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Part One

THE TOWN OF DORCHESTER, IN SOUTH CAROLINA
- A SKETCH OF ITS HISTORY

by
HENRY A.M. SMITH
This article first appeared
in the South Carolina Historical and Genealogical Magazine,
Vol VI - No 2, April 1905 p. 62 -95



About twenty-six miles from the city of Charleston; on the north bank of the Ashley River and about six miles in a southwestwardly direction from the railroad depot in the present town of Summerville can be seen an old church tower with an overgrown disused graveyard around it, and some two hundred paces farther on - on the edge of the river - are the walls of an old fort, constructed of that mixture of shells in lime mortar formerly called "tapia" or "tabby". (Often spelled "tapis" in early records. - Editor.) These two conspicuous objects, with some scattered and shapeless masses of brick at irregular intervals, marking the sites of former houses, are all that remains of the town of Dorchester, once a comparatively flourishing, hamlet in the Low-Country of South Carolina, but which with the lesser hamlets of Jamestown, New London or Willtown, Jacksonborough, Purrysburgh and Somerton, and the still lesser, or only projected, villages of Radnor, Ashley Ferry, Childsbury and Chatham, has so long been deserted that its story has been nearly forgotten, and its very site nearly obliterated.

In the case of Dorchester its frequent mention in histories of the Revolution of 1775-1783 in South Carolina; the fact that it gave its name to one of the ecclesiastical and political divisions of the Province and State, viz: the parish of St. George, Dorchester, joined to its vicinity to the town of Summerville have conspired to preserve its name, the tradition of its former existence, and the place of its location, but beyond this practically nothing else is generally known concerning its history. It has cost no little time and labour to dig out of vanishing records the following account of itís origin and fate.

The site of the old village of Dorchester is on a neck or peninsula of land between the Ashley River and a creek now called Dorchester Creek. This creek was originally known as Boshoe, or Bossua Creek. It is called now Rose Creek, where it crosses the road from Summerville to Dorchester: Newington Creek, or Swamp, a little higher up, where it crosses the road from Summerville to Baconís Bridge and curves through the old Axtell, or Blake, plantation styled Newington (the northern part of which is now Dr. C. U. Shepard's tea farm), and finally is known as the Saw Mill Branch where it forms the southeastern boundary of the town of Summerville.

A little below the point where Dorchester Creek debouches into Ashley River, another creek called Eagleís Creek also empties into the Ashley - this last creek deriving its name from one Richard Eagle, who, about 1734, possessed the tract of land where the public road crossed the creek.

The region about the mouths of these two creeks - especially about the penisula between Dorchester Creek and Ashley River - was known by the Indian name or Boo-shoo-ee.

It was first granted to John Smith, who on 20th November, 1676, obtained a grant for 1,800 acres covering this penisula and the site of the future village.(Sec'y State's office, Vol 38 (Prop. grants), p. 4.) He was a man of considerable estate who had arrived in Carolina in 1675 with his wife and family and especially recommended by the Earl of Shaftsbury "as my particular friend" with directions that he be allowed to take up a manor in some suitable place. John Smith was subsequently a member of the Grand Council and was created a Cassique, and died in 1682. From the name of the locality in which his grant was situated he was styled "John Smith, of Boo-shoo". (Sec'y State's office, Grant Bk. 1696-1703, p. 92. Collections S. C. Hist. Soc., Vol.V., p. 470.)

The meaning of this Indian term is unknown save that the termination "ee" or "e" seems to have some connection with water - viz: Peedee, Santee, Wateree, Congaree, Co-pah-ee, etc., etc.

The creek near the village of Mt. Pleasant, now called Shem, was originally Shem-ee Creek. (M.C.O., Charleston, Bk. U 7, p. 87.)

