Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Jane Todd Crawford

Jane Todd Crawford marker, Rockbridge County, VARockbridge County, VA

Marker Text: Jane Todd, pioneer heroine of abdominal surgery, was born 12-23-1763 just west of here across Whistle Creek near Todd's Mill. She married Thomas Crawford in 1794. In 1809 she rode 50 mi. on horseback to the home of Dr. Ephraim McDowell in Danville, KY., where she underwent the world's first ovariotomy. The ordeal lasted 25 min. without anesthesia. She recovered, lived 32 more years, and died near Craysville, Indiana. The restored McDowell home is a surgical shrine.

Location: On U.S. Route 60 (West Midland Trail) at junction with VA Route 669 (Beatty Hollow) southwest of Lexington city limits, grouped with marker L-8 (New Monmouth Church and Morrison's Birthplace). Erected in 1974 by the Women's Aux. To the Sou. Medical Association.

  During the past couple of weeks I have posted markers related to the family of Dr. Ephraim McDowell who is known for his groundbreaking abdominal surgery in 1809. Dr. McDowell did not publish his medical notes related to the surgery until eight years later. In his subsequent writings, he describes the surgery in detail, but only refers to his first patient as Mrs. Crawford and gives few details about Jane Crawford. Any pioneering physician would not be very successful, if they did not have brave patients willing to take the risk to save their lives. In the years that followed, the identity of Mrs. Jane Todd Crawford was almost lost to history.

  For over 100 years, the world took little notice of Mrs. Crawford until 1911 when August Schachner began a comprehensive biographical study of Dr. McDowell. During a visit to Danville, he found the McDowell home was in a terrible state of neglect and disrepair. By May 1912, he addressed and urged the Kentucky Federation of Women's Clubs to begin efforts to rescue and restore the home and to establish a monument to the memory of Dr. Ephraim McDowell and Mrs. Crawford, whose first name he still did not know.

  Though Dr. Ephraim McDowell and his patient Jane Todd Crawford would meet in her home 60 miles from his home in Danville, KY. Jane Todd lacked 6 weeks being 8 years old at the time of Ephraim's birth. Jane Crawford was born on December 23, 1763 in Rockbridge County, Virginia, only a few miles from McDowell's birthplace in the same county. There is no proof that the two ever knew one another in Virginia. However, their parents could scarcely failed to have some acquaintance, since both families were early settlers and were people of substance and enterprise.

Jane Todd Crawford marker with old church foundation (Click any photo to enlarge)  Jane Todd Crawford was the daughter of Samuel Todd who settled his family near this marker after receiving a deed to a tract of land on both sides of Whistle Creek on May 12, 1762, two miles west of Lexington, VA in Rockbridge County. Near here, he built a substantial home on a hill overlooking the south bank of Whistle Creek. To the east a quarter of a mile away the land cornered on the grounds of the Presbyterian Meeting House.

  Jane was the second of six girls and also had two brothers. Her mother was also named Jane, so she was often call Jenny. In 1768, when she was 4, her father built a mill down the hill from the house and on the other side of Whistle Creek. In 1789, the old Hall's Meeting House at the corner of the Todd property was replaced by a stone building, the New Monmouth Presbyterian Church. Throughout her life the Presbyterian Church was to play a great and enduring role in the life of Jane Todd Crawford and her family. The remains of the foundation of that stone building can be seen next to this marker.

  Jane did not marry until she was 30 years of age. On January 9, 1794 she was married to Thomas Crawford in a ceremony performed by the Rev. Samuel Houston. Rev. Houston was a cousin to Sam Houston of Texas fame who was born in the same county and was one year old at the time of the Crawford's wedding. In 1805 the Crawford's moved with their four children to Kentucky. The Crawford’s built a log cabin on the Blue Spring Branch of Caney Fork, nine miles south of Greensburg, KY and sixty miles from Danville. They were living there in 1809, when Mrs. Crawford had her ovariotomy surgery.

Jane Todd Crawford marker with old church foundation (Click any photo to enlarge)

The marker is located in the middle of a fenced in field, to the right are the remains of the old foundation of the New Monmouth Presbyterian Church, the church is now located on the same road west of this location.

  A year following her surgery in Danville, Thomas and Jane Crawford sold their property in Greensburg, Ky. It is unclear where they moved, but it is thought that they for the next seven years, lived in northern Kentucky across the Ohio River from Madison, Indiana, and later in 1817, they moved to a farm on the outskirts of Madison. Mrs. Crawford later went to live with her oldest son, James, who made his home and served the Presbyterian church in Graysville. When she came to live with him is unknown, but probably after the death of her husband. Church records indicate that she taught a Sunday School class in Graysville and was active in the activities of the church. She remained there until her death in 1842.

  Uncovering historical information about any person or place frequently requires many hours of detective work and reading old documents, if they exist. August Schachner during his research into the life of Mrs. Crawford discovered that she died at Graysville, Indiana and other details about her life after Kentucky. He would had been unable to discover this, if it were not for the fact that her son Rev. James Crawford could be traced through the Minutes of the Presbyterian General Assembly from the time he began his ministry up until the time of his death. Being a Presbyterian minister myself, I frequently encourage congregations to keep detailed minutes and records because they are creating future historical documents for future generations to remember who we were and our ministry.

  Mrs. Jane Todd Crawford is buried in the Johnson Cemetery  situated on the west side of Indiana State Road No. 36, a mile and a half north of the village of Graysville. Her son, was the pastor of the Presbyterian church Graysville at the time of her death, he later moved to Iowa. Link for a photo of her grave site in Indiana.

  Years later in 1962 in Greensburg, KY the Jane Todd Crawford Memorial Hospital opened its doors to serve the medical needs of the community. Jane Todd Crawford Hospital is a 64-bed, acute care hospital. The medical center in Danville is also named for Dr. Ephraim McDowell.

1 comment:

  1. Jane Todd Crawford is my 5th great-grandmother's sister. and yes she is related to Mary A Todd''Lincoln.'' Mary Polly Todd married Evan Francis in Lexington ky, They are my 5th great-grandparents. Eddy...