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Andrew Taylor Still
A Life Chronology of the First Osteopath

by Steve Paulus, DO

Andrew Taylor Still was the man who discovered Osteopathy and developed the principles and practices of this healing art into a distinctive system of health care. He was a character from a bygone era, a 19th century reformer, visionary, philosopher, and innovator. He was primarily a self-educated man with incredible talent and a diversity of interests that helped shape his personal and professional philosophies.

For those of us who utilize Osteopathic principles and practice on a daily basis with every patient, Dr. Still has become a well loved yet distant mythological figure occupying an elevated place removed from the near proximity of our sensible understanding and full appreciation. For the “modern” Osteopathic Physician, who practices exclusively allopathically oriented Osteopathic Medicine, Dr. Still is not held in high esteem or honored with respect. A. T. Still has become, for them, only a historical figure with antiquated associations and fossilized ideas.

Why then must we study, and attach importance to the life of A. T. Still nearly 100 years after his death? The answer to this question is simple. Dr. Still may have died but his ideas and philosophy live onthey are timeless. A. T. Still once said, “I do not claim to be the author of this science of Osteopathy. No human hand framed its laws; I ask no greater honor than to have discovered it.” He also said, “The mechanical principles on which Osteopathy is based are as old as the universe.” By studying the fundamental principles he uncovered, we are only learning the most basic natural laws of healing. There is a great resurgence of interest in the science and art of Osteopathy. Internationally, the Osteopathic profession is growing beyond the wildest dreams of our founder. People within and outside of Osteopathy are realizing that A. T. Still discovered an incredible system of healing that, until recently, was acknowledged by only a very small percentage of people.

Anyone who wants to explore the true depths of the philosophy of Osteopathy must, at some point, appreciate the life and times of Andrew Taylor Still—the First Osteopath. To comprehend Osteopathy, you must have a basic knowledge of the context from which this healing system developed. E. R. Booth, DO (who wrote the History of Osteopathy in 1905) said, “To fully understand Dr. Still it is almost absolutely necessary to have a personal acquaintance with him. It is only by coming in close touch with him that his character becomes fully revealed.”

One purpose of a written biography is to give the reader a personal sense of knowing a historical figure. I believe, that by studying the life of the First Osteopath we can come “in close touch with him,” and truly know his characterthus better understanding his teachings. Once his enigmatic qualities, eccentricities, and sentinel life events are revealed we can have our own personal appreciation and a resonating acquaintancenot with the historical Dr. Stillbut with the human being known as Drew, Andrew, or the Old Doctor.

It is more fitting to call this biography a Life Chronology. I have listed sentinel events in the life of Andrew Taylor Still in an outline format following sequential chronological occurrences. I have found in my study of Dr. Still’s life that many of the significant dates and focal points are historically recorded in a confusing and disordered manner. In my own attempt to understand the whole of Dr. Still’s life I have prepared an organized and accessible outline of his life history. As a biographer, I have arranged the Life Chronology with an orientation toward my personal interests and insights. I have recorded his age at each important date to help you gain a feeling of what it might be like to be 8 years old traveling by covered wagon 700 miles to a new home in a far away place; or to be 36 years old having just come back from combat duty in the Civil War and have three of your children die within two weeks, including your first born son; or to be 46 years old and receive an inspiration that changes not only your life but the lives of millions to follow; or to be 64 years old and to open a new school of healing at a time when most people are ending their careers in retirement.

I ask you to put yourself in the shoes of a 21 year old man who has been married for 6 months, his wife is pregnant with their first child and the 60 acres of corn he planted (the sole means of support and sustenance for his family) has just been decimated by a hail storm. I want you to appreciate what this man went through to develop what we take for granted, i.e. Osteopathy.

As a father of two boys, I also became fascinated with the number of children he had and how many of them died. This man suffered many great tragedies in his life. Of his twelve children six died before the age of twelve. What would I have done, at 36 years of age, if three of my children had died within two weeks due to spinal meningitis, and a fourth child died several weeks later from pneumonia? Would this event have inspired me to reform American medicine or would I have drown in the depths of depression, inertial and broken?