The land included in the grant in 1678 to Arthur Middleton of 1,780 acres on Goose Creek (Sec'y State's off. Grant Bk. 1696-1703, p. 92.) (on a part of which the present Otranto clubhouse stands) is called "Yeshoe", and in the grant to James Moore of 2,400 acres on Fosterís Creek in 1683, the lands are described as known by the Indian names of Boo-chaw-ee and Wapensaw. (Sec'y State's off. Vol. 38 (Prop. Grants), p. 209.) The Indian name of Foster's Creek was Appee-bee. (Sec'y State's off. Vol. 17, Miscellaneous, p. 109.)

The appellation Boo-shoo-ee was not confined to the site of the future village on the riverside, but was applied to the low land in the vicinity as "Boshoe Swamp" and generally to the whole tract or plantation of 1,800 acres. -

It is spelt(sic) very variously in the old deeds and plats, viz: Boasoo, Boshoe, Bosho, Boosho, Booshooe, Boosoo, Bossoe, Bossua, Boochaw-ee, etc.

The high land or bluff on the river where the village was afterwards located was, at the time of its location and afterwards, an "old field" and probably the site of the first clearing and settlement of John Smith.

John Smith, of Boo-shoo, died prior to December, 1682, as in December, 1682, his widow, Mary, married Arthur Middleton, and on the death of the latter, about 1684, married Ralph Izard. (Sec'y State's off. Vol. "Grants, etc., 1704-1708", p. 250)

John Smith seems to have left no children, and in some way his grant for 1,800 acres must have lapsed to the State or the method of a new grant must have been adopted so as to confer a good title, for in the year 1696 this same 1,800 acres is re-granted to the settlers who were to confer upon it the name of Dorchester.

The history of the town and township (so-called) of Dorchester, in South Carolina, begins wiht the immigration thither of a small colony from the township of Dorchester, in the then Province of Massachusetts Bay.

The earliest record notice is in the records of the First Church at Dorchester, in New England.

On those records it appears that on the 20th October, 1695, Joseph Lord, Increase Sumner and William Pratt were "dismissed", i. e. transferred, from that church for, "Ye gathering of A church for ye South Coralina." (Records of the First Church at Dorchester, New England, published in 1891,p. 13.

Two days later, 2nd October, 1695, we read:
"ocktober ye 22 being ower lecktuer day was sett apart for the ordering of Mr. Joseph lord for to be pastuer to A church gathered that day for to goe to South Coralina to settell the gospell ther and the names of ye men are thes


Joshua Brooks
Nathaniel Billings
} of Concord
William NormanCoralina
William AdamsSudbury
Increase Sumner
William Pratt
} Dorchester
George FoxeReading
Simon DakenConcord

thes with Joseph lord did enter into a most solem Covenant to sett up the ordinances of Jesus Christ ther if the lord caryed them safely thither accordin to gospell truth withe a very large profeson of ther faithe." (Ibid, p. 109)

One William Norman had some Years before, viz: on 22nd September, 1684, obtained the customary survey to a grant from the Lords Proprietors of Carolina for 320 acres of land, which was located on the Ashley River, on the northeast side, about three miles above the spot where the Village of Dorchester was afterwards laid it out, i. e. above the old Boo-shoo settlement.

This William Norman was probably the one of that name mentioned in the above list as of Carolina. Possibly to his desire for neighbours of congenial spirit and social disposition was due the original suggestion of the colony. Of the rest of the list, Joshua Brooks, Nathaniel Billings, George Fox and Simon Daken do not appear, from any records we have, to have ever settled in Carolina - at least their names nowhere appear among the actual land-owners at Dorchester.

There are two other references to the settlement in the records of the Dorchester Church in Massachusetts.

"December 5th, 1695 - The church for Carolina set sail from Boston Dec 14th at night the skiff was neer run underwater ye Stormy wind being so boisterous. they kept a day of pray on board: & safely Landed at Carolina December ye 20th ye other vessells had a Moneths Passage this but about 14 days.

