7 Year Tea Party Winners: Susan Craft's winner of her trilogy novels - The Chamomile, Laurel, and Cassia is: Lucy Reynolds, The winner of a copy of The Backcountry Brides is: Tammy Cordery, the winner of a silver quill charm is: Kathy Maher, Choice of one of three books by Carrie Fancett Pagels in paperback: Joy Ellis, A Bouquet of Brides Collection by Pegg Thomas winner is: Becky Smith, Janet Grunst's Selah-Award winning novel, A Heart Set Free, is: Sherry Moe.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Colonial Dorchester, South Carolina

Colonial Dorchester—formerly known as Old Fort Dorchester—is a researcher’s dream. A practically untouched historic site, never built over in spite of burgeoning suburbs. A visitor can stand inside a church tower built in the 1750’s, read gravestones of folks whose descendents still live in the area (one of my daughter’s fellow ballet classmates), walk the perimeter of a fort held in turns by the British and American forces in the Revolution. View the exposed foundations of houses that haven’t been occupied in more than 200 years.

A cool, shady spot on the upper Ashley River, where it’s more a creek than a river. Once, however, it was a bustling town on the road from the backcountry to Charleston.

The Bell Tower of St. George's, Colonial Dorchester
Dorchester was founded in 1697 by Congregationalists as a sister town to Dorchester, Massachusetts. Unlike Childsbury, which had its primary purpose as a trading town, this one was specifically a missionary endeavor--a colonial church plant. The town’s own church was located up the road somewhat (the White Meeting House, named for the minister who supported their move), but in 1706 the Anglican church decided to flex her muscles and  build St. George’s right in the middle of town. In 1751 the bell tower was added, the only structure besides the fort still standing after the earthquakes the area has endured.

According to sources (page 1 of the same document is linked above), many of the town's inhabitants moved inland to Georgia in 1752-56, citing a growing population and the area’s unhealthiness. In addition to the intense heat, the town was located on a river between two creeks, so malaria was prevalent. At this point, say the sources, the history of this town ceases to be that of the original Congregationalist community, and becomes that of the trading town, the fort, and St. George Parish.

The tabby walls of Old Fort Dorchester, up close and personal
The fort is one of the best-preserved examples of something called “tabby”—walls made of mortar mixed with oyster shells. Built near the beginning of the French and Indian War, the four-cornered star-shaped fort has ties to Fort Loudon in Tennessee. This connection is what you’ll learn about if you visit during one of their Garrison Days, or the reenactment held in February or March.

F&I War event at Colonial Dorchester, Feb 2010
My family had the pleasure of attending their first such event a few years back. This shot, caught at just the right moment as the muskets were fired, has been one of my favorites—and then last week I ran across its mirror photo on this site: http://fortdorchester.org/ That’s my family, friends, and me in the audience at right. If you look closely at my photo, you can see the other photographer, kneeling on the other side of the reenactors.

Yes, this is the upper Ashley!
Before that, however, we became interested in the history of the site by attending an archaeology field trip. We learned that a wealth of artifacts can be found just a few inches down, because the site was never built over, as so many places are in the Lowcountry. The archaeologists working the site allowed our kids to dig and sift beside them, instructing them in the proper techniques.

Remains of old wharf on the Ashley River at Colonial Dorchester
Down the hill from the green (originally the market square in the original town plans) and the fort lies the spot where a bridge once spanned the river, connecting the road that runs past the plantations downriver (Middleton Place, Magnolia Plantation, Drayton Hall etc.). The fort changed hands a couple of times between the British and the Americans, and was occupied for a while by Francis Marion. General Nathanael Greene took it back for the last time in December 1781. At this point, the British burned the bridge and much of the town, and the site was soon abandoned.

These days, the site offers a beautiful—and inexpensive!—place to let one's family run. Recent archaeological work has led to the placement of several information plackards and a kiosk where some of the artifacts can be viewed, as well as a diorama of the original town as they know it.

More photos—not mine—can be viewed here at the Quarterman family website. All photos in this post are mine or my daughter Breanna's.

It's been a long time since this fort was guarded by a redcoat!

(Fun fact: during the time period portrayed by this event, the redcoats were the good guys!)


  1. Replies
    1. It's one of those out-of-the-way, almost forgotten spots ... but we love it!

  2. Enjoyed this very much. Would love to visit some of these places of our history.
    Blessings, Tina

    1. The Charleston area has almost too much to choose from, but this is one of our favorites. :-)

  3. Thanks so much for this post, Shannon. This will definitely be a destination for us when our granddaughter visits this summer. Looking forward to it.

    1. Glad I could give you some new options! :-) It's only a couple of dollars per person to visit, seriously. We've done family photos out there twice, and too many picnics to count.

  4. Great post, Shannon. I've visited the area and was pleasantly surprised it had been preserved. Great photos, too. Blessings, Elva Cobb Martin, President South Carolina Chapter, American Christian Fiction Writers. PS Is there a chance you and some of the Charleston area writers can make it upstate for our chapter Novel Boot Camp beginning Saturday, April 26, at 2 PM? Had to give it a plug! Ha

    1. Hi Elva! Glad you enjoyed it, and thanks for your kind comments about the photos!

      I would love to come, but that's a bit far for me to drive now! :-) The younger kids and I moved to North Dakota in January, to be with my husband in his new job. But I'll forward the email you sent onto a couple of the contacts I still have back there. Blessings!!


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