Honoring Rachel Caldwell (1742-1825) by David A. Caldwell

In 1766, Rachel Craighead (1742-1825), age 24, the daughter of Scotch-Irish Presbyterian pastor, Rev. Alexander Craighead (1705-1766), and his wife, Jane, married 41 year old Rev. David Caldwell (1725-1824). (Chalmers Gaston Davidson, The Plantation World around Davidson, The Mecklenburg Historical Association, Philadelphia PA: Sherman & Co. Printers, 1876, reprinted by the Davidson Publishing Company, Davidson, North Carolina, 1969, p. 80.)

Rachel married at an age by which the vast majority North Carolina women was already married. The average age of marriage for females was 20.5 in the southern colonies, in contrast to a median age of 24 for those residing in the northern colonies. (Bertram Wyatt- Brown, Southern Honor: Ethics & Behavior in the Old South, 1982, p. 203.)

David had a commanding physique. He was accustomed to swinging an axe to chop firewood and hand sawing as a carpenter, all contributing to his broad shoulders and narrow waist. Other single women of the upper class may have envied Rachel. There was a scarcity of eligible men for them to marry. Gazing eyes may have fixated upon David as he rode on horseback past their cabin porches and barking dogs on his way to Rachel’s house.

The strongest motivation for the marriage likely was mutual affection – each one had fallen in love, honored, and cherished the other. David had first met Rachel when she was about 4 years of age, while he attended her father’s church services in Lancaster County, Colonial Pennsylvania. Possibly during Rachel’s teenage years they had kept in touch with one another by correspondence. For a few years she resided at Windy Cove, Virginia, when her father served as a minister and lived here between 1755 and 1758. David Caldwell was studying to become a minister at a Princeton, New Jersey Presbyterian seminary within a few days ride of the Windy Cove location.

The age difference between David and Rachel was not uncommon, although it was more common for a man age 41 to marry a women in her 30’s. Southern professional men tended to marry late while choosing young brides. (Bertram Wyatt-Brown, Southern Honor, supra, p. 204.)

Some consideration likely was given by Rachel to the belief that David would not treat her as a mere ornament or plaything but as an equal who would welcome her presence in the classroom where David taught his students and in the church where David rendered sermons to his congregation. (Bertram Wyatt-Brown, Southern Honor, supra, p. 100.)

Everything written about David indicates that he showed great respect towards a woman’s talents. Southern women were credited with restoring piety at a time when there was a strong anti-clerical tradition among the upper classes of the Carolinas. Instead of prioritizing family honor and southern gentlemen code, the women were fostering greater interest among men in Christian morality. (Bertram Wyatt-Brown, Southern Honor, supra, p. 100.) Likely David’s own mother had never shown undue rigidity, domestic discipline, or submissiveness enveloping her mind. If David’s mother regarded him as her favorite, she may have instilled in him the confidence to lead others and possess that charisma that can make even a 3 month old baby smile.

Rachel may have been comforted in knowing that David was fearless. In 1762 David turned in some scalps to the colonial government to receive the bounty. His courage would be of particular value to Rachel, subject during the French and Indian War to frequent and murderous Indian attacks. During the early days of the French and Indian Wars, 1754-1763, while living with her father in Windy Cove, Virginia, Rachel was almost scalped. Indians came through the front door with tomahawks as she exited from the rear. (E. W. Caruthers, The Life and Character of Rev. David Caldwell, D.D., Swaim & Co, Greensborough, 1842, p. 27.)

The similarities of David to Rachel’s father, Alexander Craighead, are obvious. Each had completed a seminary education. They shared markedly similar religious perspectives: both were evangelical and compassionate “New Light” or “New Side” Presbyterians concerned about the plight of the less fortunate and determined to overcome the oppression of clerks, courts, counselors, and crooks. Both encouraged formation of the Regulators, an interdenominational group of Piedmont farmers. Historian Gary B. Nash states that the majority of Regulators in the North Carolina backcountry was influenced by the Great Awakening to resist those who oppressed because of a belief that each of them was responsible for his own salvation. (Gary B. Nash, The Unknown American Revolution, Viking, 2005, p. 76.)

David probably gave little regard to whether or not Rachel had a dowry nor she to whether he was a man of sizable wealth. His own parents had come to America, gone to the frontier of colonial Pennsylvania, acquired a 300 acre parcel, cleared the trees for crop land and grazing, prospered, and raised a family. He may have seen in Rachel some of the qualities that he admired most in his own mother.

To pay for his education, completed in 1761, David had received funds from his brothers, in exchange for waiving any right of inheritance to his father’s farm in Drumore Township, Lancaster, Colonial Pennsylvania.

Without incurring any debt, David acquired 500 acres of rich alluvial soil in what is now Greensboro, North Carolina, donated by his congregation to entice him to establish a ministry there. He had saved enough money to build a two story structure as an academy to supplement his income as minister.

