The South Carolina Commons House of Assembly passed an act creating St. George’s Dorchester Parish on December 11, 1717. The new parish was previously part of St. Andrew’s Parish and was created to accommodate the growing number of colonists along the upper Ashley River. In 1695 a group of Congregationalists from Dorchester, Massachusetts, established a New England–style township twenty-six miles upriver from Charleston and named it in honor of their former home. These religious dissenters formed the core of the parish’s early population.
An Anglican church was completed in the town in 1720, and a 1726 census found 537 whites and about 1,300 slaves in the parish. In 1759, due to unrest caused by the French and Indian War, Fort Dorchester, a brick powder magazine surrounded by earthen works, was completed. Most of the descendants of the Congregationalists left the parish for Georgia beginning in 1752, but Dorchester remained an economically important town until the Revolutionary War.
The British burned Dorchester in 1781, and the town was subsequently abandoned. After the war the town of Summerville replaced Dorchester as the regional market. Rice plantations along the upper Ashley River dominated the parish’s early economy and continued to be an important source of wealth into the nineteenth century. During the antebellum era planters from St. George’s and surrounding parishes built summer homes in Summerville to escape their plantations during the malarial season. After the constitution of 1865 abolished the parish system, St. George’s Dorchester Parish was incorporated into Colleton District.
Linder, Suzanne Cameron. Anglican Churches in Colonial South Carolina: Their History and Architecture. Charleston, S.C.: Wyrick, 2000.
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.