“Uplifting and often touching, Donald Nelson's well-documented biography of his ancestor Andrew Atchison traces the life of an indomitable figure who improved the lives of others despite the disappointments he himself endured. To the Stars shows how the human spirit and a positive outlook on life can overcome recurring challenges.”
—Reverend Reid W. Stewart
Historian of the Associate Presbyterian Church
and author of “Manual of the Associate Presbyterian
Church in the U.S.A. and Canada”
“An effective study of Andrew Atchison, a dedicated, idealistic teacher and missionary, who in the aftermath of the Civil War dedicated himself to teaching freed slaves and Native Americans throughout the South and Southwest. During the construction of the Panama Canal, Atchison opened a branch of the International Correspondence Schools in Panama City, founded a school for immigrant Chinese, and, to help support his family, even invested in a banana plantation in Honduras. As the author, his grandson, clearly demonstrates, Andrew Atchison devoted himself to a life of Christian service to the less fortunate with remarkable determination, spiritual commitment, and success.”
—Thomas R. Goethals
Retired professor of English
Currently writing a biography of his grandfather
George W. Goethals, builder of the Panama Canal
Published in: 2008
Hard Cover • 432 pages
(In Stock Now)
Missionary, educator, entrepreneur, and restless progressive, Andrew Atchison led a peripatetic 19th century life committed to the welfare of others — recently freed slaves, Indians on reservations, immigrant Chinese building the Panama Canal — in locales ranging from Kansas to New Mexico, Texas to Missouri, Louisiana to Panama. Orphaned at twelve in Ohio, Atchison left a mark that stretched West — “To the Stars,” as told by Don Nelson in this engaging account of the distinctively American life of his maternal grandfather.
Using unpublished primary documents, Nelson explores an under appreciated theme of our history — the ethnic complexity of settling the American West following the Civil War. Committed throughout his life to helping the “poorest of the poor,” Andrew Atchison — a devout Presbyterian who graduated from the young University of Kansas in a class of ten — embodied the finer impulses of that uneasy settlement. He founded the Freedmen’s Academy of Kansas to educate freed slaves following the collapse of Reconstruction. He was principal of the Haskell Institute, a federal, multitribe Indian school in Lawrence, Kansas. He founded a college in El Paso, Texas, and was fired from a professorship at the Louisiana State Normal for tutoring black children in the evenings. In Panama while the Canal was being constructed, he established the Yook Choy School for immigrant Chinese men.
Andrew Atchison led an uncommonly rich life. The conflicts Atchison encountered and the opportunities he created presaged the American experience of the 20th century. His life has as much resonance today as ever — evidence, as Faulker famously claimed that “the past is never dead. It’s not even past.”