JOSEPH WILLIS CALDWELL, who is successfully engaged in farming in township 5, range 6, Randolph County, has the honor of being a native of this state. He was born in Warren County in 1839. His grandparents, Joseph and Mary (Reed) Caldwell, were natives of Ireland and Scotland, respectively, and on emigrating to this country, located in Ohio, where they were married. The former was a son of Samuel Caldwell, who came to America in the "Mayflower." The family is noted for longevity.
The father of our subject, William Caldwell, was born in Coshocton County, Ohio, in 1807, and in 1818 went to Pittsburgh, and thence removed to Indiana, where for two years he engaged in teaching school. On the expiration of that period he went to Galena, Ill., where he engaged in teaching in a log schoolhouse, and also worked in the lead mines until the breaking out of the Black Hawk War in 1832, when he entered the service. He was wounded at Ash Grove, and was taken to Big Mound, Ill., where he remained for two months. He then rejoined his company, and followed the Indians to Oakwalks.
The troops there disbanded, and Mr. Caldwell went to Warren County, where he married Jane Orr, a native of Kilrain, Ireland. When a maiden of seven years, Mrs. Caldwell became a resident of Pittsburgh, Pa., and thence she came to Illinois in 1834. By their marriage, which was celebrated in September, 1835, they became the parents of a large family, of whom we note the following: James A., who is a farmer living six miles north of Sparta, married Lizzie Holworth, and they had ten children, nine of whom are yet living; Alex M. died in 1860; Joseph W. is the next younger; Mary E. is the widow of Charles A. Beattie, and lives in Randolph County with her two children; Martha M. is the wife of William J. Dickey, by whom she has five children; Elizabeth A. is the widow of Thomas Crawford, of Coulterville, and had six children, three of whom are living; William F., who was married, was killed by the caving in of a silver mine in New Mexico; Stephen A. died at the age of nine years; and one child died in infancy.
The father of this family secured one hundred and sixty acres by a land warrant in Warren County, entered a quarter-section, and also purchased one hundred and sixty acres. He there made his home until 1849, when he removed to Putnam County, and after residing there for ten years, came to Randolph County, in 1859. In the spring of 1864 he removed to the farm upon which our subject now resides, making it his home until his death in 1884. For a number of years he engaged in teaching school, and was also a teacher of shorthand. His extensive reading and excellent memory made him a well-informed man. In politics he was first a Whig, and afterward a Republican, and for some years he faithfully served as Justice of the Peace. He was a member of the Associate Reformed Church, was one of the founders of the Seceder Church of Warren County, which he joined in 1828, and later became a member of the United Presbyterian Church. In 1848 he was made one of its Elders, and filled the position until his death. He was truly one of nature's noblemen, and was noted for his charity and benevolence. His wife, who was born November 6, 1808, is living with her son, at the age of eighty-five years.
Mr. Caldwell whose name heads this record removed from his native county to Putnam County in 1859, and thence came to Randolph County, where he has since made his home. He remained with his parents until 1861, when, prompted by patriotic impulses, he joined Company H, of the Twenty-second Illinois Regiment. He was three times wounded at the battle of Chickamauga, and was taken prisoner at Crawfish Springs, but was afterward paroled and exchanged. When he secured his release from southern imprisonment he went home on a visit, but after two months rejoined his regiment in Tennessee, and continued in the service until honorably discharged in Springfield in 1864. For a year after being mustered out he remained at home, and then purchased a farm of one hundred acres, upon which he resided for seven years, when in 1873 he removed to his present farm.
In 1865, Mr. Caldwell married Miss Amanda J. Ireland, a native of this county, and a daughter of Martin and Mary (Short) Ireland, natives of Kentucky, from which state they came to Illinois in 1836. Her father died in 1884, but her mother is now living in Mill Creek. The family is of Irish descent, and was founded in America in Colonial days. Mr. Ireland was numbered among the boys in blue of Company H, Twenty-second Illinois Infantry. He enlisted in 1861, and served until 1864. He was wounded at the battle of Stone River and at Chickamauga. He had four sons in the service: John and William H. H. in Company H, Twenty-second Illinois; Thomas in Company C, Thirtieth Illinois; and Peter in Company F, One Hundred and Fifty-fourth Illinois Infantry. John died in the hospital at Murfreesboro, Tenn.
Mr. and Mrs. Caldwell have reared two orphan children. At the age of fifteen months Nancy Tash came to them, and remained with them until her marriage to Sylvester Brown. Charles E. Ireland has found a home with them since the age of six years. He is now a student in the Gem City Business College of Quincy, Ill. Our subject and his wife are faithful and consistent members of the Presbyterian Church of Sparta, in which he has served as Elder for eight years. They are prominent in church and benevolent work, and are ever found on the side of right. Mr. Caldwell is a member of the Sparta Building and Loan Association and of the creamery company. As the result of earnest effort and close application, he has met with good success in business, and is now the owner of a fine farm of eighty acres. In politics, he is a Republican, and is a charter member of Sparta Post No. 181, G. A. R., in which he has held all the offices.
Extracted 24 Sep 2016 by Norma Hass from Portrait and Biographical Record of Randolph, Jackson, Perry and Monroe Counties, Illinois, pages 342-344.