A. T. Still was a free thinker with tremendous courage and vitality. It was through his tenacity, based upon wisdom and a trust in God that he found the motivation to publicly present Osteopathy in the face of overwhelming personal tragedy, professional opposition, and public humiliation. When Dr. Still openly presented to the public the principles and practice of what would later be known as Osteopathy, he was reviled by the local medical doctors, kicked out of the Methodist church accused of being the devil incarnate, called insane by his family, and ostracized by his friends and patients. We must be thankful for the potency of his valor and resolve. Remember, Dr. Still was advocating a novel approach to the health care of sick and injured people. In the conservative, puritanical, closed minded, and prudish era of the late 1800’s A. T. Still directly faced opposition to touching as a method of healing. The opposition to using even a therapeutic form of touch was pervasive, not only in the rural Midwest, but throughout all of America. Only after years practicing with integrity and clear physical boundaries was he able to convince people, by his genuine actions and positive results, that Osteopathy worked.

I introduce to you, perhaps for the first time, Andrew Taylor Still. He was much more than the founder of Osteopathy, he was the son of a Methodist minister and frontier medical doctor. He was a farmer, expert hunter, medical doctor, inventor, machinist, state legislator, soldier, patriot, Civil War veteran, abolitionist, feminist, temperance supporter, Freemason, father, husband, and dedicated family man. This was a self-taught, highly motivated, and incredibly creative man. In a “modern” society that values educational degrees and titles over wisdom and experience perhaps the thought of a 19th century self-educated country doctor founding and guiding the Osteopathic profession is untenable. I suggest that our profession could only have been founded by an individual such as Andrew Taylor Still. This was a man with deep intuitive abilities and vast life experiences. He made mistakes, and learned from them. He suffered great tragedy and persevered. He triumphed, not out of sheer will, but due to his genuine respect and trust in God and the Laws of Nature.

Dr. Still once said, “I quote no authors but God and experience.”

I leave you with some of his experiences . . .

Andrew Taylor Still (1828-1917)
A Life Chronology of the First Osteopath

Andrew Taylor Still’s maternal grandfather (James Moore IV) was kidnapped/captured in 1784 at the age of 14 by Black Wolf, a Shawnee Indian chief and warrior while living with his family in Virginia. He was then taken to live with the Shawnee tribe in the Ohio Valley. The same band of warriors led by Black Wolf later returned to Virginia and massacred James’ mother and father as well as all the remaining European settlers in the area. James was later sold, as a slave, to a French trader who lived with the Native Americans in the area around Detroit. He was ultimately rescued in 1788 and returned to his homeland in Virginia and in 1797 married Barbara Taylor (his maternal grandmother).

Andrew Taylor Still’s father Abram Still (1796-1867) was born in America to Boaz Still, a Scotch-Irish frontiersman, and Mary Lyda Still, of Dutch descent. Andrew’s mother Martha Poague Moore Still (1800-1888) was born in America to James Moore IV and Barbara Taylor, and was of Scotch-Irish and German stock.

Andrew Taylor Still is born on August 6, 1828 in Jonesville, Virginia.
A.T. Still (known as Drew by his siblings) was the third of nine children (5 boys and 4 girls) born to Abram Still a Methodist minister/circuit rider and frontier medical doctor, and Martha Poague Moore. Four of Abram and Martha’s children later became physicians. A. T. Still and his younger brother Thomas both apprenticed with their physician father and were trained as medical doctors. Drew’s older brother James attended allopathic medical school becoming an MD and later a DO under the tutelage of his younger brother. The oldest of Abram and Martha’s children, Edward also became a DO; he was in the first class at the American School of Osteopathy in 1892.

1834 (Drew is 6 years old): The Still family moves from Virginia to New Market, Tennessee.

1836 Spring (Drew is 8 years old): The Rev. Still requests a transfer from Tennessee to Missouri. The Still family treks over 700 miles from eastern Tennessee through Kentucky across the Ohio River through the southern tip of Illinois, northwest to St. Louis, then crossing the Mississippi River traveling to north central Missouri in Macon County. The Still family leaves Tennessee traveling 7 weeks overland with 6 children (the youngest being less than one year old) in two covered wagons and six horses.

1838 (Drew is 10 years old): Drew fashions a rope swing to self treat headache. Dr. Still, retrospectively, proclaims this act is the first Osteopathic treatment.

1847 (Drew is 19 years old): Drew wants to enlist in the army to fight in the war between the United States and Mexico. He states, “ I was boiling over with fight.” His father refuses to give consent, stating that Drew was under age.