"Febr: 2nd Then was ye first Sacrament of ye Lords Supper that ever was Celebrated in Carolina Eight persons received besides Such as were of ye Church by virtue of Comunion of Churches, and there was Great Joy among ye Good People of Carolina & many Thanksgivings to Ye Lord". (Ibid, p. 145.)

And again:
"Nov. 1, 1696, Deacon Sumner's wife & family & His Brother Samuel Sumner with his wife & family with Peter O Kellys wife & six children Dismissed to ye Church of Christ neer Newington in South Carolina (since called Dorchester)" (Ibid, p. 148.)

The first of these entries, viz: that of December 5th, 1695, was evidently made after its nominal date, as it mentions the date of sailing, the 14th, nine days after the apparent date of the entry. The expression as to the "other vessels" must refer to vessels other thin the one that carried the "Church", is we shall see presently by Elder Pratt's diary there was but one vessel which at that time conveyed the members of the Church. It only marks the contrast between the quick passage of the vessel that carried the "Church" and the time taken by other vessels which sailed about the same time.

The statement as to the communion celebrated on the 2d February, 1695/6, being the first ever celebrated in Carolina is entirely erroneous. There had existed in Charles Town for many years before that date the Church of England, known as St. Philip's, on the site where St. Michael's Church now stands; also a Meeting House, or a Congregational Church, upon Meeting Street, supposed upon the present site of the Circular Church, as well as a Hueguenot, or French Protestant Church, on or near the site of the present French Protestant Church, on a lot originally granted to one Michael Lovinge, a carpenter, and which having been sold by Lovinge to Arthur Middleton was by the latter's widow with her husband, Ralph Izard (whom she married after Middleton's death), sold to James Nicholls on the 5th May, 1687, "for the use of the commonalty of the French Church in Charleston". (Sec'y State's off. "Grants, etc, 1704-1708", p. 250.)

There can be no possible doubt but that communion had been repeatedly celebrated in these churches according to their respective, rituals long before the emigration from Dorchester, Massachusetts.

The entry, of 1st November, 1696, is worthy of note as showing that the name "Newington", which was the name given to the plantation of Mrs.(generally styled "Dame" or "Lady") Rebecca Axtell, the widow of Landgrave Daniel Axtell, had come into general use, evidencing that she had for some time been settled there.

We have in the diary of Elder Pratt - the William Pratt mentioned in the Dorchester (Mass.) Church entry of 22d.
October, 1695 - an account of the voyage of the party from Boston to Charles Town. This, as being from first hand, is more authentic than the entry in the church record of Dec. 5, 1695, made from information.

Elder Pratt's diary, as a picture of the time, would, save for its length, be worthy of production here in full. It has been substantially all printed by the Rev. James Stacey, in his History of the Midway Congregational Church, Liberty County, Georgia, printed in 1899, at Newnan, Georgia.

The original diary is now in the possession of one of Elder Pratt's descendants, Mr. Joshua Eddy Crane, of Bridgeport, Mass.

Summarized, Elder Pratt's diary gives the account of the sailing of the "Church that was gathered in order to carry ye gospel ordinance to South Carolina" from Boston on Dec. 5, 1695, in one vessel (not two as has been erroneously stated. They had good weather until the 9th, when they encountered a gale, but from a favorable direction, and after its abatement made such progress as to get into Charles Town harbour on the 2Oth December. They were welcomed with a salute of 9 guns "which was more than us all", and were very kindly entertained on shore.

After a week in the town he "was carried by water up to Mr. Normans -Increase Sumner and I were kindly received and entertained by the Lady Axtell (of Newington) and tho' two other men were endeavouring to get into favour with ye lady and other neighbours and to obtain the land at Ashley River" yet the lady and others of the neighbours were more kindly disposed to them.

