2. A. T. Still: from birth to his first marrige

Andrew Taylor Still was born into a devoted family of pioneers who devoted many hours of their day to Bible study and to the education of their children while living in the wilderness. Two important home moves interfered with regularity of his school attendance. Even though, A. T. Still's great curiosity pushed him to study his father’s medical books, to analyze the anatomy of the animals he would hunt, to carry out mechanical repairs and to keep himself informed on the state of the art of new technologies and ideas.

Birth and early childhood – up to 5 years of age

In 1818 Abram was assigned to the circuit of Tazewell, in southwestern Virginia, a picturesque mountain region where isolated farms stood. During his tenure as an itinerant pastor, he met his future wife, who belonged to a Methodist family residing along the circuit. Abram Still and Martha Poage Moore got married in 1822. Two years later, with the birth of their first child. Edward Cox Still, they settled on a farm and started a large family: in all in all they had nine children.

The second son James Moore Still was born in 1826, and the third one, Andrew Taylor Still, was born on August 6th 1828 in Jonesville, In one of the typical log huts of the American pioneers.

Abram was engaged in the Methodist preaching, which also included medical duties. Whatsmore, he was a skilled mechanic able to build mills.

Together with other Methodists he would organize the co-called camp meetings in order to convert as many souls as possible. These were outdoor gatherings in which sometimes even thousands of people attended, which could last a few days. They were filled with a mystical atmosphere of excitement induced by the singing of religious hymns interrupted by terrifying sermons recited by ministers who painted hell in fierce and realistic colors. Many of those present entered into states of alteration, begging for God’s forgiveness, in some cases with violent manifestations such as convulsions, screaming or fainting, ultimately leading to conversion (Trowbridge 1991:31; Wigger, 1998).

The family of Abram and Martha continued to grow: in 1830 a baby girl was born, Barbara Jane Poage Still, and in 1833 the fifth son was born, Thomas Chalmers Still.

Andrew Taylor’s mother was able to look after the farm during her husband’s long absences, and the boys grew up healthy and strong, but she was not entirely satisfied with the education given to the children. The school of Jonesville’s teacher did not seem up to the task and also did not spare corporal punishment. According to some sources, it was precisely the need to find a more suitable context to raise a family that pushed the reverend Abram Still to accept a teaching appointment at the Holston College, a school that the Methodist congregation intended to build in New Market, Tennessee (Still Jr, 1991).

The move to New Market, Tennessee (1834-1837) – from 6 to 9 years of age

At the end of the summer of 1834 Abram sold his farm and crossed the beloved mountains in an ox cart taking his wife and their five children with him. Within a month time they covered the one hundred kilometers that separated them to  New Market.

Compared to living in a log cabin in Virginia, Martha found it more suitable for her and the boys’ education to live in a more spacious house, with a courtyard and a vegetable garden, located in a town of 250 inhabitants with several shops and its own newspaper (Trowbridge 1991:20). It was here that in 1836 she gave birth to her sixth son, John Wesley Still.
But Abram Still found it difficult to adapt to the new lifestyle of the Valley: he had to give up the experiences of the itinerant preacher to look for new students and raise funds for the school. Moreover, the community expected him to carefully prepare the sermons, while he preferred to improvise. This more formal atmosphere was less exciting to him than the evangelization of new souls in virgin territories. Another problem was his strong abolitionist beliefs, of which he made no mystery despite the fact that Tennessee was a slave state and many worshippers were slave owners (Trowbridge 1991).

The issue of slavery created more and more friction not only among the Methodists but also within other religious confessions, where factions favorable or unfavorable to the so-called “peculiar institution” were created. In states where slave ownership was permitted, abolitionists were considered to be subversive fanatics who threatened the social order. With the expansion of cotton plantations in Tennessee tensions increased (Fitz 2006).

It was, possibly, to be able to preach more freely, or perhaps the prospect of gaining new lands, the fact is that Abram Still obtained from the Methodist Conference the assignment of missionary in the new territories of Missouri (Trowbridge 1991).