January 1849 (Andrew is 21 years old): Andrew marries Mary Margaret Vaughn, she is about 16 years old (birth date unknown-died 1859). Mary Margaret is sick and weak during most of their marriage. Each of her five pregnancies were physically exhausting and she became increasingly feeble over the 10 years of their marriage.

July 4, 1849 (Andrew is 21 years old): Andrew’s primary occupation is that of a farmer, with 60 acres of land plowed and planted in corn a hail storm destroys the crop. The family is decimated financially. Andrew teaches school that fall and winter for $15 per month.

December 8,1849 (Andrew is 21 years old): The first child to Andrew and Mary Margaret is born, Marusha (1849-1924).

1849 (Andrew is 21 years old): Andrew begins a “formal” two year apprenticeship with his father to study as a medical doctor.

1853 (Dr. Still is 24-25 years old): Andrew serves in John Fremont’s expedition that set off from Kansas City to try to find a central route across the Rocky Mountains for the transcontinental railroad. The expedition was forced by bad weather to turn back in Utah.

November 12, 1852 (Andrew is 24 years old): The second child, and first son, to Andrew and Mary Margaret is born, Abraham Price (1852-1864).

1853 (Dr. Still is 25 years old): Dr. Still and his wife Mary follow Andrew’s father, the Rev. Still, and move from Missouri to Wakarusa Mission, Kansas. A. T. Still lives in Kansas for the next 22 years. Wakarusa Mission is located, ironically, on Shawnee Indian reservation land and his father is assigned to preach at the Methodist Church at the reservation. The Shawnee tribe had been “relocated” to Kansas from the east. A. T. Still worked and plowed 90 acres of land. “Some days I broke 4 acres of sod.”5 He farmed and helped his father to “doctor to the Indians.” While at the Wakarusa Mission Andrew learns to speak Shawnee.

April 1855 Dr. Still begins to think about “new” methods of healing and to question medical tradition after conversations with his friend and mentor Major James B. Abbott. It is thought that at this time he began his study of Magnetic Healing.

1855-1857 (Andrew is 27-29 years old): Andrew studies mechanics and machinery under the tutelage of Boston educated Professor Sole.

1855 to the early 1900’s Andrew is fascinated with technology and mechanics. He builds and opens a steam powered sawmill in the mid 1850’s. He invents a mowing machine to harvest wheat, but before he can submit the patent, his idea for the invention is stolen by the Wood Mowing Machine Co. In 1871 he invents an improved butter churn. Between 1904-06, while in his 70’s, he invents a modern antipollution device that allows for smokeless combustion in coal burning furnaces; in 1910 he was issued a patent for the device.

March 9, 1855 (Andrew is 27 years old): The third child, to Andrew and Mary Margaret is born, George, he dies one day later.

April 11, 1856 (Andrew is 28 years old): The forth child, to Andrew and Mary Margaret is born, Susan (1856-1864).

October 6 1857 (Dr. Still is 29 years old): Dr. Still is elected to the State Legislature in Kansas, serving for 5 years.

1857 to 1861 (Andrew is 29-33 years old): A. T. Still is active in the anti-slavery movement in Kansas. He participates in the “Bleeding Kansas” battles (between the pro and anti-slavery citizens) until Kansas was admitted into the Union as a free state in 1861. He is friends and allies with the famous anti-slavery leaders John Brown and Jim Lane.

July 29, 1859 (Andrew is 31 years old): The fifth child, to Andrew and Mary Margaret is born, Lorenzo Waugh, he dies 5 days after birth.

September 29, 1859 (Andrew is 31 years old): Andrew’s wife Mary Margaret Vaughn Still dies. He is left with 3 living children: Marusha (10), Abraham Price (9), and Susan (6).

November 25, 1860 (Dr. Still is 32 years old): Andrew is remarried to a 26 year old school teacher named Mary Elvira Turner (1834-1910), they are married for 50 years.

Early 1860’s Dr. Still self reports attendance at the College of Physicians and Surgeons in Kansas City, Missouri. However, no records demonstrate evidence of the existence of the school or his attendance. He self reports that he attended this medical school by never completed the course of study due to personal conflicts regarding the curriculum.

1861-1864 (Major Still is 33-36 years old): Dr. Still fights in the Civil War on the side of the Union Army. He serves his entire military career in Kansas in several different militia units. His earliest rank is that of a sergeant and he is listed as a hospital steward, who functions as a pharmacist and surgeon’s assistant). After his first militia unit is disbanded, he reorganizes a new militia and is promoted to Captain and ultimately he achieves the rank of Major. His unit is involved in the Battle of Westport (also known as the Gettysburg of the West). In his Autobiography he reports only his combat duty as an infantry officer, he never served in the Civil War as a physician or surgeon.

