THE TOWN OF DORCHESTER, IN SOUTH CAROLINA
- A SKETCH OF ITS HISTORY
HENRY A.M. SMITH
This article first appeared
in the South Carolina Historical and Genealogical Magazine,
Vol VI - No 2, April 1905 (p. 62 - 81: online - more coming
The list of the settlers has not come down to us. The
of the lots were not confined to them, but from data derived from later
transfers, wills and conveyances the following appear to have formed
all of the new settlers who received lots in the division:
1. John Stevens. He was in Carolina before the others
The record does not show where he came from. He was one of the leading
men in the Dorchester settlement, and was the ancestor of the Stevens
members of which have always occupied position in lower South Carolina.
2. Revd. Joseph Lord. Was the Pastor under whom the
immigrated. Received lot No. 10 in the first range, and purchased lots
11 and 12 in the same range. Lot 10 he subsequently conveyed (15 Aug
to "Michael Bacon Nathaniel Sumner and Thomas Osgood Jr.and the rest of
the inhabitants of in and about Dorchester now under the ministrv of
Rev Mr Hugh Fisher". He left Carolina and returned to Massachusetts in
3. Increase Sumner received a lot in the first
4. Williant Pratt. He received lot No. 23 in the
It is to his diary that we are indebted for so much information as to
first settlement. He returned to New England and there died 13th
5. William Adams.
6. William Norman. He had already a grant for 320
does not seem to have taken any part of the division of the 4,050
He apparently left a number of descendants.
7. Samuel Sumner, brother of Increase Sumner,
24 in the first range.
8. Michael Bacon. Received a lot in the first
range, and purchased
lots 6 and 7 in the same range from John Stevens. On one of these last
two was situated the bridge over the Ashley River, originally called
Bridge, but ever since and now known as Bacon's Bridge.
9. John Simmons received lot 12 in the first range.
10. Abraham Gorton received lot 13 in the first
11. Jonathan Clarke received lot 14 in the first
12. Thomas Osgood had a lot in the first range and
part of all undivided lands.
13. Job Chamberlain removed to Carolina in 1698,
and in 1702
owned a lot in the second division.
14. Aaron Way, Senr.
15. Aaron Way, Junr.
16. William Way.
17. Moses Way.
18. Samuel Way.
All of the Ways seem to have been original settlers and at
date owned lots in one or other of the divisions.
19. Robert Miller, an early settler, as early as
accumulated 479 acres in the second range of the first division.
The foregoing are all that can be said with any degree of
to have been among those who received lots at the first division of the
The following are the additional names of others who appear
afterwards as owning some of the lots and as forming part of the
John Hill in 1726.
There were outsiders, apparently, who had lots very early.
have been the "others that were concerned", mentioned by Elder Pratt.
Thomas Satur 1722.
Peter Savey 1738.
Joseph Brunson 1722.
John Hawks 1721.
John Kitchen 1720.
Thomas Graves 1720.
Robert Winn 1718.
Stephen Dowse 1727.
Isaac Brunson 1712.
Ralph Izard and Daniel Chastaigner, both persons wholly
with the "Church", held lots in the first range at an early date. Izard
prior to 1708 and Chastaigner prior to 1712.
The small lots in the town, or place of trade, very soon
drift into the hands of outsiders.
There has been a tendency to depict this settlement as
unusual - a band of enthusiastic missionaries, carrying the Gospel into
a primeval wilderness.
The Rev. Mr. Howe, in his History of the Presbyterian
South Carolina, says they "came into this country as a missionary
to plant an institution of the Gospel", and again they sailed "toward
land God had given them as an inheritance, not knowing whither they
and again that they settled "here in the midst of an unbroken forest
by beasts of prey and savage men twenty miles from the dwellings of any
whites they took up their abode".
All this is rhetorical but not historical. Mr. Howe cites
authority a sermon styled "The Hand of God Recognized", preached by the
Rev. Mr. George Sheldon on the 22d. February, 1846, in the
Church at Dorchester, in observance of the 150th anniversary of that
This sermon does make similar statements, but the reverend author gives
no references for his statements.