This marriage lasted almost 60 years, with Rachel surviving her husband. This long duration of marriage was rather unusual, because of the high mortality rate associated with childbirth. David’s knowledge as a country physician may have helped with her survival of serial childbirths.

This couple had twelve or thirteen children, the most well known of whom was the first born, the Rev. Samuel Craighead Caldwell, born 1767, died August 25, 1824. Several children died in infancy. David’s other children were Rev. Alexander Caldwell, born 1769, died October 2, 1841; Andrew Caldwell, born 1771, educated at Princeton, a minister, died June 12, 1845; Martha “Patsy” Caldwell, born 1775, died January 27, 1826; the twins Thomas Caldwell and David Caldwell, M.D., born October 7, 1777; John Washington Caldwell, born 1780, died December 8, 1844; James Edmund Caldwell, born 1772, died July, 1836; and Robert Craighead Caldwell, born 1786. Their only daughter, Martha “Patsy” Caldwell, born 1775, lost her reason in 1792 and remained in a state of derangement until her death. (E. W. Caruthers, 1793-1865. Sketch of the Life and Character of the Rev. David Caldwell, D.D, near Sixty Years Pastor of the Churches of Buffalo and Alamance, Greensborough, NC. Printers: Swaim and Sherwood, 1842, p. 258.) Thomas Caldwell married Elizabeth Doak on March 24, 1813 in Guilford Co. and died July 3, 1857. David Caldwell, M.D., married Susan Clark on July 15, 1811 in Guilford Co. John Washington Caldwell married twice, first to Martha Davis 1800. After her death, he married Margaret Cabe on October 1, 1822 in Guilford Co. Robert Craighead Caldwell married in succession Maria B. Latta 1823, Marjorie Woodburn 1850, and Mary Clancy, 1855. James Edmund Caldwell sustained brain trauma at age 6 or 7 became deranged about the age 21, never married, and remained confined until his death, in 1836. (E. W. Caruthers, Life of David Caldwell, supra, p. 260.)

David Thomas Caldwell was the oldest son born to the Rev. Samuel Craighead Caldwell and Abigail Bain Alexander in 1799. Abigail was the daughter of John McKnitt Alexander (1733-1817), secretary of the committee that drafted the Mecklenberg Declaration of Independence in 1775. John McKnitt Alexander’s paternal grandfather was among the first four European pioneers to settle in New Munster on the east side of the Elk River in Cecil County, Maryland, perhaps as early as the 1680s. John’s father, James Robert Alexander, was born in Cecil County between 1690 and 1695. James father had emigrated from Ulster Ireland. (See Charles Knowles Bolton. Scotch Irish Pioneers in Ulster and America. Genealogical Publishing Co., Baltimore, 1977, p. 60.) The Alexanders may have been encouraged to emigrate by Rachel’s grandfather, Rev. Robert Craighead, or great grandfather, Rev. Thomas Craighead, to avoid the dangers associated with the strife between Catholics and Presbyterians, or simply to seek greater opportunity where land was more available. John McKnitt Alexander Caldwell became a minister at the Presbyterian Rocky River Church.

Rachel’s son Andrew Caldwell, a minister, never married. He sustained a mental breakdown as an adult that required that he retire from his position. He died shortly after the onset of this breakdown, suggesting a death arising from some progressive life-threatening neurologic deficit.

The number of infant mortalities and adult brain dysfunctions suggests the possibility that the children may have died or sustained brain damage from either birth asphyxia associated with the mother’s narrow birth canal, or hydroencephalus (blockage of CSF drainage from brain ventricles with resulting enlargement of the ventricles and rise in intracranial pressure exceeding arterial pressure, causing disruption of circulation of intracranial arteries leading to fatal brain asphyxiation). Rev. Caldwell consulted with physicians who were specialists in hydroencephalus in seeking treatment for Patty and Andrew Caldwell.

Rachel’s fecundity would have added to her social status and that of her husband. (Bertam Wyatt-Brown, Southern Honor, supra, p. 205.) Bareness would have brought her shame, and regarded by most others in the south with either contempt or pity. (Bertram Wyatt-Brown, Southern Honor, 1982, p. 236.)

Rev. Caruther’s biography of Rev. David Caldwell portrays Rachel Caldwell as an energetic, healthy individual. This is in sharp contrast to the common pattern of many Southern wives during the colonial period who were afflicted with frequent illness, often dying while middle-aged. (cf. Julia Cherry Spruill, Women’s Life and Work in the Southern Colonies (1998), p. 52.)

When a bounty was placed on Rev. Caldwell during the Revolutionary War, he sought refuge in a nearby swamp. Rachel managed the farm, directed the college, and assisted with the functions of the church.

