David Caldwell

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David Caldwell David Caldwell was one of Greensboro's outstanding residents. He moved here in 1765 and died in 1824, so his life in Guilford County covers many years and many changes. He was known as the minister of Buffalo Presbyterian and Alamance Presbyterian churches, and was a physician as well as the founder of Log College, which educated many prominent men of the day.

His home and Log College were in the area where Bicentennial Park is now located. Archaeological investigations have disclosed the spot where the Log College stood. Visitors can learn more about Caldwell at the David and Rachel Caldwell Historical Center.

The library owns the following books about Caldwell and the excavations:

A Short List for the General Reader


Arnett, Ethel Stephens. David Caldwell. Greensboro: Media, 1976. An outstanding local historian wrote this readable book, which includes many illustrations. It gives a good picture, not only of Caldwell’s life and work, but also of the early history of Guilford County.

Caruthers, E. W. A Sketch of the Life and Character of the Rev. David Caldwell, D.D. 2003.
When Caruthers wrote this book, people who remembered David Caldwell were still alive, and it is based on "facts in his history, which were still circulating in his neighborhood as a kind of floating capital for conversation." Caruthers collected all materials that he could find -- church records, letters from several of Caldwell’s pupils, conversations with aged members of Caldwell’s congregations, and information from surviving members of Caldwell’s family. The NC Collection also has the 1842 edition.

David Caldwell as a Slave Owner:

Coffin, Levi. Reminiscences of Levi Coffin: The Reputed President of the Underground Railroad. Abridged and edited by Ben Richmond. Richmond, Ind.: Friends United Press, 2001. This book includes an account of an incident involving David Caldwell and his slave Ede on pages 8-12 of the 2001 abridged edition and pages 23-28 of the 1876 edition.

Swain, Gwenyth. President of the Underground Railroad: A Story about Levi Coffin. Minneapolis: Carolrhoda Books, 2001. This book for children includes the story about Caldwell and Ede.


Bowles, David. Spring House. San Antonio, TX: Plum Creek Press, 2006. This novel is based on family stories about Adam Mitchell and his family, who lived in the Greensboro area at the time of the Battle of Guilford Courthouse. The author says that he did extensive historical and genealogical research and wrote nothing contradicting known historical facts, characters, or events. He chose to write his book as historical fiction to allow for imagination when details were not known and to make it more interesting to readers. When information in various documents conflicted, he used the sources that were best documented and/or most supported by evidence. At the back of the book are a list of surnames of families who married into the Mitchell clan, NC militia muster roll, names of NC regulators, and lists of resources, notes, and an index. There are many references to Caldwell in the index.

Moore, D’oyle G. My Friend, David Caldwell. Summerfield: Sword of the Spirit Publications, 1999. This fictionalized version of Caldwell’s life ends in 1777, when Caldwell was 48 years old.

Background About the Guilford County Area in Caldwell’s Day:

Arnett, Ethel Stephens. Mrs. James Madison: The Incomparable Dolley. Greensboro: Piedmont Press, 1972. This biography of Dolley Madison, written by a local historian, begins with a description of the area that is now Guilford County, as it was around the time of Dolley’s birth in 1765, which happened to be the year Caldwell arrived here. Although Dolley lived in this area for only about a year, Arnett devotes 15 pages to the area of her birth.

Fenn, Elizabeth A. and Peter H.Wood. Natives & Newcomers: The Way We Lived in North Carolina before 1770. Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 1983. Chapters on “The Great Wagon Road,” “The Rise of a Backcountry Elite,” and “Rehearsal for Revolution” provide background.

Additional Sources for More Extensive Research on David Caldwell

Archaeological excavation at the site of the Log College:

Baroody, John C. Archaeological Investigations at the Site of David Caldwell’s Log College. 1980. This book, written by the principal investigator, describes the archaeological survey and excavation done in 1979. A complete excavation of the foundations gave evidence that this was indeed the site of Caldwell’s first home and school. In addition to the 1979 report, the book includes reports of earlier investigations.

