James Davis was born in the Quaker colony north of Beaufort on the east side of the Newport River, the eldest son of Joseph Wicker Davis and Susanna Stanton. About 1802, James married Elizabeth Adams, daughter of Nathan Adams and Mary Canaday. A skilled carpenter; James often referred to himself as an "ar-chē-tech."  
     Though unique with its center chimney, five fireplaces and raised basement, Davis built a traditional, Beaufort-style coastal cottage. Floors were laid with 12-inch pine but the construction was simple—built with hand-hewn pegs and hand-wrought nails. Framing members were marked with roman numerals. The original oyster-plaster walls, including those above the mantle-free fireplaces, were most likely whitewashed.