Dorchester State Park, old English settlement near Charleston

“I passed Dorchester, where there are the remains of what appears to have once been a considerable town: there are the ruins of an elegant church, and the vestiges of several well-built houses.” – A 1788 account by a passing traveler

Fort Dorchester built in 1775

The Dorchester Garrison commanded by Capt. Francis Marion during Revolutionary War


Few months ago I had the opportunity to visit Dorchester State Historic Park, a short drive from Summerville, the magnificent plantations and North Charleston.

Similarly to nearby Charles Towne Landing, visitors are rewarded with one of America’s most complete archaeological records of colonial life.

The park is open daily 9AM to 6PM and admission is $2 for adults, free for kids 15 and younger. Most Saturdays, from June through September you can attend educational programs and observe archaeologist at work (free with park admission, 10AM to 2PM)

Historic highlights and interesting artifacts (data and quotes provided by the park exhibits and brochure guide)

On October 20, 1695, Joseph Lord, Increase Summer and William Pratt were dismissed from their church from Dorchester, Massachusetts for “Ye gathering of A Church for ye South Carolina.” After securing 4050 of land here along the Ashley River, they sailed home to their congregation in New England.

Coming to South Carolina for an acceptable settlement

Lord, Summer and Pratt gathering of A Church for ye South Carolina


They returned in 1697 with other church members who hoped “to go to South Carolina to Settel the Gospel ther”.

When the new Dorchester was laid out, the village contained 116 quarter acre lots, a town square and commons. The St. George Anglican church was built in 1720, a fair was established in 1723 and the Free School opened in 1761.

By 1781, Dorchester became a booming trade center and boasted about 40 houses by 1781. The town gradually declined after the American Revolution and was abandoned in 1788. The threat of malaria and the shortage of land cause the Congregationalist colony to leave Dorchester and start a new settlement in Midway, Georgia.

In 1969, the land was donated to the South Carolina State Park Service. The village of Dorchester is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Dorchester Free School – The school was established in 1758 and consisted of

How it was like to go to school in the 18th century

The Dorchester Free School where girls were allowed to attend.

“two Brick Houses of the Dimensions of 23 feet in weadth & 36 feet in length, & one story high, with a dutch roof, shall be built for the use of the sd. School, one of them to serve as a School House, & other for a dwelling house for the Master, & his Family…”

Several girls attended the free school, an amazing feat for the time given most girls were raised to become just mothers and housewives.

During Revolutionary War the schoolmaster was removed from this post for remaining loyal to England and the school was closed.

The British troops burned it down and it did not reopen for almost 25 years. In 1818 the school moved to Summerville.

The St. George’s Anglican Church and Bell Tower – Angry with the Anglican Church, the Puritan Pilgrims left England in 1620.

Anglican Church Tower

St. George’s Anglican Church was built here in 1720. The bell tower was added in 1751.

Their descendants, known as Congregationalists, founded Dorchester in 1697, only to endure South Carolina’s 1706 declaration of Anglicanism as the colony’s official church.

With the Congregationalists worshiping only 2 miles away, St. George’s Anglican Church was built in 1720 in the center of Dorchester. Village founders and the other village “dissenters” were even taxed to support St. George’s.

The church was enlarged in the 1730s to meet its growing and prosperous parish. The bell tower was added in 1751.

St. George’s Anglican Church may have been a more convenient location for local worship, however the Congregationalist Church remained the religious center for most of Dorchester’s Puritan settlers.

The Native Coosa Tribe – Long before the English settlers, a small Native American tribe, the Coosa, lived here. The relationship with the English has always been uneasy. In 1671, the Charles Towne settlers accused them of stealing corn and livestock

17th century Indian village in South Carolina

The Coosa were one of the original inhabitants in the Lowcountry

and in 1674 they were even accused of murder.

The settlers waged war against the Coosa. After defeating the Indians, they required a monthly payment of deerskin per colony.

In 1675, one of the Lord Proprietors was granted the land where the Coosa village once stood. Although the grant gave him legal title he officially purchased the land from the surviving Coosa for “a valuable parcel of cloth, hatchet, beads and other goods and manufactures now received…” He called his home there the “Cussoo House”

By 1696, the Coosa ceased to have a significance presence in this area. Some had settled in the nearby St. Paul’s Parish, some migrated west, others died or intermarried with the English.

