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The old town was nearly uninhabited by 1788, though its ruins can be seen at the Colonial Dorchester State Historic Site.
In the new settlement, sandy soil fostered stands of pine trees and also drained the land, providing relief from the flooded bogs of the Ashley that served as breeding grounds for mosquitoes.
By 1700 they replaced the structure with a brick building that they called the White Meeting House. Dorchester seemed to prosper fairly well with Indian trading and agriculture, as the land along the Ashley River was suitable for growing crops such as rice, the colony’s primary cash crop.
It is speculated that the name was selected in honor of the Reverend John White of Dorchester, England, who championed the Congregationalist movement – also called the separatist movement, as its members had separated from the Church of England. Yet the 50-acre lots on which the Congregationalists had settled were not big enough to be subdivided for future generations and had also been over-cultivated after repeated growing seasons.
On December 5, 1695, the schooner debarked from Boston, Massachusetts, carrying several Congregationalists (also called Puritans) and their minister, the Reverend Joseph Lord.
The group settled on land several miles northwest of Charles Towne along the Ashley River.
South Carolina was divided into parishes, and the royal government required that Anglican churches and priests be maintained by the public in each parish. The village of Dorchester stayed afloat despite this exodus, however, because many Anglicans in the area remained.
After the Revolutionary War, much of Dorchester was burned or dismantled, and residents fled the village for a new settlement slightly north of the original township.
The White Meeting House was open to anyone for the purpose of worship. George’s Parish was formed on the upper Ashley River. George attracted some of the Congregationalists – known to the Anglicans as “dissenters.” However, despite the Anglican church’s legal dominance, many Congregationalists continued to worship with their own denomination. Many decided to abandon Dorchester for land along the Midway River in Georgia and did so in 1753 after receiving two land grants for a combined total of 32,000 acres from the neighboring colony.
However, in 1706 South Carolina adopted the Church Act, which declared the Church of England the official church of the colony. A new Anglican church was built in Dorchester and called St. Some Congregationalists had already left the settlement and owned larger plantations on more profitable land.