The history of the Grand Strand along South Carolina’s coast is among the most fascinating and vibrant in America. Located in the northeastern corner of the state and ascending down to what is called the Waccamaw Neck in Georgetown County, the area is famous for excellent family beaches and its southern hospitality.
The first inhabitants of the area were the Native Americans and were joined in 1526 by explorers who arrived under the Spanish leadership of Lucas Vesquez de Aylion. However, the settlement of Charles Town further south in 1670, changed the population and landscape of the area. Early crops such as indigo, was made as cash crops but the cultivation of rice on massive plantations made merchants and planters the richest in the colonies.
During the American Revolution, the area played a significant role by sending both Thomas Lynch Sr. and Thomas Lynch Jr. to sign the Declaration of Independence and having the famous General Francis Marion, the legendary Swamp Fox, lead many guerrilla actions throughout the conflict.
By 1840, the Georgetown District produced nearly one-half of the total rice crops of the United States and became the largest rice-exploring port in the world. With this type of accomplishments wealthy planters and their families began seeking refuge from the hot summer plantations and escaped to the breezy comforts of Pawleys Island, which turned it into one of the first summer resorts on the Atlantic cost.
After the Civil War, the rice culture slowly faded and the lumber and naval stores became the primary industries around the area. Local residents were hardworking farmers, lumberman and turpentine distillers. Around 1900, Burroughs and Collins Company, a timber-turpentine 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 the 1920s, a group of Chicago businessmen created an upscale oceanfront resort that included the Ocean Forest Hotel and the area’s first golf course. In the 1930s and 1940s, growth along the strand began to languish due to the Depression and World War II. However, in the 1950s Myrtle Beach and the Grand Strand soon became one of the most popular vacation destinations in the Southeast.
In the 1960s and 1970s growth continued at an astonishing rate and new accommodations and attractions were developed. This has not only made Myrtle Beach an area for year-round tourism but it also made it into one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas in the United States and one of the best places to live.