Fort Dorchester – During the French and Indian War rumors of an impeding naval attack by the French forced swift action by leaders in Charles Towne.

Dorchester earthen and osyster shells colonial defense

The powder magazine was fortified in 1775


A brick powder magazine enclosed by a tabby wall 8 feet high was built here in 1757.

During the Revolution, Dorchester was a strategic point.

In 1775, the magazine was fortified and the garrison commanded by Capt. Francis Marion. British troops occupied the town in April 1780 and again in 1781. At one point there were over 600 British soldiers in Dorchester.

They were driven out by cavalry and infantry under Col. Wade Hampton and Gen. Nathaniel Greene on December 1, 1781.

The meeting House was located 2 miles west of the village. The first structure was built of wood and replaced in the mid 1700 with a brick building. The interior is described as:

“A single door admitted to a single aisle, leading to a lofty pulpit, with a sounding board above it.

Congregationalist colony ruins Dorchester Park

What is left of the Dorchester burial ground

In front of the pulpit was an elevated seat for the ruling elder; a little lower and just behind the communion table was a seat for the deacons.

On either side of the island were several plain benches, capable of seating four or five persons each.

Along the sides of the house were two or three long seats, and at the site of the pulpit were several shorter ones. Back by the door two seats were fitted up for the guardsmen, with their old matchlocks.”

During the Revolutionary War, the British occupied the building and reportedly burned it when they evacuated the area. In 1794 the structure was repaired, and eventually its congregation entered into an affiliation with the Presbyterian Church.

As the Dorchester settlement declined and the town of Summerville grew, a new church was constructed nearer the town. Over time the old meeting house fell in disrepair and in 1886 it was severely damaged by the Great Earthquake. Today, only crumbling walls and the burial grounds remain.

The Artifacts – At the center you can see numerous artifacts such as hand painted pearl ware, Staffordshire candle holder, lead-glazed earthenware, white salt-glazed stoneware and the Colono ware. The Colono ware is similar to pottery from Nigeria and Ghana. It started to be produced in Carolina around 1680, peaked in the early 1700s and then disappeared by 1800. Typical vessels were flat bottomed, burnished, grit-tempered and often had an “X” incised on their bases.

Step back in the colonial period at Dorchester State Historic Park!

Dorchester State Park outdoor attractions

Best place to have a picnic along Ashley River

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From Charleston to Savannah with love…Favorite places to visit with my kid in the Lowcountry

Here are the most surprising places I have found during my travel adventures in South Carolina (all approved by my preschool daughter). Today I’ll go over the Lowcountry: Charleston, Edisto, Beaufort, Hilton Head and Savannah.

The American LaFrance Fire Museum in North Charleston

This place is FUN with capital letters! Best of all its free for kids and only $6 for adults.

Kids get fired up in Charleston!

Drive a real fire truck at the North Charleston Fire Museum


Children can climb-on a real fire truck, go through a full-fledged emergency response, including a simulated street driving, honk horns, talk on the radio and push all sorts of buttons.

You get to see an amazing display of legendary fire engines from the 1700s to modern days.

I loved learning about the fire fighting history and its technological marvels, the fire trivia (i.e. Benjamin Franklin started the first successful fire insurance company in US) and the most devastating fires in the world (from AD 64 in Rome to 1906 in San Francisco).

The museum is open 10AM – 5PM (1PM on Sundays) and is located near the Tanger Outlets.

Charles Towne Landing Historic Park and Animal Fores Zoo

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Charles Towne Landing, the birthplace of America, is a wonderful place filled with educational, recreational and fun things to do for everyone.

Walk the plank at Charles Towne Landing

17th century justice is served

The park is open daily 9AM to 5 PM. Admission is $5 adults, $3 children 6-15 and free for 3 and under.

Start at the Visitors Center to see how life was like in the 1670s for the Lord Proprietors, settlers, native tribes, indentured servants, and slaves.

Visit the Animal Forest zoo home to pumas, bison, alligators, black bears, otters, bobcats, wolves and a variety of birds.

Be a captain aboard Adventure, a life-size 17th century trading ship replica.

Walk, stroll, jog or bike along the marsh or through the 80 acres of magnificent gardens, featuring thousands of azaleas, camellias and centuries old oak trees.

