A History of Childsbury, South Carolina

Also found in texts as Childbury and Childsberry.

James Child, an English settler, was granted a tract of 1,200 acres on Strawberry Bluff overlooking the Cooper River in what is today Berekeley County, South Carolina. This location was the furthest upstream that ships could travel. He established an early ferry across the river at this location.

With the town started in 1707, James Child, upon his death, bequeathed 500 acres of his land holdings for the town which was planned to have twenty-four blocks on Strawberry Bluff. At its center was a market square. Two other squares were named Child's Square and Dixe's Square. The streets were 66 feet wide. Property was assigned for a college, a free school, a church, and a minister's house. James Child also designated 600 acres for farms and pastures outside of the planned town, and 100 acres on the bluff for a future citadel.

At one time, the town had a tavern, school, chapel, race track, general store, and ferry. A tanner, butcher, shoemaker, and carpenters lived in the town. Due to the growth of nearby plantations, the town began to wither in the 1750s, but the the chapel and tavern continued to be used. Fairs were held until the mid-1750s. By the American Revolution, Childsbury no longer existed.

The former town's buildings were ultimately absorbed into the neighboring Strawberry Plantation.

Strawberry Chapel

In 1725, the townfolk built Strawberry Chapel in the hamlet of Childsbury.

It was a simple, rectangular brick building covered in stucco with a jerkin-head roof. The south-facing facade has a double three-paneled door with a flush fanlight. There are shuttered windows on either side of this door. The west end has a single door flanked by a pair of windows. There is decorative rosette window above. The east end has two windows with the rosette window above. Extending from the north wall behind the altar is a small anteroom for the vestry. A graveyard is around the church.

The chapel was a parochial chapel of ease of the Parish of St. John's, Berkeley. The parish church at the time was Biggin Church, which was about 10 miles away. The designation of "parochial" meant that it had the authority to baptize and bury the dead.

By 1825, Strawberry Chapel replaced Biggins Church as the parish church. A mural tablet in memory of an early rector of the parish was moved from Biggin Church to Strawberry Chapel. The silver Communion service from Biggin Church, which had been hidden at the end of the American Civil War, was found buried in a barn at the Comingtee Plantation in 1947. It is now used at services at Strawberry Chapel.

In 1882, a new chapel was built at nearby Cordesville. Strawberry Chapel underwent repairs in 1913.

Strawberry Chapel and Childsbury are now within South Carolina Heritage Preserve and on the National Register of Properties. Click Here.
In "The Statutes at Large of South Carolina - Volume III," Pages 204-206 provide the Act that established Childsbury as a Market Town with Fairs. Click Here to read that entire Act herein.
In "The Statutes at Large of South Carolina - Volume III," Pages 364-366 provide the Act to erect a Free School in the town of Childsbury. Click Here to read that entire Act herein.
In "The Statutes at Large of South Carolina - Volume IX," Pages 136-138 provide the Act to erect a new causeway leading to Childsbury Ferry. Click Here to read that entire Act herein.
From "Some Forgotten Towns in Lower South Carolina," by Henry A.M. Smith, published in The South Carolina Historical and Genealogical Magazine, Vol. 14, No. 4, October 1913, pages 198-208, published by: South Carolina Historical Society [with minor edits]:


On 14th July, 1698, a tract of 1,200 acres was granted to one James Child. The land granted was on the Eastern bank of the Western branch of the Cooper River, at a point designated in the later documents referring to it as "The Strawberry" or "Strawberry." It probably or possibly had that name before the grant to Childs, but the writer of this article has never been able to positively assure himself of that fact by any anterior evidence. From an early period in the eighteenth century it was so known and it has retained the name of "Strawberry" to the present day. The grant bounded to the South on the lands of Mrs. Aphra Coming, afterwards known as "Comings T" or "Comingtee" and to the North on the estate called "Mepkin" which had been granted to the three Colleton brothers, Sir Peter, James, and Thomas, and which finally vested in James as the last survivour of the three.

From a clause in the will of James Child he would appear to have come from Coleshill in the Parish of Augmondi, County of Hertford, England. At any rate he owned a house and lands there.

