About Summerville & Dorchester
Dorchester County’s history dates back to 1696, when
Dorchester was settled by two distinct groups that set sail
from England. The Puritans came seeking religious freedom and
the Anglicans came with the crown’s blessing to seek
land and wealth. The Puritans arrived in 1696 from Dorchester,
Massachusetts, and were responsible for the name of the town,
the fort and eventually the county.
The Anglicans had been around for some 20 years when the
Puritans arrived but St. George’s, Dorchester was not
built until 1719. Together, the Anglicans and the Puritans
built Dorchester into the third largest town in the
state and an important shipping center for rice planters sending
their goods down the Ashley River to Charleston. The
tabby fort built of mud, oyster shells and limestone, now known
as Colonial Dorchester State Historic
Site, was constructed
prior to the Revolutionary War and was used to defend the area.
Such famous generals as Moultrie, Francis Marion and Wade Hampton
held off the British from the fort.
The birth of Summerville at war’s end spelled the demise
of Dorchester. All that remains is the fort, St. George’s
bell tower and foundations of some houses, which are being
Summerville started as Pineland Village around 1785 when plantation
owners came here to escape the swamp fevers and insects. Before
Dorchester County was formed in 1897, Summerville was situated
in Charleston, Berkeley and Colleton Counties.
Dorchester County was very much a part of America’s
first railroad. In 1830, the rails started at Charleston and
ran through Summerville to Hamburg, opening the upper part
of the county above Cypress Swamp.
Ridgeville got its name about that time and began to grow.
St. George was originally named for the first settler, James
George, who leased the land to the railroad and it became an
important station on the line. Reevesville was founded in or
near Indian Trail, supposedly before 1793, and several hundred
members of the Edisto Indian tribe live in Indiantown today.
They were officially recognized by the U.S. Department of the
Interior in the 1970s. The rural town of Givhans is home to
a state park on the banks of the Edisto River.
With the Civil War came the end of the plantation system and
thus the end of the economy and the only lifestyle known to
most of Dorchester’s inhabitants. Not until after Reconstruction
was there a beginning of recovery.
In 1899, a world congress of medical specialists in the field
of respiratory disease gathered in Paris. The group, known
as “the Tuberculosis Congress,”
named Summerville one of the two best areas in the
world for the cure of lung and throat disorders. The
town was so named because of its situation on a dry, sandy
ridge, amidst pine trees that charge the air with derivatives
of turpentine. Their findings were widely publicized and a
golden era began for the lower part of Dorchester County; and
one inn after another sprang up as the town quickly became
a favorite winter resort for Northern visitors who came to
enjoy the mild climate and hunting season. The most famous,
the Pine Forest Inn, sometimes served as the Winter
White House for Presidents William Howard Taft and Theodore
In 1976 a portion of the town, including 700 homes and buildings
were listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Some residents may still come to Summerville for pulmonary
relief, but most come for its mild climate, excellent schools
and healthcare, a vibrant downtown, a variety of housing options,
small-town friendliness and the proximity to historic Charleston
and the beaches.
Summerville, Dorchester County’s largest community
with a population at approximately 28,000, is recognized as
the home of football’s winningest coach, Summerville
High School’s John McKissick, and the annual YMCA Flowertown
Festival, which draws over 250,000 people each spring.
Other popular events include Sculpture
in the South and theatrical performances by the Flowertown
Summerville is growing and ever-changing, but it still holds
on to its important role in history and the small-town values
that make it a truly charming place to visit.