Less Traveled 2012

Ernie Wiggins

SOUTH CAROLINA INSIDER

 

Colonial Dorchester steeped in history

Posted 12/1/2011 4:50:00 PM

A brisk fall day is an especially good time to walk the historical grounds of Colonial Dorchester in Summerville.

Though the park’s treasured ruins of old churches and a colonial fort date back to the 17th century, bright sunshine and cool temperatures seem to bring them and the surrounding woods to life.

The open fields of the 325-acre park stretching out from the entrance to the Ashley River are a bit greener; the majestic trees, though shedding their leaves, are more welcoming, and the cool air carries the call of songbirds a bit further. It’s easy to imagine the village bustling with life during market days in October.

Colonial Dorchester was founded as a market village 20 miles up the Ashley River from Charleston. It never became very big, but Dorchester merchants sold the produce and wares of area farmers and craftsmen as well as items imported from abroad. That made it vitally important to the social and economic development of that part of the lowcountry, historians say.

The settlement was abuzz weekly on market day, and four-day fairs were held in the village green each April and October. The town prospered for nearly 100 years (1697 through the Revolutionary War). An Anglican Church was built in 1720, and the remains of the parish’s brick bell tower, which was added in 1751, are still standing. During the Revolutionary War, the town was an outpost for both American and British troops, though not at the same time.

Archaeologists continue to find remnants of the early settlement, and visitors are
welcome to observe and participate in digs when the excavations are under way. The park has interpretive trails and a picnic area.

The park is open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The park’s office is open from 11 to noon. Admission is $2 for adults, $1.25 for South Carolina seniors, and free fro visitors 15 and younger.