Horry County, South Carolina
A 1940's Tour of Horry County
April 26, 1791, George Washington's lumbering entourage entered the Sate and followed the King's Highway on the first presidential tour. He wrote:
It may as well in this as in any other place, be observed, that the country from Wilmington through which the Road passes, is, except in very small spots, much the same as what has already been described; that is to say, sand & pine barrens--with very few inhabitants--we were indeed informed that at some distance from the Road on both sides the land was of a better quality, & thicker settled, but this could only be on the Rivers & larger waters--for a perfect sameness seems to run through all the rest of the country--on these--especially the swamps and lowlands on the Rivers, the Soil is very rich; and productive when reclaimed; but to do this both laborious and expensive.
Following the arc of the shoreline around Long Bay, US 17, one-half mile from the ocean, gives frequent glimpses of the sea. Dipping seaward among windblown clumps of myrtle, veering landward through groves of tall pines, the road progresses past one coastal resort after another and proceeds along the salt marshes to Charleston.
US 17 crosses the North Carolina line about 46 miles south of Wilmington, North Carolina.
Once an important shipping point for rice, naval stores, and lumber, Little River, (10 alt., 2219 pop.), was facetiously known as "Yankee Town" because of its numerous North Carolina settlers. Just east of the settlement is the wide salt stream for which it was named. Huge oaks furnish shade for picnic dinners; boats may be chartered for ocean and river fishing or for cruises down the Intracoastal Waterway.
Next is the junction with a dirt road. Left on this road to fork and left here goes to the site of Fort Randall, a Confederate stronghold captured by Federal forces in 1864, which is on a privately owned estate, bordered by waters once a rendezvous for pirates; a fortune in booty is supposedly concealed on these shores.
Next is Cherry Grove Beach, a growing summer resort with good fishing. Then is Ocean Drive Beach, a small resort. Then is Atlantic Beach, a small summer resort for Negroes.
Left here 2 miles is Washington Park, a popular race track during the summer months. Trotting and harness races are featured on the half-mile course; the grandstand seats 2,500, and the five stables provide accommodations for more than 200 horses.
Named for its thick growth of myrtles, Myrtle Beach, is South Carolina's largest seashore resort. With the Gulf Stream only about 40 miles seaward and sand dunes landward lending protection, the climate is equable throughout the year and the town has evolved from a summer colony into a year-round pleasure place. The northern end has attractive, substantial houses in sodded lawns and bright gardens; the southern end,, clustered around the pavilion, the village stores, and the various concessions, is a miniature Coney Island.
Within two miles of the town, in an area of less than 10 acres, more than 100 species of plants have been officially catalogued. The Yaupon, or cassine holly, growing here in profusion, furnished the Indian with his ceremonial drink; near Charleston tea is still made from this plant. These evergreen shrubs are laden in winter with scarlet, waxy berries that attract cardinals and mockingbirds when other food is scarce. Candle wax was formerly made from myrtle berries.
Myrtle Beach State Park, (free camp grounds on highway; bathing suits for rent; cabins, at nominal fee, should be reserved in advance through State Commission of Forestry), has 321 acres of beach , sand dunes, and longleaf pine forest. It is one of the most popular parks in the State.
Murrells inlet, (210 pop.), is the center of a settlement spreading along the marshes. According to local legend, Captain Murrell, a pirate, often took shelter here. The fishing is unusually good, and one has only to wade into the sallow water to pick up oysters, crabs, and clams. Shrimp abound in season and the salt marshes teem with mussels and terrapin. Soft-shelled crabs may be obtained, and in the more remote sections, the choice stone crab is found. Local menus offer these sea foods and fish at low prices. Night fishing for flounder, which are gigged from row boats provided with lightwood torches, furnishes a source of cash for many of the natives and an interesting, if uncomfortable sport for visitors. Clam diggers moved in slow patient lines in the creeks at low tide, bobbing under water like ducks to pick up clams buried in the soft mud. Trucks carry oysters and fish to market, and clams are shipped north in winter. In early spring, shad, taken in the Waccamaw River are sold for fancy prices both on local and out-of-State markets, and the shipment of salt mullet is economically important. Some residents knit comfortable cord hammocks; others build and sell small but seaworthy cypress boats.
This vicinity has a large proportion of jet-black Gullah Negroes who supplement their sea-food died with products from their gardens. A typical boast made by one of them is: "I know uh man who hab ground so berry rich, when 'e plant corn de corn grow so high dy hab t' build ladder 500 yahd high t' brek out de year. An when she get t' tosselin'--well, when she did ready t' shoot out--all de angel in Heaben and' de sun, an' de moon, and' de star hab t' move. Dey ha t' back up out de way; an' t'ree day aftuh she grow up, day had de word from heaben daat all de Missy angel eatin roastin' years!"