To the tract of 1,200 acres James Child added the fol lowing grants, either contiguous to or in the near vicinity of the 1,200 acres, viz:

- 800 acres granted 1 June 1709
- 100 acres granted 8 September 1711
- 100 acres granted 21 March 1715/16
- 500 acres granted, 19 October 1716

Exactly when James Child laid out the town there appears to be nothing to show. There is no plan of it in existence that the writer has ever seen. It was located at the bluff on the river, called the Strawberry Bluff, and must have been laid out at or prior to the 25th September, 1714, for in the deed from "James Child of Childsbury Town "Yeoman" to "Stephen Sarrasin Merchant" he sells some seven town lots which "appear by the Towne Platt dated "25 September, 1714."' By this deed James Child conveyed seven lots, each containing an half acre, viz: three front lots, numbers 8, 9, and 10, and four other lots, numbers 20, 21, 28, and 29. The streets named on which these lots bound are Craven Street, Mulberry Street, and Church Street, and some lots must have been already sold as these lots also bounded on the lots of John Moore and Marks Holmes. The proviso is added that if two houses are not built on the lots within one year, then the lots would revert to James Child.

James Child died about August 29, 1720, (the date when his will was probated). By his will, which was dated 29 October, 1718 he describes himself "of Childsbury Town "on Western Branch of Cooper river." By his will he gave an acre and a half in the town for a Church or Chapel and a burying place for the inhabitants of Childsbury Town; a square in the middle of the town as shown on the plat for a market place; and lot number 16 to trustees for a free school, with a house for the schoolmaster, the trustees to employ a learned schoolmaster to keep a grammar school to teach Latin to boys and children until prepared for a college or university, and to teach English to children, and "to learn them to write and keep "accts. by Arithmetic" the children of all the inhabitants of the western and eastern branches of Cooper River who contributed to the ferry and causeway to have the benefits of the school provided the parents should send firewood for their children in winter, or pay two shillings and sixpence Carolina currency per annum to the school master. He further gave "a square of land upon north "westernly of the ferry street" "with two acres and a halfe "of land Butting on the River Bay, and the marsh land between the Bay and the river as shown on the town platt, to trustees for a college or university, when any pious and charitable persons should think to put it to that use. He also gave all the rents of his Luckins Plantation whereon he then dwelled, commencing from September, 1718, and also £100 with which to build a school house; and also £500 as security for a salary for the schoolmaster, the interest to be paid every six months in Carolina currency. To the inhabitants of Childsberry Town he gave the commoning and pasturage of 600 acres of land provided each lot owner put in only two cows, with power to the lot owners to elect a hay ward; and gave the hill by the tanhouse and the river bay, containing one hundred acres, to build upon in time of war, a citadel for the defence of the town.

The town must have assumed some position during the life of James Child or shortly after his death, for on 15 February, 1723, an Act was passed, which recited that James Child had by his will given 500 acres for a common adjoining "the town commonly called Childsberry" and also £600 to be placed at interest for the support of a free school, and also a place for a market in the town, and that "the inhabitants of the said town are very much "incommoded as well for want of certain market days in "each week to be appointed for Childsberry town" as for want of public fairs to be held there at least twice a year, etc.

The Act then provided that public open markets should be kept in Childsberry every Tuesday and Saturday in the wreek without payment of any toll for three years, and that two fairs should be kept annually in May and October.

On 9th December, 1725, an Act was passed "for establishing a Parochial Chappel of Ease at Childsberry to the "Parish Church in St John's Parish." This Act recited "that James Child, deceased, and several others of the said "parishioners have voluntarily and generously subscribed "to the building a Chappel of Ease to St. John's Parish, at "a place commonly called Childsberry, and have accordingly built the said Chappel at their own charge," and further provided that the chapel so built should be taken as a Chapel of Ease to the Parish Church, and that the rector of the Parish should celebrate service therein every fourth Sunday during the year.

The Chapel so built was of brick, the parishioners having subscribed "a considerable sum" and the same building stands today near Strawberry Ferry, on the ground originally given by James Child.

