The names of Alexander Craighead (1707-1766) — “the spiritual father of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence” — and David Caldwell (1725-1824) — of the Caldwell Log College are well known to both North Carolinians and to students of Presbyterian church history. Less well-known, but of great significance to civil and ecclesiastical history, is a woman with ties to both men: Rachel Brown Craighead Caldwell (1742-1825), daughter of Alexander and wife of David.
Alexander was a firebrand Presbyterian — the first Covenanter minister in America — of Scots-Irish descent. He and his family moved from Pennsylvania to Virginia (he was a founding member of Hanover Presbytery) to North Carolina. Rachel was born in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania just a year before her father renewed the Scottish covenants at Middle Octorara in 1743. Later, Rachel would sometimes speak of her experience growing up in western Virginia during the French and Indian War of the 1750s, as a period fraught with danger. At one point, after General Braddock’s 1755 defeat, Indians were coming in the front door as the family was exiting the rear door.
David, who was older, first met Rachel while attending services led by Alexander; she was four years old at the time. They met again some years later and were married in 1766, the year her father passed away, when David was 41 and Rachel was 24. Alexander had four daughters and two sons, and believed strongly in educating all of his children thoroughly. Rachel was at once devout, intelligent and compassionate, all qualities which served her family and her husband’s students well in the years which followed.