|ANDREW TAYLOR STILL
FOUNDER OF OSTEOPATHY
By Bonnie Ball
When we think of Lee County we are reminded of Dr. Thomas Walker, the first white man known to have penetrated the area, of Ambrose Powell for whom Dr. Walker named a mountain and a river, of Daniel Boone whose son was here slain by Indians, of Thomas Lovelady who was here before the American Revolution, of the Yocums who settled in the Dryden area, of Vincent Hobbs who ended the existence of the ravaging Chief Benge, of Fannie Dickenson Scott, an Indian captive who courageously made her escape, of Edward Pennington who allegedly traded a bridle and flintlock rifle for a portion of Pennington Gap, of Vastine Stickley who left the Shenandoah Valley to establish a little village that bears his name, of prominent military men like Col. A. L. Pridemore, Major Hyatt, and Col. Campbell Slemp; of devout ministers such as: Noble Burkhart, Andrew Baker, Reuben Steele, James Shelburne and Isaac S. Anderson; of native statesmen such as: C. Bascom Slemp and Lloyd M. Robinette.
We think of the deep red clay soil, limestone springs and verdant bluegrass along its south and east borders, and the deposits of coal along its north and west rims, which brought great prosperity to the county, as its dark wealth clouded our vision of the vast resources of agriculture, and the native sons and daughters who left the area to become useful citizens of other places.
Today I would like to call attention to one of Lee County's natives of whom little is known in the county of his birth. On October 9, 1972, a commemorative postage stamp went on sale to honor the profession of Dr. Andrew Taylor Still who is known as the founder of osteopathy. The stamp was first released at the national osteopathic convention then in session at Miami Beach, Florida.
Andrew Taylor Still was born near Jonesville, VA on August 6, 1828. At that time his father, Dr. Abraham Still, as a Methodist circuit rider, and also a medical doctor, who had married Mary Poague Moore of Tazewell Co., five years earlier. The Stills lived in Lee County for ten years during which time Dr. Abraham assisted in the erection of a permanent arbor at the Methodist Camp Ground west of Jonesville.
The idea of a commemorative stamp was conceived by Mrs. Ella Whitten Akers of Lynchburg, VA, who had once served as a public health nurse in Lee County and who attended the 1972 convention in Miami. She had requested an old friend of that county to procure for her a quantity of grapevine, which was cut into short lengths to serve as mementos, and were presented to the convention speakers.
The grapevine was symbolic of a story often related concerning Dr. Still who, as a lad, was said to have relieved a headache by suspending his head and neck in a grapevine as he lay prone on the ground.
From the autobiography of Andrew Taylor still, it is possible to present some of the highlights of his life, and events that had led to the discovery of osteopathy. In keeping with his individualism, his religious convictions, and disdain for exaggeration, he spurned the idea of allowing a professional biographer to compile his life story, and wrote it himself.
His first school was conducted by a stern schoolmaster who was more concerned with discipline than instruction. In 1834 the Stills moved to New Market, TN where he and his two brothers attended a school conducted by the Methodist Conference under an efficient instructor.
About 1837 their father was appointed as a missionary to Missouri, where Andrew and his brothers soon found themselves in an area where there were neither schools, churches, nor printing presses. So their education was discontinued until 1839, when their father and a few settlers hired a teacher for their children during the winter of 1839-40.
The spring of 1840 took them from Macon County to Schuyler County, MO, where there was no more school until 1842, when in the autumn, they felled trees and built a log cabin 18 by 20 feet, without a floor. There a school was conducted 90 days for $2.00 per pupil.
In 1843 Andrew attended another term of 3 months taught by a Virginian, then returned to the old log schoolhouse for a term of 4 months in Smith's Grammar.
In 1845 he entered a Presbyterian School in Macon County. He and a friend boarded with a Gilbreath family to whom they became devoted. They lived as members of the family. Both split rails, milked cows, and assisted with the housework.
In 1848 Andrew attended a school taught by a noted mathematician. Even in his persistent search for knowledge, he admitted that like other boys, he was "a little lazy and fond of a gun."
Early in the 1840's people in the Stills' area became much concerned about the Judgement Day and its impending calamity, due to the prophecy of a man named Miller. Later the story of the Judgement Day gave way to the news of a wonderful invention called the sewing machine "that could make over a hundred stitches a minute." Dr. Still wrote: "I know it must be so, for I read it in the Methodist Christian Advocate."
About the same time he heard of another wonderful invention. "Sister Stone", just 4 miles from them had told him she had bought a cook stove with her from the East. Andrew was determined to go and see this stove so he could tell his friends about it. Later he mounted Old Selim, telling his father he was going in search of some stray cattle. He "put the bud" to Selim until they had traveled 4 miles. (He had known all along where the cattle were.) "Hello, Sister Stone," he said, "have you seen any of our stray cattle for a day or two?"
