Caldwell County was founded in 1841 with Lenoir as the county seat. Caldwell County covers an area of 474 square miles. It was originally formed from a portion of Burke and Wilkes Counties. Caldwell was named after Joseph Caldwell who was a professor at the University of North Carolina from 1796 to 1797 then from 1799 to 1804, at which time from 1804 to 1812 and 1816 to 1835 he became the first president of the university.
Part of Caldwell County is considered to be protected territory as a portion of the Blue Ridge Parkway and a portion of the Pisgah National Forest both lie within the county. Located within the county are 11 towns and cities, which include Blowing Rock, Cajah’s Mountain, Cedar Rock, Collettsville, Gameswell, Granite Falls, Hudson, Lenoir, Sawmills, Northlakes and Rhodhiss.
Caldwell County is or has been home to several residents of great notability. These include Claude Baker, composer; Etta Baker, musician; Claudia and Eric Church both country music artists; Rick Hendrix, Grammy Award winning producer and writer; James Pritchett, actor; Dr. Vaughn Starnes, notably the most famous of all pediatric cardiothoracic surgeons in the world. Starnes made history when he performed the first successful “living related” lung transplant.
Many politicians and government personnel are or have been connected to Caldwell County, NC. These include US Congressman William Horton Bower; Jim Broyhill, a US Congressman and US Senator; Dr. Linda Combs, a US government official; NC Lt Governor William C. Newland, Clinton A. Cilley, mayor of Lenoir and Medal of Honor recipient; William Lenoir, soldier and statesman; Kary Mullis, scientist and Nobel laureate and one of Caldwell Counties most decorated soldiers of the Vietnam War, George W. Petrie Jr. George was a Major in the United States Army and is now retired. He was the first man of the ground on the Son Tay Raid to rescue prisoners of war being held in North Vietnam in 1970, was the last Officer to leave South Vietnam during the Fall of Saigon on April 30th, 1975 and he is a two time recipient of the Silver Star.
Among other notables, in the sports area of NASCAR is Larry Smith a driver, and in the area of baseball players there are Johnny Allen, Lindsay Deal, Charlie Cozart, Rube Walker and last but certainly not least is Madison Bumgarner, who was the 10th draft by the San Francisco Giants in the 2007 Major League Baseball Draft, and graduated from South Caldwell High School.