September 12, 1861 (Andrew is 33 years old): The first child, to Andrew and Mary Elvira is born, Dudley Turner he dies 6 weeks later.

January 13, 1863 (Andrew is 35 years old): The second child, to Andrew and Mary Elvira is born, Marcia Iona (1863-1864).

1864 (Major Still is 36 years old): In the Battle of Westport, Major A. T. Still suffers a ruptured inguinal hernia. This injury is severe enough that he is no longer able to do the heavy work/labor required of a farmer and, out of necessity, devotes more time to his duties as a physician.

February 1864 (Andrew is 36 years old): Three of Dr. Still’s children die of spinal meningitis all within 2 weeks time (Abraham, age 11, Susan, age 7, and an adopted daughter age 9—her name is unknown). Two weeks after the three older children died, the youngest daughter (Marcia Iona, age 1) dies of pneumonia. Abraham and Susan are children from his first marriage and Marcia Iona was the only living child from his second marriage. The great tragedy was that four of “his children” died within a 4 week time period just after he had returned from combat duty in the Civil War. Andrew was “torn and lacerated with grief.”6

January 7, 1865 (Andrew is 37 years old): The third child to Andrew and Mary Elvira is born, Charles Edward (1865-1955).

May 15, 1867 (Andrew is 39 years old): The fourth and fifth children of Andrew and Mary Elvira are born, the twins Harry Mix (1867-1942) and Herman Taylor (1867-1941).

1867 (Andrew is 39 years old): Andrew’s father, Abraham, dies at age 71 of pneumonia. A. T. Still was very close to his father and this death was a great loss.

1867 Andrew begins to study Spiritualism.

January 15, 1874 (Andrew is 46 years old): The sixth child to Andrew and Mary Elvira is born, Fred (1874-1894).

1874-1883 Dr. Still practices Magnetic Healing and begins exploring bone-setting as a healing art. It is not known from whom he learned the art of bone-setting.

1874 Dr. Still advertises his services as “A. T. Still, Magnetic Healer” in a newspaper the North Missouri Register.

1874 A letter of A. T. Still’s is included in a regional Spiritualist newspaper.

At 10 AM on June 22, 1874 (Dr. Still is 46 years old): Andrew Taylor Still has an epiphany. He has a prophetic vision where he is shot, as he describes it, “not in the heart, but in the dome of reason.”7 In an instant “like a burst of sunshine the whole truth dawned upon my mind.”8 This vision transformed him and he stated that “I saw a small light in the horizon of truth.”9 Thus revealed to A. T. Still is the whole of what will later be termed Osteopathy. He retrospectively states that on this date and time, “I flung to the breeze the banner of Osteopathy.”10 Still was living in Baldwin, Kansas with his wife, Mary Elvira and 6 children.

1874 Dr. Still presents his new ideas for reforming medicine to Baker University, a Methodist college which was co- founded by Andrew’s father Abram. Dr. Still and his brothers had donated the land and helped in the building of the university in the
mid 1850’s.

1874 Dr. Still is publicly “read out” (or formally removed) from the Methodist Church by the minister in Baldwin, Kansas. Because of his “laying on of hands” Dr. Still is accused of trying to emulate Jesus Christ and is labeled an agent of the devil. He is condemned as practicing voodoo medicine and his practice dropped off rapidly. He was socially and professionally ostracized, financially destitute and was ultimately forced to move his family to Macon, Missouri in 1875.

Autumn 1874 Dr. Still performs the first “recorded” Osteopathic Treatment in Macon, Missouri treating a four year old boy with bloody flux (hemorrhagic gastroenteritis).

November 1874 Andrew’s oldest brother Edward Still (also living in Kansas) is in poor health. He could scarcely walk and was using 75 bottles of morphine annually. Dr. Still stayed with his brother for 3 months, got him free of opium and then moved to Kirksville, Missouri.

1875 Still meets Robert Harris, a devoted friend and influential teacher.

Up until 1875 (Andrew is 47 years old): Andrew formally listed his occupation as a medical doctor, but in 1875 he recorded his occupation to the Kansas census as machinist.