"No," she said, "but get down and come in." He asked for a drink of water, then watched Mrs. Stone bake some corn bread in the new stove. After stuffing himself with milk and bread, he thanked his hostess, mounted Selim, and rounded up the cattle. His father never knew of his detour of curiosity.
Andrew Still's frontier experiences varied widely. His father was trained to do all types of work. He was a minister, doctor, farmer, and a practical millwright. His mother wove cloth, made clothing, and could make pies to perfection. She believed to spare the rod was to spoil the child.
In concluding the narratives if his boyhood experiences he related an incident that, simple as it was, may have been his first discovery in the science of osteopathy. Early in life he began to disapprove of drugs. One day when he was about ten years of age, he suffered a severe headache. He made a swing (not of a grapevine, as was later believed, but of his father's plow lines) between two trees. However, his headache increased with the swinging. So he lowered the rope to about 8 or 10 inches from the ground threw the end of a blanket over it, and lay down on the ground, using the rope as a swinging pillow. Soon he "became easy," and fell asleep. When he awoke he rose to his feet and found that the headache had disappeared. As he knew little of anatomy, he had no idea how a rope could stop a headache, and the nauseated stomach that accompanied it. Afterward he used this method when plagued with attacks of "sick headache." Later he said, "I followed that treatment for twenty years before the wedge of reason reached my brain, and I could see that I had suspended the action of the great occipital nerves and given harmony to the flow of the arterial blood to and through the veins, and ease was the effect...I have worked for more than fifty years to obtain a more thorough knowledge of the machinery of live, to produce ease and health. And today, (1897), I am fully established in the belief that the artery is the father of the rivers of life and its impure water is first in all disease."
On January 29, 1849 Andrew Still married Mary M. Vaughn and took her to their new home on 80 acres of land near his old home. He worked early and late on 60 acres of fine corn, but on July 4 a dark cloud rose and showered 3 inches of hail over the 60 acres, not leaving a stalk nor blade of corn. Nor did it leave a bird or a rabbit on the farm. All were gone. He taught school that winter at $15 per month.
In 1853 they moved to the Wakarusa Mission in Kansas, occupied by the Shawnee tribe. Little English was spoken outside the mission. Mrs. Still taught the papooses that summer while Andrew plowed 90 acres with oxen. Then with his father, he doctored the Indians - erysipelas, fevers, pneumonia, and cholera prevailed among them. He stated that some of their treatments for it were no more ridiculous than those of so-called scientific doctors. As curatives they made teas of blackroot, lady's thumb, mucksquaw, etc. and many died. He learned their language and gave them such drugs as white men used, and cured most cases, and was well received by the Shawnee and other tribes.
In 1859 Mary Still died, leaving Andrew with 3 small children. In November 1860 he was married to Mary E. Turner. They had 4 children.
Then came the slavery dispute. He chose the side of the Union, as he entered all combats for abolition of slavery, and soon acquired a host of political enemies. It was dangerous for a "free-state" man to be found alone. So he usually traveled roads he knew to be safe. By 1855 the territory was involved in civil war. Skirmishes and assassinations occurred daily. On one of his medical rounds Dr. Still rode a freshly shod mule. To avoid hostile territory he took a detour home. On approaching a ravine with steep banks of 10 feet he saw that the only way of crossing it was by way of a cottonwood log hewn flat on top, and only 14 inches wide. As he took his feet out of the stirrups and clutched his saddle bag the mule cautiously walked the log. When he reached his friends they refused to believe that he had crossed the log on a mule until they returned to the stream and found the mule's shoe prints on the log.
In 1857, Dr. Still was elected to the Douglas Co., KS legislature as an ardent free-state supporter. He was chafed to learn that his old state of Missouri, his home for 20 years, had 150,000 acres of school lands, on which not a dollar was applied to school purposes, when he had striven for an education in his youth. Over a million dollars was being used to buy mules and slaves, while he paid for his education by mauling rails. As a legislator, he was determined that such would not happen in Kansas.
He returned home to practice medicine and saw lumber until 1860. In 1861 he enlisted in the Kansas cavalry where he rose to the rank of major. He had numerous and interesting experiences, but his subsequent discovery was born in Kansas under even more difficult circumstances.
In the quiet of the frontier he sat down to review what he had learned in medical school. He began with the skeleton and familiarized himself with the bones of the body.
In 1864 the thunder of war was retreating, but a new enemy hovered over the land in the form of spinal meningitis, which took two of his children and one adopted child.
