Originally created 12/26/05

Relics at church tell story of historic S. Carolina town



SUMMERVILLE, S.C. - In Summerville Presbyterian Church sits a silver cup and a skeletal mortise door key. Those relics are about all that remain from churches in South Carolina's first inland town.

The Communion cup is from the White Meeting Hall, built in 1700. The key opened the St. George Church, built in 1719. Not much more remains of either church.

They were built in a town called "Dorchester," formed in 1696 when a handful of members of the First Church at Dorchester in Massachusetts sailed up the Ashley River as far as they could from Charles Towne.

The town adjoined land owned by one of its members and was out among established plantations. The church members were greeted on arrival by other Congregationalists, or Puritans.

They built a wooden church and platted out a town that by the American Revolution became the third-largest in South Carolina, behind Charles Towne and George Town.

The brick White Meeting Hall uphill of the riverbank in 1700, beginning a migration farther inland. Today, remains of a tabby fort and the ruins of the bell tower of the 1719 church are all that still stand in Colonial Dorchester.

White Meeting Hall today is a rubble of bricks surrounded by graves. Its threshold stone sits as a bench in the Summerville church fellowship hall. Alongside it this month stands a Christmas tree.

Summerville Presbyterian Church member Doc McIntosh sometimes thinks about the silver cup and key during Christmas Eve midnight Communion.

They are the beginnings of the Summerville Presbyterian Church, where he sits in the pews as the choir sings. They are the beginnings of the town, Dorchester County and really the Lowcountry today.

"I get to thinking it must have been great faith to do what they did," Mr. McIntosh said. "I can't help but have strong feelings about it."