This African American community, which flourished here for 70 years, has its origins in a 105-acre tract bought in 1870 by former slave Ervin James (1815-1872). James, determined to own his own farm instead of being dependent on sharecropping or tenant farming, bought the tract from Eli McKissick and Mary Poston. His five sons and a son-in-law later divided the tract into individual farms.
Between 1870 and 1940 Ervin James's descendants and other area families purchased additional land, creating a rural community of about 250 residents. Among its institutions were the Jamestown Cemetery, dating from its earliest days; the Summerville Methodist Church (renamed Bowers Chapel), established about 1880; and the Summerville Elementary School, built in 1926.