CALDWELL, HON. BEN F. , ex-Congressman, has been associated with business and banking circles in Springfield for many years, and has been prominently identified with political interests in his city, county and district, since attaining his majority, having long been recognized as one of the leaders of the Democratic party in his part of Illinois. Mr. Caldwell has always enjoyed the highest confidence and approval of the public and has a reputation for business and political honor and integrity. He is held in high honor and esteem by his fellow citizens, with whom most of his life has been spent, as he has been a resident of Curran Township since 1853 - fifty-eight years. He is popular with a large circle of warm friends and is also prominent in fraternal circles, and is in all respects a representative of the highest type of American citizenship. Mr. Caldwell was born in Greene County, Ill., August 2, 1848, son of John and Mary J. (Davis) Caldwell, both natives of Kentucky and the latter born near Danville.
The Caldwell family is of Scotch-Irish descent and the emigrant ancestor, great-grandfather of the subject of this sketch, Thomas Caldwell, was born in Ireland and there married Betsy Harris, a native of Wales, soon after which they emigrated to the New World and located in Virginia, which they reached before the Revolutionary War. They subsequently removed to Jessamine County, Ky., spending their last days with their son William. William Caldwell was born in Virginia, December 15, 1779, and as a young man moved to Kentucky, becoming prominent in public affairs in that state, and being several times elected to the State Legislature, where he made his presence felt and took an active part in that body. He also served as Sheriff of Jessamine County. He was married, in Kentucky, to Nancy Robards, a native of Virginia, and their children were: George L., Jane R., Elizabeth, Charles H., William and John, the last-named being the father of Hon. Ben F. Caldwell. In 1831 William Caldwell left Kentucky and came to Greene County, Ill., where he remained five years, then located in Sangamon County. He lived first in Auburn Township, but later removed to Curran Township, where he became prominent in public affairs. He served one term as the representative of his party in the Illinois General Assembly. While a resident of Kentucky he had served in the War of 1812, with rank of Captain. He was prominent in organizing the church now known as "Bethel" in Woodside Township, which for several years met for divine worship in his house, which he had erected (with this end in view) with a large central room suitable for such meeting, and with three other rooms opening into it. When plans were made for erecting a new building for the church he requested that it be called Bethel, and this request was granted, although he did not live to see the plans realized. William Caldwell died August 1, 1844, and his widow survived until 1858, also dying in Curran Township.
John Caldwell was a native of Kentucky, born January 21, 1807, the second son of his parents, and came to Illinois in 1832. He was married in Greene County, January 23, 1834, his wife being a native of Kentucky, who was born January 16, 1815. Their five children were: William C., born March 15, 1835, came with the family to Sangamon County in 1853, and died at Loami, June 3, 1901; Jane, Betsy and Henry C., deceased; Ben F. John Caldwell located with his family on Section 36, Curran township, in April, 1853, this land having been purchased by his father several years prior. He devoted himself to the improvement and development of his farm until his death, August 1, 1863, after which his widow resided on the farm with her son Ben F. for some years. Her death occurred January 4, 1895. In 1876 she and her son had erected one of the finest country homes then to be found in central Illinois, supplied with all available conveniences and luxuries.
Ben F. Caldwell received his education in the country schools and the public school of Chatham, and was but fifteen years of age when deprived of a father's care and counsel. Thus being early forced to think for himself in business matters, he began his career with remarkable judgment and foresight, and soon became active in the business life of his community. He cared for his mother's interest in an able manner and managed the farm himself until 1871, then rented it in order to five the needed attention to various other enterprises in which he was interested, principally in loaning money and dealing in western lands. He operated largely in Kansas and Missouri, but helped organize and promote many enterprises in Sangamon County and the surrounding country. He embarked in mercantile business in Chatham in 1878 and in 1879 organized a bank there, being chosen its President. He served thirteen years as President of the Farmers' National Bank of Springfield, and in 1898 resigned this position on being elected to Congress. He subsequently accepted the Presidency of the Caldwell State Bank of Chatham. He has very materially advanced the interests of every institution of which he has been the head, and has conducted every private enterprise with energy and zeal such as insured success.
Mr. Caldwell's political career began in early life. He served two terms as a member of the County Board of Supervisors, being Chairman his second term; was first elected to the State House of Representatives in 1882; was elected to the State Senate in 1890; and was elected to Congress in 1898, 1900, 1902 and 1906. He has for several years paid close attention to the political situation and given less time to his personal interests, thus serving faithfully in the interests of his constituents.
Mr. Caldwell was married, May 27, 1873, to Miss Julia F. Cloyd, born in Curran Township, March 7, 1856, daughter of Matthew Cloyd, and they left for a wedding journey of about 14,000 miles, sailing from New York to Belfast, visiting Scotland, England, Holland, Belgium, many parts of Germany, and spending a short time in Berlin, after which they attended the Vienna Exposition and then crossed the Alps and visited Geneva and Paris, thence back to London, and to Liverpool, where they took a steamer for Boston. During this trip they were accorded the pleasure of an audience with Pius the IX. Two children blessed this union, namely: Mary Jane and John Harvey. Mary Jane, born March 20, 1874, was married, May 6, 1901, to ex-Congressman Oscar Turner, of Louisville, Ky., who died July 17, 1902, leaving one child, Oscar Jr., born May 3, 1902. She remained a widow until August 17, 1909, when she was married (second) to Judge William Cottrell, of Chicago. To her latter marriage, one daughter, Julia, was born February 9, 1911. John Harvey Caldwell, born September 9, 1877, was married, November 21, 1900, to Miss Laura Blossom Hickox, of Springfield, and they have six children: John Franklin, Katherine Josephine, Julia Frances, Charles Hickox, Eunice and Thomas Harvey. Mr. Caldwell is a member of the Masonic Order, the Odd Fellows, the Knights of Pythias, the Improved Order of Red Men and the Benevolent Protective Order of Elks. At the present time (1911) Mr. Caldwell's name is being freely discussed in connection with the nomination as the Democratic candidate for Governor. His record and wide acquaintance as a Member of Congress, and his prominence as a local business man of Central Illinois, have won him a cordial support from different factions of the party, and there is reason to believe, when the final vote is taken, he will occupy a favorable position for securing the nomination.