Archived Story

Which man was Todd Avenue named for?

Published 10:22am Friday, October 28, 2011

Column: Ed Shannon, Between the Corn Rows

Jean Legried, who now lives at the Good Samaritan Society, recently received a message from Tom McMillan of Washougal, Wash., requesting information about a Todd family that once lived in Albert Lea. In this request Tom also mentions a place named Shellrock, also spelled Shell Rock, and known today as Glenville. Here is the message:

“On the 1870 census Robert MacGregor Todd, wife Salene and daughters Charlotte and Anna were in Shellrock, Freeborn County, Minnesota. I believe they may have had daughter Helen about 1871 — though it’s possible the one shown as Anna may be Helen, and she was born in 1870. I’m hoping to find birth information for Helen M. Todd. Seems she was probably born in Shellrock or Albert Lea.

“In the early to mid-1880s Robert and family were living in Albert Lea and he owned the flour mill there. I’ve read a lot of newspaper articles about him, and it seems he was a very popular and jovial person, and entertained a lot in his home.

“I have secured quite a lot of information about he [sic] and some of his daughters. Robert had also owned flour mills in Rock Falls, Iowa, Duluth and apparently in Los Angeles, Calif. His daughter, Helen M. Todd, was very active for women’s suffrage and social issues. Charlotte M. Todd, married in Albert Lea and divorced not too long afterward. In 1895 Charlotte married Lucien Monod, an artist in France. Their youngest son was Jacques Lucien Monod, who won Nobel prize in Biology in 1965.

“Any info about Robert Todd and family in Freeborn County appreciated.”

Anyone who can help with the added information should contact Jean or Linda Evenson at the Freeborn County Historical Museum Library.

However, there’s another local mystery regarding the Todd name. Who inspired the name for Todd Avenue on the city’s south side? Was it Robert Todd, or one of the following people who may or may not be related?

Was it the doctor? Credit for starting Albert Lea’s first hospital goes to Dr. James M. Todd, a graduate of Wisconsin’s Beloit College and Northwestern University of Chicago. He interned with Dr. A.C. Wedge of Albert Lea in the early 1880s. After practicing medicine in Madison, Minn., for a few years, Todd came back to Albert Lea in 1889 to become a local doctor.

He established a new medical facility named the Albert Lea Hospital in a large home at the corner of what’s now Fountain Street and Lakeview Boulevard in 1894. It was advertised as “a thoroughly equipped hospital with trained nurses, electric and medical baths, and with every convenience for treating chronic and surgical diseases.”

Todd attempted to convert his small private hospital into a publicly owned institution in 1897. There was no great local interest in his proposal. When this failed, Todd sold his hospital building and moved to New York City.

He continued to use the title of doctor for the rest of his life. However, Todd became involved with several family-owned construction, architectural and engineering firms. Two of their best known projects were the reconstruction of colonial Williamsburg, Va., and the landmark Rockefeller Center in New York City. He died in 1939.

Or was it the lawyer? William Elmir Todd (1853-1899) was a school teacher and principal in Wisconsin before becoming a lawyer. He came to Albert Lea in 1881 and was soon in partnership with several local lawyers. Todd served on the school board and was the clerk for 15 years. He also served as city attorney and later as county attorney.

Any positive proof of who Todd Avenue was actually named for would be appreciated.


Cornstalk comment

In the last column I made a comment about a TV program some folks like to call “DWTS.” This translates to “Dancing With the Stars.” Now I’d like to make one more comment.

As an occasional viewer, I’ve sometimes wondered what’s actually being shown. Are those dances smooth and graceful or wild exhibitions of gymnastics?

For example, one dance last year was announced as a Viennese waltz. One could assume this waltz would have music by Johann Strauss. Instead, it was some stage tune with lyrics and the dance was rather rough, to be blunt.

Oh well, I can’t wait to see how “DWTS” observes Halloween on Monday evening.


With just three exceptions, Ed Shannon’s column has been appearing in the Tribune every Friday since December 1984.