Biography of William A. Caldwell

The history of pioneer life has long rivaled in interest the tales of battles and of life on the tented field. Without the roar of cannon and musketry or the inspiring notes of fife and drum, hosts no less brave and determined have gone forth into the wilderness to reclaim it for the purposes of civilization and have fought the hard battle of conquering the raw land, the sturdy forest and the rocky fastnesses of the earth, making each yield of its treasures such elements as can be utilized for man. This is an arduous labor and one to which is due recognition and commendation, and therefore in preparing a history of Idaho it is with pleasure that we introduce the life records of such worthy pioneers as William A. Caldwell, whose identification with the state antedates the formation of its territorial government.

He was born in Newford, New York, December 10, 1832, and is of Scotch lineage. His grandfather, William Caldwell, having emigrated from Scotland before the Revolution, settled first in New Jersey and later removed to Orange County, New York. By occupation he was an agriculturist, and in connection with general farming he conducted a dairy. He married Miss Maria Anderson, also a native of Scotland, and they became the parents of eight children, of whom Mr. Caldwell of this review is now the only male survivor. The father died in the sixty-third year of his age, and the mother departed this life at the age of fifty-eight.

In Tompkins County, New York, William A. Caldwell spent his boyhood days. His early educational privileges there, acquired in the common schools, were supplemented by study in Ithaca, New York, after which he learned the boat-builder’s trade. He then served on the Panama railroad survey and crossed the plains from St. Paul with Colonel Knobles. While en route he heard of the Eraser river excitement, caused by the gold discoveries, and with four others continued across the country to Walla Walla, where he arrived December 20, 1859. The government post was then in process of construction, and the pioneers of the northwest were but beginning their labors of reclaiming this section of the country. Mr. Caldwell went with a pack train to Fraser River, taking to the mines provisions, consisting of bacon, beans, flour and sugar. Those commodities he bought for about twenty cents per pound and sold for ninety, thus realizing a handsome profit. He also sold his horses and cleared a large sum of money in that way. He made the trip to Carriboo, then returned to Walla Walla and from there made his way to Pierce City. The following year he secured a claim and in two years cleared two thousand dollars off that property.

On the expiration of that period he went to the Boise basin and took up a claim, but sold the property for six hundred dollars and engaged in packing to every camp in the territory. He had fifty-two packs, and between July and the late fall cleared four thousand dollars. In 1861 he was paid by Mr. Baker fifty dollars to carry a letter from Walla Walla to Lewiston, and made the journey of nearly a hundred miles with one horse in a day. Nor did he injure the horse by hard riding, but was able to ride it some distance the next day. Subsequently he sold his pack train and was engaged in furnishing hay and grain to the government, under contract. He had a station on the reservation, and met with most gratifying and creditable success in that undertaking. His station was located at the foot of the mountains, twenty-two miles distant from Lewiston, and there he presided for almost a quarter of a century. He also engaged in raising cattle and sheep, having one thousand head of cattle and ten thousand sheep. By the wise direction of his business affairs and his undaunted energy and perseverance he has gained a desirable fortune, and is now the owner of six hundred acres of land in one farm, together with several lots in Lewiston. He has a beautiful and valuable block in the city in which he and his family now reside.

Mr. Caldwell was married in 1871, the lady of his choice being Miss Maria Reddy, a native of Canada. They have four children: William, Solomon, Frederick and Moses. In his social relations Mr. Caldwell is a Master Mason, and politically he is a Democrat, but has never sought nor desired official preferment. He is now living retired, enjoying a rest which he has truly earned and richly deserves.



Illustrated History of the State of Idaho. Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company. 1899.

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