Todd, John

John Todd6, (Timothy5, Timothy4, Jonathan3, John2, Christopher1) born Oct. 9, 1800, died Aug. 24, 1873, married Mar. 11, 1827, Mary Skinner, daughter of Rev. Joab and Lucy (Collins) Brace, of Newington, Conn., who was born May 5, 1806. He graduated at Yale College in 1822; Andover Theological Seminary in 1825. Congregational minister; ordained pastor of Union Church, Groton, Mass., 1827; Edwards Church, Northampton, Mass., 1836; First Church, Pittsfield, Mass., 1842, where he remained till his death. Author of Students Manuel, Index Rerum, Simple Sketches, Truth made simple, and many other popular books. D. D. Williams College 1845.

His biography has been very interestingly written by his son, John E. Todd.

His father, having died when he was about six years of age, he says that he went to live with his aunt Matilda, who had married a Mr. Hamilton, who was a sailor, and with whom he made it his home until he was about twelve. They lived in North Kilingworth, Conn., before Clinton, the south part of the town, was set off a town by itself.

His quiet life while he was living with his aunt in North Kilingworth, was varied with occasional visits to East Guilford, Conn., where his father’s older brother Jonathan lived. He had a large family of his own, but he always gave the little orphan a hearty welcome.

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At these visits often, as well as sometimes at home, he met his father’s younger and only other brother, after whom he was named, and to whom he was especially attached. He says, “I loved him from my childhood; for he was one of the very few who used to speak to me in the tones of hearth and home that make you feel that the cords which bind you to kindred are not all gone. He was the only one, after my father’s death, who would take me into his arms. What child does not love to be fondled? and what remembrances do the days of childhood send down to later years, and make one wish that such and such things wholly beyond our control, but which formed our characters, had been otherwise! You will recollect that I had no father, and my two uncles had all the love of my heart.”

“In the year 1810, my uncle Hamilton being a prisoner among the Spaniards, my aunt broke up housekeeping for one winter, and I went to live with Mr. Evarts, at New Haven. I went to school to Mr. Jarman.”

Mr. Jeremiah Evarts was his own cousin, a son of his father’s oldest sister, and was at that time practicing law in New Haven. He had married a daughter of the celebrated Roger Sherman, and was residing on Chapel Street, just opposite the college buildings. He had quite a large family, having a number of gentlemen connected with the college at his table. Little “Jonny” was employed in waiting upon the table, running errands, and doing a small boy’s work about the house. It was, undoubtedly, in the family of this eminent man, and in this collegiate atmosphere, that that desire for a college education, which afterward became so strong, began to spring up in the boy’s mind.
One day he was sent to “the cove,” where were a store and a small village. By the side of the store there stood a long cane fish-pole. It was very long, straight and light. How he longed for that pole. If he only owned that pole, he thought he would be perfectly happy. At last, after much talk and great promises he started for home. Proudly he mounted old Kate’s back. She was frightened at first with such a long whip hanging over her. Finally he reached home, and instead of finding the family running out to greet me and admire my purchase (he had run in debt for it, and he knew it would take him a long time to pay the debt), they laughed, and asked, “Why, John, what do you expect to do with that fish-pole”? It had not occured to him that there was not a pond within miles of where he lived, there being only a small brook running among the bushes where a pole over four or five feet long was cumbersome. He “made believe” fish for a time, and then set it up against the house, as it was too long to take in the house. In a short time the sun cracked it, then he thought he would make flutes out of it, so out comes his knife and began making flutes; he made the finger holes with a hot iron, but not a sound could he get out of it, it was a total failure. “Never mind” says he, “I can make some nice canes.” Out came the knife again and he cut the pole into half a dozen pieces; but in doing this he broke and spoiled his knife. Now he had the canes; but what was he to do with them. He tried to use one as he went to school; but found he did not need a cane; it was in his way; and when he wanted to chase a squirrel running on the fence, it was a burden, and he lost it or threw it away. Piece by piece went his pole, till not a foot of it was left; and yet to be paid for! Nor was that all; it seemed as if every body wanted to torment him about his pole. If the cattle got into the mowinglot, they would cry, “John, your fish-pole will be capital for those cattle;” if the canker-worms built a nest on the very top of the trees, it was, “John, now for the fish-pole”! And when little Johnny dropped his cap in the well, he begged for my fish-pole to get it out. It was many years before they ceased to hint about a good long fish-pole.

In the fall of 1812, he went to live with his uncle Doctor Jonathan Todd, at East Guilford, (now Madison) Conn., to enjoy better means of schooling, his opportunities having as yet been small. Here he lived two years very quietly. Here he learned to swim, to handle a boat, to find the best fishing-grounds, and to hunt the sea-fowl. Through all his life he preserved a passionate fondness for the sea, and for this coast in particular.

