Skip to main content

Todd family papers

Call Number: RH MS 293


Family papers (chiefly family correspondence) of Congregational minister John Todd (1818-1894), who was a founder of Tabor, Iowa, of its first Congregational Church, and of Iowa's Tabor College. The Todd home served as a station on the Underground Railroad from 1854 to 1856, and as an arsenal for abolitionist John Brown.


  • Creation: 1836 - 1921


Conditions Governing Access

No access restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Spencer Library staff may determine use restrictions dependent on the physical condition of manuscript materials.

History of the Todd Family

John Todd was born in West Hanover, Pennsylvania on November 10, 1818 to Captain James Todd and Sallie (Ainsworth) Todd. He graduated from Ohio's Oberlin College in 1841, and from its theological seminary three years later. He married Martha Atkins on September 9, 1844 and ministered in Ohio from 1844 to 1850.

In 1850, the Todds moved to Iowa, where John Todd was instrumental in founding the Tabor community and its first Congregational Church, and in later establishing Tabor College. From 1854 to 1856, during the Kansas free state conflict, the Todd home at Tabor served as a station on the Underground Railroad and as an arsenal for abolitionist John Brown. In 1864, John Todd served for several months as chaplain to the Civil War's 46th Iowa Infantry while stationed at Colliersville, Tennessee. He resigned as pastor of the Tabor Congregational Church in 1883. Todd's wife Martha died in 1888, and in 1891 he married Anna Drake. John Todd died at Tabor on January 31, 1894.

Of the children born to John and Martha Todd, their daughters were Bertha, Martha E. (Minnie), Mary Louisa (Louise), Flora, and Margaret (Maggie). The Todds' eldest son James, born in 1846 and a graduate of Oberlin College, was a professor of geology and mineralogy at the University of Kansas at Lawrence from 1907 until his death in 1922. John and Martha Todd's two other sons were Quintus Curtius Todd (1849-1927) and David, who died in 1854 within a year of his birth.

Quintus Curtius Todd, whose papers comprise a majority of the collection, attended theological school but served only intermittently as a clergyman, working briefly as a teacher and for several years as a telegraph operator prior to his marriage in 1879 to Harriet Sophia (Hattie) Ellis. In subsequent years, he pursued various occupations, including those of homesteader, clergyman, insurance agent, and traveling salesman.


3.25 Linear Feet (8 boxes)

Language of Materials


Scope and Contents

The Todd Family Papers date from 1836 to 1921 and consist largely of written correspondence among Todd family members. In John Todd's personal correspondence are his letters of 1864 that he wrote to his wife while serving as chaplain to the Civil War's 46th Iowa Infantry. Also included are two of Todd's handwritten treatises or sermons, one of which is an 1841 treatise on slavery. Business papers comprise a comparatively small part of the collection, appearing chiefly in the papers of John Todd and his son Quintus Curtius Todd. Those of John Todd include a detailed ledger of his expenses for the period 1836 to 1844 and deeds for properties owned by him.

Within papers of the children of John and Martha Todd, papers of their son Quintus Curtius Todd predominate. Several letters from William M. Brooks (first president of Tabor College) appear in the papers of both John Todd and Quintus Curtius Todd. Many letters are accompanied by postmarked envelopes, most with their stamps removed.

Series arrangement is by name of the Todd family member who authored the content. The first three series are for papers of John Todd, his brother David Todd, and his wife Martha (Atkins) Todd. Following these are series for the offspring of John and Martha Todd, whose papers include occasional letters written by their spouses. The wife and children of Quintus Curtius Todd are named in separate series. Folder content is chronological. Following the series are postmarked envelopes for which accompanying letters are unidentified, as well as the collection's printed holdings. The latter consist largely of 19th and early 20th century pamphlets issued by Protestant churches and related organizations. At RH MS-P 293 are three photographic negatives and one glass plate negative.

Physical Location

RH MS 293

Physical Location

RH MS-P 293

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchase, Ken Sender, 1979.

Related Materials

Todd, John, 1818-1894. Early settlement and growth of western Iowa, or, Reminiscences. RH C7092, Kansas Collection, Spencer Research Library.

Tabor Historical Society (Tabor, Iowa). Program and commemorative placard related to the Todd House, Tabor, Iowa. RH MS P624, Kansas Collection, Spencer Library.

Guide to the Todd Family Collection
Todd family papers
Finding aid prepared by mh, 2004; revised by, cl 2010; revised by skt, 2010. Finding aid encoded by mh, 2004; revised by skt, 2010
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Finding aid written in<language encodinganalog="language">English</language>
Finding aid permalink
Preferred citation
Todd family papers, Kansas Collection, RH MS 293, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas

Repository Details

Part of the University of Kansas. Kenneth Spencer Research Library Repository

1450 Poplar Lane
Lawrence KS 66045-7616 United States