Background about the Guilford County Area in Caldwell’s Day:

Blair, John Jay. Just for the Fun of It. Greensboro: Guilford College Library, 1973. Here are drawings made between 1932 and 1937, based on artifacts in the Springfield Historical Museum. The drawings are now in the Quaker Collection in the Guilford College Library. Although the artifacts are not dated, some no doubt come from Caldwell’s day. 

Carroll, Karen, Cobb. Windows to the Past: Primitive Watercolors from Guilford County, North Carolina in the 1820s. Greensboro: Greensboro History Museum, 1983. These portraits show people living during the later years of Caldwell’s life, including Robert Craighead Caldwell, David's and Rachel’s youngest son. 

Caruthers, E. W. Interesting Revolutionary Incidents and Sketches of Character, Chiefly in the “Old North State.” Philadelphia, Hayes & Zell, 1856. While Caldwell is not listed in the table of contents and there is no index, the book may provide useful background.

Johnson, Guion Griffis. Ante-Bellum North Carolina: A Social History. Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 1937. There are some references to Caldwell, as well as many references to Guilford County, in the index. This should be useful for background.

Mathews, Alice E. Society in Revolutionary North Carolina. Raleigh: North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, Division of Archives and History, 1976. This book provides general background.

Rumple, Jethro. A History of Rowan County, North Carolina; Containing Sketches of Prominent Families and Distinguished Men. (Salisbury: J.J. Bruner, 1881; also, Baltimore, Regional Pub. Co., 1974, reprint with new index). While there is some mention of Caldwell in the index, he’s not one of the “distinguished men” given long biographical sketches. Guilford County was at one time part of Rowan County.

Wheeler, John H. Historical Sketches of North Carolina from 1584 to 1851. Baltimore: Regional Pub. Co., 1964. (The library also has editions from 1851, 1925, and 1993.) Although Caldwell is not mentioned in the index, a chapter on Guilford County may give useful background information.

Biographies (also note biographies by Arnett and Caruthers in the Short List for the General Reader above):

Caldwell, David Andrew. David Caldwell, 1725-1824: Pennsylvania Pioneer, Princeton Pupil, Piedmont Professor and Physician, Presbyterian Pastor, and Patriot. San Jose, CA: DAC Press, 2000. The author, a great-great-great-great grandson of David and Rachel Caldwell, writes about his famous ancestor.

Caldwell, Finis Jay, Jr. Dr. David Caldwell: An 18th Century Flame for Christ, 1725-1824. Kennett, Mo.: Finis Jay Caldwell, 2008. Finis Caldwell, a descendant of David Caldwell’s, is a semi-retired minister.

Churches--Histories of Buffalo Presbyterian and Alamance Presbyterian Churches, including information about Caldwell and his ministry at those churches:

Alamance Presbyterian Church, Organized 1764: The Two Hundredth Anniversary. Greensboro: 1964.
This is a picture history with captions. It includes on page 2 a picture of the David Caldwell historical marker and on page 8 a photo of the marble tablet in the church’s Historical Room.

Ayers, Moir M. Buffalo Presbyterian Church, 1756-1981: 225 Years of Christian Service. Greensboro: Thomas Printing Co., 1981.

Donnell, Raymond Dufau, compiler. Buffalo Presbyterian Church and Cemetery, Greensboro, North Carolina. Edited by Cynthia Suzanne Donnell, Alain Charles Donnell, and Mary A. Browning. Greensboro: Guilford County Genealogical Society, 1994. The emphasis is on the people buried in the cemetery, including Rev. David Caldwell and Rachel Caldwell.

Jobe, Edna Smith. A History of Alamance Presbyterian Church, 1762-2000: Her People and Their Stories. Greensboro: 2008. This book includes a brief history of the Alamance Community.

Murray, E.C. A History of Alamance Church, 1762-1918. Statesville: 1918?

Rankin, Rev. S.M. History of Buffalo Presbyterian Church and Her People, Greensboro, NC. Greensboro: J.J. Stone, 1934. 

