HomeResearch | Cemeteries | Queries | Surnames

Colleton County SCGenWeb
Colleton County, South Carolina
Early History


        The land that  was to become South Carolina was an early outpost of Spain, France, Spain again, and finally, England.    In 1670 King Charles II of England established a settlement at Charles Towne.

        The first settlement of Colleton County was Willtown settled on the Edisto River (near Jacksonboro) in 1682 at the time the county lines were drawn.   It was first named New London by the Lords Proprietors and was renamed by 1708.  There were at that time boat docks, small shops, and two churches.  It was at Willtown that a ferry operated across the south Edisto River, which in colonial days was called the Pon Pon (an Indian name given to the last twenty miles of the Edisto River).    A stagecoach was later built from Charleston to Savannah which went through Willtown.

        Willtown's plan called for 250  lots and 62 blocks with 17 streets laid in a grid pattern.  Four acres each were reserved for a school and an Episcopal church and parsonage.  An acre each were planned for a market town  and a town garden.   Willtown was an important regional trade center until the 1740s but it declined after epidemics of malaria during the summer months, afterward being plundered by the British soldiers during the Revolution.Although it never recovered as a merchant trade center, Willtown became a popular summer village, later becoming part of Charleston County.  The place where Willtown once stood is now Willtown Plantation.

Originally the Indian settlement of Pon Pon, the town of Jacksonborough took its name for John Jackson who was granted land along the Edisto River in 1701.  Around 1735 it was recognized as a settlement, and a plan of the town drawn in 1780 shows 113 town lots.  Jacksonborough became the county seat with a courthouse and jail.      The first free school was established in Jacksonborough in 1744, and early Methodist and Episcopal churches were built.

        In February 1782, with Charleston under siege by the British, the General Assembly met in Jacksonborough.  The Masonic Lodge building and a tavern  owned by Peter DuBose were used for the meetings of the Senate and the House.   Thus, Jacksonborough became the Provisional Capital of South Carolina.

        Colleton (two parishes) was represented by the following:

St Paul's Parish: St. Bartholomew's Parish
Joseph Bee, Senator John Lloyd, Senator
Thomas Bee, Representative Joseph Glover, Sr, Representative.
Thomas Ferguson,  ". Edmund Hyrne, "
George Livingston,  " James Postell, Jr.,  "
Christopher Peters,  " Richard Singleton,  "
Joseph Slann,          " William Skirving,  "
Marion Wilkinson,  " John Ward,  "
        A post office was established in Jacksonboro on February 23, 1823.  It's name was changed to "Jacksonborough" after July of 1869, and back again  to Jacksonboro November 28, 1892.

        The South Carolina Gazette was published the spring of 1782 at Parker's Ferry, a few miles above Jacksonboro, being the first publication outside Charleston.


        The early churches in South Carolina were directly related to the origins of the people.  The English were members of the Church of England;  the French were Catholic or Huguenot; the Scots were Presbyterians or Dissenters (those who were not in agreement with the Presbyterians or the Church of England); the Irish were Catholic; and the Jews.  For the first thirty years of colonization there was no real organized religion.  It was in the early 1800s that a great number of people became converted to the two new religions, the Baptist and Methodist, which by 1810 were represented in equal numbers to the Presbyterians.

         The first settlers in Colleton County were Episcopal (Anglican), who settled along the Chee-Ha (Cheehaw) River.  They established the first place of worship, called a glebe (a portion of land assigned to a parish).  In this case the parish was the St. Bartholomew Parish, established in 1706.   The oldest was in the town of Edmundsbury, named for Landgrave Edmund Bellinger.  This area was greatly affected by the Yemassee Indian War of 1715. 

       The second Episcopal church was located in Pon Pon, called the Pon Pon Chapel of Ease to St. Bartholomew's Parish.  It is located on the road to Parker's Ferry which, when the chapel was built in 1725, was the stage coach road from Charleston to Savannah.    The ruin of this chapel is still a historic site, referred to for many years as the Old Burnt Church. 

       Colleton County was considered the stronghold of the "Dissenters".  As noted in Colleton County, South Carolina, A History of the First 160 Years, 1670-1830, not all Dissenters were Presbyterians, but all Presbyterians were Dissenters.   For the first thirty years, until 1700, the Dissenters controlled the Province.  The first church was Bethel Presbyterian Church, on Hwy 63.  Much of its congregation moved to Walterboro when it became the county seat in 1820, and the new Bethel Presbyterian Church was established there on Church Street.

       Rev. William Screven came with his followers to South Carolina around 1696 from Massachusetts.  He is credited with founding the first Baptist church in the Province, in what is now Clarendon County, South Carolina.  Through his leadership, the Charleston Church led the Baptists in the area. 

       There were divisions among the Baptists even then, with several groups forming:  the Anabaptist, Antipedo Baptists, and the Calvinistic Baptists.    Many residents of early Colleton County were members of the St. Andrew's Parish Baptist Church. 

       Methodism was present in Colleton County as early as 1734, when Joh Wesley preached at the Pon Pon Chapel on April 24, 1734.  Bishop Francis Asbury was instrumental in spreading the faith in the South and visited Colleton County many times in the late 1700's and early 1800's.

       The first Mass was celebrated in Charleston in 1786, but there were few Catholics until after the Revolutionary War.   In 1793 Rev. Simon Felix Gallagher, a native of Dublin, Ireland, came to Charleston.  He was very active in city affairs, organizing the Hibernian Society. 

       In the colonial days in the province, the Jews were the leading non-Protestant religious group,  establishing one of the earliest congregation in Charleston in 1750. 



        By the 1850's the mainstay of the low country economy was rice production, with South Carolina and Georgia producing  90% of the country's rice and importing to European markets.

        There were 227 plantations cultivating rice crops, called "Carolina Gold",  encompassing 70,000 acres.  By 1916 less than 500 pounds of rice were produced.   The emancipation of slaves and the mechanization of other states in rice harvesting (the ground in low country South Carolina was too soft for modern equipment).  Floods and hurricanes of 1910 and 1911 took a heavy toll on the remaining plantations.

This history is a work in progress.  Please check back frequently!

Additional Colleton County History 


The Colleton County Museum

Narratives of Colleton County,  by Beulah Glover, 1959

Colleton County, South Carolina, A History of the First 160 Years, 1670-1830,
by Evelyn McDaniel Frazier Bryan, pub. 1969, 1974

Top of Page