Moving to Missouri (1837) – Still is 9 years old

In early 1837, the Stills loaded all their belongings and their six children onto two horse-drawn carriages and embarked on a journey of over a thousand miles,. The trip was full of emotions and events: they saw a steamboat on the Mississippi, crossed the Ohio on a ferry, were trapped several times in the mud left on the tracks by the storms.
When they arrived in Saint Louis, Abram made contact with the local Methodist preacher, a certain Reverend Harmon. The family was invited to attend the Sunday service. So it was that, neat and clean, Abram, his wife Martha and their six children attended the sermon in the front row.

Abram was very impressed by Harmon’s words, and when Harmon asked him for a loan, promising that he would repay it within a few months, he gave him the entire sum of $700 that had been entrusted to him by the Methodist congregation to survive in Missouri for the first year(Trowbridge 1991; Still Jr 1991).

By the time they arrived in Macon County, a few hours had passed since the land had been divided into single plots. The Stills managed to secure a house near Bloomington, thanks to Martha’s savings of about $350.
Abram Still was the first Methodist pastor in Northern Missouri and also the author of the first medical prescription ever prescribed in the new state (Trowbridge 1991:27).

Since Reverend Harmon did not keep his word and did not return the money he had borrowed, they had to survive the winter without any financial resources. The boys worked hard to catch the game and sell the furs, Martha made an effort to tan the skins to obtain clothing. In 1939 she gave birth to her seventh daughter, Mary Margaretta Still.
Although still a boy, Andrew Taylor contributed to farm work and went hunting, an activity he liked very much because he was curious to study the captured animals. He became a good connoisseur of dogs and, like his peers, enjoyed riding horses, mules and calves (Trowbridge 1991:30).

In the following years the family moved some other times for the preaching needs of Abram, who wanted to spread the Gospel even to the most remote farms.

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In the spring of 1839, the Still moved 50 miles north to Schuyler County, where they resided for some time and where, the following year, Abram purchased 80 acres of land. Some families organized to recruit a tutor to teach the youngsters during the winter of 1839-40. In 1843 his daughter Marovia Marsden Still was born.

Abram gave a lot of importance to the religious education of his children. On the one hand, the Methodist sermons were imbued with hope, optimism and a sense of responsibility that would push the faithful to take active action to create a better world, since acting by example would allow the works of God to demonstrate His perfection. On the other hand, the doctrine left a lot of room for visions, prophetic dreams and divine grace enlightenment. These could manifest both during prayer meetings of small groups in remote farms and, in a more violent and striking way, during camp meetings. Abram was not opposed to this kind of events, rather he himself was a clairvoyant, nor took lightly the premonitions of others.

In the early 1880s, a Baptist preacher, Reverend William Miller, gained a certain number of folowers after spreading the idea that Christ’s triumphant return was imminent. He prophesied the end of the world on a date between 21 March 1843 and 21 March 1844 (which was later postponed to 22 October 1844). His ideas got hold not only among Adventists, but also among many other people who began to prepare for the end.

Abram himself organized a camp meeting in order to officially bring his children John and Mary into the church, so that if the world ended they could enter Heaven. Although the prediction did not come true, the whole question left a deep impression on the children of the Still family (Still 1897:25).

The Still family returned to Macon County in 1845, settling on larger lands (Trowbridge 1991:33; Still Jr 1991:12). Here Martha gave birth to the ninth and last daughter, Cassandra Elliott Still, in the year 1846.
At 16, Andrew moved for some time to La Plata, twenty miles away from home, to study at a Presbyterian school (Lewis 2012:15).

When Missouri was annexed to the Union in 1821, it was a slave state, and most of the many new inhabitants had a tolerant or pro-slavery attitude. Once again, Abram’s ideas put him in an uncomfortable position, and several times the elderly of his congregation invited him in vain to soften his sermons – with the exacerbation of the political tensions linked to slavery, Abram’s vehement abolitionism put his own life at risk.

The Methodist Episcopal Church (MEC) had initially adopted a position close to John Wesley’s, the founder of Methodism who shortly before his death had written an anti-slavery pamphlet (Wesley 1774). However, the development of the American economy had made the topic very sensitive, and the MEC had gradually changed its line by suspending judgment, on the fragile basis that it was correct to avoid meddling in earthly matters. However, it was not possible to maintain this strategy for long and in 1844 the internal discussion had become so fierce that it led to a schism: the MEC split into two different churches, the Northern and the Southern. Missouri fell under the jurisdiction of the Southern Methodist Episcopal Church, which had anti-abolitionist positions, so Abram took his distance from it and the whole family stopped attending religious services. Although he no longer had affiliation with the Southern Methodists, Abram retained a feeling of belonging to the territories where he had preached and founded new churches in northern Missouri. It was so that he persevered in his preaching and in trying to spread his message.

