In standard Present-day English, "I don't care to be there" means the same as "I don't wish to be there." Apparently, this is not the case in some present and historical dialects. Wylene P. Dial writes in The Dialect of The Appalachian People (1969):
One of the most baffling expressions our people use (baffling to "furriners," at least) is "I don't care to. . . ." To outlanders this seems to mean a definite "no," whereas in truth it actually means, "thank you so much, I'd love to." One is forevermore hearing a tale of mutual bewilderment in which a gentleman driving an out-of-state car sees a young fellow standing alongside the road, thumbing. When the gentleman stops and asks if he wants a lift, the boy very properly replies, "I don't keer to," using care in the Elizabethan sense of the word. On hearing this, the man drives off considerably puzzled leaving an equally baffled young man behind.
I've been able to find some voices on the internet confirming that this usage is still present. However, I haven't found any example the Elizabethan usage. I'm wondering how widespread it was then, and whether the two opposing meanings ever co-existed on equal rights. I've found some Scottish sentences from the beginning of the 19th century in Wright's English Dialect Dictionary.
With the negative: to make no objection.
Sc. Even Irish Teague ayont Belfast Wadna care to spear about
her, SKINNER Misc. Poems (1809) 159; I see you've read my hame-
spun lays And wadna care to soun' my praise, COCK Strains (1810)
85; I dinna care to gang wi' you a bit. He wadna [hae] cared
to hae strucken me (JAM.).
However, under "AT-OWER", there's this:
Sc. An' mair attour, I didna care to bachle my new sheen, FORBES Jrn. (1742) 16
"Bachle" means wear down and "sheen" are shoes, so I believe it's the standard modern meaning of "care to" employed here.
My questions/requests are:
Could you give me some examples of this strange usage in Elizabethan English, preferably not Scottish, since I'm already pretty sure Scots used to employ it?
Did the two opposing meaning ever co-exist in any area?
How did it happen exactly that the two opposing meaning arose? It's not counter-intuitive to me, but I'm having trouble putting my intuition into words.
If you have something interesting to say about this matter that I didn't ask about, please do.