May 1875 (Dr. Still is 47 years old): sends for family (wife and four remaining children) to come to Kirksville, Missouri. They had been living in Macon, Missouri prior to the move to Kirksville. A. T. Still had been living in Kirksville for 3 months in advance of his family. Kirksville at that time had a population of 6000.

January 5, 1876 (Andrew is 48 years old): The seventh and last child of Andrew and Mary Elvira is born, Blanche (1876-1959). Dr. Still has six living children, Marusha from his first marriage and Charles, Harry, Herman, Fred, and now Blanche from his second marriage.

September 1876 until June 1877 (Andrew is 48 years old): Andrew suffers from a severe infection of Typhoid Fever. He was unable to work half the time, he was feeble physically and weak financially for nearly a year during the illness.

1864 until 1882 Andrew and his wife Mary Elvira repeatedly petition the US government for Andrew to receive a pension based upon injuries received in the Civil War. However, because the Kansas Militia was not officially sworn in to the Union Army, his pension requests are denied. He reports to have suffered an inguinal hernia during the Battle of Westport. In the years following the Civil War the Still family suffers many financial hardships, his earnings barely kept pace with his expenses.

Winter 1878/1879 Dr. Still is called back to Kansas to treat a family member who is ill. “I treated partly by drugs, as in the other days, but also gave Osteopathic treatments.”11

From 1880 until 1886 (Dr. Still is 52-58 years old): Dr. Still works as an itinerate/traveling physician migrating from town to town in rural Missouri. The towns included Wadesburg, Clinton, Holden, Harrisonville, Palmyra, Rick Hill, Kansas City, and others. He would be gone away from his wife and children for months at a time.

1883-1890 (Dr. Still is 55-62 years old): Dr. Still formally advertises himself a Lightning Bone Setter, not an Osteopath. His business card clearly lists his “occupation” as a Lightning Bone Setter.

1885 (Dr. Still is 57 years old): Dr. Still coins the term Osteopathy, after discussion and advice from his friend Dr. Sweet. Prior to this date Dr. Still was utilizing the new principles and practice of this non-traditional non-allopathic approach that up to this time did not have a name. Up until 1890 Dr. Still continued to advertise himself as a Bone Setter.

1886 Dr. Still finds that work is so plentiful that he can remain at one place and let patients come to him. So he mostly gives up traveling and remains primarily in Kirksville, Missouri.

November 1, 1892 (The Old Doctor is 64 years old): Dr. Still opens the first school of Osteopathy: The American School of Osteopathy (ASO) in Kirksville, Missouri. Five of the original students in the inaugural class were children of Andrew and Mary Elvira (Harry, Charlie, Herman, Fred, and Blanche) and one was his older brother Edward.

1892 (The Old Doctor is 64 years old): The Philosophy and Mechanical Principles of Osteopathy by A. T. Still is published, then mysteriously withdrawn from distribution. It is finally re-released and publicly distributed to a very limited degree in 1902.

June 6, 1894 (The Old Doctor is 66 year old): Just after graduating from the first class at ASO, Fred (age 20) dies from injuries suffered in an accident. Fred was the most studious and gifted of A. T. Still’s children. Fred and his father were exceptionally close. His death was a great tragedy for the Old Doctor and for the burgeoning Osteopathic profession.

Autumn 1894 the second class at ASO begins with 30 students.

1896 Vermont becomes the first state to legally license DO’s, the second state is North Dakota.

1897 Missouri grants DO’s licensure.

1897 (The Old Doctor is 69 years old): Autobiography of A. T. Still is published. A 2nd expanded edition is published in 1908.

1899 (The Old Doctor is 71 years old): Philosophy of Osteopathy by A. T. Still is published.

1903 (The Old Doctor is 75 years old): Dr. Still attends the Mississippi Valley Spiritualist Association meeting in Clinton, Iowa.

1906 (The Old Doctor is 78 years old): Dr. Still’s health begins to fail.

1907 (The Old Doctor is 79 years old): Dr. Still begins to practice and study meditation as a method for obtaining answers to philosophic questions.

1910 (The Old Doctor is 82 years old): Research and Practice by A. T. Still is published.

May 28, 1910 (Andrew is 82 years old): Mary Elvira “Mother Still” dies. Andrew and Mary had been married for 50 years.

1914 (The Old Doctor is 86 years old): Dr. Still suffers a mild stroke from which he never fully recovers his speech.

December 12, 1917 Andrew Taylor Still dies at 89 years of age in Kirksville, Missouri.