The Todd community, originally called Elk Cross Roads, was settled in the late 1700s and early 1800s. The community was a rural outpost in the backcountry of the Blue Ridge Mountains populated by farmers. The first church, South Fork Baptist Church, was established in 1833, and a Post Office was established in 1837. Blackburn's Chapel, a Methodist church, was founded at Elk Cross Roads in 1850. The community was large enough to be noted on North Carolina maps by the 1850s. Several dry goods stores were operating at Elk Cross Roads before the Civil War. During the latter half of the 19th century, the community's commerce grew with large scale timber harvesting and also mining of mica and copper. By the 1890s, Todd was larger than the nearby town of Boone in Watauga County.
In 1894, the Post Office was formally renamed Todd in honor of Joseph Warren Todd, a native son, who was a Civil War veteran and credited with restoring order and thwarting bushwackers in Watauga and Ashe counties immediately after the Civil War. His brother, James, was shot in the back and killed by bushwackers near Todd. Col. Todd practiced law in nearby Jefferson following the war until his death in 1909. He also served several terms in the North Carolina General Assembly.
Todd's heyday came in the early 20th century with the timber boom. In 1910, the Carolina-Virginia Railway announced the company would extend tracks from West Jefferson to Elk X Roads. The train was known as the “Virginia Creeper” because of its slow but steady ascent of the steep grades.
At the peak of the boom, Todd boasted two doctors, a dentist, one bank, seven stores, three mills and two hotels. The community was incorporated in 1915 and had a mayor, council and a town marshal. Walter Cook, co-founder and operator of the general store for more than 40 years, was the only elected mayor.
The Virginia-Carolina railroad came to Todd because of the vast tracts of standing timber in the area. By 1934, most of the mountains in the valley were stripped of all trees and the railroad company was losing money running the extra 14 miles of track to Todd. It was the midst of the Great Depression and the train pulled up its tracks, the Bank of Todd was liquidated and the town’s commerce all but vanished in a few short years. In 1940, a devastating flood washed away buildings and much of the evidence of what had gone on here before.
By World War II, there was only a handful of businesses remaining and the Todd General Store is the sole continuously operating business to survive the boom years. Today, it is one of the oldest continuously operating general stores in North Carolina. The North Carolina General Assembly formally revoked the town's charter in the 1970s.
During the middle and latter parts of the 20th century, Todd was just a crossroads with a post office, a store and home to hard-working mountain farming families. It is in the last 10 years that Todd has seen a resurgence driven by cultural tourism and second-home communities.