Historical Nuggets: Dorchester County was named for Dorchester, Massachusetts by Congregationalists who, in 1696, moved south and established a new settlement called Dorchester. The settlement was abandoned by 1788 but the parish in which it was located continued to be called St. George Dorchester. The name was formerly adopted upon the county’s creation in 1897. The county seat is St. George and it, along with Harleyville, Ridgeville and Reevesville, make up a few of the cities and towns that comprise the 573 square miles known as Dorchester County in which an average of 238 persons live per square mile.
The town of Summerville was settled in the late eighteenth century as a summer getaway for plantation owners who hoped to escape the threat of malaria that plagued their rice fields. Dorchester County is home to Middleton Place Gardens, the remains of an old rice plantation, begun in 1741 by Henry Middleton (1717-1784) President of the Continental Congress.
Population & Demographics: Per the 2010 U.S. Census, Dorchester County had a total population of 136,555 with 26% being African American. Although the county’s median household income is $54,875, fully 12.1% of the population is identified as “living below the poverty line” with 5.2% being White and 22.5% being Black.
Heirs’ property is an important issue when considering the generational poverty among many African American families in Dorchester County. For most of us, our property is our most valuable asset. Not so, for heirs’ property owners. Because the land is owned “in common”, there is no clear title to the land which prevents the family from obtaining a loan or mortgage or accessing any public funds to improve their home or land. Therefore, owning heirs’ property is more of a liability than an asset, which is why it is so important to clear title to it.
Mapping Project: According to the Center’s HP mapping research completed in 2012, there are more than 40,000 acres of heirs’ property remaining in our six-county service area, of which 4,323 acres remain in Dorchester County, representing 13% of the whole. The Center has developed a strategic plan to reach out to the areas of larger tracts and higher concentrations of HP in Dorchester County to deliver services where they are needed most.
The Center offers education seminars and legal services to low wealth families in Dorchester County to help them obtain clear title to their family land and keep it. PLEASE CALL OUR OFFICE to schedule an appointment TO TALK WITH OUR ATTORNEY about your particular heirs’ property issues or to sponsor a seminar: (843) 745-7055.
To learn more about Dorchester County visit http://www.sciway.net/cnty/dorchester.html or check out the resources shown below.