• Donald S. Yarab

Daniel W. Caldwell & Shoreland

Updated: Feb 29, 2020

“We knew we were traveling as man had never traveled before.” – H.P. Robinson, describing the speed of the train on the record-breaking long distance railroad run of October 1895, as quoted in Railway Age, February 1896.

On October 25, 1895, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, in an article entitled “The Fastest Time Yet,” reported that the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway Company, whose tracks lie in close proximity to the Edgewater neighborhood, broke the then world record for fastest long distance railroad run on October 24, 1895. According to the official record keepers, the record-breaking run from Chicago to Buffalo covered a distance of 510.1 miles and was completed in an actual running time of 470 minutes and 20 seconds, or an average of 65.07 miles per hour.

In the February 1896 issue of Railway Age magazine, H.P. Robinson, who served as one of the official time-keepers for the record-breaking run, enthusiastically noted that, at one point during the trip from Chicago to Buffalo, the train was traveling at 92.32 miles per hour. He observed that the extraordinary velocity of the train caused some passengers moments of anxiety as the cars swung round a curve or dashed through the streets of a town and wryly noted that, “[a]t such times there were those among the passengers who would perhaps gladly have sacrificed a few seconds of the record.”

When the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway Company’s Engine 160 roared by the Edgewater neighborhood under the masterful direction of Engineer James A. Lathrop on that extraordinary day, at least one resident of the Edgewater neighborhood, Daniel W. Caldwell, was especially mindful of its presence and its arrival at 8:50:13 am at the Cleveland station minutes later. Caldwell’s interest in the record-breaking run of the Lake Shore train was intensely intimate for, as William H. Vanderbilt’s man, he was none other than the president of the Lake Shore railway company from 1894 until his death in 1897.

Daniel W. Caldwell was born in Salem, Massachusetts in 1830 and died at his home on Lake Avenue on July 21, 1897. Caldwell died a bachelor, having never married. The Atlas of Cuyahoga County and the City of Cleveland, Ohio (1892) records that Caldwell’s residence was built on an estate which he called Shoreland, and was located on the north side of Lake Avenue, equidistant between Highland Avenue (West 117th) and Dartmouth Street (West 110th). The Cleveland Plain Dealer provided the following description of Shoreland: “The residence … sets back from the road several hundred feet and is hidden from view by a large park. The house not only faces Lake avenue, but also the lake, which beats against the rocky cliff not more than 150 feet from the house” (July 24, 1897, p. 5).

The Cleveland City Directory 1889-1890 records that, before Caldwell moved to the Edgewater neighborhood, he resided in The Stillman, a luxury residential hotel built in 1884 and located at Euclid Avenue and Erie Street.

Caldwell’s immediate Edgewater neighbors to the west were his close personal friend Ralph W. Hickox, First Vice President of the Hocking Valley Railroad, and Hickox’s wife, Anne Stager Hickox. Caldwell’s immediate neighbors to the east were Lewis Aspinwell Murfey, Vice President of State Banking and Trust Company, and his wife Nina Armstrong Murfey.

Caldwell, like Ralph W. Hickox, was one of several Edgewater residents intimately association with the railroad industry during America’s Gilded Age and, as will be seen, had close association with both of the rail lines that traversed the edge of the Edgewater neighborhood: the New York, Chicago & St. Louis Railroad Company (known as the “Nickel Plate Road”) and the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railway Company (known as “the Lake Shore”).

Caldwell’s association with railway service began in 1852 when he joined the Pennsylvania Railroad as a clerk at twenty-two years of age. In 1853, he joined the Pittsburg & Connellsville Railway, first as a civil engineer and then as its superintendent. In 1859, Caldwell became the superintendent of the Central Ohio Railroad. In 1869, he became general manager of the Pittsburg, Cincinnati & Muskingum Valley, the Jefferson, Madison & Indianapolis, and the Vandalia railroads. From 1881 to 1882, he was general manager of all the Pennsylvania lines west of Pittsburg. In 1882, Caldwell became vice president of the Nickle Plate Road at the behest of William H. Vanderbilt.

