To The Stars Over Rough Roads: The Life of Andrew Atchison, Teacher and Missionary (Hardcover)

To The Stars Over Rough Roads: The Life of Andrew Atchison, Teacher and Missionary Cover Image
Email or call for price.


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Using unpublished primary documents, Nelson explores an under appreciated theme of our history — the ethnic complexity of settling the American West following the Civil War.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, multi-tribe 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.”

About the Author

A research physicist at Bell Labs for twenty-eight years, Don Nelson has had a distinguished scientific career that has included basic research, teaching at Michigan, Southern Cal, Princeton, and Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and the publication of Electric, Optic, and Acoustic Interactions in Dielectrics. A PhD in physics from the University of Michigan, he switched gears when he retired in 2000 and began to focus primarily on history and genealogy. Exploring over a thousand family letters and extensive archival material, Don has recreated the fascinating 19th century life of his grandfather, Andrew Atchison, the subject of this book. A member of the American Antiquarian Society, Don lives in Worcester, Massachusetts and Martha's Vineyard with Margaret (Fuerstenau) Nelson, his wife of fifty-three years. They have two daughters and five grandsons.

Praise For…

“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

Product Details
ISBN: 9780975555729
Publisher: TidePool Press
Publication Date: December 1st, 2008
Pages: 432