St. John's Berkeley Parish

St. John's Berkeley Parish

November 30, 1706–1865

One of the ten original parishes created by the Church Act of 1706, the parish of St. John’s Berkeley stretched northwestward from the upper reaches of the Cooper River to the Santee River through modern Berkeley and Orangeburg Counties. European settlement began in earnest in the early 1690s when Huguenots who had taken up residence along the lower Santee the previous decade were forced upriver by frequent floods. They were soon joined by English, Irish, and Barbadian settlers following the Cooper up from Charleston. In 1705, just prior to becoming a parish, St. John’s had an approximate population of 315 whites and 180 blacks. By 1720 those numbers had increased to 437 and 1,439, respectively. The explosion in the parish’s black population corresponded to a general shift in South Carolina from growing rice in dry, upland fields to cultivating it in freshwater inland swamps, of which St. John’s had an abundance. African slave laborers were imported to clear, dike, and cultivate the swamps, and rice became the “Source of infinite Wealth” for local planters.

The parish church of St. John’s Berkeley, called Biggin Church, was erected in 1712 on Biggin Swamp near modern Moncks Corner. The church burned twice in the eighteenth century and was restored. Burned again in a forest fire ca. 1886, it stands as a brick ruin. With the abolition of the parish system in 1865, St. John’s Berkeley Parish became part of BerkeleyCounty.

Linder, Suzanne Cameron. Anglican Churches in Colonial South Carolina: Their History and Architecture. Charleston, S.C.: Wyrick, 2000.

Terry, George D. “‘Champaign Country’: A Social History of an Eighteenth Century Lowcountry Parish in South Carolina, St. Johns Berkeley County.” Ph.D. diss., University of South Carolina, 1981.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Title St. John's Berkeley Parish
  • Coverage November 30, 1706–1865
  • Author
  • Website Name South Carolina Encyclopedia
  • Publisher University of South Carolina, Institute for Southern Studies
  • URL
  • Access Date July 24, 2024
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update August 25, 2022
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