Situated on a pine-forested ridge, Summerville was first inhabited in the late 1700’s as Charlestonians sought respite from the summer heat, mosquitoes and disease. From May to September plantation families along the nearby Ashley River and other coastal areas headed for higher elevation to live temporarily or “maroon,” in the tiny forest colony soon dubbed Summerville. Other pioneer residents descended from those 1696 Puritans who settled the nearby colonial settlement of Dorchester.
The last decade of the 19th century saw two of the worst local events, followed by one of the best pieces of luck ever to befall a struggling community. While still recovering from the War Between the States, Summerville suffered extensive destruction during the 1886 earthquake, and later suffered a devastating fire which wiped out most of the buildings surrounding the town square. But the town’s luck changed when the International Congress of Physicians in Paris declared Summerville one of the two best places in the world for the treatment and recovery of lung disorders. Such belief was founded in the purported healing properties of turpentine scent from the native pines. Summerville became a boom town of health conscious tourists, many of whom decided to remain permanently.
The population of Summerville has grown five fold since 1970 and is now just under 30,000, but the “Flower town in the Pines” still retains its small town historic character.