On, Sunday, March 29, 1812, the first documented wedding held at the White House took place. Lucy Payne Washington, sister of Dolley Madison and sister-in-law of President James Madison, married Supreme Court Justice Thomas Todd.
|Lucy Payne Washington|
Lucy was apparently possessed of a breezy nature and liked to use slang. In her teen years (some sources say she was 15), Lucy met George Steptoe Washington, a nephew of George Washington, who was in Philadelphia studying law. They eloped in 1793 and he brought her back to his Virginia plantation, Harewood (now in West Virginia).
Lucy's parents broke off their relationship with her because she'd married outside the Society of Friends. They later reconciled, however, and Lucy's mother and her younger children later moved to Harewood to live with Lucy and George. Lucy's sister Dolley, a widow, married the future president, James Madison, in Lucy and George's parlor.
Lucy and George had four sons, three of whom survived to adulthood: Samuel, William, and George.
Sadly, George died of consumption when he was 37 in 1809, leaving Lucy a widow.
Thomas Todd was born in Virginia in 1765. His legal career took him from Virginia to Kentucky, but in 1807, he was nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court by President Thomas Jefferson. (While Thomas and Dolley's first husband shared the surname Todd, they were not related.)
|Supreme Court Justice Thomas Todd, by Matthew Harris Jouett (public domain)|
The wedding seems spontaneous, because Dolley Madison wrote to her father to announce the impending nuptials, saying the event was "unexpected" and caused "distress" to the household, but Dolley preferred him to the "gay flirts" who courted Lucy. In the same letter, Dolley describes Thomas as "estimable" and "very rich, very handsome."
The White House wedding was held on the State Floor, probably the Blue Room. Lucy was attended by three bridesmaids, Miss Hamilton, Miss Hay, and Dolley. Thomas had three groomsmen, Payne Todd (Dolley's son), John Payne (Lucy and Dolley's brother), and a Mr. Edward Coles. The Rev. McCormick presided.
|Dolley Madison, public domain|
The next day, the couple retreated to his estate in Kentucky. His service as a Supreme Court Justice required him to be in Washington for a few months a year, and Lucy accompanied him, no doubt enjoying visiting family on those occasions.
The couple went on to have three children: William J., Madisonia, and James Madison.
Lucy lived another twenty years, but she is not buried with Thomas. She was initially buried at Harewood but was later removed, along with the remains of her son Samuel, to be re-interred at nearby Zion Episcopal Church at the request of Samuel's wife Louisa.
Her tombstone notes that she was the wife of George Steptoe Washington, not Thomas Todd. George, however, is buried in Georgia, where he died.
Susanne Dietze began writing love stories in high school, casting her friends in the starring roles. Today, she's the award-winning author of a dozen historical romances who's seen her work on the ECPA and Publisher's Weekly Bestseller Lists for Inspirational Fiction. Married to a pastor and the mom of two, Susanne lives in California and enjoys fancy-schmancy tea parties, genealogy, the beach, and curling up on the couch with a costume drama and a plate of nachos. You can learn more about her and her latest release, The Reluctant Guardian (Love Inspired Historical) on her website, www.susannedietze.com.