Dorchester County, South Carolina


Year Established

County Seat

Population (2010)


St. George


First Settled

First Settled By

Significance of County Name


New Englanders from Massachusetts

Dorchester, Massachusetts

Other Significant Towns












Click Here - To see how Dorchester County evolved each decade - includes all the known towns and villages.
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A History of Dorchester County

Middleton Place

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Dorchester County was named for Dorchester, Massachusetts. In 1696, Congregationalists from that town moved south and established a new settlement called Dorchester. Although the town of Dorchester had been abandoned by 1788, the parish in which it was located continued to be referred to as St. George's, Dorchester. This name was subsequently adopted for the county when it was formed from part of Colleton County in 1897. The county seat is the town of St. George, which also took its name from the old parish.

The town of Summerville was settled in the late eighteenth century as a summer resort for planters who wished to escape the malaria prevalent on their rice plantations; the town later became a winter resort also. Middleton Place Gardens, the remains of an old rice plantation, are the oldest landscaped gardens in the country, having been laid out in 1741. Middleton Place was the home of Henry Middleton (1717-1784), President of the Continental Congress, his son Arthur Middleton (1742-1787), a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and his grandson Henry Middleton (1770-1846), a Governor, United States Congressman, and ambassador to Russia.

Dorchester County Court House - St. George, SC (2007)

Dorchester County, established in 1897 from part of Colleton County, derives its name, indirectly, from Dorchester, Massachusetts, whence came settlers, under Joseph Lord, who, about 1697, founded the town of Dorchester, on the Ashley River, about 26 miles from Charleston, and six miles from the present town of Summerville, which is, in a sense, the original town's successor. Dorchester was a thriving community, with good streets and residences, an important fort of "tabby" commanding the river, an imposing church, with tower and bells, serving the Parish of St. George's, Dorchester, and was the scene of considerable military activity, during the American Revolution. Today, its fort, in good preservation, the ruins of its church, and old tombstones, constitute the sole physical evidence of its former existence. The county takes its name from this town.

The county's population was, in 1920, 19,459, estimated, 1925, 20,346; the area 613 square miles, mostly level, and through it flow the Ashley (headwaters in county) and Edisto rivers. Its length, about 35 miles, is about three times its average breadth, and the Southern Railway, using the same roadbed as the old South Carolina Canal and Rail Road Company, which, about 1830, is said to have operated the longest railroad line in the world (Charleston & Hamburgh Railroad), runs through the greater part of its length. It serves Summerville, a well-known winter resort, with tourist hotels, and golf courses; St. George, the county seat, an active farming and business center, and other towns. Connection is made at Pregnall's with the Atlantic Coast Line, which serves a section of the county to the eastward. The county has 42 miles of railroad.

Its lands are fertile, climate mild, and both peculiarly adapted to agriculture, which, with lumbering and cattle raising, has been the main occupation about two centuries. Its growing season numbers 280 days. Cotton, corn, oats, tobacco, potatoes, and truck are extensively and profitably raised. Cattle and poultry raising, dairying, and lumber manufacturing, are other important industries. The Coastal Experiment station, ruder Clemson College, and a timber experimental station, conducted by the Southern Railway, are in the county.

Dorchester's schools, primary and high (5 accredited), in buildings, equipment, teachers and curricula, are of high standard, and in flourishing condition. Churches of nearly every denomination satisfy spiritual needs, and three strong and successful banks, two at Summerville and one at St. George, provide ample banking facilities. A lumber plant, with daily capacity of 70,000 feet, brick plant, and ice and electric plant (municipally owned), at Summerville; electric plant and oil mill, at St. George, and lumber plant (rebuilding) at Badham, are among its larger enterprises. Its mercantile business is good, and failures are rare.

The county has many miles of good roads, and a concrete road runs from Summerville to Charleston, about 20 miles.

At Summerville are the Pinehurst Tea Gardens, in which abound azaleas of many and rare varieties, wistaria, and flowering plants and shrubs of every description, while Middleton Gardens, in the county, and the world-renowned Magnolia Gardens, just beyond the county line, both on Ashley River, are approximately half-way between Summerville and Charleston.

The county and its environs have much of historic interest, natural and artificial beauty, and these with good hunting, fishing, and golfing, and a delightful winter climate, attract many tourists and others, who have winter homes in Summerville.

Immediately above, published in "South Carolina: A Handbook," prepared by The Department of Agriculture, Commerce, and Industries and Clemson College, Columbia, South Carolina, 1927. In the Public Domain. [with minor edits]
Click Here to view / download a 1900 map of Dorchester County, SC.
Click Here to view / download a 2016 Road Map of Dorchester County, SC. Adobe PDF file. Fairly large.


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