Note: This article is part of a series on street namesakes in Brevard.
When the city of Brevard was founded in 1861, many of the earliest organizers had streets named for them in honor of their contributions to the town. The next founder to be highlighted in this series is Braxton Caldwell Lankford, the namesake for Caldwell Street which runs mostly parallel to Broad Street and terminates while Broad continues.
Braxton Caldwell Lankford went by his middle name Caldwell, though in formal documents and newspaper notices he’s often referred to as “B.C.” He was born on February 19, 1824 to Braxton Bragg Lankford and Susannah Dalton Lankford in Rutherford County, NC, but Caldwell later moved to Polk County. His first connection with Transylvania was when he came to the area (which was not yet known as Transylvania) in either 1845 or 1850, depending on the source.
Caldwell bought a storefront from a Spartanburg, SC man and created one of the earliest mercantiles in the French Broad River Valley called “The Valley Store” or sometimes “The Old Valley Store.” Farmers from all over the region that would become Transylvania County could bring produce and other goods to sell and then be shipped to larger cities such as Greenville, SC and Charleston, SC. The location was described as about two miles from the current Brevard town center at the location that was Straus School and currently the campus of Blue Ridge Community College’s Transylvania location. The family was connected to Oak Grove Church, also in the vicinity of the store, and the associated graveyard is where Caldwell was laid to rest at the end of his life.
Caldwell had a home built in 1858 on what is now Rice Street, which is known as the Lankford-Cleveland House. The original structure was more modest than the current look of the house, which had major improvements near the year 1900 giving it an appearance more closely resembling the historic Montclove Estate, also in what is now Transylvania County.
In 1851 Caldwell married Isabella Amanda Morris (1828-1864) of Rutherford County, NC. Five of their children reached adulthood: Susan, Mary Jane, Olivia, Tommie, and Hattie. Sadly, Isabella passed away in 1864, and Caldwell married her sister Elizabeth M. Morris (1831-1882) two years later. Caldwell and Elizabeth had three children: Arabella, Plato, and Tom. Like her sister, Elizabeth’s life too was cut short in 1882. Caldwell’s third and final wife was Hattie Ella Mackey (1852-1932), who he married in 1889. The couple had only one child who survived into adulthood, Wales.
When the county founders met to discuss details of the nascent Transylvania County, one of the locations was in the old Valley Store of B.C. Lankford; the first court was held in the building. The Civil War was in progress simultaneously with the development of the new county. Caldwell served as a second lieutenant in the Confederacy, and took on many roles in the community after the war and throughout his lifetime, including being a Magistrate of the First Magistrate’s Court at the age of 37, Trustee of Public Buildings, Chairman of County Commissioners, Register of Deeds, Clerk and Master of Equity Court, school board member, Postmaster, and even Mayor of Brevard in the last three years of this life, which ended in 1895.
The impact of this county founder is remembered in the name of Caldwell Street. Photographs and information for this column are provided by the Rowell Bosse North Carolina Room, Transylvania County Library. This article was written by Local History Librarian Laura Sperry. Sources available upon request. For more information, comments, or suggestions, contact NC Room staff at [email protected] or 828-884-1820.