Wiley, Calvin Henderson. Alamance Church: A Historical Address. Delivered at the Dedication of its Fourth House of Worship, on October 18, 1879. Raleigh: Edwards, Broughton, 1880.

Religion in David Caldwell’s Day

Boles, John B. The Great Revival, 1787-1805: The Origins of the Southern Evangelical Mind. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1972. The index lists David Caldwell and Alamance and Buffalo Presbyterian churches and has many entries for Presbyterian Church and for North Carolina.

Mathews, Donald G. Religion in the Old South. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1977. On page 87 is this statement: “David Caldwell’s school, founded in pre-Revolutionary North Carolina (1776), Liberty Hall in the Valley of Virginia (1786), and Moses Waddell’s famous Willington Academy (1804) were but three of the many small, valiant outposts of Evangelical learning in the early South.” The book provides general background.

Thompson, Ernest Trice. Presbyterians in the South. Richmond: John Knox Press, 1963. Volume 1: 1607-1861. Caldwell is mentioned in this book’s index five times, with three entries under “North Carolina: church expansion in, Guilford County,” three under “North Carolina churches: Alamance,” and three under “North Carolina churches: Buffalo.” 

Turner, Herbert Snipes. Church in the Old Fields. Hawfields Presbyterian Church and Community in North Carolina. Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 1962. David Caldwell is listed in the book’s index. There are no index entries for Buffalo or Alamance Presbyterian churches.

Caldwell as a Religious Leader

Conkin, Paul. “Church Establishment in North Carolina, 1765-1776.” North Carolina Historical Review, XXXII (January, 1951), 1-30. This article mentions Caldwell as author and defender of the clause in the 1776 NC Constitution, Article XXXI: “That no person who shall deny the Being of God, or the truth of the Protestant Religion, or the divine authority either of the Old or New Testament, or shall hold religious Principles incompatible with the Freedom and Safety of the State, shall be capable of holding any office, or Place of Trust or Profit, in the civil Department within this State.”

Foote, William Henry. Sketches of North Carolina, Historical and Biographical, Illustrative of the Principles of a Portion of Her Early Settlers. Raleigh: H.J. Dudley, 1966. (Reproduction of 1846 edition, published by Carter, with new prefaces, bibliography, and index) Chapter 17 is entitled “David Caldwell, D.D., and the Churches in Orange.” There are a number of references to Caldwell in the index, as well as several to Rachel.

Stokes, Durward T. “Henry Pattillo in North Carolina,” North Carolina Historical Review, XLIV (Autumn, 1967), 373-391. Pattillo was a Presbyterian minister at Hawfields, Eno, and Little River churches in what was then Orange County. The article mentions Caldwell as one of the ministers signing a petition for the establishment of a new presbytery. This “was granted by the synod in 1770, and the new Presbytery of Orange contained all the territory from the Virginia line southward.” [p. 381] Stokes also mentions Caldwell as one of the Presbyterian ministers who signed a letter to Governor Tryon in 1768 promising to “exert our utmost abilities, to prevent the infection spreading among the People of our charge, and among the whole Presbyterian body in this Province as far as our influence will extend…” [pp. 381-382]

Stokes, Durward T. “North Carolina and the Great Revival of 1800,” North Carolina Historical Review, XLIV (Autumn 1966), 401-412. This article is useful for general background. It mentions Caldwell as one of the leading ministers who “supported the new type of service with their approval and leadership.” Also: “David Caldwell felt that a certain restraint should be exercised to guide the increased religious emphasis into less emotional and more theologically sound Christian life. Continued guidance was a necessary accompaniment to conversion and for that purpose trained ministers were necessary. Other Presbyterians agreed with Caldwell’s opinion.”

Stone, Robert Hamlin. A History of Orange Presbytery, 1770-1970. Greensboro: Orange Presbytery, 1970. The index includes many references to Rev. David Caldwell, although it spells his first name Daird. It also mentions Mrs. Caldwell. There are also many references to Alamance and Buffalo Presbyterian churches in the index. This puts those churches into a broader setting.

