Horry County Historical
10,000 BC - Estimated earliest human habitation of the area
1735 - First land grants in Horry
1776-1783 - American Revolution. Small engagements at Bear Bluff and Black Lake. General Francis Marion, the "Swamp Fox", is said to have camped at Kingston (Conway) overnight on his way to the Battle of Black Mingo.
1801 - Horry District renamed for Brigadier General Peter Horry (1743-1815) and the village of Kinston was re-named Conwayborough for Brigadier General Robert Conway.
1861-1865 - American Civil War. The first newspaper for the area, the Horry Dispatch was established.
1876 - Wade Hampton's speech. The marker on the oak tree at Fifth and Main in Conway commemorates his speech during his political campaign.
1883 - The General Assembly changes the name of Conwayborough to Conway.
1886 - The Charleston Earthquake is felt in Horry.
1887 - The Railroad came to Conway.
1893 - October 13-Tidal Wave
1898 - The city of Conway is incorporated.
1900 - The first train ran to the beach.
1902 - A wooden bridge at Galivants Ferry opened access to the rest of South Carolina. Loris is incorporated.
1906 - The first automobile is seen in Conway.
1907 - Electric lights come to Conway.
1908 - County Courthouse dedicated May 22.
1914 - Aynor is incorporated.
1917-1918 - World War I
1936 - Intracoastal Waterway is completed and dedicated at Socastee April 11.
1938 - Myrtle Beach is incorporated.
1940 - Horry Electric Cooperative is formed April 24 and brings electricity to rural Horry County.
1941-1945 - World War II
1954 - First Sun Fun Festival. Hurricane Hazel hit October 15. Coastal Carolina University is established
1964 - Surfside Beach is incorporated.
1966 - Atlantic Beach is incorporated.
1968 - Ocean Drive Beach, Crescent Beach, Windy Hill Beach, and Cherry Grove Beach consolidated to become North Myrtle Beach.
1976 - First Horry County Council is elected. Briarcliffe Acres is incorporated.
1977 - First Horry County Council is seated.
1989 - Hurricane Hugo (Category 4).
1993 - Myrtle Beach Airforce Base closed.
1996 - Hurricanes Bertha, July 12, and Fran, September 5.
1999 - Hurricane Floyd
2000 - Horry County enters the new Millennium.
2001 - Horry County Bicentennial.
2002 - May 22 the Horry County Government & Justice Center is dedicated.
2003 - The first woman, Liz Gilland, is elected chairman of Horry County Council.
- Bedford, Goff, Dr., (1989). The Independent Republic. A Survey History of Horry County South Carolina (Revised Edition).
- Gragg, Rod. The Illustrated History of Horry County.
- Lewis, Catherine H. (Horry County Historical Society). Brief Chronology of Horry County History (Online). Available: http://www.hchsonline.org.
- Photos courtesy of the Horry County Museum
A Historical Look at Horry County
The northeastern corner of South Carolina, known as Horry (pronounced O-REE') County, is a diverse land of rivers, beaches, forests and swamps. Horry County is bordered on its eastern side by the Atlantic Ocean and on its western side by Georgetown County, the Great and Little Pee Dee Rivers and Drowning Creek, also known as the Lumber River, and on the north by North Carolina. The Waccamaw River runs through the eastern half of the county. In the middle to late 1800s, the county was sometimes referred to as "the Independent Republic of Horry", a nickname that had a humorous beginning and referred to politically independent minded people.
Horry County has been inhabited for at least ten thousand years. The area that is today Horry County was once the home of the Waccamaw tribe, a Siouan people.
In 1663, the area we now know as South Carolina and North Carolina was part of land granted to eight powerful Englishmen, known as the Lords Proprietors, by King Charles II of England. The western boundary of the land grant was the "South Seas". In 1729, all but one of the Lords Proprietors sold their interest in the grant to England's King George II who later dispatched surveyors to lay out eleven townships in South Carolina in order to develop the "back country" of the Carolina Province. Kingston Township, located on the Waccamaw River, was one of those original townships. The village located within the township was called Kingston, now known as Conway.
Early surveyors found a wilderness that would draw fur traders, second sons of English nobility, and adventurous settlers seeking land. Many went seeking religious freedom. Those of wealth and consequence bought or were granted large tracts of land.
