Looking Back: New book traces Caldwell family from Scotland to Kentucky
The chart begins with John Caldwell and covers his known descendants for 16 generations. (Photo/Brenda S. Edwards / January 23, 2012)
“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.