Atelston Gaston was born in 1838 in Castile, New York, the second of six children born to Edmon and Phylinda Gaston. He moved with his parents to Crawford County, Pennsylvania in 1854 where he attended public schools. He married Thankful Caroline Hammond by 1850 and they had two daughters, Ada and Alma (who died in infancy).
Athelston worked as a farmer until 1873, when he moved to Meadville and became a lumber manufacturer. He was also active in politics. He served two terms as mayor of Meadville, Pennsylvania (1891-1895) and was elected as a Democrat to the Fifty-sixth Congress (March 4, 1899-March 3, 1901). After an unsuccessful run for reelection in 1900 to the Fifty-seventh Congress, he returned to the lumber business.
Both Athelston and Thankful were active Spiritualists. He served for 18 years on the Board of Directors of Lily Dale and was President of the Lily Dale Assembly for 15 years. His picture hangs in honor in the Assembly Hall of Lily Dale. They had Spiritualist weddings in their home in Meadville, and in 1903 Cora L. V. Richmond and her husband were their guests. She spoke and held a private mediumship circle for a small group of friends.
The Evening Republican, 15 September 1888, printing a story about Athelston and a local minister. Mr. Crumrine, a Presbyterian minister from Cochranton, PA brought slates to Lily Dale to test mediums. They were screwed together, and the screws covered with wax. Mr. Mansfield volunteered to conduct the slate writing experiment, but they had to reschedule. “Mr. Crumrine left the slates in charge of Mr. A. Ganton, of Meadville, Pa, who promised to hold a séance with Mansfield and report the results. Suffice it to say that Mr. Gaston held three seances with Mansfield, the medium saying that this would be necessary in order to “magnetise” the slates. At the third séance, which was held on Sunday afternoon, September 2, the medium declared that his familiar spirit told him if he would take the slate to the auditorium, where the lecture was then progressing, and form a circle, an attempt would be made to write upon the slates. Accordingly, Mr. Gaston took the slates to the auditorium, and at the close of the lecture a circle was formed on the stage and connection established by clasped hands with the audience.” Mr. Gaston took the slates home to Rev. Crumrine where they made sure the seals were intact and opened them to find a message. Part of the message to Crumrine said, “If he will investigate in the right way, he will soon find that his friends can write to him, and that this is not nor never was the devil.” It was signed by Thomas Vreeland.
In October 1903, Thankful died after an illness of 30 years at the age of 67 years old. She had been a Spiritualist for 45 years. Athelston was accidently killed in a hunting accident while on a trip along Lake Edward in northern Quebec, Canada, September 23, 1907. His services were conducted by Mrs. Cora L. V. Richmond of Chicago and Lyman C. Howe of Fredonia, New York.