Edisto Island Serpentarium

Gigantic alligators, deadly snakes, funny looking lizards and snappy turtles “with a face only a mother could love”…

Incredible reptiles on Edisto Island near Charleston

Edisto's best buddies

The park features beautiful indoor and outdoor exhibits filled with native species as well as weird reptiles from around the world.

Make sure to attend the live snake education programs (at 11, 1, 3 and 5PM) and the alligator feedings (12 and 4PM).

Some may not have the stomach for it, yet we were thrilled!

Kids really enjoy digging through pre-historic bones from once native saber tooth cats, whales, mammoths and giant bears.

Edisto Island Serpentarium is open May through Labor Day Thursday to Saturdays from 10AM to 6PM (Monday to Saturday in the summer).

Admission is $12.95 adults, $9.95 children (6-12), $5.95 children 4 and 5, free for those 3 and under.

Old Sheldon Church Ruins

Beautiful 18th century church near CharlestonA deeply moving and inspirational historic site remnant of the 1745 Prince William Parish.

Twice burned, once during Revolutionary War and again during the Civil War March to the Sea and yet still standing…

Amid tragedy there hope and rebirth. The ruins have become a very popular site for outdoor wedding ceremonies and a photographers composition dream.

Mark your calendar! Once a year, on the second Sunday after Easter, the prestigious St. Helena Church holds a public service at the ruins.

The church ruins are located on Old Sheldon Road right off highway 21 between Beaufort and Yemassee.

Hunting Island Lighthouse and State Park – Breath-taking views, romantic beach and lush maritime forest. Hunting Island State Park is the most popular park in South Carolina, and for good reasons.
Best state park in South Carolina The park jewel is South Carolina’s only publicly accessible historic lighthouse. Dating from the 1870s, the Hunting Island Lighthouse shoots 170 feet into the air, rewarding visitors magnificent views of the Lowcountry marshland and the Atlantic Ocean.

Enjoy 5 miles of soft sand beach, a wonderful lagoon home to seahorses and barracuda, thousands of acres of marsh and tidal creek, a fishing pier and some of the state’s most desirable campsites.

Admire up-close loggerhead sea turtles, alligators, pelicans, dolphins and deer, Eastern diamondback rattlesnakes and the rare coral snakes.

The loggerhead turtles nest on the island in the summer months.

Park daily admission is $4 adults, $1.5 children age 6-15 and free for children 5 and younger. Lighthouse ticket is an additional $2.

Parris Island Museum near Beaufort

An extraordinary place honoring the US Marines history, life as a recruit, and military accomplishments.

WWII Japanese cannon prize of war

Here I am!

Admire hundreds of unusual weapons and enemy captures from legendary battles, laugh at the “good life as a recruit” posters and learn about the inspiring US Marines history.

Little ones can earn the “Junior Recruit” title by successfully completing the museum exploration challenge.

Admission is free and the museum is open daily from 10AM to 4:30PM. If time permits take the island driving tour.

Coastal Discovery Museum in Hilton Head

This place has it all! A rich display of the Lowcountry heritage, an incredible saltmarsh ecosystem, world-class history walks and nature tours

Delicate beauty at Coastal Discovery Museum in Hilton Head

and a brilliant Butterfly Pavilion.

Admission to the museum, outside grounds and the butterfly enclosure is free (guided tours range from $5 to $20 per person).

Coastal Discovery Museum is open year around Monday to Saturday from 9AM to 4:30 PM, Sunday 11AM to 3PM.

Here is an overview of the fun things you can do with kids outdoor.


Fort Pulaski National Park near Savannah

A memorable Civil War battle marked the end of masonry fortifications after the “indestructible” Fort Pulaski fell after 30 hours of cannon firings.

Magnificent Civil War reenactments

Fort Pulaski, an incredible Civil War battle and military marvel

Admission is free for kids under 16 and $3 for adults and is good for 6 days. The Fort Pulaski National Monument has a plethora of educational family activities.

Learn about the tragic story of the Immortal 600 Confederate officers, and mind-boggling military strategies and weapons deployed at the time.

Make sure to attend the live musket and cannon fire demonstrations that are held each weekend.

