In 1974, the old home of the VFW located on West Liberty Street, in the area now occupied by the Wayne County Administration Building, was torn down. Long before the VFW occupied the space, the old house was best known as the home of Dr. Joseph H. Todd and a few generations of folks also knew it by it’s moniker, Christmas Knoll. The house was reported to have been built by John Christmas about 1835. Dr. Todd bought the house from Samuel G. Johnson in May of 1878 and lived there until his death at the age of 99 years, six months, and seven days in 1936.
Embedded in the foundation of the house was a cornerstone that displayed a crude skull and crossbones, Dr. Todd’s name and credentials, Masonic symbols, and the year 1885. Before the house was demolished, the VFW graciously donated the cornerstone to the Wayne County Historical Society where it has been on permanent display ever since. It is currently located in the small garden outside the Kister building entrance. Although getting a good view of the stone is best done in the early spring or late fall when the garden vegetation has died back a bit.
The significance of the year 1885 inscribed on the stone is not known, but a good guess would be that was the year Dr. Todd added the octagonal tower to the home which he used as his private study. But it’s only a guess and there is nothing to substantiate the theory. As for the skull and crossbones and Masonic symbols we’ll have to surmise that was the stamp of the eccentric personality of Dr. Joe H. Todd. He had been a Mason since 1869 and up until his death was believed to be the oldest Mason in Ohio and possibly in America at the time.
Next time you are on the campus of the Wayne County Historical Society, be sure to look for Dr. Todd’s cornerstone in the garden outside the Kister building.