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Still, Summerfield Saunders
(December 7, 1851–November 20, 1931)

–osteopath and founder of Still College in Des Moines—was born in Macon County, Missouri, the son of Dr. James Monroe Still and Rahab Mercy (Saunders) Still. He and his twin, Martha Elizabeth, had a younger brother and sister. Martha died at the age of 15. Still's father was a medical doctor, a graduate of Rush Medical College in Chicago, and the brother of Dr. Andrew Taylor Still of Missouri. Dr. Andrew Still founded the field of osteopathic medicine in 1874 based on the philosophy that internal medication did "little good and probably more harm" and that "cures could be accomplished through physical manipulation."He established the American School of Osteopathy in Kirksville, Missouri, in 1892, the first school of its kind in the nation.

    Dr. James Still moved his family to Blue Mound, Kansas, for a short time when Summerfield was a small child and then to Eldora, Kansas, where he practiced medicine for many years.

    In 1876, at the age of 15, Summerfield Still enrolled at Baker University, a Methodist college in Baldwin, Kansas, where he was a member of Beta Theta Pi fraternity. After graduating in 1878, he taught school in Douglas County, Kansas.

    On October 3, 1877, Summerfield married Ella Daugherty at the home of her grandparents, Charles and Mary Longfellow, in Lawrence, Kansas. They had two children: George and Delia. In 1882 they moved to Maryville, Missouri, to establish a business and then moved to Kirksville in 1893, where both studied osteopathy at the American School of Osteopathy. He graduated in 1895, and his wife, also a former teacher, graduated the next year.

    Summerfield Still taught anatomy there until 1898. In June of that year, with financial backing from Colonel A. L. Conger, Still helped found the Still College of Osteopathy in Des Moines and served as its president until it was sold in 1905, when he and his wife went into private practice. They retained ties with the college: he chaired the anatomy department until 1913, and Ella taught obstetrics and gynecology.

    The Stills chose Des Moines for an osteopathic school because the centrally located city was seen as cosmopolitan. Diplomas were granted to the first class of 30 men and 15 women in 1900. When the school's enrollment reached 386 in 1904, an optional third year was added, becoming a requirement in 1908. A four-year degree was added in 1920.

    The school published the Cosmopolitan Osteopath, a 64-page monthly magazine, as a testimonial to the militant spirit of the founders. Mergers with other schools, such as the Columbian School at Kirksville in 1901, the Northern College at Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1902, and the Northwestern College at Fargo, North Dakota, in 1904, swelled the school's enrollment and expanded the faculty to nearly 50 members, including both medical and osteopathic. In early 1899, during the time of Still's presidency at the college, the Iowa Osteopathic Association was founded.

    While serving as president of the college, Still entered Drake University's law school, graduating in 1903. He never practiced law, but was active politically. His wide range of knowledge included astronomy, archaeology, anthropology, and mathematics. A tireless worker for prohibition, he was an honorary member of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) and a member of the Anti-Saloon League. He was an avid reader and contributed to several periodicals. He served as associate editor of the American Journal of Physiologic Therapeutics and wrote a column for the Kirksville Graphic.

    Dr. Still practiced in Des Moines until the fall of 1913, when he and his wife returned to Kirksville to teach at the American School of Osteopathy. He became vice president of the school in 1918 and became a member of the board of trustees in 1919. Their son George was head surgeon at the school's hospital in Kirksville and later became the school's president. After the accidental shooting death of George in 1922, Still became president of the American School of Osteopathy, serving until 1924, when he retired.

    Still died at age 75 in Kirksville. He was buried in Woodland Cemetery in Des Moines.
Sources More information is available in family papers and osteopathic publications at the Des Moines University Library. See also Des Moines Register, 10/23/2002; an obituary in the Log Book, 12/15/1931; and Des Moines College of Osteopathic Medicine and Surgery Founded 1898 at the State Historical Society of Iowa, Des Moines.
Contributor: Pam Rees

Cite as: Rees, Pam. "Still, Summerfield Saunders" The Biographical Dictionary of Iowa. University of Iowa Press, 2009. Web. 19 March 2018