow bad grown to a man of one hundred
and sixty pounds. He was running a farm, and supporting his angel-hearted
mother as a reward for her life-and-death struggle through hot and cold
to save him from a hopeless cripple.
The story was so marvelous that I could hardly have
believed it had I not seen marked signs of improvement in his spine before
In course of time I had work enough to feed my wife
and babies and pay house-rent. All went fairly well until the fall
of 1876. I had a severe spell of typhoid fever from September until
June of lS7i. I was very feeble and not able to work half the time.
By this time I was growing very weak financially. Times set in very
hard, and it was nip and tuck for my boys and I to keep even with home
demands. In 1880 I went to Wadesburgh, Henry County, Mo. I
began there to prove my work. I treated at Clinton, Holden, Harrisonville,
and other places until about l886. In that year I made visits to
Hannibal, Palmyra, Rich Hill, Kansas City, and other places. Finally
work became so plentiful I decided I must remain at some one place and
let the patients come to me. So in 1887 I gave up traveling and remained
in Kirksville, Adair County, Mo., to teach and treat and build up an institution
of which I shall speak later on.
I will conclude this chapter with an amusing scientific
incident which occurred in Macon County.
While in Macon city, during one of the public affairs
of the seventies, when a large and enthusiastic convention was about to
assemble to tell the existing faults of a Republican administration and
to turn the rascals out and turn more rascals in, one good, honest-looking
old black-smith smilingly approached me and said:
"Let us go in the saloon and have something to take!"
He was in his shirt-sleeves, with an abdomen as large as a full moon hung
to him, from which I thought he had had too much "to take." In a
joking way I exposed about a half-acre of his abdomen on the public street
before hundreds of people, and said:
"My dear friend, I have power on earth and in heaven.
I am acquainted with the living men and angels, male and female, and your
mother says for me to snatch you away from these whisky hells!" I put my
hand upon his abdomen, punched, snatched, and scratched, and told the old
gentleman that, "From this day on whisky will make you sick. It will
make you vomit whenever you smell of it. If you think I lie, go stick
your nose in that saloon, and come back to me." In a few minutes
he returned, and said that he got the smell of the beer and whisky, and
he began to turn sick at the stomach. He didn't want to stay any
longer for fear he would throw up. I watched his conduct for a period
of seven years, at which time he died, having never tasted whisky from
the time I told him I knew all about devils, life, and death, and he always
thanked me for rescuing him from drunkenness. He made an effort to
pass the saloons three times a day, which he had entered and spent sixty
cents daily for over twenty years, according to his own statement.
His wife being a Christian woman, on learning that I was the man who saved
her husband from drunkenness, whenever she met me greeted me with, "God
bless Brother still!"
[graphic 131: "I PUT MY HAND UPON HIS
I had no object in view when I pow-wowed the old
gentleman, punched and twisted his abdomen, and told him of the awful ending
of the sot, except a little street fun. What I considered nonsensical
and foolish had the effect to make a sober man of him, and saved sixty
cents each day out of his daily labor for his good wife to apply in the
necessaries and comforts of life. I never told the old man nor his
wife that all that pow-wow was simply a little nonsense, because I saw
they both believed I was a heavenly messenger, and through me the angels
had saved her husband. Some other ladies brought a doctor to me.
One held to each arm, trying to beguile him into entering my brother's
house. He said:
"Not much, Sally Jane; you are not going to get Still
to hoodoo me, for I like my whisky too well; you can't come it!"
The doctor was so thoroughly convinced from the case
that I had talked out of his whisky, that he was afraid to take the remedy,
and ran off. Had the ladies warned me of their intention, I would
have been prepared to run the rabbit's foot on the doctor. From all
the varied expressions of his face and eyes he fully believed if I got
hold of him the love of whisky would forever depart. Suppose I had
relieved this doctor of this thirst for whisky, fixed a few more, and had
got something like a popular craze among the doctors to be treated for
the whisky habit, how many hundred thousands would I have to punch and
spank and scratch each year? I only judge that they would amount
to hundreds of thousands from the fact that those whom I had met, not over
ten per cent could say they had neither bottle nor jug round their office
with decoctions for their stomachs' sake.
One case of drunkenness I treated medically. I had
some good old-fashioned volatile liniment in which hartshorn and sweet oil were
the chief ingredients. I was walking along with a bottle of this liniment
in my hand, to treat a patient for a bruise or sprain, and met an old acquaintance
addicted to getting tipsy, as he called it. He was sober enough himself,
but his legs were on a big bender. He told me be had a very bad headache.
I assured him my liniment would cure everything, headache and all. He
took off his hat in the street, and told me to pour on some, and "lots of the
truck." I uncorked my bottle and began to pour it on top of his head.
I spilled about a tablespoonful or more; it ran down his hair, over his forehead,
and into his eyes. He got out his handkerchief and I got mine, both wiping
his face and eyes. He said his head was on fire, and his eyes burning
out. I procured water and soap and washed off the liniment. By the
time his face was washed and dried he was very sober, and has never been drunk
since. I would recommend to all ladies whose husbands get drunk and talk
too loud, to grease the tops of their heads with volatile liniment, and not
wash it off too quick. If they ever get drunk again, which they are not
likely to do, just grease them once more for their stomachs' sake. This
liniment will cost fifty cents a half-pint. Any druggist will put it up
for you, and you pour some in your husband's eyes, every time he gets drunk,
and be will quit or ask for a divorce.