Afterward Dr. Still began a more serious study of the human mechanism. He concluded that illness and disease are only effects. He wrote: "On June 22, 1874 I flung to the breeze the banner of osteopathy. For 23 years it has withstood the storms, cyclones, and blizzards of opposition."
After having established the science in his own mind he sought to draw the attention of thinking people in his home town of Palmyra, KS to it. Baldwin & Baker University was located there by 3 commissioners, one of which was his father. The town requested that the University he built there, and thereafter accepted by the committee. Both Dr. Andrew Still and his brother, Thomas, were on the committee to select a site. They donated 480 acres for it. They, with two others, purchased and erected a forty horse-power stream saw mill. (They gave the 640 acres all in one tract); and sawed all lumber for the buildings, during which time he was engaged for five years in sawing, building, and doctoring the sick through smallpox, cholera, and all the fevers, plus serving in the Kansas Legislature.
He was known as "a good doctor, faithful legislator, sober, sound, and loyal man", but alas, when he asked the privilege of explaining osteopathy in Baldwin University, which he had helped build, the doors were closed against him.
He remained in Kansas for a while, then made his way to Kirkville, MO. After three months he sent for his wife and 4 children. Mary resolved to stand by him. He did not tell her that he had found a letter from his brother, James Still, which stated that "Andrew was crazy, and had lost his mind." However, after 18 years, James ceased praying for his "deranged brother", and said: "Hallelujah, Drew, you are right..." I want to study osteopathy". And he did.
During the winter of 1878-79 Andrew Still was called by telegram to his old home in Kansas to treat a former patient, which he did partially by drugs, as before, but he also gave osteopathic treatments. She recovered.
From there he went to Henry County, MO where he built a large practice with an office. There he cured a patient who had pneumonia in both lungs. Later he conquered a case of "purulent sore eyes" without drugs, as well as cases of erysipelas by the same law.
From Henry County he went to Hannibal, MO, where he was confronted with cases of asthma. An Irish woman came and asked him to "make her shoulder easy". Although she had a bad case of asthma, Dr. Still found that she had a section of the upper vertebrae out of line. By setting the spine and a few ribs, he stopped the pain. A month later she returned with no trace of asthma, but with her superstitious nature, she asked if he "hoo-dooed her". "Me pain is all gone from round me shoulder..." she said.
Later, a well-dressed lady wearing diamonds came to inquire about his method of treatment. She had heard it was a "faith cure," Christian Science, etc. She said: "I want you to tell me the truth. Isn't this mostly hypnotism?" He replied: "Yes, Madam, I set 17 hips in one day." While in Hannibal he also practiced painless obstetrics. During the autumn he had an opportunity to test osteopathy on fevers, dysentery of hemorrhaging nature, and cured about 17 cases without use of drugs. Then he again became the victim of a crusade against him in which he was labeled a crank, infidel, and lunatic. He left that area in 1875, and went to Kirkville, MO, where he found a few "thinking people" who welcomed his osteopathy. In the course of time Andrew Still had found enough work to feed his family and pay rent. Finally it became so plentiful that he decided to remain in one place and let the patients come to him. In 1887 he resolved to remain at Kirksville to teach and build an institution. Until 1892 he worked alone with the help of his 4 sons. Patients came in numbers, and his practice yielded considerable money, as he trained other interested men, and a few women.
On October 30, 1894 the state of Missouri signed a charter for the American School of Osteopathy, to be located at Kirksville in Adair County. It was signed by: A. T. Still, Henry M. Still, Blanche Still, and Thomas A. Still. The first instructors were Dr. A. T. Still and Dr. William Smith (of Glasgow, Scotland).
The word osteopathy is compounded of two words - osteon (meaning bone) and pathos, pathine (to suffer). "It really means bone usage". Webster states that an osteopath is one who treats bodily ailments by manipulating bones, joints, and nerve centers.
In a lecture in College Hall in 1895 Dr. Still made these remarks: "I am from Virginia, but I came west at an early date, and am practically a western man. My father was a missionary...Those were the days of small things. My father's salary the first years was the munificent sum of $6."
Dr. Still died about 1917. Later the log cabin in which he was born (west of Jonesville) in Lee Co., was moved by his descendants to the campus of the American School of Osteopathy in Kirksville, MO.
The science of osteopathy is now recognized in many states of our nation. Lee Co., VA may well be proud of a native son who in the face of formidable opposition, conceived and established a new philosophy in the art of healing, which was lent impetus through his devout Christian life.
Sources: Autobiography of Dr. Andrew Taylor Still, Powell Valley News and Other news periodicals
Pages 28 to 33
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