When he had lived with his uncle about a year and a half Mr. Evarts came on from Charlestown, Massachusetts, to which place he had moved, to attend commencement at New Haven. While in the vicinity, he went to Madison, to visit his relatives. Here he met again the boy who had spent a winter in his family. On his kindly inquiring of his welfare the boy replied, “I had hoped, sir, that you would want me again in your family.” This led to further inquiries and eventually to a generous offer from Mr. Evarts of a home in his family, with a view to his attending a better school than could be found in Guilford. The offer was accepted and when he was asked if he had money enough for the journey, he replied that he had. Upon being questioned more closely, he admitted that he had but seventy-five cents. However, no one gave him any more; and so, on the 21st of November, 1815, with a small bundle of clothes under one arm and seventy-five cents in his pocket, he left forever–not his home, for he had had none, but everything that had been home-like, and started out into the world alone. It was on Monday morning at about eight o’clock that he started off, and arrived in Charlestown, Mass., on Saturday morning. How he ever made the journey is unknown. Tradition has it that he slept by the roadside, protected by a fence or a cedar bush only from the November frosts. For the first three or four weeks he was very homesick, and says that he “was convinced that not many diseases are more painful.” He lived in Charlestown until 1818, assisting Mr. Evarts and attending school.

In the fall of 1818, he returned to Connecticut in the same courageous spirit, and by the same mode of travel in which he had gone from his uncle’s three years before–afoot, with his entire wardrobe under one arm, and his entire library under the other.

Concerning taking his entrance examination to college he says, “It was afternoon when I reached New Haven, and I went directly to the Presidents room. There I found President Day, and with him Professor Kingsley, and they proceeded to examine me without delay. They found that I was totally unfit to enter college, but, on becoming acquainted with the circumstances of the case, they agreed to admit me, with the understanding that I was to apply myself to my studies with special exertion. It was late in the forenoon when I left the room. I was tired with a long morning’s march, and the excitement of the examination, I had had no dinner, and had but three cents in the world. Two of these were spent in paying toll at Tomlinson’s Bridge, and with my last copper I walked till dark toward Guilford. When I could no longer see my way, I lay down under a cedar-bush and slept. Very early in the morning I woke, stiff, sore, and almost frozen. I reached my uncle’s in the course of the morning. The college required, as it does now, a bond from some responsible person that the student’s college bills shall be paid. I found my uncle unwilling to sign such a bond, as he feared, not unreasonbly, that he would have to pay my bills for me. In great discouragement I walked over to Killingworth, and told my brother Jonathan of my trouble. Now Jonathan was not worth one cent more than I was; but he was a noble fellow, and had a great heart, and as soon as he heard my story he exclaimed, “Give me the bond; I’ll sign it.” And so he did. I never intended any deceit, but it has since occurred to me that probably my brother’s signature was mistaken for that of the well-known Guilford physician, the names being the same. At all events, the bond was accepted, and at last I was a freshman in Yale College.”

He kept his promise so faithfully and studied so diligently, that he damaged and nearly ruined his eyesight, having been obliged to wear spectacles the rest of his days. Besides keeping up in his studies, he had to earn the money to pay his own way. He was so studious and so attentive to his duties, that he could not take any part in the college sports, nor in the frivolous college life, his views on his duties being too serious thus to fritter his time away.


568. John William, b. Oct. 6, 1827, d. Oct. 15, 1827.
569. Mary Brace, b. Sept. 22, 1828, d. Jan. 30, 1865.
*570. Martha Collins, b. April 1, 1831.
*571. John Edwards, b. Dec. 6, 1833.
572. Sarah Denman, b. Aug. 30, 1836, d. Oct. 26, 1884, m. April 26, 1882, Rev. Myron Samuel, son of Stephen and Lydia Dudley, of Cromwell, Conn., who was b. Feb. 10, 1837, in Peru, Vt.; graduated at Williams College and Union Theological Seminary. He was a congregational minister; Settled at Cromwell, 1874-1885; at North Wilbraham, Mass., 1838. He had m. (1) Aug. 20 1873, Martha Maria, daughter of Mordecai and Jane (Harvey) Hale, of Peacham, Vt., who was b. April 7, 1837, d. July 20, 1876.
*573. Lucy Brace, b. Dec. 21, 1839.
*574. Anna Danforth, b. Nov. 2, 1841.
575. Samuel Walley, b. Nov. 8, 1844, d. Sept. 20, 1846.
*576. James Smith, b. July 12, 1848.



Todd, George Iru. Todd Family in America. Gazette Printing Company. 1920.

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