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A Past as Facinating as Our Present

The history of South Carolina's Grand Strand is among the most fascinating and colorful in America. Located in the northeastern corner of the state, most of the area lies within Horry County (pronounced "oh-ree"), and extends along the coast into what is known as the Waccamaw Neck in Georgetown County.

Native Americans, which included the Waccamaw and Winyah tribes, were the first inhabitants and lived in the region for thousands of years. They were joined in 1526 by explorers who arrived under the Spanish leadership of Lucas Vesquez de Aylion. This small colony on the Waccamaw Neck was the earliest settlement in North America by Europeans, but struggled and eventually failed.

With the passing of time and the eventual settlement of Charles Town further south in 1670, the population and landscape of the Grand Strand slowly began to change. By 1721, the petition for a new parish, Prince George, Winyah, was granted and English colonists laid out plans for Georgetown, the state's third oldest city, in 1730.

While indigo was an early cash crop, it was the cultivation of rice on massive plantations along the region's fertile river low lands that made merchants and planters here among the richest in the colonies. When the American Revolution erupted, the area played a significant role by sending both Thomas Lynch Sr. and Thomas Lynch Jr. to sign the Declaration of Independence. The Marquis de Lafayette, who came from France to help in our cause against Great Britain, first landed in America just north of Georgetown. And General Francis Marion, the legendary Swamp Fox, led many guerrilla actions in the area throughout the conflict.

By 1840, Georgetown District produced nearly one-half of the total rice crop of the United States and became the largest rice-exporting port in the world. Wealthy planters and their families, seeking refuge from the hot and humid summers at nearby plantations, escaped to the breezy comforts of Pawleys Island and turned it into one of the first summer resorts on the Atlantic coast.

After the Civil War, the rice culture slowly faded and lumber and naval stores became the primary industries. Horry County, in particular, was isolated for many years by numerous rivers and swamps, and was often referred to as the "Independent Republic of Horry." Residents were hardworking farmers, lumbermen and turpentine distillers who bartered for their necessities. A typical family in 1875 earned around $2.50 a year in what was nearly a cashless economy.

Around 1900, Burroughs and Collins Company, a timberturpentine firm with extensive beachfront holdings, began developing the resort potential of the Grand Strand by constructing a railroad to the beach from Conway. The company built the first hotel, the Seaside Inn, in 1901. In 1912, Chicago businessman Simeon B. Chapin purchased property and became a major influence in the area's development. And in the 1920s, a group of businessmen created an upscale oceanfront resort that included the sumptuous Ocean Forest Hotel and the area's first golf course, which later became Pine Lakes International.

While the Intracoastal Waterway opened in 1936, Myrtle Beach was incorporated in 1938, and Myrtle Beach Air Force Base was established during the 1940s, growth along the strand languished during the Depression and World War II. But fueled by the optimism and growing prosperity that engulfed America during the 1950s, Myrtle Beach and the Grand Strand soon became one of the most popular destinations in the Southeast for summertime vacationers.

The 1960s ushered in a golf boom along the coast, with the total number of courses exceeding 100 today. Since the 1970s, growth has continued at record pace – with new accommodations, attractions, residential and retail developments that have not only made the Myrtle Beach area a year-round tourism destination, but one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas in the country.

Chronological History of Horry County and Myrtle Beach