CALDICOTT, THOMAS FORD, Baptist clergyman; b. probably on 21 March 1803 in Long Buckby, Northamptonshire, England, son of Joseph and Nancy Caldicott; d. 9 July 1869 in Toronto, Ont.
Thomas Ford Caldicott’s father was a lay preacher and a deacon in the Baptist church at Long Buckby. After leaving school Thomas learned the trade of shoemaker, but his interest in preaching led him to further study. When no opening as a student at a Baptist college was available to him, he began a day-school in Leicester, while continuing his studies and serving as a lay preacher.
By 1827 Caldicott had immigrated to Canada, and become connected at Quebec with the 79th Foot, first as tutor to the family of the commanding officer, then as regimental schoolmaster. He accompanied the regiment successively to Montreal, Kingston, and York (Toronto). At York he was received on 22 May 1831 into the membership of the recently formed March Street Baptist Church, where the Reverend Alexander Stewart was minister. Caldicott was appointed a deacon on 3 July 1832, and licensed a lay preacher on 2 Oct. 1832, being known as the “soldier preacher.”
In 1833, assisted by his brother Samuel, Caldicott opened the York Commercial and Classical Academy, a private school offering “a practical secondary education as opposed to the classicism of Upper Canada College.” Caldicott also had a stationery and book store. He was prominent in the York Mechanics’ Institute, founded in December 1830. He served as secretary of the Young Men’s Society, formed in 1831, and delivered “a most able and impressive essay on the worth of the soul” at one of its first meetings. Caldicott participated in the organization meeting at York in January 1832 of the Upper Canada Religious Tract and Book Society and served as a committee member in 1833–34; he was also a director of the York Auxiliary Bible Society from 1833–35. The preaching ministry was his goal, however, and in 1834 his ordination to the Baptist ministry took place in Chinguacousy Township, Upper Canada. At this time he was characterized as “a vigorous thinker, an effective speaker and a good singer.”
Seeking wider opportunities for his ministry, in 1835 Caldicott moved to the United States, where for the next 25 years he served Baptist churches in Lockport, N.Y., in and near Boston (including the Baldwin Place Church) in Massachusetts, and at Williamsburg (New York City), N.Y. His broad interests led him into active participation in denominational affairs. He was honoured by election to many offices, and by a dd from Madison (Colgate) University, Hamilton, N.Y., in 1852, and he was in constant demand as a preacher. Stressing the importance of an educated ministry, he supported the work of the Northern Baptist Education Society, serving on its board of directors in many capacities, including that of full-time secretary from 1848 to 1850.
In November 1860 Caldicott returned to the Toronto church, now named Bond Street Baptist Church. His nine years in this church were described as “the solid rock foundation upon which is built the present prosperity of the Baptist church in Toronto.” Here, as in his American pastorates, he promoted strongly the idea of “systematic beneficence”; the weekly offering system was adopted, clearing his church of debt, abolishing pew rents, and increasing its contributions to missions. For a short time in 1861–62 he assisted Robert Alexander Fyfe* in the editorial duties of the Canadian Baptist, but he had little liking for literary work. His heart was in his pulpit and pastoral duties.
Caldicott’s friend and biographer, William Stewart*, characterized his discourses as “pre-eminently scriptural, methodical, and practical.” Two sermons preached at Baptist conventions were particularly noteworthy: one on “Systematic Beneficence,” at the Hamilton convention of 1863, and the other at the important Ingersoll convention of 1867 when his opening sermon was a factor in launching the Canadian Baptist foreign mission enterprise in India. Many organizations and committees profited by his leadership in the 1860s, among them the Upper Canada Bible Society of which he was a director, the Upper Canada Tract Society, and the Toronto branch of the Evangelical Alliance. But he does not seem to have been connected with any of the controversial issues of his day, secular or religious. He was an excellent host, full of wit and interesting anecdote. Of portly build and commanding presence, “a man of sterling worth, of broad culture,” he was regarded with esteem and deep affection by his contemporaries.
Canadian Baptist Archives, McMaster Divinity College (Hamilton, Ont.), Caldicott papers. T. F. Caldicott, A concise history of the Baldwin Place Baptist Church . . . (Boston, 1854); “The convention sermon: ‘O Lord, revive thy work, Habakkuk 3:2’,” Canadian Baptist (Toronto), 31 Oct. 1867; Hannah Corcoran: an authentic narrative of her conversion from Romanism, her abduction from Charlestown, and the treatment she received during her absence (Boston, 1853); Systematic beneficence: a sermon preached before the annual meeting of the Baptist Missionary Convention of Canada West, in the city of Hamilton, October 21, 1863 (Toronto, 1863). Canadian Baptist (Toronto), 15, 22 July, 19 Aug. 1869. The Baptist encyclopædia . . . , ed. William Cathcart (2v., Philadelphia, 1881). Directory of the Jarvis St. Baptist Church, Toronto, August, 1897 (Toronto, 1897), 49–64; app., pp.51, 53, 56–57, 61, 63. Robertson’s landmarks of Toronto, I, 464; II, 756; IV, 424. William Stewart, “Thomas Ford Caldicott, D.D.,” McMaster University Monthly (Toronto), IV (1894–95), 145–54.