What we know today as Historic Rosedale has long been home to many memorable and strong women.
One of the first was Sarah Frew Davidson. While Sarah never lived at Rosedale, she figures prominently in its history as the sister of builder Archibald Frew and mother of Harriet Davidson Caldwell. Sarah first married Thomas Davidson and after his passing married his nephew William Davidson (later named a North Carolina senator. Sarah and William moved to his home at the Grove Plantation. Sarah had a total of five children and died at a young age in 1812.
On Thomas Davidson’s plantation, there was an enslaved woman named Cherry. Sarah Frew Davidson brought Cherry with her to the Grove Plantation when she married William. Cherry lived most of her life there caring for the Davidson children. Cherry played a critical role in raising the Davidson children especially after Sarah’s early death. Cherry had at least four children of her own and in 1845 continued her legacy of raising Davidson children when she moved to Rosedale to care for Sarah’s grandchildren.
It was Harriet Davidson Caldwell who brought Cherry to Rosedale. Harriet had inherited Rosedale from her father William, and moved there sometime after 1830 with her husband Dr. David Caldwell and their eight children. Rosedale became an important site to the growing Charlotte/Mecklenburg area but in 1845 tragedy struck as an epidemic gripped the region. Harriet, along with three of her children, succumbed to the disease and it was Cherry who was sent from the Grove Plantation (at Harriet’s death-bed request) to care for the newly motherless children. Cherry once again underscored her role in the Davidson legacy.
Harriet’s grandson, Baxter Craighead Davidson married Louise Heagy and settled her at Rosedale in 1914. Louise Heagy Davidson (whose portrait dominates one of the third floor bedrooms at Historic Rosedale) was a dog lover and keen gardener, responsible for the revitalization of much of Rosedale’s gardens. She had two daughters, Mary Louise and Alice, who would later in life make the crucial decision on the fate of the Davidson homestead and Historic Rosedale’s future.
Mary Louise Davidson (born in 1916) and her sister Alice (born 10 years later) grew up at Rosedale and loved the home and its place in Charlotte. However, by the 1980s, they were struggling to maintain the home and property. They knew something had to be done to save the historically significant site. In 1985, the Historic Preservation Foundation of North Carolina purchased Rosedale, saving it from developers. The Colonial Dames of America (of which the Davidson sisters were members) had a major hand in raising the funds to purchase and restore the home. It was also Mary Louise and Alice who shared their family’s stories in hours of interviews, capturing history before it was lost.
From Plantation wives to enslaved caregivers to Colonial Dames, Historic Rosedale has been fortunate to have a long line of loyal and supportive women in its history. These women contributed – in their own ways, in their own times – to the historic house museum we see today. Watch our social media accounts this month for more photos and information about the women of Rosedale.