The White Meeting House – The First Place of Worship in Summerville

The first settlers of the area were a group of Congregationalists from Dorchester, Massachusetts.  They sailed on the schooner Friendship with their minister, Reverend Joseph Lord, down the Ashley River.  They arrived to the area in 1696 and named their new settlement after their home township, Dorchester.

Old White Meeting House

Old White Meeting House – the first place of worship

The settlers worked hard during their first year of arriving.  They designed their little village and built a simple wood frame meeting house to worship in.  It was named the White Meeting House after their spiritual leader of the Separatist movement in Dorchester, England, Reverend John White.  Four years later in 1700, they replaced the wooden structure with a brick one.

The Church of England – the first church

The Lords Proprietors in 1707 decided to establish the Church of England in the Carolinas.  A Lord Proprietor is someone who is granted a royal charter for the establishment and government of an English colony in the 17th century.  This evolved into two churches, The Congregationalists White Meeting House, and Anglican St George.  The current Summerville Presbyterian Church and St. Paul’s Church evolved from these roots in Dorchester.

During the Revolutionary War, the British troops occupied the White Meeting House and sadly burned the interior when they left in 1781. The settlers rebuilt the White Meeting House in 1796 as a square building thirty feet by thirty feet.  For decades it served the community for worship services.

Todays Remains

In 1886 an earthquake collapsed the building, leaving only one wall standing. Of the original 100 acres and buildings, all that remains today are the crumbling wall of the Old White Meeting House and the graveyard, which is now owned by the Presbyterian Church of Summerville.  It’s located off Dorchester Road, GPS Coordinates: 32.965693,-80.194699.  There is no record of the first burial at the site, but it probably dates to the very first year or early years of Dorchester and continues to this day to be an active Cemetery.  You can still visit it today.


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