The contemporaneous records show otherwise. The "Church"
between two points. Boosboo and New London. They were entertained and
at both places by persons who had already settled. The lands they
settled on had been granted away and settled by another 20 years
They were surrounded by settlers who had preceded them, viz: Lord
barony with its settlement lay to the south, on the opposite side of
river. West of them were the settlements of Col. Andrew Percivil
in 1682), of William Norman (1684), of Benjamin Waring, of Lady Axtell
at Newington. East, along the Ashley River, the entire land was taken
already by grants and settlements, and northeast of them, about six
off towards the head of Goose Creek, was another and quite numerous
of settlements dating from 10 to 20 years previous.
Elder Pratt himself says in his diary that Mr. Lord's first
was attended by "all ye next neighbours", and that persons even came
10 miles around.
It is not even certain that the church building,
constructed by the
Dorchester immigration, was the first church building constructed in
The little colony of French Huguenots who settled in the
of the head of Goose Creek had at a very earlyperiod a small church
on lands not far to the east of the present Ladson's station, on the
Railway. This last may have preceded the erection of any church at
Provision was made at once, however, by the Dorchester
the construction of a permanent church building and the support of the
ministry, for on 21st September, 1702, John Stevens conveyed "for
for the ministry of the Congregational Church now settled in Dorchester
unto the inhabitants of Dorchester and particularly unto William Pratt
Increase Sumner and Thomas Osgood Senr. as persons intrusted by the
of Dorchester and to their successors from time to time chosen by the
of said Dorchester", lot No, 9 in the first range within the land "now
called by the name of Dorchester (which was formerly two tracts one
called Boosoo the other Roses land)", also Lot 1 in the second
also 4 small lots Nos. 13, 33, 44 and 112 "in the place designed for a
place of trade within Dorchester", also 1-26th of all undivided land
Dorchester. The ministry seems to have been provided for as if the
itself formed one of the 26 to whom the tract was partitioned.
The church building was placed on Lot 9 in the first range
its ruins and the old grave-yard stand to this day.
It was not placed in the town or place for trade, but about
one-half or two miles to the west, near the public road, then called
The place seems to have thriven slowly. Thankful Pratt, the
of William Pratt, married a Daniell Axtell, of Sudbury, in
When he came to Carolina is not known, but he was here in 1699,
on a saw mill and tar and turpentine business in connection with Lady
and Robert Fenwicke, and Gershom Hawks. He kept a sort of day book of
which is now in the hands of his descendents, Mr. Joshua Eddy Crane, of
This day book as containing the names of the persons with
dealt gives us the names of the then persons living in and around
Gershom Hawks and Robert Fenwicke had each obtained grants for 1,000
in the vicinity - Robert Fenwicke in 1700 (Sec'y State's off, Vol 38, p
400) and Gershom Hawks in 1705. (Ibid, p 523) All of the present town
Summerville, not included in the Dorchester tract of 4,050 acres, lies
within the last two grants. Germantown and that part of Summerville
to Germantown are on the grant to Hawks, and all of New Summerville, i.
e: that part laid out by the Railroad Company is on the grant to
The old mill dam and mill site which gave the name of "Saw
Branch to the swamp is either on part of the original Dorchester grant
or the grant to Fenwicke.
Daniel Axtell left Carolina in 1707 and returned to
and died in 1736 at Deighton on the Taunton River.
Although of the same name as the Carolina Axtells there is
blood connection between them.
As early as 1729 the land where the old mill dam ran across
in Summerville was known as "Saw mill land". It had no connection with
the tract of 123 acres reserved as "mill land" near the town of
but was the land around the saw mill which was operated by Daniel
prior to 1707. Ever since that date this part of Boo-shoo Creek,
to Summerville, has been known as "Saw Mill Branch".
In 1882, before the present canal down the swamp was
old mill dam was practically intact. Some of the old mill timbers of
cypress remained on the old mill site. The oldest inhabitant could
no one who had seen the mill run, and the growth of pines showed that
water could have been kept on the pond for near a century.
The data as to the town of Dorchester and its early history
scanty. The country around it began to fill up, and the town, lying at
the head of navigation on the Ashley River, became a trading place and
point of distribution It stood at a point capable of easy defence and
easy communication by water with Charles Town, and thus, became a point
of support and refuge from Indian invasions.
