Historic Koger House to be open Nov. 9-10
by The Press and Standard | November 8, 2019 5:00 am
Last Updated: November 6, 2019 at 1:54 pm
By BOBBIE MCKINNON
Dorchester County Historical Society
Sometimes history reveals more facts, hidden away for centuries, when you patiently seek them out. Such is the newly found history of this historic house built about 235 years ago in Dorchester County (old Colleton County) near the Edisto River on the Wire Road (old Indian trail and old road from Charleston to Augusta — referred to as Orangeburg Road on the Mills Atlas Map of 1820).
The Koger-Murray-Carroll House, listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974 (Old Carroll Place), is perhaps the oldest original residence in Dorchester County apart from Middleton Place (that was mostly burned and later rebuilt.) The Koger House’s storied past as a residence and stagecoach inn includes visitors like Bishop Francis Asbury (mentioned in his journal of dining with the Koger family in 1803 and 1808) and family stories include a famous general of the Revolutionary War, Marquis de Lafayette. It is not known if George Washington slept there, but he was definitely the president of the United States when this house was under construction. Its former owners include state representatives, senators, military officers, a sheriff, a judge and a chancellor.
Needless to say, for such an old house, it is also well known in the upper part of Dorchester County as a haunted house. There are many stories of ghosts walking on the staircase, noises coming from upstairs and the bloodstained floor in one bedroom that can’t be cleaned away.
As new facts emerged about this treasured house, thanks to the excellent and time-consuming research by Peggy Murray Phalen, a member of the Dorchester County Historical Society and researcher, the original owner and approximate year of construction of the home was revealed. Previously, reports said that Major Joseph Koger (earlier captain under Lt. Col. John Rutledge in War of 1812-3rd Regiment S.C. Troops, later S.C. representative and S.C. senator, then later years “Father of the Senate”-Mississippi) had the house built in the late 1790s, after his wife, Abigail, inherited the land from her deceased husband, John Milhous Jr. (ancestor of President Richard Milhous Nixon).
Evidence now shows that David Campbell had the plantation home built with other surrounding buildings circa 1786, after purchasing the land from Thomas Ferguson (believed to be the first owner of this land.) Campbell later sold the plantation with 1,203 acres to John Milhous Jr. for 400 pounds sterling in 1793.
By 1802, the Kogers were married and the latest residents of the house. They later used it as an inn and stagecoach stop. Farmers often used their homes as stagecoach inns on main routes to earn extra income.
This historic house will be opened again by the Dorchester County Historical Society on Nov. 9-10 for “Education and Living History Days.” After about a dozen owners over the last two centuries, the last individual owners, Fitzhugh and Martha Sweatman, donated this historic place in 2003 to the Dorchester County Historical Society (then Upper Dorchester County Historical Society). The DCHS painstakingly restored the house and protected its historical integrity as much as possible after it was placed on the Eleven Most Endangered Properties for South Carolina in 2002.
It’s not often that the public has a chance to visit such a treasure from the 1700s. The Koger-Murray-Carroll House is Georgian style architecture with Federal-era features and framing with English techniques. It is constructed of “hard as rock” black cypress that was milled on the property and took from 7-12 years to build. It rests on massive brick pillars with a front veranda with one 40-foot cypress beam (originally a surrounding porch) and a porch on the back.
Handmade nails are still visible in the house and hand-hewn beams in the attic are notched and pegged together with Roman numerals. Under the plaster walls (some revealed through plexiglass to be visible now) are narrow hand-cut laths. The staircase ascending the three stories is still sturdy. There are many fireplaces and two chimneys have dates carved in them, 1792 and 1829 (possible year of addition or renovation.)
The house is now surrounded by trees and farmland of the current Sweatman Farm. Six old burial sites are on or near land around the house including, Abigail Koger who died in 1812. However, only two graves are still visible. The others were lost to farmland over the years. Behind the house, there is a huge pecan tree, probably larger than any that would normally be seen today.
Once you take in this house, its history and the surroundings, you can almost see a stagecoach pulling up to this old porch and unloading passengers in colonial dress, various military uniforms or old pioneer clothing of settlers and traders where all this started. You can feel the history and layers of change that unfolded from the old Indian trail until our own reality. You can almost see the indigo, cotton and rice fields, vast pine forests that flourished on this old, busy plantation near the river where history was made and historic figures gathered.
For those interested in history, a visit to The Koger House could be important and enjoyable on November 9-10. History will come alive with soldiers from the past, candlemakers and 1800s artifacts, clothing and much more. The Hunley Traveling Exhibit will also be on display and food may be purchased on site. You can learn more about this house, county history and events from the Dorchester County Historical Society (scdchs.com) and also the Heritage Museum at the Dorchester County Archives and History Center in St. George.
For information call 843-931-1021 or visit the museum and archives at 101 Ridge St.