The Sunnyside House, home of Mott Alltson, was built in the 1860's. In front of the house a physician, shortly after 1900, shot his beautiful wife on the lonely, mist-hung beach at sunset saying he mistook her for a ghost.
Right from Murrells Inlet post office on a rough sand-clay road to a fork and right here to Wachesaw Plantation. Graves here have yielded 13 Indian skeletons and other relics.
Left at fork goes to a public landing where Negroes from Sandy Island still trade sacks of hand-threshed rice for potatoes and groceries. Julia Peterkin pictured these Sandy Islanders in her novel Black April.
Parts of four former rice plantations were combined by Archer M. Huntington to form Brookgreen Gardens. (open 9-5:0), an unusual open-air museum. The 4,000-acre tract was incorporated in 1932 for "the preservation of the flora and fauna of the Southeast and to exhibit objects of art." The museum is operated by seven trustees under a $1,000,000 fund established by Mr. Huntington.
Old Brookgreen plantation was the birthplace of Washington Allston in 1779 and Julia Peterkin used it as the "Blue Brook" plantation of Scarlet Sister Mary, a Pulitzer prize novel.
A narrow concrete road leads through a dense pine forest into the gardens, where the zoo houses deer, bears, wildcats, mink, and other specimens of wild life indigenous to the region. Left of the zoo the road curves past the statue, Youth Taming the Wild, by Anna Hyatt Huntington, which shows a lad holding a plunging horse by a crude halter. Cement walks in gigantic butterfly design lead past more than 300 pieces of statuary.
Besides Brookgreen's entrance gates is a marked dirt road. Left here to the old Alston Cemetery, enclosed by an ancient brick wall in the heart of the forest. Long inaccessible, the plot has been planted with azaleas, the road built, and a caretaker appointed by the Huntingtons. The site is part of The Oaks, former plantation of Joseph Alston, governor of South Carolina, 1812-14, who married Theodoshia Burr in 1801. From The Oaks in 1812 she went to Georgetown and sailed for New York on the schooner Patriot to visit her father Aaron Burr. The ship was lost at sea. On the tombstone of Governor Alston and his little son is an inscription that tells Theodosia's story.
Right on a dirt road is All Saints' Chapel, in a parish established in 1767. The present stuccoed building, erected in 1916, is a reconstruction of the original destroyed by fire. It follows the rectangular lines of the Greek temple, with a Doric portico having fluted columns and triglyphed frieze. On the sides are square-headed windows between pilasters.
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The Little Pee Dee Causeway is raised high above the slow moving dark water as a protection against spring floods which sometimes inundate the section. The bridge takes the place of Gallivant's Ferry, which was used until 1892 when a wooden span was built. On the eastern bank beneath cypress trees in the Ruth, an old river boat, now a rotting hulk of yellow primroses. Little here indicates the busy traffic of former times, when side wheelers and schooners plied between settlements to exchange manufactured goods for cotton and lumber products. Cooter, turtles, and alligators are the busiest inhabitants now, as they flop into the water for food or sun themselves on drifting logs. Occasionally a fisherman in his bateau slides out from the overhung banks.
In 1930 the quit Horry countryside was surprised by an aerial survey. F. A. Melton and William Schriever, Oklahoma geologists, took photographs from the air and proposed the theory that this area, now dotted with lakes, was visited by a meteoric shower some 2,000,000 years ago. The pictures show elliptical scars, with elevated rims, the southeastern end invariably higher. the stellar attack must have veered earthward with a northwest slant, and embedded the meteors below the depression.
Aynor (375 pop.) and Cool Springs (32 pop.) are farm-store settlements, to which customers ride or walk from the interior to hear of the outside world and lay in provisions. Next is the junction with US 701, which unites with US 501 between this point and Conway, (25 alt., 3,011 population.)
South of Conway the route traverses an area opened up when the high water bridge at Conway was finished in 1938 and the span over the Intracoastal Waterway was completed a few years before.
East of Socastee, the highway passes sandy pine groves where dogwood lights up the woods in spring and the stubby little chigger weed or butterfly plant snuggles down in the hot summer, its deep orange flower resembling in color the "red bug" or chigger. This innocent milkweed is avoided by many who believe the minute mites have preempted the plant as a citadel from which to attack. At Myrtle Beach is the junction with US 17.
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US 701 crosses the North Carolina line about 41 miles southwest of Elizabethtown, North Carolina.
Green Sea (190 pop.) took its name from Green Sea Bay, an impenetrable marshy area near by. In Green Sea is the junction with State 9, which unites with US 701.
