South Carolina Education - Berkeley County

Year County Established

County Webpage Herein

County Seat Webpage Herein

1682-1769 (Abolished);
1785-1791 (Abolished);
1882 (Re-established)

Berkeley County

Mt. Pleasant (1882-1897);
Moncks Corner (1882-Present)
On March 24, 1724, the South Carolina General Assembly passed an Act to authorize a free school to be built in the town of Dorchester. The text of this Act has been lost to history, but based on the Act of 1734 below, it appears that the original trustees did not make it happen.

Wassamassaw, with several variant spellings during the colonial era, is a Native American word thought to mean “connecting water.” It first referred to the large cypress swamp here, but eventually referred to the community that grew up nearby in the Anglican parish of St. James, Goose Creek. Plantations laid out by the English and later by the Huguenots flourished before the Revolution.

The swamp was almost impassible for most of the colonial period, but the Wassamassaw Road ran just below the swamp between here and Goose Creek. A Chapel of Ease was built nearby shortly after the Yamasee War of 1715, and a free school was founded in 1728. The “Wassamassaw Cavalry,” a militia company founded in 1857, later saw Confederate service as Company D, 2nd S.C. Cavalry.

On June 9, 1733, the South Carolina General Assembly passed an Act to authorize a free school to be built in the town of Childsbury. Some historians claim the school was never built, but others lean towards the affirmative. Childsbury faded into oblivion just before the American Revolution.
On April 9, 1734, the South Carolina General Assembly passed an Act to re-authorize the building and management of a free school in the town of Dorchester. It appears that this time the school was actually built. The school would now be in present-day Dorchester County.

Pineville, established in 1793-94, was one of the first planters' retreats in the South. James Sinkler built the first summer house here in 1793. Pineville, named for its "religiously preserved" pines and known for its "sweet and balmy air," became a village in 1794 after John Cordes, Peter Gaillard, John Palmer and Peter, Philip, and Samuel Porcher built houses here as well.

By 1830 Pineville had more than 60 houses, a chapel, an academy, a library, and a race track. Federick Porcher wrote in 1858, "the prestige of its ancient fame remains." Union troops burned most of the village in 1865, except the chapel, library, post office and Gourdin House (ca. 1820). The Pineview Historic District was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1992.

On December 14, 1805, the South Carolina General Assembly passed an Act to incorporate the Pineville Academy, named five (5) trustees, and authorized assets up to $5,000, in the community of Pineville. On December 13, 1817, the South Carolina General Assembly passed an Act to give escheated lands in St. Stephen's Parish to the Pineville Academy, and named five (5) trustees of the academy.

[At the time of its incorporation, Pineville Academy was in the Charleston District. In 1882, it was then in the newly-established Berkeley County.]

On December 23, 1884, the South Carolina General Assembly passed an Act to establish two (2) new special school districts in the town of Summerville, part of which was in Colleton County and part of which was in Berkeley County, named seven (7) trustees, and authorized the voters to decide upon an additional special school tax not to exceed two (2) mills on real and personal property.
On December 18, 1891, the South Carolina General Assembly passed an Act to authorize the County Commissioners of Berkeley County to levy a special school tax on School District No. 3 to pay the indebtedness of said school district.

Berkeley Training High School, first called Dixie Training School, stood here from 1920 until the 1980s. The first public school for blacks in Moncks Corner was founded in 1880. It held classes in local churches until its first school was built in 1900. The three-room school built here 1918-1920 at a cost of $6,700 was one of almost 500 in S.C. funded in part by the Julius Rosenwald Foundation 1917-1932.

Rev. James Van Wright led a local effort to fund and build the school, with its slogan “A Dollar or A Day.” Rev. Harleston, the first principal, was succeeded in 1921 by R.A. Ready (d. 1952), principal for 29 years. The school, at first including grades 1-11, became Berkeley Training High School in the 1930s. It moved into a new school on U.S. Hwy. 17 in 1955 and closed in 1970 when county schools desegregated.

St. Stephen Colored School, the first public African American school in St. Stephen, was built here in 1924-25. A three-room frame building, it was one of almost 500 schools in S.C. funded in part by the Julius Rosenwald Foundation 1917-1932. It opened with grades 1-7, but burned in 1935. A brick elementary and high school with grades 1-10 replaced it. Grades 11 and 12 were added in 1936-37 and 1948-49.

A nine-room brick high school was constructed here in 1944-45, with Woodrow Z. Wilson as its last principal. It closed in 1954, and its students transferred to the new Russellville High School. The elementary school, with grades 1-7, was replaced by a new St. Stephen Elementary in 1966. The buildings here were torn down in 1965, and their bricks and lumber donated to Allen A.M.E. Church.

This African-American community grew up around a Methodist church founded during Reconstruction by a freedman named Casey or Caice. Its early services were under a tent, but a log cabin served as its first permanent church. In 1868 T.W. Lewis and other trustees bought a 25-acre tract between S.C. Hwys. 176 and 52. After a frame church replaced the cabin, Rev. William Evans (1822-1887) became the first permanent ordained minister at Casey Methodist Church.

Casey Methodist Church was destroyed by arson in 1977; the adjacent cemetery is all that remains. Casey School, a three-room frame school built next to the church in the 1930s, taught area children in grades 1-7 until it burned in 1966. The Goose Creek Branch of the Berkeley County Public Library was built on the site in 1991. The Casey Fellowship Hall, across Moncks Corner Road from the church, was also a vital institution in the Casey community for many years.

Varner Town (or Varnertown) is a distinct Native American community including descendants of the Etiwan, Catawba, Cherokee, Edisto and other area tribes. This community, located near Goose Creek, was named for William Varner (d. 1927) and his wife Mary Williams Varner (d. 1924).

Several Indian schools served this community. The Varner School, also called the Varner Indian School, was built here in 1939 and closed in 1963. The church nearby has been the center of the community for many years. Nearby Williams Cemetery was named in memory of William W. Williams, an Indian ancestor.

Howe Hall Plantation was established here by Robert Howe about 1683 and passed to his son Job Howe (d. 1706), Speaker of the Commons House of Assembly 1700-05. Later owned by such prominent lowcountry families as the Middletons and Smiths, it was owned by James Vidal before the Civil War. During Reconstruction Vidal sold parcels to African American societies and individual freedmen for small farms.

Howe Hall became an African American community made up of small family farms in the 1870s. It was nicknamed “Hog Hall” by locals who belittled the area’s lower status when compared to the old plantation. Howe Hall Elementary School, serving grades 1-8, consolidated several local black schools and was built here in 1954. Integrated in 1967, it has been Howe Hall AIMS (Arts Infused Magnet School) Elementary since 2002.

Berkeley Training High School, located here from 1955 to 1970, replaced a four-room wood school 1 mi. S at Main St. and Old U.S. Hwy. 52. That school, built in 1918-1920 at a cost of $6,700, had been partially funded by the Julius Rosenwald Foundation. The new brick school, built here in 1955 at a cost of almost $400,000, opened with an enrollment of more than 500 students in grades 8-12.

Joseph H. Jefferson, Sr. (1919-1983) was the only principal of Berkeley Training High School at this location, from 1955 to 1970. By the 1964-65 school year this school reached its peak of 723 students in grades 8-12. Its enrollment was reduced to grades 9-12 in 1965-66 and then to grades 10-12 in 1968-69. Berkeley Training High School closed in 1970 after the desegregation of Berkeley County schools.


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