- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 2, 2014

FLORENCE, S.C. (AP) - Descendants of Ervin James, a former slave, and community members, recently gathered on the original Jamestown settlement in Florence County for the first event of the James’ annual family reunion.

Crowds of people mingled on the Jamestown lawns and enjoyed food, historical reenactments, presentations and the company of each other.

Carolyn Evans, a professional storyteller, stepped into character as Harriet Tubman and performed an engaging reenactment for the attendees, along with Civil War re-enactors.

Other activities included historical furniture making, indigo dying, iron works, and net casting.

“A family reunion is about history, heritage and culture,” Terry James, a descendant of Ervin James said. “You have to give a family something of substance and that’s what we’re doing. That’s why we open it up to the community.”

Jamestown was a Reconstruction-era African-American settlement that Ervin James founded in the Mars Bluff area in 1870 when he bought more than 200 acres of land near the Pee Dee River for his descendants.

Terry James said the event is about talking with ancestors to get a better idea of how they lived and dealt with adversities of their time.

“We want people to know what contributions Africans Americans contributed to this nation, to this state and to this area,” Terry James said. “If it wasn’t for the African Americans, South Carolina and this nation wouldn’t be like it is. And that’s a fact.”

Jennifer Davis, of Oregon, was visiting family in Florence and happened to read about the Jamestown Reunion in a local newspaper, which prompted her to check out the event Friday.

“I wanted (my sons) to kind of experience what the history and culture is here,” Davis said. “When I was a kid, I didn’t really appreciate it. I didn’t really know about the treasures that were around me.”

Davis said whenever she comes back home to Florence, she likes to see and experience as much of the culture as she can.

Out of all aspects of the gathering, Davis said she enjoyed the Harriet Tubman reenactment and seeing artifacts from the Walterboro Slave Relic Museum the most.

“I love the artifacts,” Davis said. “You hear things and you read things, but to see it with your own eyes is very different.”

Dorothy Williams, a descendant of Ervin James, was born and raised in the original Jamestown community. She said years ago, the family did not have to travel to a larger town for anything. They grew their own grapes, peaches, rice and wheat. They even raised cows, hogs and chickens on the settlement. One of the only reasons Jamestown residents went to town was to pick up mail.

Williams, the daughter of Annie B. James, said the reunion is something she always looks forward to.

“I think it’s a nice thing to have to get the family together,” Williams said. “It really means a lot to me.”


Information from: Morning News, https://www.scnow.com

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