Just a short drive from Charleston, Dorchester County is named for its first settlement area, which was established by Congregationalists in 1696. These settlers applied the name "Dorchester" after their last residence in Dorchester, Massachusetts. The county features both an authentic rural area with tons of outdoor recreation opportunities and small towns to explore along with the growing city of Summerville.
Located in Four Holes Swamp, Francis Beidler Forest spans over 16,000 acres and contains the largest remaining stand of virgin Bald Cypress and Tupelo Gum swamp forest left anywhere in the world. A 1.75-mile self-guided boardwalk trail (handicap accessible) leads you to the heart of the swamp. Canoe and kayak trips and naturalist-guided tours are also available seasonally by reservation. Check out their website for a free downloadable iPhone/iPod application the includes tons of text images that relate to this rare natural area.
Azalea Park encompasses 12 acres of beautiful greenspace smack in the middle of historic Summerville. The park is known for it's pathways dotted with sculpture and shade trees. It is also home to Sculpture in the South and the Flowertown Festival, both popular annual events.
For almost one hundred years the village of Dorchester existed as an important inland trading center in colonial South Carolina. The village is gone now, but the fort that occupied one corner of Dorchester still stands overlooking the Ashley River. Made of oyster shell concrete called tabby, the fort was built during the French and Indian War to house some of the colony’s precious gunpowder supply. During the American Revolution, the entire town became a fortified post, first occupied by the Americans and then by the British. Dorchester never recovered from the effects of the war, and the village was gradually abandoned. Today Dorchester is preserved and interpreted through archaeological investigations into the layers of history right below your feet. You can even take part in the archaeology efforts or explore the fort and remaining church tower and cemetery on site.
Givhans Ferry State Park sits at the end of the 21-mile long stretch of the Edisto River Kayak & Canoe Trail that begins at Colleton State Park. The Edisto is the longest free-flowing blackwater river in North America, and glimpses of it can be seen from the bluffs outside the cabins at Givhans Ferry. Trails, fishing, camping and picnics are also favorite activities here.
Wire Road runs through rural South Carolina, and is named for when telegraph lines were strung in the middle 1800's. This historic roadway lies near the Edisto River, the longest free-flowing black-water river in the United States. Wire Road connected Charleston to Columbia and Augusta and has seen many passerbys, including General Marquis de Lafayette, a key figure in the American Revolution. At least one house that he likely passed is still standing.
Specific sites along Wire Road (beginning on Highway 78 in Ridgeville) include sections oforiginal track from the Charleston to Hamburg railroad (Best Friend Express, the 1st passenger rialroad in the United States), locally owned eateries and general stores, Givhans State Park, an Edisto Indian community, Four Holes Swamp, The Clayton House (Built in 1854, records suggest it was a stagecoach stop until the early 1900's), Indian Field Swamp (you can spot a milldam at the edge of the trees that powered the saw mill that cut much of the lumber for the houses in the area built before the Civil War), Colleton State Park, the Koger House (Built 1800), Appleby's Methodist Church (Built 1840s), The McAlhany Nature Preserve and ending in Branchville, the oldest railroad junction in the world.
The Town of Saint George was named for its first settler, James George, who opened a store in 1810 and donated property to South Carolina Railroad Company to build a station. The railroad track connecting Charleston to Augusta was completed in 1833, giving the community the impetus to grow. In 1850, James George built a home, which still stands today. The home faces the tracks, where James George could watch the trains that passed many times a day. He is buried in his backyard, which is now on the property of Memorial Baptist Church. The town was incorporated in 1878 under the name of “George’s Station.” The historic Klauber Building in present day St. George now houses a Tri-County Regional Chamber of Commerce and can point visitors to the many historic places and unique eateries nearby.
It began in 1897, when a group of young Summerville women formed a Chautauqua Reading Circle. The women donated the books from their reading circle to be the nucleus of a membership library chartered April 23, 1908. Within seven years their library had a permanent home.
On land donated by the town of Summerville, Jim Cooper, a local contractor, erected the building on Central Avenue. The Timrod, the only library building in Summerville at the time, opened on April 15, 1915 and continues to serve the Summerville community to this day.
The building is located in the historic district of Summerville, which is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. When the library was chartered, the founding group renamed the reading circle the Henry Timrod Literary and Library Society honoring the South Carolina poet who, according to unconfirmed local tradition, taught here in the years before the Civil War. Because of the profound impression his wartime poetry made on civilians and soldiers alike, Henry Timrod became known as the Laureate of the Confederacy.
Today the Timrod Library houses a collection numbering in excess of 50,000 volumes including best sellers, reference materials, audio and video tapes, and a large number of South Carolina titles. The juvenile section contains Newbery and Caldecott Award titles as well as recent South Carolina Book Award nominees and winners. New titles are added regularly.
Middleton Place is a carefully preserved 18th century plantation on the banks of the Ashley River that has survived the American Revolution, Civil War, earthquake and hurricanes. It was the residence of Henry Middleton, president of the first Continental Congress and his son, Arthur, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. The National Historic Landmark encompasses America’s oldest landscaped gardens, the Middleton Place House and plantation stableyards. Programs are available to visitors to describe life on a lowcountry plantation as experienced by both master and slave from the Colonial period through 19th Century planter family. The stableyard program focuses on farm animals, historic crafts and agricultural skills. A demonstration rice field of Carolina Gold Rice provides a visual picture of the prominence of this one crop during the 18th and 19th century. For a complete experience, check out the adjacent Middleton Inn and restaurant!