At americanrevolution.org is paraphrasing of excerpts from E.W. Caruthers biography, Life of David Caldwell, D.D, supra, telling of these times:

“For some days before the battle at Guilford Courthouse, the army of Cornwallis was encamped within the bounds of Dr. Caldwell’s congregations; and most of the men being with General Greene, the distress fell on the defenceless women and children. In the detail of spoliation and outrage, their pastor suffered his share. He had been repeatedly harassed by the British and tories, who bore him special enmity; a price had been set upon his head, and a reward of two hundred pounds offered for his apprehension. On the 11th of March, while he was in Greene’s camp, the army was marched to his plantation and encamped there, the officers taking possession of his house. Mrs. Caldwell was at home with her children when they arrived. They at first announced themselves as Americans, and asked to see the landlady; but a female domestic who had ascertained by standing on the fence and seeing red coats at a distance, that they belonged to the army of Cornwallis, quickly communicated her discovery to her mistress. Excusing herself by saying that she must attend to her child, Mrs. Caldwell retired within the house, and immediately gave warning to two of her neighbors who happened to be there, that they might escape through the other door and conceal themselves. She then returned to the gate. The party in front when charged with being British soldiers, avowed themselves such, and said they must have the use of the dwelling for a day or two. They immediately established themselves in their quarters, turning out Mrs. Caldwell, who with her children retired to the smoke house, and there passed a day with no other food than a few dried peaches and apples, till a physician interposed, and procured for her a bed, some provisions, and a few cooking utensils. The family remained in the smoke house two days and nights – their distress being frequently insulted by profane and brutal language. To a young officer who came to the door for the purpose of taunting the helpless mother, by ridiculing her countrymen, whom he termed rebels and cowards, Mrs. Caldwell replied, “Wait and see what the Lord will do for us.” “If he intends to do anything,” pertly rejoined the military fop, “’tis time he had begun.” In reply to Mrs. Caldwell’s application to one of the soldiers for protection, she was told she could expect no favors, for that the women were as great rebels as the men.

“After remaining two days, the army took their departure from the ravaged plantation, on which they had destroyed every thing; but before leaving Dr. Caldwell’s house, the officer in command gave orders that his library and papers should be burned. A fire was kindled in the large oven in the yard, and books which could not at that time be replaced, and valuable manuscripts which had cost the study and labor of years, were carried out by the soldiers, armful after armful, and ruthlessly committed to the flames. Not even the family Bible was spared, and the house, as well as plantation, was left pillaged and desolate.

“On the fifteenth was heard the roar of that battle which was to compel the retreat of the invaders, and achieve the deliverance of Carolina. The women of Dr. Caldwell’s congregation met, as has been mentioned, and while the conflict was raging fiercely between man and man, wrestled in earnest prayer for their defenders. After the cold, wet night which succeeded the action, the women wandered over the field of battle to search for their friends, administer the last sad rites to the dead, and bear away the wounded and expiring. One officer, who had lain thirty hours undiscovered, was found in the woods by an old lady, and carried to his house, where he survived long enough to relate how a loyalist of his acquaintance had passed him the day after the battle, had recognized him, and bestowed a blow and an execration, instead of the water he craved to quench his consuming thirst. Conscience, however, sometimes avenged the insulted rights of nature; – the man who had refused the dying request of a fellow creature, was found after the officer’s death, suspended on a tree before his own door.

“The persecution of Dr. Caldwell continued while the British occupied that portion of the State. His property was destroyed, and he was hunted as a felon; snares were laid for him, and pretences used to draw him from his hiding-place; he was compelled to pass nights in the woods, and ventured only at the most imminent peril to see his family. Often he escaped captivity or death, as it were, by a miracle. At one time when he had ventured home on a stolen visit, the house was suddenly surrounded by armed men, who seized him before he could escape, designing to carry him to the British camp. One or two were set to guard him, while the others went to gather such articles of provisions and clothing as could be found worth taking away. When they were nearly ready to depart, the plunder collected being piled in the middle of the floor, and the prisoner standing beside it with his guard, Mrs. Dunlap, who with Mrs. Caldwell had remained in an adjoining apartment, came forward. With the promptitude and presence of mind for which women are often remarkable in sudden emergencies, she stepped behind Dr. Caldwell, leaned over his shoulder, and whispered to him, as if intending the question for his ear alone, asking if it was not time for Gillespie and his men to be there. One of the soldiers who stood nearest caught the words, and with evident alarm demanded what men were meant. The lady replied that she was merely speaking to her brother. In a moment all was confusion; the whole party was panic-struck; exclamations and hurried questions followed; and in the consternation produced by this ingenious though simple manuvre, the tories fled precipitately, leaving their prisoner and their plunder. The name of Gillespie was a scourge and terror to the loyalists, and this party knew themselves to be within the limits of one of the strongest whig neighborhoods in the State.