The settlers in Dorchester began to overflow. It was easy
grants of land, and many grants were obtained higher up and across the
Ashley River, especially in the section known afterwards as "Beech
Merchants established themselves in the town. The streets.
are not named on the plan, and the only names that have come down thro'
the deeds are the river, and "George" Street, the street running to the
"Broad Path" or public road.
Gillson Clapp was a merchant "on the Bay" in 1724, and in
Satur, of Dorchester, Jacob Satur, of London, Eleazer Allen, of Charles
Town, and William Rhett, Jr., of Charles Town, formed a co-partnership
to carry on trade at Dorchester.
In 1708 Dorchester was a small town containing about 350
In 1706 the Rev. Joseph Lord wrote to a friend in
the country was more frequented by way of trade.
In 1706 the Act for the establishment of the Church of
the Province was passed. Six parishes were created, and Dorchester was
included in St. Andrew's Parish.
In 1715 the Yemassee Indian War broke out, and the entire
south of the Stono River was devasted. The Yemassee invasion itself
never to have reached Dorchester, but an invasion of the Indians to the
northward, which took place at the same time, was more threatening.
invasion was met by Capt. George Chicken at the the Goose Creek
and a decisive defeat was inflicted upon the Indians at a place styled
in the old accounts "The Ponds".
This appears to be the Percival plant at the point now
The Yemassee War inflicted a terrible loss on the Province,
many years delayed the settlement of the Province to the south of
In 1719 St. Andrew's Parish was divided, and the upper
Dorchester and the surrounding territory, was created a separate parish
and called St. George.
A church was directed to be built at a point to be selected
majority of the commissioners named with the approval of a majority of
the inhabitants of the parish of the profession of the Church of
who should contribute to the building. The commissioners were:
Skene, Capt. Walter Izard, Thomas Diston, Samuel Wragg, John Cantey,
Waring and Jacob Satur.
The place selected for the church was the place for a place
or Dorchester town.
The parish church, with its surrounding graveyard, was then
in the town on lots Nos. 52, 53, 54, 55 and 56.
The parish then contained 115 English families, amounting
500 persons, and 1,300 slaves. The town now begin to forge ahead. Roads
were extended by statue into the surrounding country, and in 1722 the
over the Ashley - Steven's Bridge (now Bacon's Bridge) and Waring's
(now Slann's Bridge) were confirmed as public bridges.
In 1723 an Act was passed for settling a fair and markets
town of Dorchester, in Berkeley County, "being a frontier in that part
of the Country".
In 1734 an Act was passed for the founding and erecting a
at the town of Dorchester, in the parish of St. George, and in the same
year an Act was passed to clear out the Ashley River up to Slann's
A bridge across the river, opposite the town of Dorchester,
A great loss of population in the surrounding country took
in 1752-56. The descendants of the original settlers who gave the name
to Dorchester - the members of the "White Meeting" or Congregational
- had overflowed into the surrounding country. So many of them had
in the Beech Hill section that about 1737 another place of worship was
constructed there for their convenience. The "Church" had acquired 95
in two tracts on the "Beech Hill" road, and on one of these tracts, not
far from the parish line of St. Paul's, the building for worship
The congregational being practically the same as that at Dorchester,
minister served at both places on alternate Sundays.
In 1752-56 a general exodus of these congregations took
Georgia. The reasons, as stated in their records, were lack of
lands for their increasing numbers, and the unhealthiness of Dorchester
and Beech Hill. In 1752 they procured two grants of land, aggregated
acres on the coast of Georgia,' between the Medway and Newport rivers,
in what subsequently became Liberty County. Nearly all of the
of the Dorchester and Beech Hill churches with their minister, the Rev.
John Osgood, removed. The names of the settlers who took up the 31,950
acres and their subsequent history is fully detailed by the Rev. Mr.
in his History of Midway Church, to which reference bits
The effect of their removal was practically the death blow
Congregational Church in St. George Parish, Dorchester. No settled
was had to perform services. The building at Beech Hill, being of wood,
soon perished. From that date the history of Dorchester ceases to be
history of a Congregational settlement and becomes the history of the
of Dorchester and the parish of St. George, Dorchester.
In addition to its growth as a town during these years
also had become the place of resort for supplies for the country
which had been taken up more or less for the seats and plantations of a
number of wealthy families.
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