The Families of Rosedale
Rosedale was built in 1815 by Archibald Frew, a merchant, postmaster and tax collector.
Archibald and his sister Sarah arrived in the village of Charlotte in the late 1790s. Archibald began making trips up the Philadelphia or Great Wagon Road to Philadelphia to bring goods into the backcountry. Soon he brought property and opened a store in the village. Business was good and in 1802 Archibald began to amass land in the Sugar Creek community.
Also in 1802 Archibald married Ann Cowan. Her father David Cowan was prominent in the Sugar Creek Community and had served as Keeper of Weights and Measures for the county. At the time of their marriage Archibald was thirty and Ann was twenty. Together they had seven (or perhaps eight) children.
Archibald's sister, Sarah, had married William Davidson in 1802. Previously, she was married to William's uncle, Thomas Davidson, who died in 1801. William Davidson became a very wealthy and powerful man. His relationship with his brother-in-law had a strong and lasting influence on the life of Archibald Frew. Archibald was named postmaster and his store served as the local post office. Records indicate that Archibald Frew had been appointed as a tax collector by 1814.
In 1815 Rosedale was under construction on the land at Sugar Creek. He seemed to spare no expense in the construction of a grand plantation house. Locally, Rosedale was called "Frew's Folly" probably because of its lavishness. His Scots-Irish Presbyterian neighbors in the community did not believe in flaunting their wealth.
Archibald Frew died at the age of forty-seven at Rosedale on April 15, 1823, a fitting date for the death of a tax collector. Archibald Frew’s estate was valued at $1200, a reasonable size estate for the time.
The house was occupied in the 1830s by D. T. Caldwell and his family. David Thomas Caldwell was blessed with a strong and illustrious family background. His prestigious ancestry includes great-grandfather Rev. Alexander Craighead, the first minister between the Yadkin and Catawba Rivers, known for his fiery, independent spirit. David’s grandfather, David Thomas Caldwell, was minister, patriot and teacher of the "Log College" in Guilford County. His other grandfather, John McKnitt Alexander, was secretary of the committee that authored the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence.
David was the oldest son born to the Rev. Samuel Craighead Caldwell and Abigail Bain Alexander in 1799, just three years after Rev. Caldwell was called to minister to the Hopewell and Sugar Creek Presbyterian Communities of Mecklenburg County. He had six brothers, five of whom became ministers, one a lawyer, and two sisters. David received his early education from his father at the classical school at Sugar Creek. He later graduated from the State University circa 1820, studying under Dr. McKenzie; he then attended medical lectures in Philadelphia.
In 1822 he returned to Mecklenburg County and formed a medical partnership with one of the leading physicians of the county and his former teacher, Dr. McKenzie.
On March 30, 1826, David married Harriet Elizabeth Davidson, daughter of William Davidson, Esq. and Sarah Frew. William was a state senator and one of the wealthiest and most influential men in Mecklenburg County. Harriet and David had eight children, and lived a quite prosperous life at
Rosedale. David supported his family with the income from his medical practice. The plantation, although one of the largest in Mecklenburg County, was a subsistence plantation. Cotton was raised but only what could be sold locally. On the plantation were a cotton mill and press, a saw mill, blacksmith shop, and orchard. Many of the outbuildings survived until recent years.
Harriet Davidson died in 1845 in the terrible epidemic of Erysipelas that swept through Mecklenburg County. Three of her children also died of the disease within a six month period. In 1849 Dr. Caldwell married Adeline Hutchinson of Rockhill, SC. They had one daughter, Adeline.
Dr. Caldwell died in 1861 on the eve of the bloodiest period in American history. He was buried at Settler’s Cemetery in the village of Charlotte with his first wife and children.
Sarah Frew was the sister of Archibald Frew, and a very progressive woman for her time. We know little about her childhood. Family tradition has it that Sarah was born in 1772 and that her parents both died when she was very young. She first appears in the records of Charlotte in 1796 on a mortgage to Isaac Cook, who owned Cook’s Tavern, where George Washington stayed when he visited Charlotte in 1791. Sarah loaned Cook 256 pounds with his tavern contents as collateral. This was a good sum of money for a young woman of approximately twenty-one, who listed her occupation as seamstress.
Sarah Frew married Thomas Davidson in 1794, according to family tradition. By the laws of the time, Sarah gave up all rights to land, money, and property when she wed. Everything she owned became the property of Thomas Davidson. They had one daughter, Mary Long Davidson. Although we know little about Thomas, we can tell he was a very successful man by the estate that he left at his death in 1801. He left his beloved wife, Sarah, 1,000 pounds. He assigned his executor, John McKnitt Alexander, to sell several slaves, their home on the square in Charlotte and 29 lots in the town of Charlotte. All his remaining property and belongings he left to his daughter, Mary Long Davidson.
On May 1, 1802, Sarah purchased from her husband's estate the following: "Lot No.’s 17 and 18 in the town plan of Charlotte, including the house in which the said Davidsons lived (on the corner of Trade and Tryon where Polk Park now stands); 29 lots in the town of Charlotte; and three slaves.
When William Davidson, nephew of Thomas Davidson, had proposed to Sarah soon after the settlement of her husband’s estate, Sarah was not willing to lose rights again to all her hard-earned property. William agreed to sign a deed of trust giving Sarah rights to legally retain her property and money after the marriage. This property was to remain hers until her death and then be inherited by her daughter or future heirs.
William was born in 1778. He and Sarah had four children: Margaret, born 1803; Sarah Frew (Sally), born 1804; Harriett Elizabeth, born 1806; and William Archibald Frew Davidson, born probably in 1808. They lived on the southwest corner of Trade and Tryon in the home Sarah had purchased from Thomas' estate. Sarah died in the year 1812, leaving William with four small children to raise.
The very next year, William took his place in the N. C. Senate, where he served until 1817. In 1814 William took his three daughters to the Girls' Boarding School in Salem, North Carolina, where they would board and attend school until 1816. At Salem the girls took classes in grammar, geography, and the two older girls took music. Later the girls were enrolled in the Raleigh Female Academy, in Raleigh, North Carolina.
William left for Washington in 1818, where he would serve in the U. S. Congress until 1821. Although Sarah died in 1812, the Davidson family believes that it was Sarah's money that purchased Rosedale, when her brother was in dire straits in 1818. William never took possession of the property or lived there, as best we can tell from the records. Archibald continued to live there until his death.
William Davidson was at one time thought to be the richest man in Mecklenburg County. In 1850 he owned 21 slaves, which put him in the planter class.
His obituary in the Western Democrat on September 22, 1857, states that he died several days after being thrown from his carriage by a runaway horse. He had served in the State Senate for nine terms and in the U. S. Congress from 1818 - 1821.