Walk the scenic 0.75 mile Overloook Trail to the Cockspur Island Lighthouse, originally built in 1837. The lighthouse escaped untouched during the 30 hours attack on the Fort despite the fact it was positioned straight in the line of fire!

Life is beautiful in the historic Lowcountry!

The Province of Carolina in the 1670s, an inspiring historic tour at Charles Towne Landing

The Charles Towne Landing Visitors Center has an incredible exhibit showcasing the Carolina beginnings. Step in the shoes of white English settlers, Native Americans, or African slaves and experience first hand how life was like in the late 17th century.

Samuel Benwood a successful tailor, became a free man after 2 years

Samuel Benwood a successful tailor, became a free man after 2 years

• How much money can you make if you were a woman?
• What skills were most sought after?
• What kind of crops and trade were the most lucrative?
• How much land can you own as an indentured servant?
• What were the interactions between the settlers and the Native Americans?
• What kind of wildlife roamed the Carolina Coast back then?

There are incredible drawings, artifacts and recollections that paint a vivid image of our primordial past. Here is just a sample:

The cash crop of the Barbados that started it all…

Molasses Cone and Jar in the 1650s

Molasses Cone and Jar in the 1650s

On March 15, 1670 The Carolina finally made it to shore.
“Everywhere they looked, they saw chattering flocks of birds, small game such as rabbits and squirrels, and rivers filled with fish and turtles…they saw miles of unspoiled, seemingly uninhabited land and unlimited potential for their future lives.”

The Carolina

The Carolina

The Cassique of the Kiawah welcomed the white settlers and trading of furs and Indian slaves soon flourished. One settler recollects “…when we came a shoare they stroked us on ye shoulders with their hands saying Bony Conraro Angles, knowing us to English be our collours (as wee supposed) we then gave them Brass rings & tobacco at which they seem well pleased…”

Native American Kiawah chief

The Welcome

Here’s a look at how the Albermarle Point colony developed during its first 10 years.

The first 10 years at Albermarle Point

The first 10 years at Albermarle Point colony

The white English settlers tried to replicate the Barbados style colonial plantations, were indentured servants, and especially African slaves, did the all the work: building houses, working the fields and harvesting the crops. They tried to grow tobacco, indigo, rice, sugar, olives, grapes, flax and cotton.

Life as an indentured servant

Life as an indentured servant

Slaves were brought in from Barbados to work on the new colony. Soon their contribution became indispensable, yet they lived under miserable and inhumane conditions, never allowed to own land or benefit from their hard work.

Pain and suffering...slave ships living Barbados for America

Pain and suffering...slave ships living Barbados for America

Wildlife was abundant along the Carolina coast. However the very lucrative fur trade lead to ravage hunting and the agricultural expansion to massive deforestation, negatively impacting the fragile ecosystem. Many species declined and some went extinct.

Natives hunting gigantic alligators

Natives hunting gigantic alligators

“…The Healthfulness of the Air; the Fertility of the Earth and Waters, and the great Pleasure and Profit will accrue to those that shall go thither to enjoy the fame”

Advertisement of the Carolina by the Lord Proprietors

Advertisement of the Carolina by the Lord Proprietors

History is great, but what about the children?

Relax, there is plenty of activities to enjoy throughout the park. Here are just a few fun things kids can do inside Charles Towne Landing.

History buffs rejoice! Visit Dorchester State Historic Park (only half an hour away, $2 admission) one of the most prolific archaeological sites on early colonial life. Most Saturdays you can observe archaeologists sifting through the remains of a town that included houses, markets, a school, a church, a boat yard and more.

Charles Towne Landing

Be a proud Carolinian at the historic Charles Towne Landing!

Just Amazing Alligator Photos from South Carolina

Alligators are truly amazing creatures. We are so blessed to still see them all around South Carolina (like the Alligator Adventure in Myrtle Beach or Charles Towne Landing in Charleston).

Just recently, Business Week published in article underscoring once more their excellent survival skills and importance to the human race. Apparently, alligators have super-potent proteins in their blood with the ability to fight off fungi, viruses and drug resistant super-bugs. Researchers unleashed these proteins on 23 different strains of disease carrying bacteria. All of them were killed – a feat unequaled by any known human blood protein!

This post is an ode to one of the most magnificent and ancient animal on Earth. “You’re alright mate! You’re alright”…

Keep watching, respecting and protecting the South Carolina alligators!

