Girard man speaks on Ohio’s Civil War governor
NILES — Warren native David Tod was important not only to Ohio politics before, during and after the Civil War, but he played a significant role in national politics as well.
During a lecture last week at the National McKinley Birthplace Museum about his new book, “The Political Transformation of David Tod,” Girard native Joseph Lambert Jr. cited reasons that people should be aware of this local political figure.
“There were two things that have really fascinated me growing up. One was local history and the second was always Abraham Lincoln, and somehow those two things got me to David Tod,” Lambert said.
The Canfield resident is a former research associate at the Ohio History Connection’s Youngstown Historical Center of Industry and Labor, known locally as the Steel Museum.
“When I was working at the museum, I first learned about him. What fascinated me more about him was the fact that my idol, Abraham Lincoln, had known David Tod. Here is a local guy from the Mahoning Valley and my idol knew David Tod, had a friendship with David Tod and he even offered him a position in his cabinet,” Lambert said.
During his research on the man and his place in history, Lambert found a lack of resources, so he decided to write his own book. He already had co-authored a book with the late Richard Shale about Joseph G. Butler, who initiated the Butler Museum of American Art so writing a second book was something he thought he could bring to fruition.
Lambert noted that in the 19th century, no one reached the level of political notoriety in Ohio politics as Tod. From 1844 to the Civil War, he was known as the face of the Ohio Democratic Party.
“In the Western Reserve, known for its Whig Party, Tod managed to win elections as the mayor of Warren, a seat in the state Senate and twice as his party’s nominee for governor,” Lambert said.
After this period of history, Tod left elected office to concentrate on his businesses, including the railroad industry. His success as an industrial pioneer allowed him to campaign for other Democrats.
“He experimented with coal found on his Brier Hill property when he moved there to help with his mother after his father’s death,” he said.
The money from his coal business allowed him to retire as a lawyer and return to politics.
“In 1847, President James Polk sent Tod, as an unskilled, untested diplomat, to Brazil,” Lambert said.
His four years there allowed him to renew a cordial relationship between the two countries and to witness the realities of the slave trade. The human suffering there left an impression on him for the rest of his life.
Tod returned to the United States in 1851. A decade later, he became governor of Ohio. Tod served during the Civil War with a strong stand against slavery, which helped him recruit thousands of men to fight for the Union cause.
During his time as governor, he was known as a humanitarian. He sent doctors and nurses to tend to wounded soldiers.
As a politician, Tod put patriotism and maintaining the union over political partisanship.
After the war, he left the Democratic Party because of actions he could not forgive. He believed the party caused four years of destruction during the conflict. He switched to the Republican Party. He campaigned for President Grant and was given a position as an elector for the Nov. 18 session, but died on Nov. 13 prior to the vote.
Lambert hopes is book can shed some light on the mystery of the man who has a bronze bust outside the National McKinley Birthplace Memorial.