The Myths

The myths and legends of Caldwell have been around many more years than I. These myths have been propagated and perpetuated for much too long, and have even become public record in documents belonging to two-time Vice President John Caldwell Calhoun and Joseph Caldwell, a founding member of Princeton University.

I have seen four or five versions which all say basically the same thing, that Caldwell is a French name; that Caldwells were Muslim pirates; that Oliver Cromwell and Queen Elizabeth I are related to Caldwell. If you have a version of this story that you don’t see here, please forward it to me so that I may include them here.

Version One:
“ONE CALDWELL FAMILY HISTORY” by Mrs. Harold Walters of New Ross, IN

“In 1400 there were two notorious brothers, pirates, named Barbarosa, who controlled the Mediteranrarean….. for 20 years until they were defeated by an African captain. Among those who escaped were 3 brothers, John, Alexander & Oliver, each who commanded a vessel under the Barbarossas. They returned to their native France and established a naval force….. Merchants hired them to protect their fleets and as it was a benefit for France, they were paid $20,000 by King Francis I. In 1425, Emperor Charles V of Germany & also King of Spain was at war with King Francis, the brothers sided with Charles the V….. They found favor with James V of Scotland, who welcomed the brothers to Scotland in exchange for troops he gave them land in Ayreshire, Scotland, which they purchased from Bishop Douglas. The locality was noted for a spring of wells of pure cold water, & the region was known as the “region of cold wells”. Hence the brothers became known as John of cold well etc. and later John Caldwell etc.

Version Two:
From Virginia Soldiers of 1776

The Earliest Records of the Caldwells relate to three brothers, who lived near the boundary of France and Italy, at Toulon. The religious persecution of the Huguenots forced them to migrate across the country, and finally to Solway Firth, Scotland. They purchased land and sent to Toulon for their families. On their land was a notably cold well; and it is supposed that neighbors designated them as John, Alexander and Oliver of the Cold-Well. The Family lived here, marring with prominent families. It is told that Elizabeth (Queen) was their Patron and friend. Oliver Cromwell’s mother was Anne Caldwell of Solway Firth. Joseph, John, Andrew and David Caldwell accompainied Cromwell to the north of Ireland, where he became Lord Governor. Cromwell kept the Caldwells in his interest, but when Charles II (the 2nd) was restored to his power, David, John and Alexander fled to America. Joseph died in Ireland; Daniel remained there, but some of his children emigrated to America, and to Va., settling on the James River and elsewhere.

Version Three:
Taken from Michael Caldwell’s “” geocities site.

Before the name Caldwell came into existence, our ancestors were part of two groups of people living in Italy who called themselves the Albigenses and Waldenses. Both of these groups were Protestant in their beliefs and are mentioned often in historical accounts. At this time, those of Protestant belief were being subjected to heavy persecution by the Roman Catholic Church. Eventually, because of these persecutions, they were forced over the mountainous border that separates Italy from France and settled in a small village called Toulon, near the foot of Mt. Aud (also called Mt. Arid in some accounts). It was here that three brothers, John, Alexander, and Oliver, were born.

They spent all of their boyhood days in Toulon, and as they became young men, began what became known as the Cold Well Estate. The estate itself gained its’ name from a much frequented and well known watering place located within its’ boundaries. As was customary during this time, the three brothers became known as John, Alexander and Oliver of Cold Well. Later, the “of” was dropped and they were referred to as the Cold Well brothers.

[Michael Caldwell comments: The above account seems to suggest that the Caldwell name had its’ beginning in France. However, two independent research firms (Halberts, in Bath, Ohio and The Historical Research Center, Inc. headquarters in Deerfield Beach, Florida) indicate that the name seems to be original to Scotland. Additionally, if Cold Well had been added as a surname in France, one would reasonably expect that it would have remained in the French form (i.e.. using French words for cold well, not English). This same account, itself, which above seems to suggest a French origin, refers later in this narrative to the beginning of the Caldwell family on an estate in Scotland, not France. Finally, a close reading of the above does not require the conclusion that the estate was actually in France. I believe the three brothers grew up in France, but established their estate (and thereby gained their surname) after relocating in Scotland. Research performed by the Historical Research Center indicates that the name Caldwell, derives from the Old English words of “Ceald Wielle” meaning, literally, cold spring or stream.]