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Virtual Historic Trail Tour at Charles Towne Landing

Take a virtual tour of the South Carolina historic trail at the Charles Towne Landing park near downtown Charleston.

Step back in time at and enjoy the beautiful surroundings of Charles Towne Landing Historic Site!

Outdoor and Wildlife Wonders at Charles Towne Landing

Charles Towne Landing: Quiet and relaxing family time. Learn about South Carolina and Charleston history. Bike or walk under serene live oak trees away from the city’s hustle and bustle yet just minutes from all the “civilization” amenities. Do nothing but smell the beautiful flowers and listen to the birds.

Funny otter at Charles Towne Landing

Get excited spotting alligators around the ponds spread throughout the park or watching the bison, black bears and puma napping all day at the Animal Forest zoo. Maybe we can learn from them and give ourselves a well deserved break in the Charles Towne Landing incredible outdoors. And is only $5… That’s a venti double latte…C’mon what else can you ask for?!

Read more about this hidden Charleston attraction here.

Happy outdoor relaxation in Charleston South Carolina!

Charles Towne Landing an educational, relaxing and fulfilling family getaway (Charleston historic things to do)

This is as good as it gets for a weekend family getaway! Step back in time at the Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site, the birth place of South Carolina.

Charles Towne Landing pond

The park is just minutes driving from downtown Charleston and welcomes visitors to 80 acres of gardens, a self-guided historic walking trail through serene oak trees and Spanish moss avenues, beautiful marshes, ponds and creeks and a natural-habitat zoo featuring native wildlife at the time of settlement.

Biker boy watching turtles .

You can bike, walk your dog, jog, and use the stroller; there are plenty of benches along the trail for you to rest and enjoy the view.

You will get great vistas photos of the marshes and Charleston’s Ravenel Bridge and Marina. Audio recordings for the self-guided walking trail are available for $5 at the Visitors Center.

The trail is about 1.5 miles long at takes about 2 hours to complete. If you’re too tired to walk the park has a shuttle service for the Historic Trail. The park offers two restrooms, one at the Visitors Center and one on the trail; both have water fountains and vending machines.

Interesting things to do and see on the Historic Trail

1. The visitor center The Adventure Trading ship replica features twelve rooms of interactive exhibits telling the story of settlement and survival in the 17th century.

In 1670 three boats with English settlers and indentured servants set sail from Barbados yet only one, The Carolina made it safe;

2. Before the African slave trade took off, the native Indian tribes fought each-other to capture prisoners and procure slaves for the settlers.

3. Working replica canons on earthen fortifications (settlers’ main concern was to defend against possible Spanish invasion) and The Adventure,
Woman settler in servant quarter a full size replica of a 17th century trading kelch;

4. Ongoing archaeological exhibits; servants quarters replicas, garden and outdoor disciplinary area;

5. The Legare House and Garden;
We owe this beautiful park to Ferdinanda Legare Waring, the pioneering horticulturist who planted all the oak trees, lived and worked on the plantation and then sold it to the state for permanent preservation.

The Horry ruins, a living testament to early Southern plantation homes; the house burned near the end of the Civil War.

6. Alligator and turtles sunbathing Alligators and turtles sun bathe along the park’s ponds, creeks and marsh beaches. A baby alligator welcomes visitors as you drive towards the visitor center.

Although it doesn’t compare to Alligator Adventure the thrill of coming face to face with a gator in the wild is priceless.

The Animal Forest zoo features bison, puma, bobcats, black bears, elk, otters and birds native to the time first settlers arrived more than 350 years ago. Unfortunately some species went extinct like the Passenger Pigeon, Carolina Parakeet and even the wild Puma.

Take a virtual photo tour with this slideshow.

Buffalo Prints

Where
Charles Towne Landing Historic Site, 1500 Old Towne Rd, Charleston SC, (843) 852-4200. Directions: From I-26, take exit 216A onto Hwy 7 South. Bear left on Hwy 171 and follow signs. The park is open daily 9 AM to 5 PM except on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Admission Tickets: Adult $5, SC seniors $3.25, children ages 6 to 15 $3 and under 3 is free. Self-guided audio tour for the historic trail is an extra $5.

Happy family vacation in the Lowcountry a wonderful place filled with history, traditions and old-time stories!