Vanderbilt had acquired the Nickle Plate Road so that it would not threaten the monopoly that the Lake Shore had previously enjoyed for rail traffic between Buffalo and Chicago and charged Caldwell with ensuring that it would not be a serious competitor to the Lake Shore. In 1885, after the Nickle Plate Road went into receivership, Caldwell was appointed receiver, a position he held until October 1, 1887, when he was elected president of the Nickle Plate Road. Caldwell relinquished the presidency of the Nickel Plate Road on October 30, 1894, to become president of the Lake Shore, a position he held until his death on July 21, 1897.

On July 22, 1897, The Cleveland Plain Dealer published a front page, above the fold, article entitled, “FATAL RESULT, President Caldwell Dies at His Home on Lake Avenue After an Illness of Only a Few Days: Great Surprised Caused.” The first line of the article read: “Gen. D.W. Caldwell, president of the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern railway system, is dead.” This succinct statement was curious as it provided Caldwell the appellation general when nothing in his biography recited above suggested military service. The article attempted, when it continued on the second page, to provide an explanation for the titulature. It quoted Caldwell’s close friend Robert Blee, former mayor of Cleveland (1893-1894), as stating the following: “During the [Civil] war [Caldwell] had charge of the transportation of many troops and if I am not mistaken he was at that time given a general’s commission by the then governor of Pennsylvania as a recognition of some important service performed.” Subsequent investigation by The Cleveland Plain Dealer would prove Mayor Blee’s explanation incorrect while providing its readers with a much more interesting genesis of the title.

On July 24, 1897, The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported the following: “It was learned last evening that during the strike of 1877 Gov. Thomas L. Young, then chief executive of [Ohio], appointed [Caldwell] aid on his general staff with the rank of brigadier general. His commission to this office is still retained in the archives of Shoreland.”

The Great Railroad Strike of 1877, also known as the Great Upheaval, is the strike referenced in the article. It was the first major general strike in American history and was sparked after railroads began steeply and repetitively cutting the wages of employees while generally maintaining the salaries of managers and the dividends of stock owners.

The strike paralyzed American commerce, resulted in scores of deaths, and substantial loss of property. Governors in ten states, including Ohio, mobilize state militia to break the strike. And, as intimated above, Caldwell the railroad executive was tapped by Young the state executive to assist in breaking the railroad strike. Comment upon the inappropriately incestuous relationship between politics and big capital that this appointment represented is unnecessary though acknowledgement of the comparatively little bloodshed and property loss that occurred in Ohio during the strike must be made. Several commentators of the time noted that Caldwell was so well-respected by the rail workers that he was able to travel in his private car unmolested during the strike as he attempted to monitor and defuse the situation.

Many articles eulogizing Caldwell also lauded his extraordinary relationship with Walter Benjamin Wright, “an intelligent colored man,” who served as his personal secretary while president of the Lake Shore. In this regard, The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported the following: “Mr. Wright entered Gen. Caldwell’s personal service in the capacity of porter on his private car. By an exhibition of faithfulness his services have been handsomely rewarded. Mr. Wright was given a business education and studied stenography. Six years ago, when Gen. Caldwell held the commission of vice president on the Nickel Plate, Mr. Wright was made private and railroad secretary. When the general became president of the Lake Shore system Mr. Wright became personal secretary. He was constantly with his chief in the office and on the road. Gen. Caldwell presented Mr. Wright with a $5,000 sixteen year endowment life policy twelve years ago. He also made him Christmas presents of $500 cash for many years” (July 24, 1897, p. 4). After Caldwell’s death, Wright assisted in settling Caldwell’s estate and was prominent at his funeral. Wright served as personal secretary to Caldwell’s Lake Shore successors, Samuel R. Calaway and W.H. Caniffin, before retiring in 1922. Wright’s life is more fully outlined in A Ghetto Takes Shape: Black Cleveland, 1870-1930 (pp. 117-118).

Readers interested in learning more about the history of the railroads that border the Edgewater neighborhood and in which Edgewater residents played such an important role may wish to consult works such as The Nickel Plate Road: The History of a Great Railroad (2001) and the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway System and Representative Employees (1900). Both are in the holdings of the Cleveland Public Library and, happily, the latter can be accessed through the library’s digital collection at

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