Weeks, Stephen Beauregard. Church and State in North Carolina. New York: Johnson Reprint Corp., 1973 (reprint edition). This chronological treatment of the topic covers 1711-1835. There is no index. Pages 58-61 discuss the fact that there was no guarantee of religious freedom in the federal Constitution as proposed to the states in 1787. Rev. David Caldwell was a leader in the attack on the Constitution’s failure to guarantee religious freedom.

Weis, Frederick Lewis. The Colonial Clergy of Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. Baltimore: Genealogical Pub. Co., 1976, c. 1955. (reprint) This book lists clergy by state, then alphabetically, covering the years 1708-1776 in North Carolina. There is a paragraph about David Caldwell.

Caldwell as an Educator

Battle, Kemp P. History of the University of North Carolina. v.1: From 1789 to 1868. v.2: From 1868 to 1912. Spartanburg, SC: Reprint Co., 1974 (c. 1907-1912). Caldwell is mentioned in the index; the book would be useful for studying Caldwell’s connections to the university.

Dabney, Charles William. Universal Education in the South. Volume I: From the Beginning to 1900. Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 1936. Pages 50-52 discuss David Caldwell and the Log College (as part of a chapter on private academies) and there are other references to Caldwell in the index.

Hurley, James F. and Julia Goode Eagan. The Prophet of Zion-Parnassus: Samuel Eusebius McCorkle. Richmond: Presbyterian Committee of Publication, 1934. McCorkle was the minister of Thyatira Church in Rowan County and a leader of the Presbyterian Church in NC. There are references to Caldwell on pages 50-51 and on page 89; Caldwell was Dr. McCorkle’s teacher when McCorkle was 20 years old. Then, McCorkle entered what is now Princeton University.

Osborn, Adlai L. “Liberty Hall.” North Carolina Historical Review, VI (1929), 403-406. Caldwell was a trustee of this academy.

Raper, Charles Lee. The Church and Private Schools of North Carolina; A Historical Study. Greensboro: J.J. Stone, 1898. Pages 37-44 are about Caldwell’s Log College. The book also gives an overview of education in NC in this time period.

Smith, Charles Lee. The History of Education in North Carolina. Washington, Government Printing Office, 1888. Pages 27-32 discuss David Caldwell and the Log College.

Ware, Charles Crossfield. Barton Warren Stone, Pathfinder of Christian Union; a Story of His Life and Times. St. Louis: The Bethany Press, 1932. Stone, who played a part in the origin of the Disciples of Christ, was a student of David Caldwell’s, coming to Caldwell’s school in 1790 when he was 17 years old.

Wharton, John C. “The Schools of Guilford County, Part I: Caldwell School and Caldwell Institute.” Publications of the Guilford County Literary and Historical Association. Greensboro: Joe J. Stone, 1908. Vol. 1. Pages 28-36. This article, read before the Guilford County Literary and Historical Association on April 4, 1906, tells about Caldwell as an educator.

Caldwell as a Political Leader

Connor, Henry G. “The Convention of 1788-89 and the Federal Constitution -- Hillsborough and Fayetteville.” North Carolina Booklet, IV (August, 1904), 5-36. There is a mention of Caldwell on page 13.

Fitch, William Edward. Some Neglected History of North Carolina: An Account of the Revolution of the Regulators and of the Battle of Alamance, the First Battle of the American Revolution. New York: Neale Pub. Co., 1905. There are four references to David Caldwell in the index.

Stockard, S.W. The History of Alamance. Raleigh: Capital Printing Company, 1900. This history of Alamance County includes the Regulators, which ties it in with Caldwell’s life. The book is not indexed. On page 54 is the statement “James Hunter…was at one time a member of one of Dr. Caldwell’s congregations, but subsequently withdrew from it because he thought the Doctor was not sufficiently enthusiastic in the cause of the Regulators.”