But persecution began to mount here in France under the reign of Francis the First, a Catholic sympathizer. Again, they were forced to leave their homes. This time they traveled by way of Lisbon, Spain to an eventual new home in Scotland. It is from this start of the Caldwell name that all Caldwell’s, both in Europe and America, appear to be descendant. According to the aforementioned report, Hugh Caldwell once described a silver cup he had seen which had been engraved with a pictorial history of these three brothers. He had been in conversation with two other men who were of the Caldwell family and relates the following:

“This Oliver Caldwell, while in conversation there (Carlisle, Penn.), showed me a copy of this document, which I was also permitted to copy. Besides this document, Mr. Oliver Caldwell showed me a richly engraved silver cup, with historic sketches engraved thereon. This cup had been handed down through fourteen generations from the first settlement in Scotland by the tree ancient brothers. “First on this cup was seen a man drawing water from a well, representing the famous watering place near Toulon, France, where lived and were reared the three brothers, John, Alexander and Oliver.

“Next on the cup was seen three ships on the sea, tossed by high waves, representing the former sailor life of the three brothers while sea captains on the Mediterranean, and also representing the emigrant ships in which they had previously sailed from Lisbon, Spain to Scotland.

“Next was engraved a fire burning on a hill signifying a beacon light and signal of danger. It was during one of the cruel persecutions in France that the Huguenots and other Protestants had to flee for their lives from the face of their cruel persecutors and our fathers had to leave France and go to Scotland to find safety.

“Next was seen twenty men on horseback in armor representing the military service required by King James VI of Scotland, upon their settlement there.

“On the bottom of the cup was engraved the name of the original owner, ‘Alexander Cauldwell, Mt. Aud, France’.”

After being forced to leave their homes in France these three brothers were found as sailors on the Mediterranean Sea, manning three cruisers (the three ships on the silver cup) and apparently became rather rich and powerful sea

The three brothers were originally and apparently aligned with the Barbarossa brothers, generally considered pirates of much note at the time. The Barbarossa’s were of Algerian birth and became the dominant power in the Mediterranean for 20 or more years after driving the Spanish from Algeria. These pirates were themselves defeated by the Governor of Aran when he made a massive effort to end the dominance of the Barbarossa’s. John, Alexander and Oliver escaped with out being captured by the Aranian Governor and returned to Toulon for a short time.

[Michael Caldwell comments: One of our visitors (Karen–see Guestbook entry) offers the following very plausible alternate narrative: “I personally do not believe our christian ancestors were in anyway associated with these Muslum Turks who used Christian slaves to row their ships. The brothers became well known in 1504 when they captured two of the Pope’s Galleys. These ships were almost ten times the size of the pirate ships, so it was a great fete! . . . The Barbarosas’ were African pirates who probably came upon the Caldwell brothers and perhaps a band of pirates that they belonged to. My personal guess is that it was the Barbarous brothers who defeated the Caldwell fleet.” Thanks, Karen, for the input!]

John, Alexander and Oliver, however, put their years of experience on the sea to good use and amassed a naval fleet of their own, one rivaling the defeated Barbarossa’s in force. Spanish Merchants hired John, Alexander and Oliver to do away with the remaining pirates on the Mediterranean. Though hired by the Spanish, King Francis I of France was so pleased with their success, that he rewarded the brothers, as well, to the tune of $20,000-a substantial sum of money in that day!

They then determined from that time forward to abandon the high seas and returned to their home in Mr. Aud, France. But on their return there, they found France now in a state of turmoil as a result of the persecutions suffered by the Huguenots and Piedmontees, as the Protestants in France were called. They, being protestant themselves, returned at once to Spain.

[Michael Caldwell comments: This is quite a “romantic” and fun story with very little direct evidence as to its’ authenticity other than the included references to valid dates and historical events. However, the story seems to be fairly consistent and persistent as it comes from several different branches of the family. It is likely that there is much of truth in the account as well as a healthy sprinkling of fantasy to spice it up a bit. There are some discrepancies in some of what is here related. The above recount and the reference to King James I in the paragraph below, would both indicate a time frame of early to mid-1500s. However, a number of records have been found which attest to the existence of a number of individuals with the Caldwell name as early as the first part of the 14th century (i.e.. 1300s), two hundred years before that indicated in this narrative. Further examination of this apparent discrepancy is included below]

From Spain, they took a merchant ship bound for the coast of Scotland. They landed at a place called Solway Firth. And, finding the country (Scotland) in peace under the Protestant reign of King James VI, they determined to settle there. After finding a large land holder, he being a wealthy bishop of the place they purchased from him a large estate, and sent back to their native land for other relatives and friends and in a few years became numerous and prosperous. But, in order to acquire full title to this land, it was necessary that they should gain the consent and signature of the King to their purchase. This they did. But the King, upon signing their titles, imposed the following condition; that the three brothers should, when the King required it, each send a son with a troop of twenty men to aid in the wars of the King. And these should be men of sound mind and able bodies, fit for service.

