Low tide reveals the remains of a log wharf that once stuck out into the Ashley River at lot 8. It is all that is left to indicate the river-borne commerce that once made Dorchester an important trading center.
The 1742 map of Dorchester shows lot 8 belonging to "Baker" and identifies the wharf running into the river from the south end of the lot as "Baker's Wharf." Captain Richard Baker was a prominent planter from a prominent local family. He was the heir of Archdale Hall, a large plantation on the Ashley south of Dorchester. He also owned several lots in the village, including this one.
A house and kitchen stood on the lot, along with a warehouse that could hold 1000 barrels of rice, the crop that provided the surest path to wealth and social prestige in colonial South Carolina. Once it was harvested, rice from local plantations was shipped to villages such as Dorchester. Navigable rivers such as the Ashley were the highways for the transport of rice and other bulky cargoes. In Dorchester rice was stored in a merchant's warehouse until it could be loaded aboard a ship bound for Charleston. There it was placed in the hands of another merchant who shipped the crop overseas on consignment for the planter.
Since he was wealthy enough to have his own rice warehouse, Richard Baker did not have to pay local merchants any middleman's fees for storing his rice before transporting it to Charleston. Other planters who did not own warehouses, however, would have to pay Baker or a local merchant for the privilege of storing their crop until they could be loaded on an out-bound vessel.
And because Richard Baker owned a schooner, a two-masted sailing ship used in the river trade, he could sell his harvest directly to Charleston and avoid paying for the shipment of his crop. Planters without boats would have to pay Baker or another ship owner to take their rice to Charleston. Skilled slaves, valued for their abilities as boat pilots and deck hands, might have been members of the crew of Baker's schooner.
By the spring of 1748, Richard Baker was planning to move to Charleston, perhaps because he was growing wealthier and wished to live in the more affluent colonial capital. A little over four years later, Baker was dead.What became of the prime piece of Dorchester real estate called lot 8 is not yet known. Who owned the lot and its wharf after Baker? How did they use it? We don't know. What is certain is that lot 8 and other riverside lots continued to be occupied and used. In 1772 lot 8 was advertised for sale. At the time a woman was paying rent to live there.
The remains of Baker's wharf show how such structures were commonly built in the village. A framework of notched logs, assembled like a cabin, was built from the riverbank and filled with dirt and rubble to create a solid surface where ships could dock to load and unload.