Saturday, April 1, 2023

Elizabeth Smith Todd's Civil War


A Box Work quilt of diamonds

Mrs. John Todd of Sangamon County won
$3 with a box work quilt at the first
Illinois State Fair in 1853.

Box work, we can assume, is this popular optical illusion
design pieced of 60-degree diamonds.

The diamonds are pieced over papers, Here 
basting stitches remain.

Elizabeth Fisher Blair Smith Todd

And we can guess that Mrs. John Todd of Sangamon County, Illinois was Springfield's socially prominent Elizabeth Smith Todd. In 1853 she was 60 years old, mother to four grown sons and a daughter (a second daughter had recently died.) Her husband, a founder of Springfield, Illinois in Sangamon County, was Kentucky native John Todd, whom she married in 1813. 

Surgeon's Hall in Philadelphia

Elizabeth was a Philadelphian, born as a citizen of the ten-year old independent U.S. Her mother Elizabeth Fisher Nash Smith (1758-1843) was daughter of Revolutionary hero Francis Nash for whom Nashville is named.

Husband John Todd was one of the first graduates of Lexington's Transylvania University. He probably met Philadelphian Elizabeth when he went on to the Medical College of Pennsylvania. The young couple began their marriage in Bardstown, Kentucky, where he was a doctor and in 1817 they moved west with their 3 young boys to Edwardsville, Illinois, north of St. Louis. Ten years later President John Quincy Adams appointed John as Registrar for the Land Office in Springfield, where the Todds remained and John practiced as a doctor.

Springfield, about 1850

The Todd family, pillars of Lexington's elite, boasted dozens of pretty young women of the generation younger than John Todd. His Kentucky brother Robert had many children who sought spouses in the west including Mary Ann Todd who married Springfield lawyer Abraham Lincoln in 1842. Cousin Elizabeth of Springfield was an attendant at the wedding. 

In 1860 the Springfield Todds had two live-in British servants in their home at 73 South Sixth Street.
Daughter Elizabeth Grimsley was living at home with her children, divorced from Harrison Grimsley. He soon joined the Union Army and died towards the end of the war of illness.

Elizabeth J. Todd Grimsley Brown (1825-1895)
Mary's cousin Elizabeth, friend as well as relative,
 married Rev. John H. Brown after the war.

Two of the Todd's three sons John Blair Smith Todd & Lockwood Marcus Todd served in the Union Army and both survived the war. The third Francis was a veteran of the Mexican War living in California. As Uncle to the First Lady during the war John Todd's family must have shared much drama. (Mary Todd Lincoln definitely provided drama and asked her cousin to come to the White House and aid her in her troubles.)

Elizabeth and John Todd did not survive the war. He died at 78 years old in the first days of 1865. His widow died two months later. They did not live to hear of the death of Abraham Lincoln that spring.
Her name is wrong here; should be Mrs. E. F. Todd.

Kentucky Historical Society

The elder Elizabeth Todd's quilt probably resembled this silk quilt top attributed to Catherine Elizabeth Brodley Owsley (1816-?) of Danville, Kentucky. Silk mosaic patchwork was especially popular with Kentucky quiltmakers, taste Elizabeth Todd may have picked up in her years growing up.

Quilt dated 1880
A fancy example, rather typical of Kentucky silk quilts
although the source is unknown

Illinois State Museum Collection, made by Pennsylvania-born
Sarah Irwin Ferguson (1806-1886) of Springfield

Has Elizabeth Smith Todd's box work quilt survived?

Much information about the Todd family of Springfield is online in several pdfs, chapters in a biography Elizabeth Todd Grimsley Brown: Her Life. Here are links to Chapters 2 & 6.

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