Next is the junction with US 501, which unites with US 701 between this point and Conway, (25 alt., 30311 pop.), seat of Horry (O-ree) County, still sometimes called the Independent Republic of Horry. Always with a preponderantly white population, the county is an anomaly in Low Country development. Early settlers came from North Carolina to work lumbering operations and the naval stores industry. Hemmed in by swamplands, the inhabitants were connected with the outside world only by the rivers down which they shipped their logs and turpentine to the coast. In their remoteness they were forced to subsistence farming, and developed a spirit of independence that is today a powerful factor in their success with new crops. Horry-ites are among the rare folk who deliberately live within their means. A house may be built one room at a time, but the owner-occupants are happily secure because that one room is paid for. Few farms are operated by tenants.
Nowadays Horry is among the most progressive counties in the State, with its fertile fields of tobacco, truck crops, melons, and strawberries. Where oxcarts used to labor through sandbeds and swamplands, trucks and trailers sped over paved roads with produce for eastern markets. Between 1910 and 1930, illiteracy here decreased from 24 to 12 per cent. Eagerness of citizens to advance is only equaled by determination to pay as they go. With neither a tradition of "culture" nor a burden of debt, they are able to start square and progress.
Conway is the principal port for Waccamaw traffic, in which lumber still dominates. Between Waccamaw River and Kingston Lake, the little town rises around the city hall. The one- and two-story commercial buildings are similar to those in other small Southern towns except in their display of fishing tackle, hunters' outfits, and beach costumes. Old time fishermen and their bateaux may be hired by visitors, but many are the secret jibes cast at the catalog fisherman who comes from the city with newfangled gadgets to which the Waccamaw fish are not accustomed. Wise-eyed oldsters act as guides to hunters; quail, doves, turkeys, duck, and deer find it hard to escape the folk who know their habits and feeding grounds. With kerosene lamps and boxes of snuff are sold bathing suits of latest style--an innovation inspired by Myrtle Beach and other neighboring resorts.
Though Conway (as Kingston) was established on a land granted by George II of England, it was for decades hardly more than a river wharf. In 1801 it became Conwayborough, honoring Robert Conway to who the State made a grant overlapping the town site. The suffix was dropped about 1881. The greatest spurt of growth occurred in 1854 when Burroughs and Collins, with headquarters on the river, bought extensive timberlands, built lumber plants, organized a bank, established boat service to Charleston, and built a railroad.
Already the old courthouse, now Conway City Hall, Main St., had been erected by Russell Warner after designs by Robert Mills. Above a high basement is a simplified Greek Doric portico flanked by twin stairs. The much larger brick courthouse built years later is on the edge of town. By 1858 the Kingston Presbyterian Church had been erected on the banks of Kingston Lake to take the place of a little edifice abandoned in 1795. This second structure, frame with a shingled steeple rising above a portico with four small columns, is still in use. The lake, down a slight incline north of the business section, is Conway's beauty spot, its clear tea-colored waters surrounded by live oaks, hoary with moss; a driveway around its shore is bordered with shrubs, azaleas, and other bright flowering plants.
There are few old mansions here, because development did not begin in earnest until after the plantation era. Some substantial houses with gables, towers, and bay windows hark back to the prosperous nineties, but later residences are of restrained design. Many pieces of excellent furniture adorn these homes, a number having come from a local establishment that makes good reproductions of early pieces. The cabinetmaker who operates the business has a love of his work that turns manual labor into art.
Toddville (25 pop.), small country village formerly on the Waccamaw River, was once a busy port for river traffic.
Left on this road 2.3 miles to the old Conway-Georgetown road; Left here 0.5 miles to Upper Mill, scene of the first Buck lumber camp. In 1830, Henry Buck, for whose shipbuilding family Buckport Maine was named, came here to exploit the extensive forests of yellow pine along the Waccamaw. He built several sailing ships, carried on trade with his New England home, was a slave owner, and successively established three lumber camps on the west back of the Waccamaw. The unpainted three story frame Buck House has a gable roof and large chimneys at each end. The old outhouses, left, remain and from a clump of trees near by rises the round 40-foot smokestack of the old lumber mill, topped with a fish for a weather vane. Smooth "Belgian blocks" reinforcing the riverbank in front of the house are believed to have been ballast, unloaded from trade ships when lumber was taken aboard as cargo. About 150 yards west is the slave burial ground, still in use. Several graves are marked by wooden headpieces with slate inserts, inscribed in Spencerian script by a former mistress.
Further on the Conway-Georgetown Road is the junction with a dirt road; left here 0.6 miles to Bucksville, whose chief landmark is the red brick smokestack high above the trees. As late as 1892 there was a thriving community here. Soon afterward, with the timber gone, the people moved away. Acquitive visitors carried off the lumber and bricks of which houses and stores were built.
Here the Intracostal Waterway comes in from the east to follow the Waccamaw.
The Yauhannah Causeway and Bridge, about two miles long, spans the Pee Dee River. A fort and trading post, Euhanie, was established in the riverbanks by pre-Revolutionary traders.
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