The minister, Mr. Lord, and others of the "Church" who had remained in Charles Town were urged by "ye Lieut: General Blake (Joseph Blake, Governor and Proprietor, then residing on his plantation called "Plainsfield", on Stono River, near New Cut.) and many others" to settle at New London (on Pon Pon River, generally known as Willtown) and had gone to Landgrave Morton's near that place. Elder Pratt and his companion also went to Landgrave Morton's to view the land at New London, and there Elder Pratt gave Mr. Lord his preference for Ashley River, and the latter agreed with him.

From Landgrave Morton's they returned, stopping first at "Mr. Curtises" and then at "Mr. Gilbosons" and Govr. Blake's.

"We were very kindly entertained at every place where we came. We heard of some of those that came from New England that had been guilty of gross miscarriages wt was a trobel to us".

They stayed in Charles Town, and then "after this Mr. Lord and some of ye church came up to Ashley river and upon ye Sabeth after being ye 26th of January Mr Lord precht at Mr. Normans house upon that text in 8 Rom. 1 vrs. There were many that came to hear of ye neighbours round about and gave diligent attention. The second day of February being Sabath day Mr. Lord precht at Ashley river upon ye text 1 Pet: 3: 18. Most of ye neighbors came to hear all ye next neighbours and several persons came about 10 miles to hear. The Sacrament of ye Lords Supper was administered yt day and 2 deacons chosen. At this time there was great joy among the good people".

Elder Pratt in this contemporaneous entry does not claim the communion administered on the 2d. February, 1696, as the first celebration of the Lord's Supper, ever had in Carolina.

The first assertion of this appears in the entry made in the records of the church at Dorchester, Massachusetts, as of 2nd February, 1696, evidently made by the person who kept the records from communications from Carolina. Thence it seems to have crept into a farewell sermon preached by the Rev. Mr. Danforth when a year later Elder Pratt (having in the meanwhile returned to New England) again embarked for Carolina. This sermon seems to have been printed in 1697, and is cited in Holmes's American Annals for the statement (under A. D. 1696) "the regular administration of the ordinances of the Gospel had not been introduced into Carolina until this year", and "there being withall in all that country neither ordained minister nor any church in full Gospel order", as stated by the Rev. Mr. Gildersleeve in his century sermon preached at Midway, in Georgia, in 1797, upon the authority of Mr. Danforth's sermon.

The statement is retreated in the Rev. Mr. Howe's History of the Presbyterian Church in South Carolina, but with the qualification that its correctness is contested.

Elder Pratt left Charles Town to return to New England on 8th February, 1696. A year later he sailed from Boston with his family to return to Carolina. He sailed from Boston on the 8th January,1696-7, and left Nantasket on the 15th. They encountered a very stormy passage, and only reached land on the 23rd of February. He does not state if any others of the "Church" than his own family came with him, but as the records of the Massachusetts church show that two months previous, viz: November 1, 1696, Deacon Sumner's wife and family, and his brother, Samuel Sumner, with his wife and family, with Peter O'Kelly's wife and six children, had been dismissed to the church near Newington, since called Dorchester, in all probability they accompanied Elder Pratt on this second voyage, and with the latter and his family, consisting of his wife, Elizabeth Baker Pratt, and daughter, Thankful Pratt, constituted the departing friends to whom the Rev. Mr. Danforth addressed his valedictory sermon printed in 1697. The confusion made of these two departures is also evidently the origin of the statement in Mr. Howe's history that they sailed on the 14th December, 1695, in two small vessels, whereas Elder Pratt, in his contemporaneous diary mentions but one.

During Elder Pratt's absence in New England the land had been finally secured. On 7th July, 1696, a grant was made to John Stevens of the very 1,800 acres, known as Boo-shoo, formerly granted to John Smith. (Sec'y State's off. Vol. 38 (Prop. Grants), p. 298.) Another tract of 2,250 acres lay to the west of the Boo-shoo tract on the Ashley River, filling the intervening space between the line of the grant to John Smith and the 320 acre grant to Wm. Norman and the Newington grant of Lady Axtell. This had apparently been granted or transferred to, and was in the possession of a Mr. Rose, and was known as "Rose's" or "Rose's land". Exactly how this was obtained from Rose or why new grants were made the record does not disclose, but on the 1st February, 1699-1700, two new grants were issued to John Stevens, one for the 1,800 acres, or Boo-shoo tract, and the other for the 2,250, or "Rose's" tract - 4,050 acres in all. (Ibid, p. 370.)