“Sometime in the fall of 1780, a stranger stopped at the house of Dr. Caldwell, faint and worn with fatigue, to ask supper and lodging for the night. He announced himself an express bearing despatches from Washington to General Greene, then on the Pedee river. He had imagined that he would be free from danger under the roof of a minister of the gospel; but Mrs. Caldwell soon undeceived him on this point. She was alone; her husband was an object of peculiar hatred to the tories, and she could not tell the day or hour when an attack might be expected. Should they chance to hear of the traveller, and learn that he had important papers in his possession, he would certainly be robbed before morning. She said he should have something to eat immediately, but advised him to seek some safer place of shelter for the night. This intelligence so much alarmed the stranger that his agitation would not permit him to eat, even when the repast was prepared and placed before him. But a short time had passed before voices were heard without, with cries of “Surround the house !” and the dwelling was presently assailed by a body of tories. With admirable calmness, Mrs. Caldwell bade the stranger follow her, and led him out at the opposite door. A large locust tree stood close by, and the night was so dark that no object could be discerned amid its clustering foliage. She bade him climb the tree, thorny as it was, and conceal himself till the men should be engaged in plundering the house. He could then descend on the other side, and trust to flight for his safety. The house was pillaged as she had expected; but the express made his escape, to remember with gratitude the woman whose prudence had saved him with the loss of her property.

“One little incident is characteristic. Among such articles as the housewife especially prizes, Mrs. Caldwell had an elegant tablecloth, which she valued as the gift of her mother. While the tories on one occasion were in her house collecting plunder, one of them broke open the chest of drawers which contained it, and drew out the tablecloth. Mrs. Caldwell seized and held it fast, determined not to give up her treasure. When she found that her rapacious enemy would soon succeed in wresting it from her, unless she could make use of some other than muscular force to prevent him, she turned to the other men of the party, whose attention had been attracted by the struggle, so that they had gathered around her. Still keeping her hold on the tablecloth, she appealed to them with all a woman’s eloquence, asking if some of them had not wives or daughters for whose sake they would interfere to cause her to be treated with more civility. A small man who stood at the distance of a few feet presently stepped up, with tears in his eyes, and said that he had a wife – a fine little woman she was, too, and that he would not allow any rudeness to be practised towards Mrs, Caldwell. His interference compelled the depredator to restore the valued article.

“Rachel Caldwell’s contributions were as significant as those of her husband toward the success of David Caldwell’s Log College. When the pupils faltered in their studies, she encouraged them.” (Paula Stahls Jordan, Women of Guilford County, North Carolina: A Study Of Women’s Contributions, 1740-1979 / Paula Stahls Jordan, author; Kathy Warden Manning, researcher, 1979, p. 18.)

Unlike the common portrayal of the ante-bellum Southern women as restricted to sitting room conversations with women and daughters, keeping their distance from boys lest the boys become too effeminate and bring shame to their fathers, Rev. Caruthers’ biography states that Rachel Caldwell’s intelligence, prudence, and kind and conciliating manners were such as to secure the respect and confidence of the young men in David Caldwell’s Log College, while her concern for their future welfare prompted her to use every means, and to improve every opportunity, for turning their attention to their personal salvation; and her assiduity and success in this matter were such as to give rise and currency to the remark over the country that “David Caldwell made the scholars, but Mrs. Caldwell made the preachers.” (E. W. Caruthers, Life of David Caldwell, D.D., supra, p. 38.)

There are conflicting accounts as to whether Rachel Caldwell attended the wounded at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse. One historian states that on the day of the Guilford Courthouse Battle, Rachel Caldwell and a number of women of the Buffalo Congregation met at the house of Robert Rankin and spent the greater part of the day in prayer. (Paula Stahls Jordan, Women of Guilford County, supra, p. 18.) Another reference states that Rachel cared for the sick and wounded soldiers on Guilford Battleground; she inspired both soldiers and civilians to resist the British and aid in the fight for freedom. (From 75 Years of Service, supra, at p. 124. See also, E. F. Ellet. 1818-1877. Revolutionary Women in the War for American Independence: a one volume revised edition of Elizabeth Ellet’s 1848 Landmark Series/edited and annotated by Lincoln Diamont. Wesport, Conn. Praeger, 1998. Library of Congress Headings: Women–United States– History–18th century; United States–History–Revolution, 1775-1783–Women.)

In 1968, more than 200 years since the founding of the David Caldwell Log College, Duke Power Company placed a full page story in various North Carolina newspapers about the courage of Rev. David Caldwell and his wife, Rachel, when the log college libary was destroyed by Tories and British Soldiers.

In Rev. E. W. Caruthers’ 1842 biography of Rev. David Caldwell, he credits the Rachel with encouraging many of the men who were later to be the leaders of the Great Revival in Kentucky, Tennessee, and North Carolina between the 1790s and early 1800s, who had joined the ministry under Rev. David Caldwell’s teaching. Rachel Caldwell was of the religious conviction that a person had to exhibit in his or her personal life a compassion for those less fortunate but genuine in acceptance of Christ as their savior. She chose this theme when she had Rev. Caruthers give a funeral sermon upon the death of her husband. She shared in beliefs that were the beginning of the Second Great Awakening.

