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Mary Abigail Todd (1853-1921) was born in East Wallingford, Vermont on May 11, 1853. The following year, her parents (Levi and Rachel Todd) moved to Sugar Grove Township in Illinois to find a new home on the prairie. They were encouraged to move west by Levi’s sister, Lucinda Todd Mighell, who had moved from New York to Sugar Grove with her husband Ezekiel.
A poignant Settler’s Story was written by Mary’s sister Emma J. Todd in 1931 as a remembrance of the family move. This story has been preserved in Patsy Mighell Paxton’s book, Sin-Qua-Sip. Mary had six siblings – Elmer Todd, George Todd, Emma Todd, Olivia Todd White, Lucius Todd and Eleazer Todd. Eleazer Todd and Fred Otis White (Mary’s brother-in-law) served in the Civil War (see photos on the right). Mary’s brothers George, Elmer and Lucius were in business with Fred White at White and Todd Lumber, which was located on Lake Street between Downer and Holbrook (now Benton Street) in Aurora.
Mary Todd graduated from West High School in 1871. She was the valedictorian of the class. She then taught for a short time in a country school. In 1872, she was given a position as a teacher in the West Schools. She served as the high school principal at Old Stone School from 1884-1887. The school was destroyed by fire in 1884 and rebuilt in 1885 on the same site during her tenure as principal. The name of the school was changed to Oak Street School. Todd was elected supervisor of drawing and teacher of mathematics in 1888. She was given a year off to attend the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York and then returned to Aurora. She resigned from the West Schools in 1913, but returned for one year in 1915 to teach drawing. This would place her final year of retirement as 1916.
Miss Todd took courses at the Art Institute in Chicago and studied art in the summer schools at Bay View in Michigan. She was active in the Aurora Woman’s Club, West Side Reading Circle and the Woman’s Alliance of the People’s Church. After a year’s illness with a lung ailment, she died on October 5, 1921 at the age of sixty-eight. She is buried in Spring Lake Cemetery. The Aurora Beacon-News commented that “no teacher who ever taught in the west side schools had more friends. She was beloved by all of her pupils. The first high school annual ever published was dedicated to Miss Mary Todd.” During the 1922-1923 school year, Oak Street School, where she served as principal, was named in her honor.
The Annual Report of the Board of Education for June 30, 1921 thru June 30, 1923 designates the name change as occurring during the 1922-1923 school year. Mary and her sister Emma lived at 535 Downer Place. Emma was a well known educator in the East Side Schools and co-author of a reader for children that was used throughout the country. At the time of Emma’s death in 1932, the newspaper reported that the loss of the sisters was profound. “Who is there in Aurora of the last generation who did not know Emma and Mary Todd?
They were the intellectual and most charming sisters who from young girlhood were engaged in educational work.” Emma and Mary Todd also cared for their sister Olivia White in their Downer Place home after Fred White’s death. Mrs. White died in 1910. Sources for this profile: West Aurora Schools, Aurora Beacon-News and Patsy Mighell Paxton’s book Sin-Qua-Sip. The photos of the gravestones are from Find-A-Grave. The photos of Levi Todd, Fred White and Eleazer Todd are courtesy of Patsy Mighell Paxton.
The West Aurora Buildings and Grounds Facilities Inventory Report recorded the date for the construction of the current Mary A. Todd School as 1934. This profile was courtesy of the A+ Foundation for West Aurora Schools and the Community Foundation of the Fox River Valley (2016).