These grants altho' issued to John Stevens, individually, were for the benefit of the intending settlers of the "Church", as the deeds made by John Stevens to them soon show.

Elder Pratt and the rest of the "Church" in February, 1697; the land procured was divided. Elder Pratt states in his diary:

"The 23 of March in the year 1697 the church and others that were concerned did draw loots the 24th day that all meet together to stake out and mark their loots in the trading town on both days when they met together on those occasions there was love and amity and peace in what was acted"

The division was then made and determined by lot. The place styled by the Elder "the trading town" was what was afterwards known as the village of Dorchester, which on the old map is stated to have laid out as a place of trade. A map and division was made of the whole 4,050 acres, and the term Dorchester, or Township of Dorchester, was applied to the whole, the village site being only the place of trade in Dorchester. The old name Booshoo, however, long survived. In the deeds from John Stevens the tract of 4,050 acres is always described as consisting of two tracts, one called Booshoo and the other Rose's. The "Rose land" having been obtained after the Boo-shoo tract is sometimes called the "New Grant" or "New Granted".

In a conveyance from the Rev. Mr. Lord to John Hawks, 4th March, 1716-17, of 100 acres it is described as lying "partly in that part of the land belonging to Dorchester which is commonly called the New Grant partly in that formerly called Bossoo."

As time went on and the village grew in size and importance the name Dorchester was restricted, but universally applied, to this town and the older designations were forgotten.

The map showing the division of the whole 4,000 acres has long since disappeared. Only by a comparison of deeds and adjoining titles can the lines and divisions be approximately arrived at.

Elder Pratt's diary shows that the "Church" were not the sole occupiers of these divisions, for his entry says that the Church "and others that were concerned" drew lots for the shares.

There appears to have been a division into twenty-six parts, for John Stevens, in his conveyance of the land to be used for the support of the church ministry, after conveying certain specific lots, conveys 1-26th of all undivided land in Dorchester. This undivided land consisted of 123 acres reserved for mill land near the mouth of the creek on its north side, and a "commons" of 50 acres adjacent to the place of trade. When the mill land was afterwards sub-divided it was into 26 lots of 4.75 acres each, and the "commons" into lots of about 2 acres.

The old deeds show the general division of the 4,050 acres to have been as follows:
There was first set aside about 50 acres, subdivided into 115 lots of about a quarter of an acre each in size to form a "place of trade".

Space was left for a public square and for streets, and an area of about 20 acres between the town and the creek where it enters the river was also left for public use. A "commons" of about 50 to 52 acres was set off adjacent to the town, immediately to the west. An area of 123 acres was set aside for mill purposes and called "mill land". This 123 acres lay north of the town, along Boshoe Creek, and included the low land on each side of the creek.

The remainder of the land was laid off in two divisions. The first division consisted of two ranges. The first range consisted of 26 lots of 50 acres each laid off along the Ashley River, each lot being about 10 chains wide in its frontage on the river, and running back 50 chains. . The numbering begin at lot No. 1, next to William Norman's line, about a third of a mile west of the present Bacon's Bridge,and were numbered successively down toward the town. Lot No. 26 being next to the "commons".

The second range of the first division lay immediately north of the first range, from which it was separated by an highway, and was divided into 26 lots of 45 acres each. The second division lay immediately north of the second range from which it was also separated by an highway, and was likewise divided into 26 lots of 45 acres each.

The present village of Stallsville and the eastern part of the town of Summerville, viz: from about Fourth South Street on the north and Sumter Avenue on the west are on part of this second division of the 4,050 acres - on part of the 2,250 acres known as Rose's or the New Grant.