Myrtle Beach History

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Information for South Carolina Vacations in Myrtle Beach

The Waccamaw and Winyah Indians were the area's first inhabitants, and named the region Chicora, meaning "the land." Kings Highway, which is a major road through the Myrtle Beach area, began as an Indian trail long before Europeans settled along the Grand Strand. This trail became the route from the Northern states to Charleston and Savannah. The Waccamaw and Winyah Indians are the subject of many speculative stories. While much has been written about Native Americans, documented facts about local tribes in the Myrtle Beach area are scarce. Physical evidence of their existence and way of life has been easier to find, however, as arrowheads, pottery, and other artifacts continue to be uncovered.

About Myrtle Beach | Myrtle Beach History

The first tourists recorded to visit the Grand Strand were a party of Spaniards from the island of Hispaniola, who landed about 50 miles north of present-day Myrtle Beach in 1526 and established the first European settlement in the U.S. about 30 miles to the south.  That settlement, San Miguel de Cauldape, was abandoned the following year due to disease though, and the survivors returned to Hispaniola.

British colonists established Georgetown, South Carolina's third oldest city, in 1730. Surrounded by rivers and extensive marshlands, Georgetown became the center of America's rice empire. Crops of indigo, cotton, and lumber also contributed to the wealthy economy, grown primarily on large plantations worked by African slaves. Before the Civil War, wealthy plantation owners turned Pawley's Island into one of the first summer resorts on the Atlantic Coast. They would spend summers on the cool, breezy island to avoid malaria and other deadly diseases associated with the more swampy, calm conditions of the plantations.

After the Civil War and the emancipation of the slaves, Georgetown's rice plantation culture disappeared, leaving behind a rich history and culture. The Georgetown Historic District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, after carefully preserving its past with historic churches, homes, and plantation sites. Today, Georgetown is a major industrial center and is well known for its restored waterfront district that attracts visitors throughout the year.

In 1900, Burroughs & Collins Company, a timber and turpentine company with large amounts of waterfront property, began developing the resort potential of the Grand Strand by constructing a railroad to the beach, followed by the first hotel, the Seaside Inn, in 1901. The company sold oceanfront lots for $25 to those with ready cash. Other individuals could purchase a lot one row back and make yearly payments of $2.50. Mrs. F.E. Burroughs, wife of the founder of the company, hosted (and won) a contest to name the town. Myrtle Beach was chosen because of the many wax myrtle trees lining the shore.

The Intracoastal Waterway was opened to private craft and commercial shipping in 1936, and Myrtle Beach was incorporated in 1938. The Myrtle Beach Air Force Base was established in the 1940s and used for coastal patrols during World War II. It has been converted to a civilian airport since the war ended. The 1954 hurricane Hazel destroyed many of the older buildings and uprooted trees, making room for the construction of newer and larger resorts and homes.
















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