The Todds in Virginia-Highland

William Zachry of Columbia County Georgia and War of 1812 veteran acquired Land Lot 17 of the 14th District during the Georgia Land Lottery of 1821. He sold the 202 ½ acres a year later (for almost five times what he paid for it) to Richard and Martha Todd. The lot’s boundaries were today’s Barnett Street on the east, Adair Avenue to the north, North Avenue on the south, and Lakeview Avenue on the west.  The area was originally a part of Henry County, later Dekalb, and now the City of Atlanta, Fulton County.

The Todds were among the first Europeans to reside in the region. Todd was a farmer in Chester, SC, who continued to farm once he settled in Georgia. Hardy Ivy, now recognized as Atlanta’s first settler, was married to Richard’s older sister Sarah Todd Ivy; they moved to the region in the early 1830s. Todd Road is one of the city’s oldest routes and is a remnant of an old wagon trail that ran from the Todd’s property to Ivy’s home in what would later became downtown Atlanta, and as shown on this 1893 map.  (Courtesy of Kenan Research Center at the Atlanta History Center.)

The Todd home was at today’s 816 Greenwood Ave. near the intersection of Bonaventure; it had views of the Ponce de Leon resort and the ballpark built in the valley below. The Todd home was close to the outer boundaries of the siege of Atlanta. Four generations lived in this home before it burned October 31, 1910; the family replaced it with a larger brick structure that was demolished in the late 1950s.  Condominiums were built at the address in 1960.

Richard Todd died December 2, 1851. Captain Hezekiah Cheshire (a resident of the Virginia-Highland district with his wife Sarah), and John W. Medlock witnessed the signing of his will on November 7, 1851. Richard’s will designated his wife Martha Todd be given the entire lot of land where they lived; she applied for Dower Rights in Fulton County Superior Court on April 19, 1856 and was awarded 66 2/3 acres on October 14, 1859. Their son, John Copeland Todd (three years old at the time of his father Richard’s death), inherited his mother’s dower tract at the time of her death in 1896. He kept most of the original lot together by buying the interests of the other heirs. John C. Todd was Justice of the Peace for the Peachtree District for 30 years.  

Richard Todd’s burial in 1851 was the first known burial at the Todd family cemetery located on the family farm.  The cemetery qualifies as one of the older cemeteries of European settlers in Atlanta—for example, Oakland Cemetery was established in 1850. The cemetery was established on high ground 200 yards north and a little west of the old Todd homestead.  Richard’s wife Martha was buried in the family cemetery in 1896. Other family members were buried there as well, but the number of burials is unknown. A memorial to Richard and Martha Todd was placed in the family cemetery in the late 1920s in accordance with Judge John C. Todd’s will.  John C. Todd died May 18, 1925. He and his wife, Sarah Jane Mayson Todd are buried in Sardis Cemetery.

Julia Carlisle Withers is credited as being the first baby born in Atlanta. Her headstone in Oakland Cemetery records her birthdate as August 17, 1842 and is inscribed “ATLANTA’S FIRST BABY”. However, Richard and Martha Todd’s first child and daughter, Patience Elizabeth Todd (Armistead) was born in 1828, fourteen years earlier.   She may be the first European-American baby born to settlers in the Atlanta area. If not, she is certainly one of the first.

Yancy Spring, on Todd land, was an early source of water prior to it being buried with fill dirt during the construction of the Air-Line railroad in 1868.  A new source of water was later discovered nearby–two springs shaded by ancient beech trees. Patience Elizabeth Todd married John M. Armistead, who was the proprietor of the two springs that were later named Ponce de Leon Springs.  The springs were sold to the Atlanta Street Railway Company in 1887. The graves and headstones of Patience Elizabeth and John M. Armistead are in the Peachtree Baptist Church Cemetery. The inscription specifically identifies her as the daughter of R. C. (Richard Copeland) and M. (Martha) Todd. This is the oldest existing original reference to this very early Atlanta pioneer couple.

Judge John C. Todd and his wife, Sarah Jane Mayson Todd, raised two children, John Heyward Todd and Emma May Todd. The surrounding community was still relatively small, and many of the pioneer families were connected by marriage. Sarah Jane’s sister, Carrie Elizabeth Mayson, married Napoleon Cheshire, son of Captain Hezekiah Cheshire. John Heyward Todd never married, and died at age 50. Emma May Todd married Andrew Pinckney Liddell. Emma May and Andrew’s son, Heyward Todd Liddell, Sr., married Bertie Sue Cheshire, the great granddaughter of Captain Hezekiah Cheshire, on July 2, 1924.  The Cheshires owned land north of the Todds.

Many Todd descendants still live in the Atlanta area. They have demonstrated a consistent interest in preserving and sharing the family history. The records they have collected and shared with Atlanta historians have helped add to the body of historic knowledge of the Atlanta area and its development.


Article contributed by Robin Ragland


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