|BEN F. CALDWELL. The origin of the Caldwell family,
of which our subject is a prominent descendant, can be traced back to the
fourth generation in Ireland. Thomas Caldwell, the great-grandfather,
was born in the North of Ireland of Scotch Irish parents. He married
Miss Betsey Harris, a Welsh lady, and they decided to move to the
New World where they would have a better opportunity of making for themselves
and family a home. They landed at Charleston, S.C., about 1760, remained
there a short time, and then removed to Virginia, locating in Nansemond
County. There William Caldwell, the grandfather of our subject,
was born December 15, 1779. When he was but a youth his parents removed
to Jessamine County, Ky., where they subsequently died at the home of their
The Hon. William Caldwell was a man of more than ordinary
ability; while living in Kentucky he held several important positions of
public trust, serving the county as Sheriff and representing it several
terms in the State Legislature. In Jessamine County, Ky., February
7, 1804, he was married to Nancy Robards, who was born in Goochland
County, Va., September 24, 1782. To this union came six children
- George L., John, Jane R., Elizabeth, Charles
H. and William, Jr., all of whom are now dead. The Hon.
William Caldwell removed to Carrollton, Greene County, Ill., in 1831, and
near to Auburn, Sangamon County, in 1836. After sojourning in the
latter place several years he removed to the town of Curran, where he spent
the remainder of his days, dying there August 1, 1844. His widow
survived until December 19, 1858.
When the Hon. Mr. Caldwell came to Curran he found no place
for holding public worship near, and in order to afford temporary accommodations
he constructed his residence in such a manner that it could be used for
that purpose. It consisted of a large central room with three others
opening into it. Plans were laid for the building of a church, but
Mr. Caldwell did not live to see it built. On his death bed
he requested that when built it be called Bethel, which was done. During
the War of 1812 he was a Captain of a company from Jessamine County, Ky.
He was a man of ardent public spirit and after becoming a resident of this
county he served one term in the Legislature with credit.
John Caldwell, the second son of the Honorable William
Caldwell and father of our subject, was born near Nicholasville, Jessamine
County, Ky., January 21, 1807. About 1827 he removed to Carrollton, Greene
County, Ill., and there on January 23, 1834, he was married to Mary
Jane R. Davis. That lady was born in Boyle County, Ky., January
15, 1815. Her grandfather, Cyrus Davis, was born in Wales
in 1726, and married Sally Harris. They emigrated to Boyle
County, Ky., where both died, the husband February 21, 1811, and the wife
some time previously. Their son, Robert Harris Davis, was born in
Virginia about 1775 and on December 27, 1797, married Mary Lewis Robards,
who was born in Goochland County, Va., about 1778. Mr. Davis
died in Boyle County, Ky., September 16, 1818, and his widow passed away
in the same county September 6, 1829. When their daughter, afterwards
Mrs. Caldwell, was a young lady she went on horseback from Danville,
Ky., to Tallahassee, Fla., returning by the same route and continuing on
to Carrollton, Ill., a trip of 2,000 miles.
John Caldwell with his family came to this county in April,
1853, and located on a farm that had been purchased by his father some
years before. It is nine miles southwest from Springfield and one
and a half miles north of the village of Chatham, on section 36, in the
town of Curran. The new occupant made further improvements and died
there after a painful illness, August 1, 1863. The widow with her son,
our subject, who was fifteen years old the day his father was buried, still
reside on the farm. The children of John and Mary J. R. Caldwell
were five in number and were named William C., Jane, Betsey,
C., and Ben F. The first-born is proprietor of the Loami
Mills and also a farmer, his residence being in the village of Loami.
All the others except our subject are deceased.
Ben F. Caldwell was born in Greene County, this State, August
2, 1848, and came with his parents to this county in 1853. He received
a thoroughly practical education in the common schools and in the graded
schools of Chatham, but was deprived of a higher education, as on the death
of his father he was obliged to render assistance to his mother in the
management of his father's estate. On reaching maturity, Mr. Caldwell
became an active business man and by careful and judicious management of
the two hundred acres left by his father added to the farm until he now
owns one thousand acres, all adjoining and situated in the town, of Curran
and Woodside. The estate is highly improved and is one of the finest
among the many fine farms in the State. Near the original home, in
1876, Mr. Caldwell and his mother erected an elegant dwelling house.
