History

Archibald Frew

Archibald Frew is presumed to be born around the dawn of our country’s independence in 1776. He was the younger of two siblings who were orphaned at a young age. Records are scarce about his upbringing, however we know that Frew was in Charlotte by 1802 because he is listed as a local merchant at that time. In 1806 Archibald married Ann Cowen; together they have either seven or eight children. In 1813 Frew is appointed tax collector and postmaster for the town of Charlotte by his brother-in-law William Davidson who was a state senator. Frew completed the grand home now known as Rosedale in 1815 which was referred to as Frew’s Folly because of the over the top nature of the home in comparison to his neighbors. The very next year is referred to as a year without a summer. A volcanic eruption in the Dutch East Indies caused global temperature drops and widespread crop failures. This made collecting taxes difficult in a farming community. By 1819 William Davidson had bought the home out of foreclosure. He allowed Frew and his family to continue living in the home, but Archibald struggled attempting to pay Davidson back. Frew died on April 15, 1823… a fitting date for a tax collector. It is unclear how long after his death Ann and their children were allowed to stay in the home; eventually they did have to move out.

Sarah Frew Davidson

Sarah Frew Davidson was Archibald Frew’s older sister. She married twice in her life. Her first marriage was to Thomas Davidson who died in 1801 leaving Sarah with a young daughter to care for. She apparently felt the brunt of the inheritance laws of the time as after her husband’s death she had to purchase lots out of his estate as legally nothing was hers. One of those lots included a young enslaved girl named Cherry. She remarries in 1802 this time to William Davidson (Thomas’s nephew). Sarah had learned a thing or two from her first marriage, as William signed a deed of trust saying that any land or property she had acquired before the union belonged to her and after her death they should only go to her children. William and Sarah had four children together including Harriet Davidson Caldwell who would come to play a pivotal role in the story of her uncle Frew’s plantation. Sarah died in 1812 leaving William with four small children. The next year William took his place in the N.C. Senate.

Cherry

Cherry was born on the plantation of Thomas Davidson, the first husband of Sarah Frew Davidson. After Thomas’ death in 1801 she was to be sold off, however Sarah bought the lot that included her out of her late husband’s estate. When Sarah remarried the following year Cherry came with her to the Grove Plantation where she spent most of her life. Cherry was the children’s nurse according to family tradition. When Sarah Frew died in 1812, Cherry assumed charge of her children. Cherry had at least four children: Ann, Edmond, Joe, and John. Caldwell family tradition says that Cherry came to live at Rosedale after Harriet Davidson Caldwell died of erysipelas on July 4, 1845. Cherry took care of Alice, who was less than a year old when her mother died, along with the other young children, particularly the girls. Cherry was much loved by the family and stories about her were passed down from generation to generation within the family. One favorite story was that Cherry loved to smoke her pipe but Dr. David Caldwell forbade smoking in the house. Cherry smoked in the girl’s bedroom late at night, taking care to hold her pipe when it wasn’t in her mouth so that the smoke was carried up into the chimney!

Mary Ann Frew

Mary Ann Frew was one of the children of Archibald Frew, the man had the home built and Ann Cowen. Ms. Frew never married, as a women during this period there were not many opportunities for employment. She eventually became a tutor for the Caldwell children in the same home she grew up in.

