Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Todd School for Boys

Often I hesitate doing posts. I am so afraid that I have the information wrong.
Well if it’s wrong, this time… so be it.
This is about my father’s family history as I know it.
I am doing it for my sister, Margaret, my sons, and my grandchildren.
I am fortunate that my dad’s only living sibling, Aunt Micky, and her daughter, my cousin Arlene, have helped me with some information.

About this Todd School picture: (an email from my aunt)

Friday, July 10, 2009 9:49 AM

Dear Carol, I was fascinated by the pictures you sent. Your grandpa was on the far left. The two young women you picked were my primary grade teachers. The older lady was Miss Miles, the Wallingford Hall housemother. This was the time when your dad was a student and might be in the picture.The Tosebo pictures are of the time I lived at camp and are very familiar. Although your grandpa was there at the time he tended to be camera shy. Love,aunt Micky

At the time, Woodstock, IL was a small community NW of Chicago. In this small community was a private boys’ school, Todd School for Boys. It was an independent school founded by Reverend Richard K. Todd who moved to Woodstock Illinois from Vermont in 1847 to be pastor of newly formed Presbyterian Church. He brought the New England philosophy of "plain living and high thinking, and in harmony with Puritan traditions." [note: It’s really ironic, at least to me, that all the while I was growing up I claimed that my parents were of true Puritan stock – not far from the truth, eh?].

In 1848 Rev Todd opened a day school in the parsonage, for both boys and girls. This small day school went through many scholastic changes, and in 1867 the school underwent "extensive improvements" at which time it became exclusively a seminary for boys, and became known as the Woodstock Institute. It held this name until 1873 when it became known as the Todd Seminary for Boys. Noble Hill joined the institution in 1888 as Reverend Todd's assistant. Hill resigned a year later due to differences in opinions with Todd. A year later Hill returned with a promise from Todd that he would have his full support. In June, 1892 Noble Hill arranged to purchase the Seminary from Reverend Todd, at a cost of $20,000. Noble Hill was headmaster at the school until he passed the school to his children in 1930. The following is an email from my dad’s sister:

Saturday, July 11, 2009 8:25 AM

Dear Carol,
… During the WW2 your grandma taught Latin. Since Todd was a private school people did not need to have a degree, Grandma could do that. Early on Grandpa was called the headmaster as he had the college degree and Roger Hill did not. After the son got the degree he took the title of headmaster and Grandpa was the principal.
Love, Aunt Micky

The school’s final name change occurred in 1930 when it became the Todd School for Boys. In addition, Woodstock can claim an important role in the creative development of Orson Welles. Welles attended the Todd School for Boys in Woodstock where he came under the positive influence and guidance of Roger Hill, a teacher who later became Todd's headmaster. Hill provided Welles with an ad hoc educational environment that proved invaluable to his creative experience, allowing Welles to concentrate on subjects that interested him. Welles performed and staged his first theatrical experiments and productions at Todd School. [One of my father’s claims to fame is that he once punched Orson Welles in the nose. Dad said, “He was just too big for his shoes.” – now didn’t that prove to be so very true? Welles' photo was pointed out in the web description of the above picture. I cannot find my dad in it. My grandfather is the gentleman on the left with his hat in his hand. ]

This picture is of one of the last buildings standing on the parcel where Todd School once lived. I do not know if it is still there.

Thanks for stopping by...


  1. What an interesting piece of family history. I now understand about the punch in the nose comment in an earlier post.

    Have a terrific day Carol. :)

  2. That is a wonderful family story ... more, more.

    Loved the Orson Welles story.

    My favorite quote by him, "How bad was Rita Hayworth's childhood? She thought I was an improvement."

  3. Family history can be so interesting - especially when you have pictures to go along with it!

    Thank you for sharing - we're waiting for more!!

  4. I am a librarian at the Woodstock Public Library. Thank you for this blog post, it gives new insight into these photographs that we have on the library's Flickr page. I would love to be able to put more names to the faces in the photograph. Please feel free to tag the people who you know in the photo on Flickr. If you do not have a flickr account, you can email me the information (if you want) and I could add the information myself.

    It sounds like your family has a lot of history tied to Woodstock. If you have any photographs, nostalgia that could be added or scanned and put in the Library's Todd School Archives. It would be greatly appreciated.

    Martha Hansen
    Woodstock Public Library
    marthah @


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