As these settlers slowly moved into the Horry County area, then known as Craven County, some settled along the coast to fish the Atlantic Ocean and its inlets. As a result, the coastal fishing village of Little River developed and is one of the oldest settlements in the county. The fur trade continued to flourish but the naval stores industry and farming eventually became prevalent. In the 1700s and early 1800s, indigo was a major cash crop for the coastal area. The indigo was harvested from plants introduced to the area and from them a dye was made that was very much in demand in Europe. Several indigo plantations were situated along the Horry County coastline. Cattle and pigs were also important commodities in this area, just as they were throughout early coastal South Carolina.
From the earliest days of Horry County's history up until the latter half of the 19th Century, the naval stores industry was prominent in Horry County. The seemingly inexhaustible supply of pitch, pine tar, turpentine, and a variety of other naval products supplied many Horry County citizens with the majority of their income until the industry tapped out all of the natural resources needed for the production of naval stores and moved southward in the late 1800s.
Horry citizens, like other colonists, could be separated into two main groups as the British American colonies approached 1776. Those known as Whigs wanted to break all ties with England. On the opposite end were the Tories who remained loyal to the throne.
The Horry County area saw small skirmishes during the Revolutionary War. General Francis Marion, known as the "Swamp Fox" for his ability to disappear into the swamps, had relatives in the area and passed through on occasions. Many of "Marion's Brigade" came from the Horry County area, which was then a part of Georgetown District. Col. Peter Horry served under General Marion, and the two combined to eventually rid the area of the British.
A planter of French Huguenot descent, Peter Horry (O-REE') was born in SC ca. 1747. A lieutenant colonel in the Revolution and later brigadier general in the SC Militia, he represented Prince George Winyah and All Saints parishes in the SC House and Senate. In 1801, Kingston County, which had been formed from Georgetown District in 1785, was renamed Horry District for Peter Horry. He died in 1815 and is buried at Trinity Episcopal Church in Columbia, SC.
The years between the Revolutionary War and War Between the States were peaceful; new commerce and settlers entered the county. The Tariff of 1828, enacted to protect northern industry by imposing duties on imported goods, enraged southern cotton growers who mostly traded with England. This, along with the famous 1857 Dred Scott decision, a Supreme Court case that ruled against the exclusion of slavery in states, served to further divide the country.
These issues brought three ideologies to the forefront, Secessionists, Unionists, and Cooperationists. The Secessionists strongly believed a state that had joined the Union voluntarily, should, at will, be able to withdraw. The Unionists, on the opposite side of the issue, just as strongly believed that a state may have the legal right to withdraw, but it was not morally correct to do so. In the middle of this heated debate, were the Cooperationists. This group agreed that a state had both the moral and legal right to withdraw, but felt that cooperation was more productive.
In 1860, southern states sent delegates to a convention to discuss the issue of Secession. In December of that year, South Carolina, a staunch state's rights supporter, was first to adopt an Ordinance of Secession. Horry County, while not aggressively Secessionist, joined the "Cause" as soon as South Carolina seceded. On April 12, 1861 cadets from the Citadel, SC's military college in Charleston, fired on Federal forces at Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor as they were attempting to re-supply the fort which SC argued was state property. The War had begun. The thundering sound of the bombardment in Charleston Harbor could be heard in Horry District.
Although no major battles were fought in Horry, the Civil War had a major impact on the county. Somewhere around 90 percent of the county's white male population marched off to war. They saw fighting on nearly all of the major battlefields. Many of these men, young and old alike did not live to return to Horry District again. Most military activity in the area during that time involved the Union naval blockade of our coast.
While Horry's men fought for Southern independence, the women, left alone, faced outrageous prices, a Diphtheria epidemic which killed many children, and, in the closing days of the war, roving bands of deserters. The county seat, which had originally been named Kingston but renamed Conwayborough after another Revolutionary War figure, Robert Conway, was raided early in 1865. Also, early in the year of 1865, Union troops aboard gunboats, fresh from Maine, sailed up from Georgetown to Conwayborough and occupied the county seat.