Dr. David Caldwell

Dr. David Caldwell was born in 1799 and came from a wealthy, but pious family. His father was a Presbyterian minister and at least four of David’s siblings followed the family tradition. David on the other hand graduated from The State University in Chapel Hill in 1819, then he attended a series of medical lectures in Philadelphia. In 1820 Dr. Caldwell began practicing medicine in Charlotte with a partner, Dr. McKenzie. They practiced Heroic Medicine, which was typical for the time. It was believed that illness was caused by an excess of the four major fluids of the body; blood, phlegm, bile, and black bile. Treatments were supposed to bring the body back into balance through processes like bleeding or purging. In 1826 David marries Harriet Davidson. Between 1827 and 1844 David & Harriet have eight children, four boys and four girls. The Caldwell’s move into Frew’s old plantation in 1832, at the time the property still belonged to Harriet’s father William Davidson. The next year David purchases the property, by selling a piece of land in Tennessee that Harriet Davidson Caldwell had inherited directly from her late mother. The family lived happily and comfortably for the next dozen years, making money in many different ways on the subsistence plantation. In 1844 tragedy struck as an epidemic of erysipelas came through the town. Within a year Dr. Caldwell’s wife, Harriett, and three of their children had died. After his wife’s death he brings in an enslaved woman named Cherry to look after the remaining five children. The Dr. remarries in 1849, his new bride was named Adeline Hutchison and she was a wealthy woman from Rock Hill. Adaline had a deed of trust with Dr. Caldwell stating that the wealth she brought into the relationship should remain hers, and should only be inherited by any children the couple may have. They have one daughter, Addie born in 1851. Caldwell dies on Christmas Eve 1861, shortly after the outbreak of the Civil War. Shortly after his death Caldwell’s two remaining sons enlist in the confederacy and Adaline moves the four girls to Rock Hill and rents out the home during the war.

Harriet Davidson Caldwell

Harriet Davidson Caldwell was born in 1806 to William Davidson & Sarah Frew Davidson. When she was only six her mother died. Harriet and her three siblings were left primarily in the care of an enslaved girl named Cherry. In 1814 Harriet went left home to attend the Girl’s Boarding School in Salem, North Carolina. She stayed there for two years until she enrolled in Raleigh Female Academy. Harriet would have been a very well educated woman for her time taking lessons in writing, math, geography, history, & of course music, art, and stitching. After school she returns home until she marries Dr. David Caldwell in 1826. Between 1827 and 1844 David & Harriet have eight children, four boys and four girls. The Caldwell’s move into Frew’s old plantation in 1832, at the time the property still belonged to Harriet’s father William Davidson. The next year they purchase the property, by selling a piece of land in Tennessee that Harriet had inherited directly from her late mother. The family lived happily and comfortably for the next dozen years, making money in many different ways on the subsistence plantation. In 1844 tragedy struck as an epidemic of erysipelas came through the town. Within a year Harriett, and three of their children had died. On her deathbed Harriet asked her husband to buy Cherry, the caregiver from her youth, to look after the remaining five children. Dr. Caldwell followed through on the request. Harriet died on July 4, 1845.

Baxter Caldwell

Baxter Caldwell was born in 1838 and was the youngest son born to Dr. David Caldwell and Harriet Davidson Caldwell. By the time he was seven he loses his mother and three of his siblings to an epidemic of erysipelas. After his mother’s death an enslaved woman named Cherry was brought in to help look after the remaining five children. Baxter received his education from the school at sugar creek down the road, as his father did. In December of 1861, Baxter loses his father and enlists in the confederacy along with his brother William, who dies during the war in 1864. After the war as the only remaining son Baxter is given William’s share of the Caldwell plantation, he buys up the interest in the property from his sisters, and moves home. He also gives a piece of property of a man named Jeff who before the war had been enslaved on the plantation. Jeff oversaw many aspects of the home, and by all acounts him and Baxter were close the rest of their lives. His Sister Alice moves in with him, and neither of them ever marry or have children. Their sister Margaret married John Springs Davidson and had six children. One of her children, Baxter Craighead Davidson known as Craig, was especially close to his Aunt & Uncle. So close that when Baxter Caldwell Dies, we wills the home to Craig.

Nat

Nat was an enslaved blacksmith who worked on the Caldwell plantation. We do not have record of when Nat was born, the first record we have of him is when Dr. David Caldwell purchased him in 1826. In 1832 Dr. Caldwell purchases much of Nat’s family, including his wife & 3 children. There is no way of knowing if this was an attempt to keep the family together as this purchase was made shortly before he moved to the old Frew plantation. Nat trained other blacksmiths on the property including his son Little Nat, and his grandson George Caldwell born in 1850. Later records identify George as mulatto, or mixed race. One oral history states, George may have been the son of Dr. David Caldwell.