For three years Abram unofficially joined the Iowa Methodist Church Conference, until in 1848 he was appointed to the elders of the Northern Methodist Episcopal Church, which had just reorganized in Missouri (Still Jr 1991:14).
Ed and Barbara Jane got married and left the nest (Still Jr 1991:17).

In 1846, at the outbreak of the war between Mexico and the United States, Andrew Taylor wished to enlist but his father did not allow it (Trowbridge 1991:34).

A.T. Still met a girl named Mary Margaret Vaughan and married her in January 1949. their first child Marusha (1849-1924) was born in December. The couple moved to a farm a mile away from Abram and Martha’s house, where Andrew engaged in farm work.

He had cultivated a beautiful field of corn, thriving and ready for harvest, which on the fourth of July 1852 was completely destroyed by a hail storm (Still Jr 1991:18; Stark 2007:47). It was a blow that left him without means of subsistence, so the following winter he was forced to become a school teacher for fifteen dollars a month (Trowbridge:34-35). On 12 November 1852 the second son Abraham Price was born.

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Life of Andrew Taylor Still

Bibliography of the chapter dedicated to the life of Andrew Taylor Still


7. Andrew Taylor Still founds the first school of Osteopathy

By this time, A.T. Still had become well established and well known, therefore he could no longer manage by himself the patients who crowded his practice. The first school of osteopathy was founded in 1892 to train new practitioners and it was a crucial turning point: the town of Kirksville attracted teachers, students and patients who, at the turn of the century, developed the theoretical and practical aspects of osteopathy. As a consequece of such collective work, osteopathy gained the same recognition as the other forms of medicine in several US states.


6. Kirksville (1875-1917): first steps towards the first school of Osteopathy

In 1875 A.T. Still settled in Kirksville, but he was not well received either in the religious community or within respectable society. However, he became friends with some people close to spiritualism who gave him moral and material help. For about ten years he lived in poverty, working as a doctor traveling in nearby cities, presenting himself as a magnetic healer and then as a "lightning-fast adjuster". In 1886 he could afford to buy a house where he opened a studio.


5. 22 June 1874: osteopathy is born

A few months after moving into his brother Edward's house, A.T. Still had no certainty about his future while his brother was sick and in need of care. Suddenly, in the morning of June 22, 1864, he was struck by an overwhelming vision: all his reasoning of many years about health and disease came to a solution. At that moment he raised the flag of "osteopathy", the name that, years later, he would give to his new science.


4. The Civil War 1861: A. T. Still's enlistment and the post-war years

A.T. Still enlisted with the Northerners to defend the ideals of freedom and witnessed the most atrocious aspects of the war working in the infirmaries. In 1864 he lost three children to illness and this fueled his doubts about traditional medicine remedies. In the post-war period he was socially accepted as an entrepreneur, doctor and politician, but his studies led him to express ideas unacceptable for the social and religious community, which exhausted him until forcing him to move.


3. A. T. Still from moving to Kansas to his second marriage

In 1853 A.T. Still moved to the Wakarusa mission, where he learned the Shawnee language and completed his apprenticeship with his father, becoming an Orthodox physician. After the closure of the mission, he practiced the profession, although with some initial doubts about the effectiveness of orthodox remedies. He founded a sawmill, bought land and was an abolitionist politician in the State of Kansas before its annexation. In 1859 he became a widower with three young children, and the following year he married his second wife, Mary Elvira Turner.


1. Origins and descent of Andrew Taylor Still

The roots of A.T. Still reflect the typical confluence of America’s diverse sociocultural contributions in that era. His mother, Martha Poage Moore, came from a wealthy and proud family of pioneers with Scottish origins. His father, Abram Still, had English, German and Dutch ancestry, but also - on his mother’s side - a Native American grandmother; growing up on a plantation, he converted to Methodism and became a physician and a staunch abolitionist.