[Michael Caldwell comments: Another source names that Bishop as Bishop Douglas with the clarification that they did not simply purchase some land from him, but, rather, purchased his entire estate. Also, variations in this history usually refer to King James I and never mention James VI. There was a King James I of Scotland who ruled from 1406 until his murder in 1437. However, he was largely an “absentee” monarch having been captured by the French in the year of his coronation and being held until 1424. Also, other events and people refered in the story (the Barbarossa brothers, for example),do not coincide with the rule of this king. This, then, would also have been the estate with the cold well or spring located on it. However, it may well be that John, Alexander and Oliver were not the first from that estate to be referred to as coming from Cold Well. One William de Caldwell is recorded with a fee (i.e.. a “fee” was usually an inherited estate of land) in 1342. The “de” was a popular preposition used as surnames began common usage and could be read as “at” or “of the” with in a name. Those prepositions were later dropped, in most cases, or, for some, became part of the surname (i.e.. At-wood).

It became a matter of significant pride for one to be called by their Christian or given name with a reference to the land from which they came, added to it. Land owners as well as anyone associated with that land or area often did so, as a way of differentiating themselves from others with the same given name. That the land here in question with the cold well or spring existed prior to the arrival of our three brothers would be understood and unquestioned (i.e. they did not create the land nor the spring). That others may have added the descriptive of “Cold Well” to their names before the time of our three brothers would certainly be a possiblity and is, in fact, indicated by the apparent existence of individuals with that name years before John, Alexander and Oliver. None-the-less, it would remain within the realm of possibility that the Caldwell name, as an inherited surname began with the three brothers. It is not apparent when the usage of surnames evolved from being only a differentiation used at the descretion of isolated individuals, to that of an inherited surname passed from parents to children. In addition, it was not an uncommon practice, apparently, for clerks of that time period to arbitrarily add a descriptive addition to the given name of a vassal (ie. one who had been given some rights to portions of land owned by a superior Lord), for example, in order to identify them from others with the same given name, but totally without the vassals knowledge. It is possible, for example, that the William de Caldwell mentioned above was such a vassal and never knew that he would ever become known as anything except plain old William.]

We find our forefathers peacefully settled in Scotland, under the most favorable circumstances in life, both in wealth and in talent. Their descendants have borne the favored name of Caldwell, through fourteen generations in Scotland, England, Ireland, and America. Shortly thereafter, part of the family migrated across the Highlands of Scotland. It was nearly one hundred years prior to the time of Oliver Cromwell that they went northward from Solway Firth, through Scotland, mingling with these people as they traveled.

The people of Scotland were adherents of John Knox, the Scotch reformer and many of them became part of his “Presbyterian” belief. They were among the covenanters of Scotland and the seceders of Ireland and, through several generations in Scotland, they became Scottish Highlanders. Passing over from the highlands of Scotland into the north of Ireland, they became Scotch-Irish. They, however, never mingled with the native Irish of Ireland. The Irish were of the Celtic race and had inhabited the island from time immemorial and were converted to the Roman Catholic faith by St. Patrick. But in the north of Ireland were Picts and Scots who were converted Protestants and Presbyterians and the two races were ever at antipathy with each other, socially and religiously. Consequently, they were always a separate and distinct people and have kept it so.

Some of these ancestors or ours lived in the north of Ireland, near a lake called Yon. The great-grandfather of the original writer of this report (Thomas H. Caldwell) brought with him from that lake, a resin hone made from hickory wood which was formed into stone, by the action of the lake, which petrifies wood into stone in seven years. The lake contains a very fine emery sand which enters into the pores of the wood and petrifies it. This relic he brought to America with him and it was handed down until it came into possession of R. A. Caldwell, brother of Thomas H. Caldwell. But it was lost during the Civil War of 1861. This hone was greatly prized and greatly lamented when lost.

From the north, they migrated to the south of Ireland, through Wales and from thence to America. The Caldwell family in Scotland and Ireland was probably very numerous because we find that after fourteen generations of nearly continuous emigration to America, Oliver Caldwell comes to America, as well, leaving behind still more Caldwell’s in Ireland.