After the War Between the States economic progress gradually returned to the area. The first train pulled into Conway in mid-December of 1887. This era also saw an end to the naval stores industry that the area's economy had depended on since the arrival of the first settlers. With the profits of cotton falling, the farmers of Horry started turning to tobacco as a cash crop in the late 1890s.
In 1900, the Conway & Seashore Railroad was established from Conway to the seashore at Long Bay and the new town at the end of the tracks was named Myrtle Beach, named after the native Wax Myrtle shrub which grew behind the dunes. Burroughs & Collins Co. built the first hotel at the beach and named it the Seaside Inn. The new resort was first used by Conway residents.
In 1898, Conwayborough shortened its name to Conway and was finally incorporated after being founded 166 years earlier in 1732. Loris, a stop on the railroad leading to Chadbourn, NC, grew quickly as a market for the tobacco growers. It was incorporated in 1902. The town of Aynor was laid out in 1911 in the western section of the county and connected to Conway and Myrtle Beach by the Conway Coast & Western Railroad tracks. It was incorporated in 1914.
Several important events for Horry County occurred in the period between the dawning of the 20th century and the start of World War I. The first automobile was seen in Conway in 1906 and Paul Quattlebaum, the son of a local leader, brought electric lights to the area. A new Horry County courthouse was dedicated on May 22, 1908. It was the third courthouse to serve the area. The former one, located on Main Street in Conway and completed in 1825, was designed by Robert Mills, the designer of the Washington Monument, and is currently used by Conway city government as the Conway City Hall.
In response to German submarines that had patrolled off the cost of the eastern United States during World War I, the United States Congress commissioned the Intracoastal Waterway in 1919. When finished in 1936, the Waterway stretched across the coastal section of the county, connecting Little River to Socastee Swamp and the Waccamaw River. The final portion of the Waterway to be completed was in Horry County. The official national dedication and opening of the Waterway was held in Socastee at the site of the existing turn-bridge.
Even though the Stock Market crashed in 1929 and the great Depression followed in 1930, most county residents persevered. The average resident was a farmer, used to the daily struggle to survive. Myrtle Beach continued to grow and was eventually incorporated in 1938. Other improvements to the area at that time included the establishment of the Myrtle Beach State Park which opened in early 1934.
When war once again came to the U.S. on December 7, 1941, Germans once again patrolled off of the South Carolina coast. It was not uncommon to hear explosions or see oil slicks and debris along area beaches. The Intracoastal Waterway became an important means of marine transportation as it provided a safe route for boats. It was common to see German soldiers on the streets of Myrtle Beach and Conway. These soldiers were German prisoners of war being held at a camp in Myrtle Beach. The soldiers were often allowed much freedom and many worked in the local communities. In the name of national defense, the United States Army took over 100,000 acres between the Intracoastal Waterway and present day Highway 90, forcing over 300 families to relocate. The land was used to establish a bombing range and flight school.
Horry's men, never ones to wait for a draft, volunteered in droves to fight for their country. The ladies, most of which were left behind as in other wars, formed a branch of the USO in Myrtle Beach, while some enlisted and served overseas in various capacities. Horry's men and women served their country in exotic places and many made the ultimate sacrifice.
During the 1950s, the Grand Strand continued to grow into a family vacation destination. Growth was stunted temporarily by Hurricane Hazel which came ashore north of Myrtle Beach in October of 1954. The devastation was compounded by its arrival during high tide. The category 4 hurricane left much of the Grand Strand in ruins. The rebuilt Grand Strand was little like its southern, ocean side resort predecessor. Investors with large capital discovered the investment potential and took the opportunity Mother Nature offered to replace the single family cottages and small oceanfront hotels with large hotels and golf courses.
Since 1950 a multitude of new residents, businesses, and increased tourism has changed the face of the Grand Strand and Horry County in general. The Myrtle Beach of yesteryear, with its railroad and quaint seaside cottages disappeared into antiquity only to be replaced by multi-million dollar resorts. From 2005-06 the Myrtle Beach area was the fourth fastest growing area in the nation. It attracts millions of visitors each year.
Kelly Lee Brosky, Horry County Public Information
Ben Burroughs, Research Specialist for Burroughs & Chapin Center for Marine & Wetland Studies