The Second Great Awakening was not limited to New Side Presbyterians, but included virtually all of the Methodists from 1772 and Separate Baptists from 1755. Substantial factors contributing to the revival were ex-soldiers who refused to put away the ways of tent life during the Revolution, the post war prevalence of gaming, card-playing, heavy drinking, and profane swearing, declining church attendance, and the apostasies of the French Revolution. (W. H. Foote, supra, pp. 370-72; Ebenezer Porter, Letters on Religious Revivals, pp. 8-9; Revolutionary Women in the War for American Independence: A One-Volume Revised Edition of…, by E F Ellet – Provided by Praeger/Greenwood, pp. 151, 220; The Great Revival: Beginnings of the Bible Belt, by John B Boles – University Press of Kentucky- 1996.)

Numerous web sites indicate that the Second Great Awakening also contributed to the abolitionist movement and the feminist movement.

Rev. Caruthers’ biography singles out one of David Caldwell’s assistant teachers at the Log College, Rev. James McGready, as the individual most influenced by Rachel Caldwell. He wrote A Short Narrative of the Revival of Religion in Logan County in 1801. It was widely disseminated through two religious journals. It had a great impact upon evangelical Christianity.

Historian Guion Griffis Johnson,1900-1989, Ante-Bellum North Carolina: A Social History: Electronic Edition, gathered together excerpts from prime sources to retell the Revival:

“James McGready was the immediate forerunner of the Great Revival among North Carolina Presbyterians. When he returned to North Carolina in 1788 after completing his course of study under a Presbyterian minister of Western Pennsylvania he began at once to evangelize. McGready was born of Scotch-Irish parentage in Pennsylvania about 1760. While he was still a boy, his parents moved to Guilford County, North Carolina, and settled in Buffalo congregation where the boy came under the influence of David Caldwell. An uncle took him to Pennsylvania to study for the ministry, and it was while in school there that he had the shock which influenced his later evangelism. Since the age of seven he had never failed to pray regularly; he had never been guilty of profanity, intoxication, Sabbath breaking, or anything which he considered sinful. Thus he had begun to think himself sanctified from birth. Yet to his great astonishment he overheard a conversation between two of his friends in which both declared that he had “not a spark” of sanctification. McGready at once began to examine himself and had no rest until “his heart tasted some of the joys of the Holy Ghost.” (W. H. Foote, op. cit., pp. 368-69.) ” On his return to North Carolina the young preacher, who had been licensed by Redstone Presbytery in Pennsylvania, passed through places in Virginia which had recently been awakened under the preaching of the Reverend John Blair Smith and the Reverend William Graham, leaders of the revival of 1787-1789 in Virginia,” (Gewehr, op. cit., pp. 179-84) and he visited Hampden-Sydney College, the center of the revival movement.

“Fresh from these revival scenes, young McGready began preaching along Haw River. He wanted to alarm church members and all those who long since had become comfortable in the hope of sanctification. “An unworthy communicant in such circumstances as yours,” he declared, pointing his finger at members of the church, “is more offensive to Almighty God than a loathsome carcase crawling with vermin set before a dainty prince.” (W. H. Foote, op. cit., p. 372.) This “Son of Thunder” soon alarmed piedmont North Carolina. People wept under his preaching. From Hawfields the excitement spread to Cross Roads, Alamance, Buffalo, Stony Creek, Bethlehem, Haw River, Eno, and the churches in Granville, and those along the Hyco and the Dan. (Ibid., p. 374.) Other preachers joined the young evangelist in the work. The Reverend David Caldwell, the veteran revivalist, stirred his own congregations. William Hodge, “the Son of Consolation,” who had attended Caldwell’s log college, joined McGready and frequently made preaching tours with him. William McGhee, a minister of Orange Presbytery, and Barton W. Stone, a licentiate, also began spreading the gospel. While these men were carrying on the revival in Orange and Guilford counties, two young evangelists from Virginia, converted during John Blair Smith’s revival, visited the congregations in Granville County. So great was the excitement which they created that many followed them into Virginia to hear more of the Word.

“Opposition soon appeared from those who had favored the Old Side during the schism. At Stony Creek in 1796 McGready’s enemies made a bonfire of the pulpit and left him a warning written in blood. (W. H. Foote, op. cit., p. 375.) Shortly afterward McGready moved to Kentucky. (MSS, Minutes of Orange Presbytery, September, 1796.) In August, 1796, McGready applied for an intermediate presbytery, “alleging that he had sufficient reason to lay before them to grant him a dismission from his charge.” The presbytery dismissed him on August 9, 1796, although it disapproved of his “hasty preparations for a removal, his not giving his people timely and public notice of his intended departure.” In 1797 he and William McGhee, who had preceded him to the West by several months, had the Great Revival of the West underway. By 1800 Barton W. Stone, William Hodge, Samuel McAdo, and John Rankin [all graduates of David Caldwell’s Log College] had all followed McGready to the West.