In March, 1731, according to the Council Journal of the day, a petition was made by the "Trustees of the free school at Childsbury Ferry praying that the Several Legacies left the said School may be united and Consolidated" and on 9 June, 1733, an Act was passed reciting the gifts made by James Child in his will of £500 current money for a free grammar school at Childsbury and £100 in like money and a lot for the school, and that several gentlemen in the Province had raised £2,200 in like money to be added to Mr. Child's legacy, and the Act then declared the following trustees of the school and fund, viz : Hon : Thomas Broughton, Lieut: Governor; Revd. Mr. Thomas Hasell and Anthony Bonneau, John Harleston, Nathaniel Broughton, Thomas Cordes and Francis Lejau Esq".

The trustees were to meet at least once every three months at Childsbury and to fill any vacancies among them selves. No one could be a trustee who had not subscribed £100.

With all this the town seems neverthless to have soon practically disappeared as such.

During the lifetime of James Child a part of the 1,200 acres granted him seems to have gone by the name of "Luckens" or "Luckins" Plantation or farm and by his will he gave this 'Luckin's Farm" to his grandson, Robert Dix, with a proviso that if he died in infancy then the plantation was to go to the testator's grandson, William Child, son of Isaac Child.

Robert Dix did die in infancy, without issue, and Isaac Child, the father of William Child, by his memorial on 16 Febry., 1732, claims as the property of his son and himself 500 acres called "Luckens Plantation" part of the "Strawberry land," 477 acres known as the 'Strawberry bluff" adjoining the river, 123 acres called "Oak Grove" part of the "Strawberry Land" and 100 acres called the "Parsonage" also part of the "Strawberry Plantation" which tracts together, making 1,200 acres, were granted to James Child on 14 July, 1698, and are "well known by the name of the 'Strawberry Plantation.' " "In the same memorial he claims also for his son William the 600 acres (part of the 800 acre grant) devised by James Child for a commons; and in the memorial of William Child himself made 9 Sept., 1737" he claims the 1,200 acres or "Lucken's Farm" and the 600 acres called the "Commons."

In 1736, William Child advertises in the Gazette, requiring all persons to whom Mr. James Child, of Childsberry Town, had sold lots, to produce their titles.

From all which it appears that the town had decayed and the lot owners had abandoned their lots; and that there being no one to use the commons, occupy the lots, or walk the streets, the devisees or heirs of James Child had retaken the property. The "college or university" died with the drying of the ink on the parchment (or paper) of the will. The testators' zeal for education was also evidenced by his bequest of all his books and surveying instruments to that son of his son Isaac who should become a Latin scholar, and if none of his sons should so succeed, then they were to go to begin a library in the school house.

The name of Childsbury also disappeared and the town site became a part of a plantation. The earlier name of Strawberry reasserted itself and has continued.

In 1748, the ferry is granted and called as Strawberry Ferry and has ever since been so known. The Chapel has always been called, as it still is, Strawberry Chapel. Of all that James Child sought to devote to the public use there seems to have taken effect and continued, only the acre and a half for a chapel and burying ground, and for a time at least the school house lot, and to neither even of these has his name continued to be attached.

The burial ground around the Chapel is still in use.

Beneath the giant oaks that shade with their majestic "wings the Strawberry burial ground repose the ancestors of many of those who own property in the Parish." The property so held by James Child subsequently covered four plantations on the river, viz : Rice Hope, Strawberry Ferry, Clermont, and Elwood. Dr. Irving in his "Day on Cooper River" states that it was at Childsbury that the British forces in the Keowee expedition were landed from their transports and marched under Governor Littleton: and that at the same place Col. Wade Hampton took fifty prisoners and burned four vessels laden with valuable stores for the British Army quartered near Biggin Church.

At Strawberry Ferry - i.e., the plantation of that name - says the same writer; the "Strawberry Jockey Club" used to hold its annual meetings. The club having been dissolved in 1822, the race course was ploughed up and converted into a corn-field.

The exact location of the town and its position with regard to the river cannot be given, for so far as the writer knows there is no plan now in existence. From the description of lots in the deeds and other references, it appears to have been on "Strawberry Bluff" on the river on part of the 1,200 acre grant. The name is spelt differently in the documents and the printed Statutes. The correct form was probably Childsbury, altho' pronounced and more frequently spelt Childsberry.

[This Author's Note: the town has been located by more recent historians.]

In an updated article, Henry A.M. Ham located a plat and included the one shown below.

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