Caldwell monuments

The Joseph Caldwell Monument is an obelisk that sits in the middle of McCorkle Place. It is dedicated to Joseph Caldwell, UNC's first president from 1804 to 1812 and again from 1817 to 1835. Caldwell and his family are interred beneath this monument. There is another, similar-looking obelisk in the Old Chapel Hill Cemetery. It marks the grave of Wilson Caldwell, a university employee born into slavery on campus, who was an educator and became one of the first African Americans elected to town government.

Joseph Caldwell was first buried in the cemetery and then reburied in 1846 with his second wife, Helen Hooper Caldwell, at a monument located near the present site of New West. This first monument, a sandstone obelisk, did not weather well. In 1858 the alumni association erected a new monument to the president in its current location. The graves remained near New West. In 1876 Mrs. Caldwell's son, William Hooper, who had been a member of the faculty, died and was buried next to his mother and stepfather. Their remains were reinterred at the current location in 1904. At the same time, the alumni of the class of 1891 asked that the old obelisk be erected in the cemetery in memory of Wilson Caldwell and other African American men who had served the university while enslaved and later as free men. This finally took place in 1922.


Date Established: 1922

Date Range: 1922 – Present

Wilson Swain Caldwell, ca. 1890s. Portrait Collection, North Carolina Collection Photo Archives, Wilson Library.