by HENRY A.M. SMITH
About twenty-six miles from the city of Charleston; on the north bank of the Ashley River and about six miles in a southwestwardly direction from the railroad depot in the present town of Summerville can be seen an old church tower with an overgrown disused graveyard around it, and some two hundred paces farther on - on the edge of the river - are the walls of an old fort, constructed of that mixture of shells in lime mortar formerly called "tapia" or "tabby". (Often spelled "tapis" in early records. - Editor.) These two conspicuous objects, with some scattered and shapeless masses of brick at irregular intervals, marking the sites of former houses, are all that remains of the town of Dorchester, once a comparatively flourishing, hamlet in the Low-Country of South Carolina, but which with the lesser hamlets of Jamestown, New London or Willtown, Jacksonborough, Purrysburgh and Somerton, and the still lesser, or only projected, villages of Radnor, Ashley Ferry, Childsbury and Chatham, has so long been deserted that its story has been nearly forgotten, and its very site nearly obliterated.
In the case of Dorchester its frequent mention in histories of the Revolution of 1775-1783 in South Carolina; the fact that it gave its name to one of the ecclesiastical and political divisions of the Province and State, viz: the parish of St. George, Dorchester, joined to its vicinity to the town of Summerville have conspired to preserve its name, the tradition of its former existence, and the place of its location, but beyond this practically nothing else is generally known concerning its history. It has cost no little time and labour to dig out of vanishing records the following account of it’s origin and fate.
The site of the old village of Dorchester is on a neck or peninsula of land between the Ashley River and a creek now called Dorchester Creek. This creek was originally known as Boshoe, or Bossua Creek. It is called now Rose Creek, where it crosses the road from Summerville to Dorchester: Newington Creek, or Swamp, a little higher up, where it crosses the road from Summerville to Bacon’s Bridge and curves through the old Axtell, or Blake, plantation styled Newington (the northern part of which is now Dr. C. U. Shepard's tea farm), and finally is known as the Saw Mill Branch where it forms the southeastern boundary of the town of Summerville.
A little below the point where Dorchester Creek debouches into Ashley River, another creek called Eagle’s Creek also empties into the Ashley - this last creek deriving its name from one Richard Eagle, who, about 1734, possessed the tract of land where the public road crossed the creek.
The region about the mouths of these two creeks - especially about the penisula between Dorchester Creek and Ashley River - was known by the Indian name or Boo-shoo-ee.
It was first granted to John Smith, who on 20th November, 1676, obtained a grant for 1,800 acres covering this penisula and the site of the future village.(Sec'y State's office, Vol 38 (Prop. grants), p. 4.) He was a man of considerable estate who had arrived in Carolina in 1675 with his wife and family and especially recommended by the Earl of Shaftsbury "as my particular friend" with directions that he be allowed to take up a manor in some suitable place. John Smith was subsequently a member of the Grand Council and was created a Cassique, and died in 1682. From the name of the locality in which his grant was situated he was styled "John Smith, of Boo-shoo". (Sec'y State's office, Grant Bk. 1696-1703, p. 92. Collections S. C. Hist. Soc., Vol.V., p. 470.)
The meaning of this Indian term is unknown save that the termination "ee" or "e" seems to have some connection with water - viz: Peedee, Santee, Wateree, Congaree, Co-pah-ee, etc., etc.
The creek near the village of Mt. Pleasant, now called Shem, was originally Shem-ee Creek. (M.C.O., Charleston, Bk. U 7, p. 87.)
The land included in the grant in 1678 to Arthur Middleton of 1,780 acres on Goose Creek (Sec'y State's off. Grant Bk. 1696-1703, p. 92.) (on a part of which the present Otranto clubhouse stands) is called "Yeshoe", and in the grant to James Moore of 2,400 acres on Foster’s Creek in 1683, the lands are described as known by the Indian names of Boo-chaw-ee and Wapensaw. (Sec'y State's off. Vol. 38 (Prop. Grants), p. 209.) The Indian name of Foster's Creek was Appee-bee. (Sec'y State's off. Vol. 17, Miscellaneous, p. 109.)
The appellation Boo-shoo-ee was not confined to the site of the future village on the riverside, but was applied to the low land in the vicinity as "Boshoe Swamp" and generally to the whole tract or plantation of 1,800 acres. -
It is spelt(sic) very variously in the old deeds and plats, viz: Boasoo, Boshoe, Bosho, Boosho, Booshooe, Boosoo, Bossoe, Bossua, Boochaw-ee, etc.
The high land or bluff on the river where the village was afterwards located was, at the time of its location and afterwards, an "old field" and probably the site of the first clearing and settlement of John Smith.
John Smith, of Boo-shoo, died prior to December, 1682, as in December, 1682, his widow, Mary, married Arthur Middleton, and on the death of the latter, about 1684, married Ralph Izard. (Sec'y State's off. Vol. "Grants, etc., 1704-1708", p. 250)
John Smith seems to have left no children, and in some way his grant for 1,800 acres must have lapsed to the State or the method of a new grant must have been adopted so as to confer a good title, for in the year 1696 this same 1,800 acres is re-granted to the settlers who were to confer upon it the name of Dorchester.
The history of the town and township (so-called) of Dorchester, in South Carolina, begins wiht the immigration thither of a small colony from the township of Dorchester, in the then Province of Massachusetts Bay.
The earliest record notice is in the records of the First Church at Dorchester, in New England.
On those records it appears that on the 20th October, 1695, Joseph Lord, Increase Sumner and William Pratt were "dismissed", i. e. transferred, from that church for, "Ye gathering of A church for ye South Coralina." (Records of the First Church at Dorchester, New England, published in 1891,p. 13.
Two days later, 2nd October, 1695, we read:
"ocktober ye 22 being ower lecktuer day was sett apart for the ordering of Mr. Joseph lord for to be pastuer to A church gathered that day for to goe to South Coralina to settell the gospell ther and the names of ye men are thes