Archive for May, 2009

dolley-payne-todd-madison1Google John Todd. Go ahead. See what happens. You get overwhelmed by information on an occultist that made a splash in the 1980’s. You want to find out about President James Madison’s wife Dolley’s first husband – you better hit the library and crack open a book. Luckily, when it comes to Revolutionary America through Roosevelt, the family library is one of the best. Hit the bookshelf, and there it is: Scribner’s (Charles Scribner’s Sons) 1896 Edition of Women of Colonial and Revolutionary Times; Dolly (sic) Madison.

Within these 287 pages are the few references spread over fourteen pages to her first husband, John Todd, Jr. He, like Dolley was a member of The Society of Friends; a Quaker. He was amiable, loving, and an attorney. I would call that a stretch – if I didn’t recall all three of those qualities in my own father, Albert Marten 😉

“The wedding was solemnized in the Friends’ Meeting-House, on Pine Street, (Philadelphia) on the seventh day of First Month, 1790, when January whitened the Earth with a bridal-veil of snow….”

The only spoken words quoted from John Todd were his wedding vows.

“After the simple Quaker fashion, the groom repeated the formula – “‘I, John Todd, do take thee Dorothea Payne to be my wedded wife, and promise, through divine assistance, to be unto thee a loving husband, until separated by death.'”

The three years they were married saw them living in Philadelphia near the hosterly of the “Indian Princess”. Todd was spoken of as “a wealthy, young lawyer.” In 1792, their son John Payne Todd was born. In 1793, William Temple Todd was delivered. Not long after, Yellow Fever broke out in the City. A week after the outbreak, and public panic, those that could moved to the country. John Todd brought his family to Gray’s Ferry, a charming wooded spot on the banks of the Schuykill, at the crossing of the Baltimore post-road. Near enough to be accessible to the City, but far enough out of danger….

“Having seen his wife and two little children transported to the peace and relative security of this place, John Todd, like the true man he was, returned to the plague stricken town to face its risks in the performance of his duty. He found the shadow of death falling on his own household and arrived only in time to attend the dying bed of his father and mother.”

According to Scribners, he returned to Gray’s Ferry, bringing the disease with him. He settled in the land of fixedness in October of 1793. Dolley threw herself on him in a last embrace….She was on the verge of death for three weeks. When she came to, it was to find that she was both a widow and having lost her infant son, William.

Dr. Jekyll and Maestro Nerd!