Family Stories

Old Caldwell Home and Burying Ground Described – Washington County

I found this most interesting story of the Caldwell family in my Pioneer History of Washington County, Kentucky.  Included in this book are newspaper articles that were written in the 1930’s by Orval W. Baylor.  Thank goodness for Mr. Baylor who was as avid about history as all of us.  This particular story tells of notebooks written by Miss Kate Thompson when she came back to visit her home county of Washington, and the accounts she wrote at that time.  Mr. Baylor was lent the notebooks.  Otherwise, we may never have known this story about William Caldwell.

The families mentioned are buried in Pleasant Grove Presbyterian Cemetery which was built in 1833, after some described here were already dead and buried.

William T. Caldwell’s will is also included in this post.  His wife, Mary, and children William, Charles, Lydia McChord and Mary Roberts are mentioned, as well as granddaughter Isabella McChord.

Old Caldwell Home and Burying Ground Described

Notebooks of Miss Kate Thompson Contain Much Interesting and Valuable Historical Data

Some months ago, through the kindness of Prof. Stith Thompson, of Bloomington, Ind., the editor of this page was privileged to examine a number of old notebooks that had been the property of the late Kate Thompson, of Indianapolis, Ind.

Miss Thompson was a devout student of history and she had traveled extensively, gathering a great amount of data pertaining to the families of Thompson, Mitchell, Litsey, Berry and others.  She never, however, so far as we know, put the material gathered into anything like an orderly and complete narration.  There were some five or six notebooks in all, each containing a great amount of data written down as the writer proceeded from place to place.

On numerous occasions Miss Thompson visited Washington County, and her notebooks tell the story of her ramblings from home to home.  One place visited was the old Caldwell home, about two and a half miles from Springfield.  Of her visit there, she wrote in the following manner:

“I visited the old Caldwell home with Mr. H. Leachman and Mrs. David Litsey.  It is now owned by Mr. Henry Leachman whose father lived there.

“The house is a very old one but not the earliest.  The first house was a handsome brick.  A stone in the chimney in the garret bore the date 1787.  This brick house was there when Thomas Leachman, father of Henry, bought the place in 1867.  The house was in the extent, from the pile of brick from the chimney site to the east of south end, about fifty feet.  It had a beautiful large living room with a richly carved mantle and there was other fine old wood showing.  A fire destroyed this house and the present, a frame, is near the wall line of the earlier house.

“Extending from the main rooms, separated by a hall, was the old stone floored kitchen.  A little farther way back was a stone house with two square holes on each side of the chimney on the south or east side.  Mr. McChord and Mr. Leachman both tell me that when the earliest Caldwell, William (son of Robert Caldwell of Mercer), lived there in the earliest house, that Terah Templin, a beloved minister of the earliest Presbyterian Church, came so often that Mr. Caldwell had the stone house put up for him.  It was known as ‘The Preacher’s House.’

“There is left out on the place, about a half a block away from the main house, still as well preserved as the Preacher Cabin, a large cabin of stone with more windows that was one of the slaves’ homes on this place.  The square holes in the cabin, high up, are said to have been for firing through against Indian attacks.

“Mr. Henry Leachman’s memory went well back.  He says he knows that the mill which was built on the McChord branch of the river along the old road (clearly showing its traces yet) that went past the Keens’ place and this Caldwell home on to Mackville, and which was later made a disused road by the present county road, was built by the Caldwell’s who owned it and the race.  Mr. Leachman says that he was born in 1842, and he was a ‘kid’ interested in the mill, and well remembers the structure, etc., of it and the race.  The mill must have been standing as late as 1855.  He says the mill was a large, all stone or rock structure, two stories, and the race water was caught by an old double wooden mill wheel with wooden troughs, each capable of holding a half barrel of water.  He says there was a dam (traces still showing) and the water poured out of these troughs or buckets and made a rush and roar.  It was a flouring mill.  He says the mill on the Berry place was a saw mill and he remembers it as an old wooden structure, and that it was a sash saw mill.