Several well known historical figures play an important role in our history. Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658), Protector of England from 1653 to 1658, was of our family through his grandmother, Ann of Cauldwell. He brought over from Scotland a large host of his kindred of the Cauldwell family and gave them positions of honor and trust during his lease of power at the head of the English nation.

From the north of Ireland, one of the young men who still retained the old family name from which he had descended, Alexander Caldwell, emigrated south in the days of Cromwell and joined the “Friends” under Cromwell with other Caldwell families in their schemes of ambition in attaining places of honor and trust under the government of the Cromwell’s.

But after Cromwell’s death and the restoration of the monarchy under Charles II of England, they were banished, and this portion of the family also fled to America, forming colonies, one in Virginia, one in New Jersey, one in New York, and one in Philadelphia. Our historian writes;

“Joseph, John, Andrew and David of Cauldwell, went with Oliver Cromwell to Ireland, of which he was Lord Governor, after he was promoted to the Protectorship of England. They remained in his interest in Ireland, until the restoration of the crown under Charles II, when John, David and Andrew fled to America. Joseph died in Ireland, Daniel continued there; but several of his children emigrated to America and helped form colonies at James River, Rhode Island and Philadelphia.”

Before coming over, however, he (Alexander) confided to a family relative of the same name who had come from the old estate of Solway Firth, of the defeat of the Caldwell family and determined to make her his bride. Her name was Mary of Cauldwell, a distant relative but too distant to form a barrier to a closer union. After a short acquaintance and a shorter courtship, they were married in Wales and the family emigrated to America with one brother of the groom (David) and two brothers of the bride, John and Andrew, both young men. They landed at Philadelphia and formed a colony, but poverty had overtaken the Caldwell family at the time of their emigration to America and instead of the wealth and honor with which they were surrounded in the palmy days of the Cromwell’s they had now become exiles and had been hunted throughout England for their lives, which made it necessary for them to go into self-banishment for personal safety. These were dark days for the Caldwell families, and they had to sell themselves to the ship master to gain their passage over to America. The ship master in turn had to hire them out to service in Philadelphia to such as he could find, to pay their passage. This service, however, they accomplished with faithfulness and hearty good will, without a murmur, and when accomplished were glad to call themselves “free men of America.” And this freedom they ever afterwards maintained at the point of the sword and the mouth of the cannon and when kings and tyrants from the “mother country” sent armies to America to again subject them to vassalage, their breasts were bare to the conflict and, like Cromwell, their relative and preceptor, their war cry was “down with the tyrants.” They fought through the war of the revolution in the cause of liberty.

So we learn that the Caldwell families from the old estate in Scotland, know as the Cauldwell Estate, are numerous in America. Not only was Oliver Cromwell and many other members of the Revolution in England members of our family, but also Queen Elizabeth of England is of the same family. Thomas H. Caldwell tells us that his mother, Mrs. Elenor Caldwell once had in her possession a gold chain that belonged to Queen Elizabeth, and had been handed down through many generations but was lost during Mrs. Caldwell’s lifetime.

She was much grieved over the circumstance, of course. Our ancestors were descendants of Alexander Cauldwell; Oliver Cromwell, a descendant of Oliver, the younger brother; and John Caldwell Calhoun of South Carolina from the eldest brother, John.

Although our friends at the time of landing in Scotland were probably not religious, yet being raised up by Protestant parentage gave them partiality to that form of doctrine and church policy taught by John Knox, the great Scottish reformer. And settling among the Scottish people, a people preeminently religious and of the strictest order of faith, Presbyterianism, they were not long in falling in with the sentiments and religious views of their new neighbors. They no doubt also found their future partners for life among the daughters of that clime, reared and brought up within the pale of the church and deeply imbued with the principles and doctrines of the Presbyterian church. Thus the new generations became so thoroughly Presbyterian that in successive ages they have shown their attachment to the Presbyterian all their settlements, wherever they have gone. And ministers of the gospel, elders, deacons and numerous church members have been among their later descendants.

Our forefathers personally were men of stately mien and large physique and possessed of bright, open and intelligent countenances; were of dark skin, deep penetrating eyes, high rolling, smooth foreheads, were affable and genial in their manners, friendly and accommodating in their disposition and were disposed to be talkative and generous to a fault. Although naturally of dark complexion, in mingling with the “blue-eyed belles of Scotland” through thirteen generations, the younger generations have shown many instances of the fair hair and blues eyes of the mother’s family. Thus the blue eyes and the black eyes appear in almost every family.