“Those whom McGready left in North Carolina carried on the work of revival as best they could, but the people had strangely closed their ears to religious excitement. Word of McGready’s remarkable work in Kentucky drifted back to North Carolina, and the Presbyterian preachers renewed their efforts. The Reverend Samuel McCorkle preached constantly on the necessity of a revival sermons printed in pamphlets and scattered through the neighborhood. (Caruthers, “Richard Hugg King and His Times,” pp. 22-23.) The women joined in the work. In Buffalo Church, three women, led by Mrs. David Caldwell, met once a week for a year to pray for a revival of religion. Women in other churches followed their example (Ibid.)

“During the summer of 1801 the Reverend William Paisley, pastor of the churches at Hawfields and Cross Roads in Orange County, worked feverishly for the coming of a revival. He and his elders met in the session house every Sunday between services and prayed earnestly for a “refreshing.” On communion Sunday in August, the Reverend David Caldwell, the Reverend Leonard Prather, and two licentiates, Hugh Shaw and Ebenezer B. Currie, all of whom had either assisted in McGready’s revival in North Carolina or had joined the ministry under his influence, were present to assist the pastor. On Monday the communion season was about to come to a close after the final sermon without any unusual manifestation of religious interest. The pastor arose to dismiss the congregation, but his disappointment was so great that he could not speak. “All was still as the grave and every face looked solemn, . . . it was a solemn moment and pregnant with most glorious results. A man, by the name of Hodge, happened to be there who had seen something of the work in the west and he, rising slowly from his seat, said in a calm but earnest voice, Stand still and see the salvation of God!” (Ibid.)

“The congregation spent the rest of the day in singing, prayer, and exhortation, and it was midnight before they would return home.

“By 1802 the revival had spread throughout the south. (C. C. Cleveland, The Great Revival in the West, 1797-1805, pp. 104-8.) (See generally, James McGready, The Posthumous Works of the Reverend and Pious James McGready (ed. James Smith). “There was never so great a stir of Religion since the day of Penticost,” wrote an “Old Soldier” from Caswell County in 1804, “. . . and it still goes on with rapidity throughout the union.” (Raleigh Register, October 1, 1804.)”

After Rev. McGready and pupils of David Caldwell’s Log College established revivalist churches in East Tennessee, Rev. Caldwell and Rachel continued to meet with them at Buffalo and nurture the evangelist movement in the new frontier.

The link between the the David and Rachel Caldwell, the Second Great Awakening and abolitionist movement, is delved in more deeply in my biography on Rev. Caldwell, posted in the library section at www.caldwellgenealogy.com.

Lancaster County, Pa, the birthplace of Rachel and David Caldwell, became the center of the abolitionist movement in Pennsylvania. The Underground Railroad began literally in the backyard of David and Rachel’s residence in Greensboro, North Carolina, about 1817-1818. It extended north to an underground depot at Drumore Township, Pennsylvania, the birthplace of Rev. Caldwell.

Rachel’s children were devoted to her. “Rachel died June 3, 1825, her children beside her bed, just after she folded her arms over her breasts, and with next breath meekly passed away.” (E. W. Caruthers, Life and Character of the Rev. David Caldwell, D.D, supra, p. 269; Library of Congress Subject Heading: David Caldwell, 1725-1824.) Of her children, three had become ministers and one a physician. There were many more ministers and physicians among her grandchildren.

The Daughters of American Revolution publication, 75 Years of Service, History of National Society Daughters of American Revolution of North Carolina or The First One Hundred Years 1898 (1998), mentions the Rachel Caldwell chapter. It was organized in 1933. It is the only DAR Chapter named after a Caldwell and still continues today, in Greensboro, North Carolina.

An intensive study of the Craighead family can be found in The Craighead Family: a Genealogical Memoir Of the Descendants of Rev. Thomas and Margaret Craighead, 1658-1876, by James Geddes Craighead. Philadelphia PA: Sherman & Co. Printers, 1876, and in his book, Scotch and Irish Seeds in American Soil, Philadelphia, 1878.

Rachel’s younger sister, Jane Craighead (1743-1766) married Patrick Calhoun. Jane died after miscarriage of twins. Patrick’s second wife, Martha Caldwell, daughter of a Capt. William Caldwell, and descendent of Cub Creek Virginia founder, John Caldwell, gave birth to John Patrick Calhoun (1782-1850), famous South Carolina statesman and orator, member of the U.S. Congress, and Vice President of the U.S. (1825-32) under John Q. Adams and Andrew Jackson.

