A few months ago, Susan, a Toy cousin from Long Island, was visiting the Brandywine area and the family grave sites at St. Joseph on the Brandywine cemetery. Susan had visited before, but this time she noticed something new and different – a bronze medal of some sort that was half buried next to the tombstone of Elwood Toy. She pulled it out of the ground to examine it more closely and then put it back in place. In addition to what looked like some sort of military plaque, attached to the post that held the plaque in the ground was a metal name tag and numbers of some sort.
After returning home, she became concerned that maybe the medal and tag hadn’t been returned properly to their place, so she asked me to visit the cemetery and make sure all was in order.
I was intrigued as well, having seen Elwood’s tombstone on many occasions and never noticing the medal. In fact, before this I done very little research into Elwood’s life. Elwood is a 1st cousin twice removed who never had children, never married and lived with his sister, Charlotte, until his death in 1931 at the age of 58.
The medal turned out to be a military grave adornment identifying Elwood as a veteran of the Spanish-American war. I don’t know why I never saw this earlier. Maybe it was tucked against the grave marker or maybe it was buried a little deep until it was discovered by Susan. The tag attached to the base of the medal held Elwood’s name and a few illegible numbers. My assumption is that the medallion was sent to the cemetery after Elwood’s burial and the name tag was used to associate the marker with Elwood. A photograph of an untarnished marker can be found here.
All of this made me want to know a bit more about cousin Elwood!
Elwood Nicholas Toy was born in July, 1873 in Henry Clay Village on the banks of the Brandywine. His father was John Thomas Toy (“Tom Toy”) who was the well-known proprietor of the Toy Tavern in the late 1800s and the grandson of Daniel Toy. His mother was Mary Agnes Elwood who came to Delaware from Ireland in 1852. Elwood was given his mother’s maiden name as his forename while his middle name came from his grandfather Nicholas Elwood.
Elwood grew up in Henry Clay and attended local schools. Elwood is shown with his friend James Toner In the picture below, and I believe that Elwood is the one sitting although I can’t be sure (but he looks more like a Toy!)
Occupation and Military Service
Like many of the Toys of his generation, Elwood was to become a carpenter and ‘car builder’ working either for du Pont or one of the local car builders in Wilmington making railroad cars. This occupation was interrupted in January of 1899 when he enlisted in the US Infantry to fight in the Spanish American war. In June of 1900, he is recorded in the census of Henry Clay with the occupation of soldier. Two months later, he is recorded in the 1900 census again in Ilagass, Province of Isabella, Luzon, Philippine Islands where he is a soldier in the US 16th Regiment.
After serving for three years, He was discharged from service in California in January 1902 and returned to Delaware where he lived with his father and sister Charlotte on Broom Street in downtown Wilmington. He also returned to his occupation of car builder and carpenter, based on the 1910 Census and the Wilmington City Directories through 1920.
There is a ten-year gap int the records after 1920, until Elwood applies for a military pension in Octiber 1930 at the age of 56.
Death and Burial (and reburial)
Based on the sequence of events in the records, it appears that Elwood applied for the military pension in order to receive veterans medical benefits. He applies for the pension in the middle of October 1930 and is admitted to the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers in Hampton Virginia just two weeks later. Elwood is not a well man. His admission records show that he was suffering from multiple aliments, including severe grand mal epilepsy, a deviated septum, and cardiomyopathy. The main reason for his admission, however, is cancer of liver and the stomach. He spends almost a year in the veteran’s hospital, dying of cancer on September 19th, 1931, and buried in the Hampton, Virginia National Cemetery on September 23rd, 1931.
But his story doesn’t end there. At the request of his sister Charlotte, he is disinterred on October 1, 1931 and moved to a family plot at St. Joseph on the Brandywine Cemetery. Today, he rests next to his sister Charlotte.