Previously a part of St. Paul’s Parish, St. John’s Colleton Parish was established by the South Carolina Commons House of Assembly on April 9, 1734. The new parish consisted of Johns, Wadmalaw, Edisto, Seabrook, and Kiawah Islands. The population grew as wealthy planters from the Charleston area looked to expand their agricultural interests, prompting the establishment of the new parish. The parish church, completed in 1742, was on Johns Island overlooking Bohicket Creek and the Wadmalaw River.
Indigo and rice were the cash crops that brought great wealth to the planters of St. John’s Colleton during the colonial period. Johns and Wadmalaw Islands, with their access to freshwater, contained most of the rice plantations, while indigo was grown profitably on all of the islands in the parish. After the Revolutionary War, indigo was replaced by Sea Island cotton, and by 1849 cotton was grown on almost all of the 104 plantations in the parish.
The planters of St. John’s Colleton bought large numbers of African slaves to work their plantations. The 1790 census found 600 whites, 4,660 slaves, and 40 free blacks living in the parish. Of the white households, ninety-five percent owned slaves. Due to increased investment in human property and natural increase, the number of slaves more than doubled in the sixty years between 1790 and 1850. The 1850 census recorded 10,332 slaves for an average of seventy-five per white household. The parish system was abolished in 1865 when a new state constitution was adopted, and St. John’s Colleton Parish was subsequently incorporated into Charleston County.
Jordan, Laylon Wayne, and Elizabeth Stringfellow. A Place Called St. John’s. Spartanburg, S.C.: Reprint Company, 1998.