Colonial Dorchester State Historic Site

Location: Summerville, South Carolina

Webpage: South Carolina State Park

General Description: Founded by Congregationalists from Dorchester, Massachusetts in 1697 as a trading post between the native Americans, western settlers, and the harbor in Charleston, Dorchester was a bustling frontier town until it was abandoned following the Revolutionary War.  It was laid out around a large market place with over 100 quarter acre lots parallel to the Ashley River.  The Ashley River provided easy access to Charleston and once a wooden bridge was built across the river became a major location for trade during the Colonial Period.  To better protect the armory in Charleston, the British built a tabby fort on the riverbank to surround another armory.  Most of this fort still exists and is the only tabby fort of the era to still be in existence.  The State Historic Site is today an active archeological site and visitors have the opportunity to view the active areas and possibly professional archeologists conducting studies of the site.  There is also the remains of the St. Georges bell tower that was built at along the market square to support the state Anglican religion.  During the Revolutionary War, the Dorchester Fort was manned by troops under Francis Marion until 1780 when General Cornwallis drove them out during the Southern Campaign on his way to Camden.


1) Colonial Dorchester State Historic Site is a very small park consisting of about 3/4 of the remains of the town.  They have done a good job with interpretive signs showing the layout of the market square and the identified lots according to a 1734 map are marked with wooden posts with numbers corresponding to the map.


2) The tabby fort and brick remains of the armory are very well preserved and made the trip worthwhile by itself.  It is amazing that the concrete made by burning and packing seashells have withstood over 300 years of erosion.


3) They have used modern brick to layout the outlines of one of the houses along with a brief description of the owner.  With their use of red bricks and white stones made it very easy to see the layout, especially the location of the fireplaces.  There was also an active dig site that was uncovered so you can see what they are working on of another house, although there was no one working the site while we were there.

HouseOutline ActiveDig

4) The bell tower of St George and cemetery are all that remains of the church next to the market square.  There was no information about what happened to the church, but I wonder if the British burned it when General Nathaniel Greene chased them out of the area near the end of the Revolutionary War as they did in Camden.  In any case Dorchester was already declining before the Revolution and never recovered.


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