Plan for the Town of Dorchester, June 1742


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Document Description:

Dorchester was founded in 1697 by Congregationalist settlers from Massachusetts. They set aside a small part of the 4,050 acres they received on the Ashley to serve as a trading village for their farming community. Its advantageous location helped Dorchester to thrive. Roads nearby led to the capital city of Charleston and to the interior of the colony. The Ashley River provided a convenient highway for the shipment of bulky goods and produce. Sailing ships and dugout canoes tied up at wharves jutting into the river to load and unload cargoes. Deerskins traded by Indian tribes and rice and indigo grown on local plantations passed through Dorchester on their way to Charleston for eventual shipment overseas. Manufactured goods imported into South Carolina were brought to the town for sale in shops.

On March 8, 1742, the colonial legislature of South Carolina passed an act to "encourage and induce handicraft tradesmen, shopkeepers and others, to settle in towns and villages upon the passes over rivers and other places in this province." The act exempted white settlers that resided in towns or villages like Dorchester from all provincial taxes and jury duty for ten years. Those towns and villages that wanted to take advantage of this act had to submit a plat or survey to the colony for record keeping purposes. Because of this act, Samuel Stevens drew this plan for the town of Dorchester. Samuel Stevens was the son of John Stevens, the settler who received the original Dorchester land grants for the town.

The plan shows 116 numbered town lots, the church, and market place. The fort at Dorchester was not yet built. This plan gives many clues about the make-up of a small colonial market town and its residents.


Plan of Dorchester, 1742.  MB 9-17.  South Carolina Department of Archives and History, Columbia, South Carolina.

Correlating SC Social Studies Academic Standards:

Standard 8-1:  The student will demonstrate an understanding of the settlement of South Carolina and the United States by Native Americans, Europeans, and Africans.

Indicator 8-1.3  Summarize the history of European settlement in Carolina from the first attempts the settle at San Miguel de Gualdape, Charlesfort, San Felipe, and Albemarle Point to the time of South Carolina’s establishment as an economically important British colony, including the diverse origins of the settlers, the early government, the importance of the plantation system and slavery, and the impact of the natural environment on the development of the colony.

Note: Although this document was originally posted as part of a lesson specifically designed to teach the above standard(s), other Social Studies Standards may apply.

Lessons Using This Document:

"The Trading Post with the Most: Colonial Dorchester's Settlement and Economy

Statement on use and reproduction

For additional information about Colonial Dorchester, please see the Virtual Tour.