(information courtesy of Historic Rosedale)
When the first European settlers traveled the well-worn path along Sugar Creek, the land along its banks had already been inhabited for hundreds of years. Native Americans had long before established the trading path that is today North Tryon. Sugar Creek and its main tributary Little Sugar Creek, were named after the Sugaree Indians that John Lawson found inhabiting the area during his explorations in the early 1750’s. The Sugarees had disappeared by the time the first settlers arrived, probably assimilated into the Catawba Indian Nation.
In the late 1740’s and the early 1750’s hundreds of settlers arrived in the piedmont of the Carolinas using the same path, then an offshot of the Great Philadelphia Wagon Road. The Scot-Irish settlers arrived from Maryland and Pennsylvania in large extended family groups and began to settle along the waters of Sugar Creek.
Religion was highly important in the lives of these Scottish Conventanters who quickly requested a minister to serve the backcountry of NC. Their requests were met by the arrival of the charismatic and fiery circuit minister, Alexander Craighead. Sugaw Creek Presbyterian Church was established in 1755 under his direction.
If religion was foremost in the minds of these hard working settlers, education came next. The Sugaw Creek Church built a log schoolhouse to educate young men who were planning to study medicine, law or the ministry.
When the school outgrew its first building, the church built the Sugaw Creek Academy in 1827. The Sugaw Creek Academy is still standing on the grounds of Sugaw Creek Presbyterian Church on North Tryon.
The independent nature of the people of Sugar Creek led many to join the fight during the American Revolution. After the Revolution, life settled down, The area along Sugar Creek was home to many illustrious Mecklenburg citizens. Many small farms and several large subsistence plantations lined the road now called the Great Road to Salisbury. One of these plantation owners was Archibald Frew who operated a merchantile business in the village of Charlotte and served as a Federal Tax Collector. Frew amassed 911 acres along present day North Tryon where he built his distinctive federal mansion in 1815.
Historic Rosedale, as it is known today, is one of Charlotte’s few remaining plantation homes open to the public. The quiet rural area of North Tryon was awakened by the noise of the railroads that arrived in the 1850s. The hostilities of the civil war ended the lives of many young men raised along North Tryon and life changed forever as the war ended and Reconstruction began. The new South and industrialization was on the horizon.
Photo of Sugaw Creek Academy – pictured (from L to R) — Jacob Stirewalt, T.L. Alexander,
General Rufus Barringer, Dr. Hayes, Leander Cooper, Amzi Alexander and A.R. Henderson
Photo of Historic Rosedale – pictured (from L to R) — Baxter Davidson Caldwell,
Mary Alice Caldwell, Baxter Craighead Davidson and an unidentified man]