The Calais Milestones marked the distance along the stagecoach road to the Calais-Dover Ferry. The ferry, operating between Calais Ferry House on Daniel Island in Berkeley County and Dover Ferry House just outside the City of Charlestown, was established in 1793 by John Clements.
Four stones (were) known to remain marking miles 12, 22, 23, and 26. The age of the milestones is a matter of speculation – three of the stones are believed to be 19th century markers, and one is believed to be an 18th century marker.
John Clements was given permission to build a causeway that extended from the southern part of Thomas Island to Ityone Point. From the Point, the ferry ran to the long-established landing located on the east side of the Charlestown neck. This avoided travel down the Beresford and Clouter Creeks before heading north on the Cooper River.
As was common practice, Clements also built taverns at each of the landings. This allowed passengers a comfortable place to await the ferry and the proper tides needed to make the crossing. The one on the Charlestown side was called Dover Tavern, and the one on Thomas Island was Calais Tavern.
There is some question as to the origin of the name Dover, with some sources pointing to a gentleman named Dover, who lived close to the landing. Irrespective, the Dover-Calais connotation mirrored the English Channel ferry, where many Frenchmen lived on the Calais side, and the English on the Dover side. The ferry was also often called the Dover-Calais Ferry, and these names show on maps that were published as late as 1862.
The location of the roadway seems to have changed to its present location ca. 1825. One might only assume these stones would have been placed at that time. The stones are approximately eight (8) feet long, with two and a half (2½) feet exposed above ground and are made of some sort of schist (a coarse-grained metamorphic rock which consists of layers of different minerals and can be split into thin irregular plates). The tops are rounded from side to side with smooth bevels on the edges. The back is relatively rough. The stones are unadorned or inscribed except near the top where each reads “_____ to Calais.”
During the early days, if one were traveling to Charlestown overland from the East Branch area, it was necessary to cross the Cooper River at some point. An advertisement for the ferry in the 1829 “Charleston Courier” list prices running from 31½ cents for foot passengers to $5 for a wagon with four horses.
To meet the ferry, one went to Calais, an area so named by Henry Laurens. There one caught Clement’s Ferry and rode it over to Dover. This was located about six miles from Charleston. The ferry itself was a flat, wide boat that had a propeller at the stern. In the center of the boat were two mules that provided the power to turn the propeller.
The above-mentioned specific milestone markers citing the distance to Calais were placed near the Cainhoy and Cordesville areas, along Old County Highway 98, S.C. Secondary Road 44, and Highway 365 (presently, the Cainhoy Road and the other three near / along Dr. Evans Road).
Over time, most of these markers have disappeared, some surfacing as make-shift tombstones, others as hearth stones, etc. The markers were often used as reference points, i.e., the 14-mile Calais Marker.
If anyone has sight of one of these Calais Milestone Markers, or knows the where-abouts of one, or additional history of the markers, please contact Keith Gourdin at 843-509-3408. Your information will certainly be appreciated and recorded in our Berkeley County 250 Committee’s historic valuables.
Resources for the above article courtesy of South Carolina Department of Archives and History (SCDAH), and from Berkeley County Historical Society collections (sorry to say unsourced, undated, and mostly unnamed),