It is conceded to be one of the best farm houses in the State, and few
residences even in the larger cities, are so well or conveniently constructed
or so elegantly furnished. It is supplied with every modern convenience,
lighted by gas, heated by steam, and supplied with water. Here with his
family, Mr. Caldwell enjoys life, royally entertaining his friends when
Mr. Caldwell gave the farm his personal attention until 1871, since
which time he has rented the land. He was extensively engaged in
stock raising and dealing, but upon renting his farm he gave his attention
to mercantile business at Chatham, also dealing largely in unimproved Kansas
and Missouri lands. Selling out his mercantile business, in which
he has been successful, he in 1879 set about the organization of a bank
in the village of Chatham for the accommodation of the residents of that
vicinity. He was elected first President of the Bank of Chatham,
which position he held until 1887, when it was changed to Ben F. Caldwell
& Co., Bankers, which is still one of the prosperous institutions of
the county. April 26, 1887, the Bank of Virden was sold by its proprietors,
Walworth & Heaton, to Caldwell, Henderson & Co. The senior
member of the latter firm was also active in the organization of the Farmers'
National Bank of Springfield, being at the first election of officers made
Vice-President. He held that office until 1885, when he was elected
President, a position which he still holds.
May 27, 1873, Mr. Caldwell married Miss Julia F. Cloyd, daughter
of Matthew Cloyd of this county. They made an extensive tour,
visiting Niagara Falls, Ireland, Scotland, England, Holland, Belgium and
the smaller German states. From Berlin they went to the great World's Exposition
at Vienna, subsequently visiting Italy and the Alps, and having the unexpected
pleasure of an audience with Pope Pius IX. They visited Geneva and
Paris on their return, arriving in Boston October 6, 1873. The union
has been blest by the birth of two children - Mary Jane, born March
20, 1874, and John Harvey, born September 9, 1877. The daughter
is now pursuing her education in St. Agatha's School in Springfield.
In the various social societies Mr. Caldwell is prominent.
On attaining his majority he joined both the Odd Fellows and Masons.
He is Past Master of Chatham Lodge No. 523, F. & A.M., at Chatham,
and a member of Springfield Chapter, No. 1, R.A.M., Springfield Council,
No. 2, R. & S.M., Elwood Commandery, No. 6, K.T., of Springfield and
also fo the Scottish Rite bodies in the Valley of Chicago, having obtained
the Thirty-second degree in oriental Consistory, Chicago. In Odd
Fellowship, he was admitted to Sangamon Lodge, No. 6, and to Prairie State
Encampment. He was demitted from Sangamon Lodge and was a charter
member and the first Noble Grand in Woodside Lodge, No. 503, and is now
a member of Springfield Lodge, No. 465. He is a charter member of
the Benevolent & Protective Order of Elks at Springfield and also belongs
to the Sangamon Club, of Springfield, and to the Iroquois Club, of Chicago.
He is also a member of Chatham Lodge, F.M.B.A.
Although a busy man, Mr. Caldwell is somewhat of a sportsman, an
ardent admirer of both guns and rod. He has hunted throughout the West,
from Arkansas to Wyoming, and the heads of antelope and deer in his residence
attest his skill with the rifle.
Politically Mr. Caldwell is a Democrat and has been an earnest worker
in that party. In 1877 he was appointed Supervisor to fill a vacancy
and was elected to succeed himself. Although he was one of the youngest
members of the Board, with no previous experience, he was elected Chairman,
an honor seldom conferred under such circumstances. In 1882, he was
nominated and elected to the Legislature, his colleague being the Hon.
W. Murray. In 1884 he was renominated by acclamation and elected
with Charles A. Keyes. During the Thirty-third session he
served on the Committees on Banks and Banking, Finance, and Roads and Bridges;
in the Thirty-fourth session, he was Chairman of the Finance committee,
as well as a member of others. During the Presidential campaign of
1888 he was a Chairman of the Sangamon County Democratic Central Committee.
At the Democratic Senatorial Convention held in Springfield, April 15,
1890, he was nominated by acclamation for Senator from the Capital (Thirty-ninth)
District, being the first man nominated for that position outside of the
city of Springfield in twenty or twenty-five years. He was elected,
receiving seven thousand, one hundred and six votes as against five thousand,
three hundred and forty received by his Republican opponent.
The business career of Mr. Caldwell furnishes conclusive evidence
that he possesses more than ordinary ability as a financier and manager
of affairs. In his public capacity he has ever shown the same zeal with
which he has carried to a successful issue his personal affairs, and it
is confidently expected that in whatever place he may be found in the future
he will take a prominent stand among his associates and wield a decided