Version Four:
Taken from “The House of Waltman and its Allied Families….” by Lora S. La Mance and published by The Record Company, St. Augustine, Florida, 1928:

Caldwell Section

Caldwell. The Caldwells were originally Norman-French. In the Historical Collections of Joseph Habersham, D. A. R., Volume I, the story is thus told:

There were two Norman brothers, John and Alexander, seaman, travelers and warriors. They operated largely on the Mediterranean Sea. They were natives of Toulon, France. After a twenty-years’ absence they returned to France. Political troubles loomed up in the latter part of the 1300’s, and the brothers were mixed up in it and obliged to flee from France to keep their heads upon their shoulders.

They went to Scotland and received an estate near Solway Frith. James I granted it on these conditions: Their estates should be called the Caldwell (cauld well, meaning a cold spring,) manors. If the king became involved in a war, each brother should send a son with a retinue of twenty men of sound limbs with him to battle for the king. A silver cup is yet preserved that is engraved with the design of a chieftain and twenty men, all armed, behind them a fire on a hill; under it the words “Mount Arid,” (the hill where their estates lay,) and a further addition of a vessel surrounded by high waves.

At the Reformation the Caldwells became Protestants of the strongest kind. Ann Cauldwell of this Scotch line was the mother of Oliver Cromwell. In the Cromwell wars John, Joseph, David and Andrew Caldwell went with Cromwell to Ireland. After Cromwell’s death and the restoration of King Charles II, John and Andrew fled to America for safety. (Joseph and David had already died.) Nearly all of the Pennsylvania and the southern Caldwells are from these two brothers, or from David’s son John. They landed at Newcastle, Delaware. From there they went to Lancaster County, Pa. Several of John and Mary Caldwell’s sons went south, as did several sons of Andrew Caldwell. No attempt will be made to trace but one of these, Rev. Dr. David Caldwell from whom sprang the LaMance and Watkins families of this book.

Andrew Caldwell landed at Newcastle, Del., December 10, 1724. He went to Lancaster County soon after. His wife was Ann Stewart, whom he married in Ireland six years before. Ann was a Stewart, and from the fourteen kinds that were Stuart (the French form of Stewart), through high and mighty dukes, lords, earls and down to basrons and “gentles,” that line never forgot that they were Stewarts, one of the greatest families in all Scotland or England.

Alan, a younger son of the Count of Dol, in Brittany (France), crossed over to England, and was given high honors by Henry I. Alan’s second son, Walter Fitz-Alan, went to Scotland and by David I was made dapifer, or seneschal or steward of all Scotland. For seven successive generations they were “stewards.” Hence the surname. Three of the seven were regents over the kingdom. Walter, the sixth steward, married Margery, the daughter of King Robert Bruce, and thus eventually brought the crown to the family.

Version Five:
Taken from “The Old Free State” (A Contribution to the History of Lunenburg County and Southside Va) By Landon C. Bell. Vol II The William Byrd Press, Inc Printers, Richmond , Va 1927:

This family is a very ancient one. It is said to be descended from Albigenses and Waldenses of the Piedmont section of Italy, who were driven into France by the Roman Catholic persecutions. Some of the Caldwells, who were living at Mount Arid, near Toulon, France, earned the enmity of Francis I, of France, and after his escape from imprisonment under Charles V, of Germany, three Caldwells, brothers, John, Alexander and Oliver emigrated to Scotland, and there with the consent of James I, purchased the estate of a Bishop named Douglas, located near`Solney Frith.` It was proved that “the said brothers, John, Alexander and Oliver, late of Mount Arid, “ should have their estate known as “Caldwell” on condition that when the King should require they should each send a son with twenty men of sound limb, to aid in the wars of the King. (Account of Elsie Chapline Pheby Cross, in Journal of American History.)

There is a cup, preserved as an heirloom, which represents a chieftain and twenty mounted men, all armed, and a man drawing water from a well, with the words underneath, “Alexander of Cauldwell.” It also shows a fire burning on a hill, over the words, “Mount Arid,” and also a vessel surrounded by high waves, which the latter was intended to commemorate the fact that their ancestors were common in the Mediterranean, in the latter part of the Fourteenth Century. (Id. Cross)

Oliver Cromwell’s grandmother was Ann Cauldwell, and Joseph, John, Alexander, Daniel, David, and Andrew, of Cauldwell, went with Cromwell to Ireland, and in various capacities served his interest there, after his accession to the Protectorate. Upon the restoration of Charles II, a member of the family emigrated to America.