Dorchester

1697 –

Dorchester was gradually abandoned following the Revolutionary War. Loss of population, an unhealthy location, and war-time destruction all contributed to the town’s demise.

In 1697 Congregationalists from Massachusetts settled on the north bank of the Ashley River and founded Dorchester as a market village about twenty miles northwest of Charleston. Although it remained small, Dorchester played a significant role in the economy and society of the upper Ashley. Village merchants marketed crops and sold a variety of manufactured goods. Local Anglicans completed the parish church of St. George’s Dorchester in the center of the village in 1720. A free school was in operation by 1761. From 1757 to 1760, during the French and Indian War, the colony erected a tabby fort and brick powder magazine in Dorchester. During the Revolutionary War the town served as an outpost first for patriot forces and then for British troops.

Dorchester was gradually abandoned following the Revolutionary War. Loss of population, an unhealthy location, and war-time destruction all contributed to the town’s demise. Summerville gradually displaced Dorchester, with most of Dorchester’s institutions– even bricks from its buildings–transferred to the newer community nearby. Although the bell tower of the Anglican church and the fort are the only remaining structures from Dorchester, the archaeological record of the town’s existence is remarkably well preserved. The South Carolina state parks service has managed the site of Dorchester since 1960. Colonial Dorchester State Historic Site is notable for its rich archaeological resources and historical documentation interpreting the state’s colonial and Revolutionary War eras.

Bell, Daniel. Old Dorchester State Park: Visitor’s Guide. Columbia: South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism, 1995.

Sigmon, Daniel Ray. “Dorchester, St. George’s Parish, South Carolina: The Rise and Decline of a Colonial Frontier Village.” Master’s thesis, University of South Carolina, 1992.

Smith, Henry A. M. “The Town of Dorchester, in South Carolina–A Sketch of Its History.” South Carolina Historical and Genealogical Magazine 6 (April 1905): 62–95.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Title Dorchester
  • Coverage 1697 –
  • Author
  • Keywords Congregationalists from Massachusetts, Ashley River, significant role in the economy and society of the upper Ashley, town served as an outpost first for patriot forces and then for British troops, gradually abandoned following the Revolutionary War, archaeological record of the town’s existence is remarkably well preserved, Colonial Dorchester State Historic Site
  • Website Name South Carolina Encyclopedia
  • Publisher University of South Carolina, Institute for Southern Studies
  • URL
  • Access Date October 31, 2020
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update September 15, 2016
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