Rachel was the sister of Rev. Thomas B. Craighead, the founding pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Nashville, Tennessee. Rev. Thomas B. Craighead (1775 graduate of Nassau Hall of Princeton University) was one of the founders of Davidson Academy, which afterwards became Nashville University. He became the first President, holding the position from 1785 to 1806. Andrew Jackson was his close personal friend and served on his Board of Trustees. Having succeeded at Davidson Academy, Thomas B. Craighead served as president of Cumberland College from 1806 to 1809. He served as pastor of a Shiloh Kentucky congregation between 1805-08. For fifteen years at his Nashville church he was known to speak of the elect, the preordained and the predestined, but never of spiritual repentance or new birth. He was a bystander to the Kentucky Revival of 1800. (E. H. Gillet, History of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, 2 vols., Philadelphia, 1864, p. 158.) He has been called the founder of Presbyterianism in Nashville, Tennessee.

Rachel’s brother Robert Craighead, born June 27, 1751, became one of the first settlers of Knoxville Tennessee, and built the first jail there. There is a Craighead-Jackson house in Knoxville and there was a “Craighead Cavern” now known as the “Lost Sea” tourist attraction near Knoxville. Robert served in the American Revolution under General Sumpter.

Rachel’s sister Agnes Craighead (c1740-1831), married John Alexander (1733-1814). The Battle of Gettysburg was fought on John’s former farm. John’s parents were Francis Alexander (1693-1760), son of Joseph Alexander and Abigail McKnitt, and Martha Blair (daughter of Samuel Blair and Martha C. Lyle ?). Samuel Blair was a high ranking Presbyterian Minister who had accused Rachel’s father, Alexander Craighead, of “irregularities before his Presbytery” in 1740.

Rachel’s sister Nancy Craighead, b. Mar. 17, 1740 in Octarora PA; d. Nov. 9, 1790, Waxhaw S.C., married (1) in 1759, Rev. William Richardson (1729-1771) and (2) in 1772 married George Dunlap (1736-1796).

Rachel’s father, Alexander Craighead, has been the subject of numerous biographies and history books covering Colonial America history. (e.g., Rev. William Henry Foote, Sketches of North Carolina Historical and Biographical of the Principles of a Portion of Her Early Settlers, New York: Robert Carter, 1846; Thomas Hugh Spence, The Rocky River Presbyterian Church, Charlotte, Rocky River Presbyterian Church, undated; and Neill Roderick McGeachy, A History of Sugaw Creek Presbyterian Church, 1954. There is also a number of websites discussing this man.)

Although a child of Rev. Thomas Craighead, Alexander was described by Thomas Hugh Spence as “a son of thunder,” a preacher spiritually descended from Elijah, John the Baptist, and John Knox. (Thomas Hugh Spence, The Rocky River Presbyterian Church, supra, p. 7.)

Alexander Craighead emigrated as a child from Donegal, Ireland, arriving in Boston during the first week of October, 1714 (some say 1715), with his parents on the ship Thomas & Jane (William Wilson, Master) to Boston. The possibility exists that his male ancestors once attended the same parish church as did David Caldwell’s Scottish ancestors, as there is a Craighhead Law (mountain) adjacent to the present boundaries of Caldwell Presbyterian Parish, Scotland. He served as the pastor of a Presbyterian church located at Rocky River in the eastern region of what was then Mecklenburg Co, North Carolina, between 1758 and 1766, and another at Sugar Creek, Charlotte, Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, where he died and is buried at Sugaw Creek Presbyterian Church Cemetery No. 1 (Elmwood Cemetery). That cemetery is located on West Craighead Road, Charlotte, North Carolina. Although current references state that Sugar Creek Presbyterian Church is the oldest church in Mecklenburg County, Foote gave that honor to Rocky River Presbyterian Church, overlooking the fact that Mecklenburg Co. had been subsequently subdivided. Mecklenburg County lies south of and adjacent to Rowan County, North Carolina, and west of Cabarrus County, in which Rocky River is presently located.

Alexander was accused in 1740 before his Presbytery of Donegal by Samuel Blair of irregularities but not any offence of moral turpitude, and his case was heard by the Philadelphia Synod in 1741. Members complained of his admiration for the teachings of Whitefield and preaching to a New London congregation contrary to the wishes of a neighboring pastor. During his trial he exchanged epithets with his accusers. He renounced the authority of the Presbytery, resigned, and preached in Octorara, Pennsylvania. (See, J. S. Futhey, History of Upper Octorara Church, Philadelphia, 1870.) In January 1742, he led his congregation in a revival of the old Scottish Covenants. Both the National Covenant of 1580-81 and the Solemn League and Covenant of the days of the Westminster Assembly were distributed and read.

