Born on a farm near New Lexington in Perry County, Ohio, Calderhead received private schooling and also attended the common schools and Franklin College in New Athens, Ohio. During the Civil War, he enlisted in August 1862 as a private in Company H, 126th Regiment, Ohio Volunteer Infantry, One Hundred and Twenty-sixth Regiment, Ohio Volunteer Infantry. He was transferred to Company D, Ninth Veteran Reserves, for disability incurred in service and discharged June 27, 1865.
He moved to Harvey County, Kansas, in 1868 and engaged in agricultural pursuits near Newton. Four years later, he moved into Newton and taught school and studied law. He was admitted to the bar in 1875. He moved to Atchison, and continued to study law. He also engaged in teaching. He settled in Marysville, in 1879 and commenced the practice of law. He served as prosecuting attorney of Marshall County 1889-1891.
Calderhead was elected to the Fifty-sixth and to the five succeeding Congresses (March 4, 1899 – March 3, 1911). He served as chairman of the Committee of Expenditures in the Department of Justice (Fifty-eighth and Fifty-ninth Congresses). He was an unsuccessful candidate for renomination in 1910. He resumed the practice of law in Marysville, Kansas, until 1920, when he retired from active business pursuits and moved to Enid, Oklahoma, where he died on December 18, 1928. He was interred in Marysville Cemetery at Marysville.
Calderhead was the father of Iris Calderhead, a prominent suffragist.
- "S. Doc. 58-1 - Fifty-eighth Congress. (Extraordinary session -- beginning November 9, 1903.) Official Congressional Directory for the use of the United States Congress. Compiled under the direction of the Joint Committee on Printing by A.J. Halford. Special edition. Corrections made to November 5, 1903". GovInfo.gov. U.S. Government Printing Office. 9 November 1903. pp. 35–36. Retrieved 2 July 2023.
- Blackmar, Frank Wilson (1912). Kansas: A Cyclopedia of State History, Embracing Events, Institutions, Industries, Counties, Cities, Towns, Prominent Persons, Etc. Standard Publishing Company. p. 268. ISBN 9780722249055.
- United States Congress. "William A. Calderhead (id: C000026)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
This article incorporates public domain material from the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.