Caldwell County is a county located in the U.S. state of Kentucky. It was formed in 1809. As of 2000, the population was 13,060. Its county seat is Princeton, Kentucky. The county is named for John Caldwell, who participated in the George Rogers Clark Indian Campaign of 1786 and was Kentucky's second Lieutenant Governor. Caldwell is a prohibition or dry county.
Caldwell County was formed from Livingston County in 1809. Before that, modern-day Caldwell County was part of Christian, Logan, and Lincoln Counties--Lincoln County being one of the three original counties in Kentucky.
Caldwell County has been witness to several major events in its history. In the early nineteenth-century Caldwell County witnessed the forced migration of the Cherokee on the Trail of Tears. The Cherokee spent several weeks in Caldwell County during the winter of 1838, notably at Big Springs in downtown Princeton, Skin Frame Creek, and the Centerville area near Fredonia. In 1860, the construction of Princeton College began but was soon delayed by the Civil War. Confederate troops camped on the grounds of Princeton College and used one of the buildings as a hospital. Later, in 1864 Confederates burned the courthouse in Princeton. The establishment of railroads in the late nineteenth century allowed Princeton to become an important junction on several major railway lines.
Around the turn of the century, an agricultural boon in dark leaf tobacco had made Caldwell, especially along with Christian County, a major tobacco growing center. However, the monopolization of the tobacco market by James B. Duke left many farmers financially strapped and discontented. Under the organization of Dr. David Amoss of Cobb in Caldwell County, a vigilante group formed called the Night Riders. The Night Riders terrorized those who cooperated with the tobacco conglomerate by destroying crops, burning warehouses, and physical intimidation. The "Black Patch Wars" came to an end around 1908.
By the middle of the twentieth century Caldwell County began the shift from agriculture to industrialization. Though Caldwell County is still largely agricultural today it is home to several major factories including Bremner, the largest private label cookie and cracker factory in North America.
Since 1925, Caldwell County has been home to the University of Kentucky's College of Agriculture. With extensive experiment farms, the College of Agriculture in Princeton is a leader in horticultural and biological sciences in the twenty-first century.
As of the census of 2000, there were 13,060 people, 5,431 households, and 3,801 families residing in the county. The population density was 38 people per square mile (15/km²). There were 6,126 housing units at an average density of 18 per square mile (7/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 93.89% White, 4.81% Black or African American, 0.15% Native American, 0.16% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 0.39% from other races, and 0.60% from two or more races. 0.61% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 5,431 households out of which 28.50% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 57.10% were married couples living together, 9.80% had a female householder with no husband present, and 30.00% were non-families. 27.50% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.00% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.36 and the average family size was 2.85.
In the county the population was spread out with 22.40% under the age of 18, 7.00% from 18 to 24, 26.30% from 25 to 44, 26.30% from 45 to 64, and 18.00% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 41 years. For every 100 females there were 92.60 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 89.90 males.
The median income for a household in the county was $28,686, and the median income for a family was $35,258. Males had a median income of $31,475 versus $20,390 for females. The per capita income for the county was $16,264. About 12.20% of families and 15.90% of the population were below the poverty line, including 20.40% of those under age 18 and 15.60% of those age 65 or over.