“The Caldwell’s had a large burying ground across from the old road.  This must have been used by English people.  A stone wall, built by Thomas Leachman, surrounds the place, and the lot is about 200 feet square.  There are locust trees and the place is very shaded.  A persimmon and apple orchard were on this same side of the road.  There were two very old persimmon trees that bore seedless fruit, a rarity, but there were some others on a few places in the county.  The persimmon is a native tree.

“A very old milk trough is in the yard (stone) and marks the site of a fine old milk house.  A cellar and ice house were later on the place.  The basement of the old brick house had a stone floor and was fine and roomy under the whole of the main house.

“There were Mitchells living in the old brick house for a while.  He was from Jefferson County.

“Mr. Leachman’s people came from Prince William County, Virginia, to Boyle County, Kentucky.  The first comer was named Simon Leachman.

“The graveyard was most interesting – very English or Scotch.  The main burials were old tombs.  The one of the Robertson woman was the earliest, and its foundation was of well-shaped, even rough stones, with straight lines of separations, but no mortar.  It had a top covering stone at least four inches thick and all the others were as thick but not as broad as this with molding.

“This oldest is Mary Robertsen (Norwegian or Swedish in spelling) died 1811, in her 73rd year.  Born then in 1748.  The inscription was clear and simple, no ‘Sacred to the memory’ being used.

“The second was of William T. Caldwell, born May 15, 1762; died 1827.  The script of this tomb is very ornate – old English, especially the word ‘Sacred’.

“The third was of Mary Caldwell, born May 15, 1772; died 1827.  Her inscription was simpler.  Then Thomas Caldwell, born July 1798; died August 12, an infant.  The stone of this infant was a vertical ornamental slab.  Cemented smooth blocks were under all the big tombs except Mary Robertsen’s.  A couple of the foundations were with a few broken-down stones.  One slab was on a broken foundation and without any legible inscription except ‘Died 1827.’

“There were two more tombs.  Sarah Jane Caldwell, born 1827; died 1828, and Elizabeth Caldwell, born 1800, died 1810.

“I think some infectious disease like typhoid must have stricken those who died in 1827 (three grown people).  All the cemented masonry was later than 1811.  Two additional stones were for William Caldwell, born 1803, died 1850, his stone exactly like his father’s, and Isabella McChord, daughter of John and Lydia McChord, born April 27, 1800; died March 26, 1832.

“The west half of the yard shows a number of straight rough stone slabs and these reach up nearer to the positions of the Caldwell tombs.  I think they were earlier and were of pioneers.  I do not think slaves would have been buried within same enclosure as close to the position of the whites.

“We drove back by a lane road down to the river bluff.  A cultivated field was between the bluff and the river and at (X) was an old Indian race track.  Miles Saunders and Mr. Leachman studied it earlier.  Its form was much clearer then.  It was a track for running about a half mile and the Indians must have used it.  Arrow stones were made nearby.  A mound was in a field that was the ‘factory’ place it is said, and these arrow points have been found in abundance thereabout.”

Will of William T. Caldwell

Washington County Will Book E Pages 275-277

I, William T. Caldwell, of the County of Washington and State of Kentucky, being of sound mind and memory, do make and ordain this my last will and testament in manner and form following.  First my will and desire is all my just debts to be paid.  I lend unto my beloved wife, Mary Caldwell, the plantation whereon I live during her life, together with the house and household furniture, also all my kitchen furniture of every kind during her life.

Item.  At the death of my wife, I give my tract of land and plantation whereon I live to my son, William Thomas Caldwell and his heirs forever.  It is my will and desire should my said son, William Thomas Caldwell, think proper to settle on any part of my tract of land, given unto my wife during her life, my will and desire is that he should do so.  It is my will and desire my said son, wherever he may settle on the tract of land he shall have the use of only two hundred acres during the life of my wife.