In 1743, Alexander Craighead presented a sermon that was a precursor to the Declarartion of Independence: Craighead, Alexander, Renewal of the Covenants, National and Solemn League; A Confession of Sins; An Engagement to Duties; and a Testimony; As They Were Carried on at Middle Octorara in Pennsylvania, November 11, 1743 (Philadelphia: n.p., 2nd ed., 1748, 1743), (Cerlox Bound Photocopy Series, Edmonton, AB, Canada: Still Waters Revival Books). This sermon gave rise to a complaint to his Synod that it was full of treason, sedition, distraction and grievous perverting of the sacred oracles. Although the Synod criticized him, he continued to malign the King, but eventually elected to move to Virginia and served as the pastor for the Windy Cove Presbyterian congregation, Bath County, Virginia (which church celebrated its 250th anniversary in 1999). Anglicism was the official faith of Virginia. He was forbidden to celebrate Communion with his congregation. An Anglican priest had to repeat his marriage ceremonies to be valid.

After Gen. Braddock’s death in July 1755 had thrown the frontier to the mercy of the Indians, who were instigated to murder and plunder by the French during the French and Indian Wars, such that “terror reigned throughout the valley,” he moved to North Carolina, taking many members of the Windy Cove congregation with him. Eventually, Indians burned the Windy Cove church down to the ground. It was rebuilt in 1766.

Alexander Craighead was installed in 1758 as the pastor of Rocky River Presbyterian congregation and Sugaw Creek congregation. Almost all of the Rocky River settlers were Scotch-Irish New Side Presbyterians. An appreciable number had emigrated from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. As his congregation became increasingly displeased with the uncompromising and uncomprehending British government, he became an inspiring and fiery spokesman of the people of Mecklenburg County and their protests.

Neill R. McGeachy, in his History of the Sugaw Creek Presbyterian Church, Rock Hill, South Carolina, Record Print Co., 1954, wrote: “Sugaw Creek Congregation loved [Alexander] Craighead…Time and talent both fail as we try to assess the worth and contribution of this man whose life and work set the mold for Sugaw Creek Church and whose family and descendants have extended his influence through a large part of the Southland and its institutions.” Arnett states that he has been cited by a number of writers as one of the most foremost leaders for American Independence in North Carolina. Ethel Stephens Arnett, David Caldwell, supra, p. 12. Rev. A. W. Miller, D.D., in a centennial discourse given May 20, 1875, in Charlotte, stated that Alexander Craighead found in North Carolina what he had been denied in Pennsylvania and Virginia — sympathy with the patriotic views he had been publicly proclaiming since 1741.

Alexander Craighead was the son of Thomas Craighead. Thomas Craighead was educated at Scotland as a physician. After practicing medicine for some time, he abandoned the practice, studied divinity, and was a pastor for several years in Ireland, principally at Donegal. He emigrated to New England in 1715. He served as pastor at several churches before accepting a position as pastor of the Church at Pequea, Lancaster County, PA, in 1733, and in 1736, at Hopewell, Cumberland County, PA. He persuaded thousands of his countrymen and sympathizers to come to Pennsylvania. Rev. James Geddes Craighead, The Craighead Family: A Genealogical Memoir, supra, pp. 35-37.

Thomas Craighead was the son of Robert Caldwell. Rev. Robert Craighead, a Scot, went to Ireland as early as 1657 or 1658, and was pastor first at Donoughmore, where he labored for thirty years, and then at Londonderry, when the gates of the city were closed against the Papal forces of James II, whose purpose was to massacre the Protestants, and escaped during the second day of the siege, and made his way to Glasgow, Scotland. He then returned to Ireland and died in Londonderry, 1711. He was the author of several volumes on practical religion and on the controversy with the prelatists of Ireland. Rev. James Geddes Craighead, The Craighead Family: A Genealogical Memoir, Philadelphia 1876, pp. 35, 83; J. S. Reid, History of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, 3 vols., 2d ed., Belfast, 1867.

Robert Craighead or his ancestors may have dwelled in proximity to the Caldwell Estate within the Parish of Neilston, County Renfrew, Scotland, at a village called Craig. “Crayke” or “Craig” likely derives from the old Celtic word “Kraik,” meaning “rock.”

Rachel appears in the DAR Patriot Index. The DAR has a collection of papers relating to her. The DAR Library, 1776 D St., N. W., Washington, D.C. 20006-5392, 202-879-3229. The Buffalo Presbyterian Church library in Greensboro, North Carolina, has information on David and Rachel Caldwell, as does the Greensboro Historical Museum. (Greensboro Historical Museum, 130 Summit Ave., Greensboro, North Carolina 27401. 336-373-2043.) The Greensboro Public Library, 219 N. Church St., Greensboro, North Carolina 27402 (336) 335-5430 (Reference Division) [www. greensborolibrary. org] has in its North Carolina Collection a book entitled History of Rachel Caldwell Chapter, National Society of Daughters of American Revolution It also has the pedigree charts of the Guilford County genealogical Society.


© 2005 David Andrew Caldwell.