South Carolina, USA
|Died||March 14, 1869 (aged c. 63)
|Residence||Colfax, Grant Parish
|Political party||Democratic Party|
|Spouse(s)||Mary Smith Calhoun|
|Children||William Smith Calhoun
Marie Marguerite Ada Lane
Calhoun was born in South Carolina but moved to Rapides Parish, Louisiana about 1830. He married Mary Margaret Smith Taylor, granddaughter of William Smith, an Alabama judge and former United States senator from South Carolina, on May 24, 1834. Their children were William Smith "Willie" Calhoun (born ca. 1835) and Marie Marguerite Ada (born ca. 1845). The couple purchased 14,000 acres from Senator Smith, who had acquired the land in 1836. They divided the property fronting the Red River into four plantations on which they grew primarily cotton and sugar cane. The Calhouns established one of the largest sugar mills in Louisiana and their estate was valued in excess of $1 million in the 1860 census, a considerable holding at that time.
"Calhoun's Landing," as the principal plantation was called, became an important shipping point on the Red River and the beginning of Colfax, the seat of government of Grant Parish, some twenty-five north of Alexandria, the seat of Rapides Parish and the largest city in Central Louisiana. Calhoun purchased the Red River Democrat newspaper and renamed it the National Democrat. The publication was strongly supportive of the 1860 Democratic presidential nominee, U.S. Senator Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois. Douglas, however, was soundly trounced nationally by the Republican choice, Abraham Lincoln, also of Illinois. Louisiana voted for the outgoing Vice President of the United States John C. Breckinridge of Kentucky, running as the breakway "Southern Democratic" candidate.
Calhoun died after the American Civil War had ended in 1869 while in Paris, France. Mrs. Calhoun died on June 11, 1871. Their son, Willie Calhoun, became like his maternal grandfather, a state senator and worked to establish Grant Parish separate from the more populous Rapides Parish to the south.
Calhoun and Simon Legree
Reports surfaced long after Calhoun's demise that he had been the model of the cruel taskmaster of slaves, Simon Legree, in Harriet Beecher Stowe's 1852 novel Uncle Tom's Cabin. In 1896, William Hugh Robarts claimed that Stowe, by then deceased, had told him in Boston, Massachusetts, that the Legree character was based on Calhoun. According to Robarts, Stowe never met Calhoun, but she was told of his plantation on the Red River by a Mississippi River pilot originally from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The evidence, however, is contradictory. J. E. Dunn, a Louisiana correspondent for the former New Orleans Times-Democrat, quickly repudiated Robarts' claim that Calhoun was the plantation owner that Stowe had in mind in her caricature. Calhoun was cultured, educated, and a gentleman, with looks that never seemed to age. Legree was uncouth, brutal, and ignorant, characteristics perhaps of one or more of Calhoun's overseers. Simon Legree in the novel is a northerner, but while Calhoun was born in Pennsylvania, he lived in South Carolina, Alabama, and Louisiana for much of his adult life. Robarts claimed that Calhoun had been a bachelor for many years and that there was a considerable age difference between Calhoun and his wife. Yet, Calhoun was only thirty years of age when their son was born.
- "Meredith Calhoun". search.ancestry.com. Retrieved January 15, 2015.
- "Early Mississippi Marriages". Mississippi History and Genealogy Project. Retrieved August 27, 2015.
- "Calhoun, Meredith". Louisiana Historical Association, A Dictionary of Louisiana Biography (lahistory.com). Retrieved December 22, 2010.
- "The Election of 1860: Results by States". learnnc.org. Retrieved December 23, 2010.
- The Louisiana State Senate listing from the office of the Secretary of State begins in 1880, just before prior to Senator William Calhoun: Membership in the Louisiana Senate, 1880–2012 Archived 2012-02-24 at the Wayback Machine.
- A Dictionary of Louisiana Biography, in its article on Calhoun, uses as sources the Red River Republican, Red River Democrat, and Shreveport Times; Rapides and Grant parish courthouse records; United States Census, and Mary Fletcher Harrison and Lavina McGuire McNeely, Grant Parish, Louisiana, A History (1969).
- "Model for Mrs. Stowe: Meredith Calhoun Was the Original Cruel Simon Legree, His Red River Plantation". iath.virginia.edu. Retrieved December 24, 2010.
- "J.E. Dunn, "About Uncle Tom's Cabin: A Louisianian Says Meredith Calhoun Was Not a Model for Legree, August 31, 1896". utc.iath.virginia.edu. Retrieved December 23, 2010.