by Michelle Ann Kratts
There is a grave at Oakwood Cemetery in Niagara Falls and a spectacular rumor has made it one of the most interesting stops on the grounds. For almost one hundred and sixty years a woman has kept a secret buried with her in Lot #231. The secret involves our First Lady, Mary Todd Lincoln. Is it true that Mrs. Lolly/Lowly Todd Childs, resident of Oakwood Cemetery, is a relation of Mrs. Abraham Lincoln? Various family members, throughout the years, have claimed that their ancestor was directly related by blood to President Lincoln’s wife. If that is true, then there is definitely cause for great celebration in the city of Niagara Falls. However, there are parts of the story that just do not add up. The time has come to put these ghosts to rest. Researchers and family members have been searching for the proof that would corroborate this story but have not been able to do so. So now it is up to you!
Oakwood Cemetery Association is calling upon all researchers to help find documentation that would connect Mrs. Lolly/Lowly Todd Childs to Mrs. Lincoln, or that would prove that there is no connection. Please send your research to Oakwood Cemetery Association at firstname.lastname@example.org by the anniversary of Mrs. Childs’ death, November 26, 2013. The first researcher with definitive proof (one way or the other) will receive a copy of the DVD, Lincoln, for their work.
We have been compiling files on Mrs. Childs for years now, but there are still so many questions. Recently, her old grave was dug up by our CSI (Cemetery Stone Investigators) at Oakwood Cemetery, Jason Hake and Brendan Kratts. Pete Ames, historian and board member, directed them to the possible site of our lady’s burial. Her stone had disappeared under grass and dirt. The boys were spot on and as they hit the dirt they knew they had found her. They peeled away the growth of centuries past and then there she was…”Lolly.” Part of her name could still be made out, though her grave had been broken down into over a dozen pieces.
We do not know exactly where Lolly/Lowly (also known as Sally) Todd Childs was born or who her parents were. We do know from the 1850 Census of Niagara Falls that it was said that she was born around 1776 in Connecticut. We also know that she was married to Stephen Childs, also of Connecticut.
There is another Sally Todd that is often confused with our Lolly/Lowly Todd Childs. This particular Todd woman is documented as the daughter of Gideon Todd and Prudence Tuttle. However, we are quite certain she is not the same woman as this Sally Todd was married to Benjamin Baldwin.
Stephen Childs came to the Niagara area around 1822. He was one of the founders of the Lewiston Presbyterian Church. They were also early members of the First Presbyterian Church of Niagara Falls.
From the Session Minutes, 1824-1843, First Presbyterian Church, Niagara Falls.
We have not been able to find much more on Mrs. Childs until her death and burial in Oakwood Cemetery. She was most likely buried in the Old Burying Grounds, which had been located on the North side of Main Street and between Second and Third Streets, and removed to Oakwood around 1855 (along with many of the other graves from the Old Burying Grounds).
Several generations of this family lived in the Niagara area and their names are quite familiar. It is possible that Lolly and Stephen had the following children:
Harriet (who married Col. Phillip Tufford, who served in the War of 1812, Battles of Lundy’s Lane and Queenston Heights). They were married in Lewiston and lived in Suspension Bridge as farmers. They are both buried in Witmer Cemetery. The Tufford home still stands on Packard Road and Wagner Drive in Town of Niagara.
It is believed that another possible child of Lolly Todd Childs and Stephen Childs was Benjamin Childs, also known as B.F. Childs. He was the founder of the International Hotel. He was married to Julia (unknown) Childs.
The line that we have been following includes Harriet Childs Tufford and Col. Phillip Tufford’s daughter, Mary Ann Tufford Ortt. Mary Ann was born 27 November 1818 in Lewiston and married David Ortt in Lewiston on 4 December 1844. They both died and are buried in Canada.
David Phillip Ortt, courtesy Ancestry.com
Mary Ann and David’s daughter, Ann Jane (Jennie) Ortt, was born 15 October 1860, in Simcoe, Ontario. Jennie was married to Alfred Elsheimer and lived in Niagara Falls, New York. It is possible that our “Mary Todd Lincoln” stories came from Jennie. For stories during Jennie’s lifetime ran rampant and filled the newspapers both in the United States and in Canada. Most articles state that Lolly Todd Childs was the sister of Robert Smith Todd (the father of Mary Todd Lincoln). That would make Lolly, Mrs. Lincoln’s aunt, and her children first cousins to the First Lady.
Some of the following articles contain information concerning the ancestral relations between Lolly Todd Childs and Mrs. Lincoln. They are all from the Niagara Falls Gazette.
We have looked into the family of Robert Smith Todd, Mary Todd Lincoln’s father, but have not found a reference to Lolly. We have not found any ties to Connecticut, either. Robert Smith Todd was born in 1791 to Levi Todd and Jane Briggs. Levi Todd was born in Montgomery, Pennsylvania. He and his brothers were founders of Kentucky. Genealogies state that Levi was married twice: first to Jane Briggs (m. 1779-1800) and second to Jane Holmes (1802-1807). Lolly was said to have been born around 1776. Was there another earlier wife? It was also said that Levi Todd was the father of at least eleven children. Could one of these children be Lolly Todd Childs? During the American Revolutionary period he was in Kentucky and the commander of the Kentucky Militia. At this point there is no mention of him having a residence in Connecticut. Perhaps Lolly was not born in Connecticut, either, as we have not proven that as well. If a birthplace is written on a census it is still quite possible that the location is not accurate.
Children of Levi Todd (including Robert Smith Todd) have included the following:
Ann Mariah Todd (17 JUN 1778-?)
Nancy (date unknown)
Margaret B. Todd Rodes (June 4, 1799- November 27, 1865)
Unfortunately there is no Lolly Todd Childs. Or is it possible she could be either the unknown “Ann Mariah” or the “unknown” Nancy mentioned above? And what about the name “Lolly?” She is also referred to as “Lowly” or “Sally.” Some sources say it may be a form of Polly, Molly, or even Laura or Lillian.
As for Mary Todd Lincoln…it was said that she often visited Niagara Falls. According to one account…”she always returned to Niagara with new interest.” Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln’s visit in 1857 is forever immortalized in pen and ink on the Cataract House Register. Perhaps there was a reason Mrs. Lincoln sought refuge at Niagara Falls. Was she visiting with family?
We hope that you can help us solve this Family History Mystery from Oakwood Cemetery. There are family members today that are very excited about the possibility of solving this enigma, and of course, we at Oakwood Cemetery would love to finally put this story to rest.
Good luck! Any new information will be very helpful.
Robert Smith Todd
Mary Todd Lincoln