HENRY J. CALDWELL, one of the leading and representative farmers of Staunton Township, resides on section 34, where he has made his home for the long period of thirty-seven years. His residence in the county covers a period of fifty-five years, and thus he is one of its earliest settlers. A representative of one of the pioneer families he well deserves representation in this volume. His father, George Caldwell, was born in County Tyrone, Ireland, near Belfast in 1802, and was of Scotch-Irish descent. He grew up in the county of his nativity and was there joined in wedlock with Miss Mary Johnson, soon after which they sailed for America, crossing the Atlantic in 1828. They took up their residence in Philadelphia, where some years before an older brother of Mr. Caldwell had located - Henry by name. During the Jackson administration he was officially connected with the Custom House and later came West, making his home for some years in Staunton Township, this county, where he became a prominent citizen and served as Justice of the Peace and Postmaster of Staunton for some years. He met his death by a train on the Wabash Road which struck him while he was standing near the station. There was also another brother of the family who came to this country - Hugh. He, too, served for a number of years as Postmaster of Staunton and is now living in Missouri.
After spending some years in Philadelphia, George Caldwell and his family finally came West, locating in 1836, on land which his brother Henry had previously entered from the Government. He lived to see almost the entire growth and development of the county. A man of robust health and abundant vitality he was well fitted for pioneer life and enjoyed man of its experiences. When he came here the city of Staunton was a mere hamlet containing only two or three houses and all around was wild, unbroken land. The nearest mill and market was at Walton and it was no easy task during some seasons of the year to make the journey there as the roads were almost impassable. The family experienced the usual trials and hardships of pioneer life but his mode of living also had its pleasures. It was the day of hospitality which is hardly seen now, when the latch-string always hung out and every visitor was made welcome. The woods were full of wild game which bountifully supplied the table with meat and one had ample opportunity to indulge a love of hunting. Mr. Caldwell was prospered in his efforts and in the course of time he had become owner of an excellent farm. His death occurred at the home of our subject July 6, 18876, at the age of eighty-five years. Thus another of the honored and early pioneers passed away. He was one of Nature's noblemen whom everyone respected and esteemed for his sterling worth. In politics he was a Democrat but never sought or desired public office. His wife passed away in 1882, at the age of seventy-five years, and like her husband she was a member of the Presbyterian Church. Their family numbered six children but only two are now living: Henry J. of this sketch; and Lavina P. who resides with her brother.
Under the parental roof and amid the wild scenes of frontier life our subject grew to manhood and in the log school, so common at that time, he acquired his education. He was early inured to hard work but thereby developed a self-reliance and force of character which have proved of incalculable benefit to him in later years. When he had attained his majority he was united in marriage near Hillsboro, Ill., with Miss Nancy Griffith, who was born in Montgomery County, Ill., September 6, 1832, and is a daughter of John and Harriet (Pyatt) Griffith, the former a native of Tennessee and the latter of North Carolina. During childhood they came with their respective families to Illinois, where they were married and ever afterward continued residents of Montgomery County. The mother there died some years ago but Mr. Griffith is still living at the age of eighty-five years. He has been a second time married, his wife having formerly been Mrs. (Skillman) Bryan. He is a member of the Baptist Church and has made farming his life work. His children all called in on March 27, 1890, (except John Jr., of Oklahoma) and gave him a surprise on the eighty-fourth year of his age. Mr. Griffith is still hale and hearty for one of his age.
Mrs. Caldwell was one of a family of ten children, five of whom are yet living. She remained at home until her marriage and then came to preside over her husband's home which she graces with all the true attributes of a wife and mother. By their union have been born six children but four are now deceased: George W., John F. and Mary died in infancy; and George B. died at the age of nineteen years. Charles E., who married Miss Lizzie Voyles, is living on the old home farm; and James H. assists in the operation of the old homestead. Mr. and Mrs. Caldwell are members of the Presbyterian Church and in politics he is a Prohibitionist. For four years he has served as Justice of the Peace. He deserves to be classed among the honored pioneers to whom we owe a debt of gratitude for the part which they have taken in the upbuilding and development of the county. He has ever identified himself with the best interests and is known as a worthy and valued citizen whose life entitles him to the regard and esteem of all.