Dolley and the Easter Egg Roll
Did you know that Dolley Payne was born May 20, 1768 in North Carolina? Her father was John Payne and her Quaker mother was Mary Coles Payne. John become a Quaker after he married Mary. It was a tough life for them as plantation farmers in Virginia or North Carolina. When Dolly was 15 she, her seven siblings and parents moved to Philadelphia. John went into the starch making business which also fell on hard times.
At the age of 22 Dolley married John Todd, a promising young Quaker lawyer. It was only three years before Dolley became a young widow and buried both her husband and one of their three children due to a yellow-fever epidemic.
Within eleven months Dolley would say "I do" to James Madison, a well-established Virginian congressman who was seventeen years her senior and was also a founding father of the United States. Over time James would make his way up the political ladder. It was in 1801 that President Thomas Jefferson ask him to serve as Secretary of State. Upon acceptance the Madison family moved to Washington and this would be the start of Dolley Madison’s rise to becoming a popular figure in our nation's history. Her husband became President James Madison on March 4, 1809 and served till March 4, 1817.
We often talk about the state of birth for our US Presidents, however we don’t talk a lot about the state of birth for our First Ladies. While it is not an elected office, they are expected to serve and Dolley Madison certainly did that.
On a recent visit to The Inn of the Patriots Bed and Breakfast in Grover NC. I visited with the owners Marti and Stormy Mongiello, both are US Veterans and Marti has served as a Presidential Chef and director at Camp David. So, they do know more than just a few things about White House and Camp David History.
From the opening of the Inn and the US Presidential Culinary Museum the Mongiello’s have hosted an Easter Monday Egg Roll to coincides with the official White House Egg Roll. Hundreds of children show up at 11am in the little town of Grover NC for the fun filled official egg roll event at which each child nine and under receive one official White House Egg representing the White House and the President at the time of Easter Egg Roll. The 2018 Eggs are signed by President Trump and the First Lady.
Marti shared a bit of the historic legend. As the story goes, John Payne Todd also known as Payne Todd, was Dolly’s son from her first marriage and was adopted by James Madison when Payne was two years old. While he did not have to worry about a good meal at home, Payne did not have a simple or easy life, reportedly he was troubled as an alcoholic most of his life and he never seemed to make traction for doing much good with any aspect of his life.
However, He did share a story with his mother about a game where children were rolling colored eggs in the sand with a stick at the pyramids of Giza. He suggested to his mother that they share the custom on or near the grounds of the US Capital. Soon after, that’s exactly what happened.
While the origins of the Easter Egg Roll are still debated we know that over the years the tradition would evolve and move to the White House Lawn during the Rutherford B. Hayes administration and take on different aspects. However, the basic attributes remained the same. Having fun while rolling decorated eggs, some simple and some more complex. Just like all of us.
As we celebrate the Holy Day of Easter and have fun with some of our secular traditions, may we always remember where we come from and the contributions of the dirt we played in as kids.