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John Blair Smith Todd


Dakota Territory saw many of its early politicians come and go quickly, including John Blair Smith Todd. On this date in 1814, Todd was born in Lexington, Kentucky. He married in 1845 and had nine children with his wife Catherine. Todd was a military man who served in the Seminole and Mexican-American wars. He spent almost 20 years in the military between his graduation from West Point and his resignation from the Army in 1856. One of his last engagements was an expedition against the Dakota Sioux at the Battle of Ash Hollow in the First Sioux War.

After his military career, Todd wound up in Fort Randall in Dakota Territory where he eked out a living as an Indian trader. His career path took another turn when he was admitted to the bar in 1861 began a a practice in Yankton. He became a territorial delegate to Congress in 1861. He served for a little over a year before losing election for another term.

In the fall of 1861, it was back into the military, serving as a Union brigadier general in the Civil War. It proved a short stint – he resigned the following summer.

He did win reelection to Congress in 1865 after contesting the election of William Jayne, but that too was short-lived as the Democrat lost out again in the election of 1864 and again in 1868. Between elections, he was speaker of Dakota’s Territorial House of Representatives and went into the mercantile business.

John Blair Smith Todd died in 1872 in Yankton, well before statehood. Counties in Minnesota and South Dakota are named after him.

Dakota Datebook by Jack Dura