Todd, John, 1800-1873

Titles by this author
Lectures to children : familiarly illustrating important truth

Todd, a Congregational clergyman and author, was born in Rutland, Vermont where his parents Dr. Timothy and Phoebe Buel Todd had recently settled. He was a descendant of Christopher Todd, who left England in 1637 as one of the settlers of the New Haven Colony. His mother is believed to have been insane, and his father died when John was six years old. John lived for a number of years in Charlestown, Mass. while attending school in Boston. At the age of eighteen, he entered Yale and graduated in 1822 with honors in spite of such difficulties as poverty, little previous education, and poor health. He studied theology at Andover and began preaching at Groton, Massachusetts. He was rejected by the parish and formed a new church, where he was ordained on Jan. 3, 1827. He served there for six years before assuming the pastorate at a newly established church, which he persuaded the people to name the Edwards Church in honor of his favorite New England clergyman. His next church was on Clinton Street in Philadelphia, and at the dedication of its new building, he preached a sermon called Principles and Results of Congregationalism (1837) which contained harsh critiques of other denominations.

Todd settled in Pittsfield, Mass. in 1842 where he remained until his death, and he occupied a position of leadership in Western Massachusetts within his denomination and beyond. He was firmly entrenched in the Calvinism of Edwards, but according to Persons, his preaching was seldom doctrinal and his vivid imagination was evident in his writing. He was a firm advocate of temperance and a supporter of foreign missions. He was also one of the founders of Mount Holyoke Seminary. His publications included Lectures to Children (1834), which was immensely successful with 200, 000 copies issued and translations in five foreign languages. His most influential work, however, is The Student's Manual (1835) which was even more widely circulated and translated. Serpents in the Doves' Nest (1867) was commended by the medical profession, while another book Woman's Rights (1867) was bitterly attacked for its criticism of the rising movement. He also contributed widely to magazines and periodicals and wrote sketches, stories, and question books for Bible students.

Persons, Frederick T. Dictionary of American Biography. Vol IX. New York: Scribner, 1936. (572 - 573).

Other Sources:

J.E. and G.I. Todd. The Todd Family in America (1920).

John Todd: The Story of His Life, Told Mainly by Himself (1876) ed. by J.E. Todd.

R.H. Cooke, "Rev. John Todd, D.D." in Collections of the Berkshire Historical and Scientific Society. Vol III (1899)

Congregationalist. Aug. 28, 1873

Springfield Daily Republican. Aug. 25, 1873.

Written by Stephen Rachman