Mary Essie Petrie Caldwell was featured at the first Dine with the Departed event hosted by the Osceola County Historical Society in 2010. Of distinguished Hugenot ancestry, Essie, as she was fondly known, was born June 3, 1838 in Cheraw, South Carolina to Reverend George H.W. Petrie and his wife Mary Jane. Rev. Petrie was an eminent clergyman of the Southern Presbyterian Church and Essie’s grandfather was an officer in the American Revolution.
The family moved to Montgomery, Alabama when Essie was nineteen. As a close personal friend, she had the honor of attending the inauguration of Jefferson Davis as President of the Confederate States of America in 1861. Shortly after the Civil War, she opened a school, which became one of the leading schools of Montgomery. Pupils came from surrounding towns and villages in order to study under her and have the advantage furnished by her school.
Following her marriage to James Caldwell in Montgomery, they continued to live there until 1897 when James’s health prompted them to move to Kissimmee with their daughter Jean. James passed away on January 24, 1902. In 1910, when the Will Bryan Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy was formed in Kissimmee, Essie and Jean were charter members and remained with the organization until it disbanded in 1921. Soon another chapter was formed and honored Essie by naming it the Essie Petrie Chapter. Essie authored numerous poems, one which was sung at every UDC meeting.
Source: assorted issues of “Kissimmee Valley Gazette”; 1927-1928 Yearbook for Essie Petrie Caldwell Chapter of United Daughters of the Confederacy (OCHS Collection)