Swamp Fox Ghost Town

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Taking a step back in time is a normal activity for Charlestonians and tourists alike. However, this hidden gem of history is located outside of Charleston in Summerville, South Carolina. What remains of the Colonial Dorchester Site are tales left to be told of how early settlers in the area lived and eventually vanished after the Revolutionary War.

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Inside the bell tower. Photo by Nicholas McGirr

The Structures

The first thing anyone would notice as you pull in to this park is the remains of the St. George Bell Tower. Erected before 1756, the bell tower was burned by the British during the Revolutionary War. It held four bells in it’s prime and was slightly repaired after the torture of being burned. What remains today is a scope of historical architecture for all to observe.

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Burned bell tower of St. George’s Church. Photo from Art of Charleston
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Repaired bell tower of St. George’s Church. Photo by Nicholas McGirr

Towards the back of the park next to the Ashley River is a tabby fort with walls made of oyster shells and concrete. Today, this is the best-kept display of tabby in America even though it was damaged during the earthquake of 1886.

Inside the fort walls are the remains of a powder house where Francis “Swamp Fox” Marion was stationed. The remains are preserved by keeping visitors from climbing or damaging the remaining structure. Along the Ashley River, the park has set up benches and tables for fishermen and for those wishing to enjoy a very peaceful lunch. At low tide, you can observe the wharf and dock that was once used in this colonial society.

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Photo taken by Nicholas McGirr

Behind the church, you can stroll through the base structures of homes and the school that was located there complete with informational panels to guide you. There were even street signs still visible, their date is unknown.

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The History

With the site once thriving with homes, two schools and a church, where did everyone go? I’ll keep it simple.

During the Revolutionary War, many settlers began to flee the area after many of the structures were burned. These areas included parts of Georgia and further south to avoid another raid in the area. By 1788, the entire town was abandoned leaving it to become a ghost town.

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Photo taken by Nicholas McGirr

During the war, it was Francis “Swamp Fox” Marion and Thomas Sumter that were stationed at the site to guard the powder magazine. The remnants of the magazine can be seen today in the middle of the fort walls.

During my research, I found no reported deaths or tragedies on the area which left me curious as to find any paranormal activity on the grounds.

The Data

It was on the bell tower that I first received EMF readings, but after several visits to the site, I have never been able to recreate the readings. Even with a small cemetery nearby (at least what’s visible as a cemetery), there are absolutely no EMF readings, cold spots or spirit box activity of any kind. Even the app that I normally use to accompany the actual spirit box gave random answers and words while investigating this site. None of the terms and words that came from the app could be linked to the site.

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Photo taken by Nicholas McGirr

This ghost town is just a town abandoned. Even though I was able to find a slight EMF detection near the bell tower, I was unable to recreate it. This tells me two things: First, any hauntings that are at this site do not wish to be found. Second, that this was once the home to many of our early settlers doesn’t mean it will hold onto the residual spirit activity.

The intent for my research is to not just investigate the famously haunted locations but to find new locations that may not have been discovered as having activity. The Colonial Dorchester site is not one of those locations. What I did get out of this investigation is a furthered understanding of the Charleston history which may tie into future investigations later. This is a good thing.

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Photo of the tabby fort walls at Fort Dorchester. Photo from Art of Charleston.

So even though I found no paranormal activity, to keep my integrity as an author and researcher, I presented this investigation anyway. Not all investigations are going to be a success, but with the history attached to the Colonial Dorchester site, I am claiming success on what I’ve learned to further understand how our ancestors lived before us.

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Parish Church of St. George. Photo taken by Nicholas McGirr

I recommend you visit this site for yourself to not only see the tabby walls but to get a feel for how our ancestors before us would have created a community.

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Stories in the Cemetery Tours

Whether you’re a local or someone on vacation, you can take an Interactive Ghost Hunting Experience tour with me through downtown Charleston. Even though we won’t trek up to Summerville to visit the Colonial Dorchester site, we’ll visit many haunted locations using real ghost hunting equipment and possibly discover new activity! What will you discover on your tour?

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References Used to write this post

City of Charleston. Art Work of Charleston: Published in 12 Parts. W. H. Parish Publishing Co., 1893. https://lcdl.library.cofc.edu/lcdl/catalog/lcdl:129214?tify={%22panX%22:0.449,%22panY%22:0.964,%22view%22:%22info%22,%22zoom%22:1.393}.

South Carolina Picture Project. Colonial Dorchester, Summerville, SC. Updated 2019. https://www.scpictureproject.org/dorchester-county/fort-dorchester.html. 28 November 2019.

South Carolina State Parks. Colonial Dorchester State Historic Site. 2019. https://southcarolinaparks.com/colonial-dorchester. 28 November 2019.