Jere Clements Caldwell III of Lebanon Road became interested in his Caldwell family history when he was a student at Centre College (1946-1951) and with encouragement from his father, Charles Wickliffe Caldwell.
“If Daddy hadn’t been so interested, I probably would not have gotten into this project,” he said. “My father spent all his spare time in the courthouses looking for information. He finally convinced me to help him.
“I thought Daddy was crazy to spend so much time on the family, but after I got into it, I became more interested.”
The elder Caldwell began the Caldwell ancestral chart handwritten on a brown paper scroll. The scroll has grown twice as long as a large dining room table and currently contains more than 2,500 names. Jere hand-copied the scroll in a smaller version for five members of his family.
Carolyn Bost Crabtree, a local genealogist, became interested in the Caldwell history after reading research compiled about early Danville by the late Corinna Baldwin. She had just finished reading a book titled “Widows of the South” and it mentioned a Caldwell woman who, with the help of slave women, buried Confederate soldiers after a Civil War battle near Franklin, Tenn.
“After I read the book, and found that the local Caldwells were related to people mentioned in the book, I decided I wanted to work on more research on the family,” Crabtree said.
A new book on the genealogy of the Caldwell family — “Descendants of Alexander Caldwell in America” — is the result of the Crabtree’s work.
“I started out with a 35-page book and it grew to more than 400 pages,” she said. “I want people to have the information to connect their families.”
The 416-page book is fully indexed and begins with Alexander Caldwell, born 1558 in Straton, Ayreshire, Scotland, where he later died. He had one son, William, born in Scotland and died in Ireland.
The first Caldwells arrived in America in the early 1700s. They lived in Lunenburg County, Va. Some migrated to Pennsylvania and Kentucky.
After living in Cub Creek, Vz., where they helped establish a church, they brought their Presbyterian influence to Kentucky, where it affected not only the faith of the settlers here, but their educational level, said Crabtree. Many churches all over Kentucky, and colleges and universities, were founded due to the influence of the Caldwell family.
“The scroll kept me going on this project,” said Crabtree.
The “project” has taken four years to complete, she added.
“The thing that impressed me is there are few women on the chart,” said Crabtree.
“When girls were born, they were referred to as children, then after they married, we forgot them,” said Caldwell. “If we’d put them in the book, it would have been a lot thicker.”
Caldwells related to many early families
Crabtree said many of the early Danville families are related to the Caldwells. The Brumfields, McDowells, Crows, Russells and Carpenters along with the Clemenses (Mark Twain) are mentioned.
Families connected to the Caldwells are scattered throughout the United States. They include Rickeys from North Carolina; Rues of Mercer County; Wickliffe and Slaughters of Nelson County; John C. Calhoun, a senator prior to the Civil War; Mitchells, Harbersons, Irving, Polks and McGavocks of Franklin, Tenn.
“I didn’t know know we were kin to all these people. I thought they were just friends,” Caldwell said.
He said his family actually goes back to Italy, but he does not know much about the earliest families. They left Italy in the early 1400s and went to France.
Crabtree began the research in the late 1500s, after the Caldwells arrive in Scotland.
“I have five children and my father had six, and some of the earlier families had eight or 10 children,” Caldwell said.
“It is impossible to track some of the people. If I had the whole story, it would be too much information.”
The pioneer Caldwells helped to establish Washington and Lee University, Hampden-Sydney College and Princeton University.
Crabtree said she may put the book on a CD with public documents that people may want to look at. She found a paper that shows Simon Kenton purchased land from the Caldwells.
Caldwell is thrilled to have the new book about his family.
“I could not have visualized 10 years ago that it would have been possible. We’ve got four or five family histories written by Caldwell women,” he noted.
However, this book covers more family members and information.
Caldwell, a cattle producer, said he is used to working with cattle pedigrees, but when working on a family tree, you go in the opposite direction.
For more information about the book, contact Carloyn Crabtree at (859) 236-1069 and firstname.lastname@example.org.