Item.  I give to my son Charles Caldwell all of the Negroes and other property I have given him possession of, I give to him and his heirs.  I give to my executor the tract of land whereon John McCord now lives with all its appurtenances belonging thereto and all the Negroes in the possession of McCord, except one Negro girl named Mary which I give to my granddaughter Isabella McChord.

Item.  My will and desire is at the death

of my daughter Lydia McChord my executor is to hold the property so as not to go to the payment of said McChord’s debts, the above named Negroes and land is to be applied to the benefit of my daughter Lydia McChord and her children during her life and at her death to be equally divided among the children of said Lydia McChord and at my death, if it can be ascertained, if the said Lydia has not got her full share of my estate she is to get it at her mother’s death, but my executor is to hold it from the payments of McChord’s debts.  McChord is not to have any control over the property that I have left to my executor for the benefit of my daughter Lydia and her children during her life.

Item.  I give to my daughter Mary Logan Roberts during her life all of the Negroes and other property I have given her possession of and a grown Negro girl at my death out of my estate and her equal dividend at her mother’s death, which she is to have during her life and at her death, should she die without an heir lawfully begotten of her body, in that case should she die without an heir at her death to return to my children and grandchildren except she has a child of children of her own, if she has some then her own children are to be the heir.

Item.  I give to my son William T. Caldwell, at my death, his choice of two of my Negro men and the rest at his mother’s death.  He is not to come for only for a half share, with the rest of the children at my wife’s death, the property is then to be divided amongst my children. (last part of this section unreadable).

Item.  I lend unto my wife Mary Caldwell during her life all my Negroes not disposed of and all of my stock of every kind and plantation utensils, my cart and wagon.

Lastly, I do hereby nominate and appoint my friend Robert Wickliffe, my son Charles Caldwell and my son William T. Caldwell, my executors, and my wife Mary Caldwell my Executrix to this my last will and testament, revoking all former wills by me heretofore made – as witness my hand and seal this 14th day of July in the year of our Lord Christ, eighteen hundred and twenty-seven.

William T. Caldwell

Witness Samuel Booker, James H. Mudd, Thomas Head, Leonard Cheatham

I, William T. Caldwell, do make and publish this codicil to this my last will and testament, that is to say, I give Lydia McChord the thousand dollars I have charged her by this will to be accountable for, as witness my hand and seal this 14th July 1827.

William T. Caldwell

Witnesses Samuel Booker, Thomas Head, James H. Mudd, Leonard Cheatham.

I, William T. Caldwell, do make this my second codicil to my last will and testament.  Item.  I give and bequeath unto my son Thomas the tract of land adjoining my home place, it being the land I purchased of Spencer, to him the said Thomas and his heirs forever.  Witness my hand and seal this 18th of July 1827.

Teste.  Thomas Head, A. E. Gibbins, P. J. Booker

At a county court began and held for Washington County at the courthouse in Springfield on Monday, the 27th day of August 1817, this last will and testament of William T. Caldwell, deceased, with the first codicil thereunder written, was proven before in open court by the oaths of Thomas Head and Samuel Booker, two of the subscribing

Witnesses thereto and the second codicil there underwritten was proved in open court by the oath of Thomas Head, one of the subscribing witnesses thereto and ordered to be recorded, which is done accordingly in Will Book D, 275, under my hand the state above.

Att.  John Hughes, Clerk


1 reply »

  1. I know it is our history, but it sickens me when I read accounts of ownership of humans, negros. This and so many other stories show how easy it must have been to assume the ownership role. Another sad and disgusting part of our past.

    Thanks for posting.


    On Mon, Dec 21, 2020 at 9:48 AM Kentucky Kindred Genealogy wrote:

    > Kentucky Kindred Genealogical Research posted: “I found this most > interesting story of the Caldwell family in my Pioneer History of > Washington County, Kentucky. Included in this book are newspaper articles > that were written in the 1930’s by Orval W. Baylor. Thank goodness for Mr. > Baylor who was as av” >

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