George Caldwell

George Caldwell was the grandson of Nat. It is because George took the name Caldwell after the Civil War that we often refer to his grandfather as Nat Caldwell, since under slavery he would not have had a surname. George lived in Mecklenburg County, NC from his birth at Rosedale Plantation in about 1850 until at least the date of the taking of the 1930 census. The year of his death and his burial location are unknown at this time. We know he was a highly skilled blacksmith on the plantation.  Most of our information on George Caldwell comes from oral histories and family stories. We can verify that the 1904 city directory entry is the first indication of George’s own blacksmith shop. George is listed in the directory as a blacksmith and his address is listed as 1007 N. Tryon Street, rear 1006. This appears to be his shop’s address.On the 1910 census his residence is Mallard Creek, and the census confirms that he is a widower. He is shown as a blacksmith “working on own account.” We believe that he was not doing the smithing, as he was about sixty years old, but was the owner of the business.  By 1917 George reappears in the city directory, this time living at 512 North Caldwell Street. The 1920 census provides us with interesting information. George is living in Charlotte on Poorhouse Road.  In 1923 the city directory lists George’s other blacksmithing business on Providence Road.  The 1930 census is the final record we located for George. At that time he was living with his daughter Sarah Caldwell Knox and her family in Charlotte in a rented home. Aunt Ruth Knox McCleave stated that Craig Davidson offered to let the family live at Rosedale, but Mr. Knox, Sarah Caldwell’s husband, was “too proud” and refused.

Louise Heagy Davidson

Louise Heagy Davidson came to Rosedale in 1918 as the young bride of Baxter Craighead Davidson. As evident in her portrait in one of our exhibit rooms, she was a great dog lover. Gardening was also a passion. Upon her arrival to Rosedale all that remained of an original garden was a row of English boxwood, a Chinquapin rosebush, an Oriental arborvitae, a flowering almond, and Roman hyacinths.  She is reported to have said, “Why do they call this place Rosedale?  There are no roses here.” She was an avid gardener, and spent much of her life creating the gardens of which the bones remain today but has been restored. Louise Heagy Davidson was the mother of the last 2 sisters to live at Rosedale, Mary Louise & Alice Davidson.

Elbert Shands

Elbert Shands stated that he was very proud of his South Carolina name. He was known as the “Conjure Man”.  No one was ever allow anyone to touch his personal property. We theorize that Elbert was Gullah.  He was the caretaker at Rosedale and the only person that was not a family member to be trusted with a key. There is a wonderful photo of Elbert with “Flyaway” the girl’s pony in the Davidson papers in special collections at UNCC.

Mary Louise & Alice Davidson

Mary Louise & Alice Davidson were the last people to live at Rosedale. They were the daughters of Baxter Craighead Davidson (Craig) and Louise Heagy Davidson. Mary Louise was the first born in 1916, about two years after Craig and Louise’s wedding. Alice was ten years younger than her sister, but in many ways the two were a team. As children growing up at Rosedale they took in everything. As the duo got older it became harder to keep up such a large home. One story we have heard is that friends & neighbors were afraid to come over because only the sisters knew exactly where to step to ensure not falling through the floors. In the 1980’s the sisters were offered two million dollars by an investor for the remaining nine acres of land. He intended to knock everything down to make way for new construction. The ladies could not stand to see that happen. Instead, In 1865, they sold the home & land to the Historic Preservation Foundation of North Carolina for about $250,000 which allowed them to move to a newer, smaller home in Charlotte. Mary Louise & Alice were members of the Colonial Dames of Mecklenburg County. The Dames were instrumental in fundraising for the purchase and restoration of the home as well as in establishing the Historic Rosedale Foundation. The home was turned over to this newly established 501(c)3 in 1986 and restoration began the same year. By the time it was completed the restoration had taken 6 years and about one million dollars. Historic Rosedale Plantation opened to the public in 1993 and has been serving the community ever since. The sisters were a major source for oral histories and memory maps of where outbuilding used to be and how their mothers gardens had looked. Mary Louise passed away in 1997 and Alice followed on 2008.