The Albany resident known as William Caldwell probably was born in Albany in 1776. He was the first son in the large family of Scottish emigres (by way of Philadelphia) James and Elizabeth Barnes Caldwell. In Albany for just a few years prior to William's birth, his long-lived father was an emerging businessman and entrepreneur and William was groomed to follow him at least in his Albany-based enterprises.
William married Polly Walker in 1796. Their daughter was christened at the Albany Presbyterian church in February 1799. In 1800, he first was identified as a trustee.
In 1799, his personal property was assessed under the first ward holdings of "Caldwell, Van Ingen, and Caldwell." The next year, the second ward census configured William's household with three boys and two girls, four men in his age group, his wife, and one slave. In 1800, "grocer" William Caldwell first purchased a license from the Albany Council. By 1802, Van Ingen had died and James Caldwell left William to run the business on his own.
For more than the next two decades, William Caldwell was a prominent Albany businessman whose business headquarters was at 60 State Street and who lived above the city on Washington Avenue. In 1820, the Albany census showed only four family members living in Caldwell's household.
In 1821, an Albany newspaper announced his retirement from business. At that point, William Caldwell was forty-five years old. Over the years, Caldwell maintained his connection with the Albany Masonic Lodge.
Following the death of his father in 1829, William spent more and more time at the family home in Caldwell on Lake George.
In 1831, William Caldwell was identified as a retired merchant living in Albany when he endowed an award known as the "Caldwell Mathmatical Medal" to be conferred annually on an exemplary student at the Albany Academy.
William Caldwell filed a will in December of 1841. Naming his children and grandchildren as heirs, it detailed his extensive Albany holdings, property at Lake George, and personal possessions as well. He died in April 1848 at the age of seventy-two.
Sources: The life of William Caldwell is CAP biography number 7511. This sketch is derived chiefly from family and community-based resources. The Caldwell family business papers are held at the New York State Library. A smaller collection of mostly North Country land papers resides at the Warren County Records Center & Archives.
first posted: 10/5/11