Travel through Time on the North Myrtle Beach History Trail

Waccamaw Indian
Waccamaw Indian - Credit USFWS
Few places on the Atlantic Coast of the "land of the free, home of the brave" are richer in meaningful history than South Carolina and the North Myrtle Beach area. I invite you to join me for a dive into the local history of the North Myrtle Beach area. Let’s travel through time to meet the brave people whose deeds, resilience and persistence against all odds made this place the great vacation destination and wonderful place to live it is today.

North Myrtle Beach lies on an area the Winyah and Waccamaw Indians used to call "the Land", or "Chicora" in their native language. Chicora was one of several Carolina Siouan territories subject to their king, Datha of Duahe.  Long before the European settlements, North Myrtle Beach has been part of the Indian trail, the route from the northern states to Charleston and Savannah.

The Spaniards from Hispaniola, led by Lucas Vasques de Ayllón, founded the first colony in North America somewhere in the area in 1526. Among the settlers were two Dominican friars, Fr. Antonio de Montesinos and Fr. Anthony de Cervantes, who led the very first Catholic mass in what today is the United States of America. The settlement lasted only three months of winter before being abandoned in early 1527 due to scarcity of supplies, hunger, disease, and troubles with the local natives. Ayllón himself gave his last breath in the arms of one of the Dominican friars. The 150 survivors left on two vessels to return to Hispaniola, but one sunk on the way; the other made it back.

North Myrtle Beach experienced better times after English settlers established in the area. By 1705, large scale rice cultivation formed the foundation of the Carolina lowland economy. Blessed with long growing seasons, the indigo plantations in the Cherry Grove beach area were more economically viable than cotton or rice plantations in the 18th Century. The goods traded across the ocean soon became an attractive target for scores of pirates, of which Blackbeard was the most daring, crafty and frightful. Edward Teach (Blackbeard’s real name) got his nickname because of his coal-black beard which he twisted and tied into tails. Teach captured a French merchant vessel, renamed her, equipped her with 40 guns and adopted his fearful pirate name.

Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Blackbeard and his 40-guns ship Queen Anne's Revenge, one of the most formidable pirate ships ever, terrified the Atlantic between the years of 1716 and 1718, a period known as the "Golden Age of Piracy." Blackbeard emphasized the importance of image and made sure he looked like a devil who had stepped right out of hell. He used to put slow burning fuses in his hair and beard and strap a few pistols on his chest. Most of the ships he attacked surrendered without even putting up a fight. After a daring blockade of the entire port of Charleston, Blackbeard was eventually hunted down and killed on Nov. 22, 1718, in a glorious fight.

George Washington's Goodwill Tour Schedule
The Goodwill Tour Schedule written by George Washington himself
He was engaged by two ships sent to find him and since most of his crew was on shore, he fought with just a handful of people along his side. He died bravely--killed by 5 gunshots and 20 sword cuts. Since 1997, archaeologists have been excavating the Queen Anne's Revenge, run aground on a sandbar in 1718 near Beaufort, NC. Blackbeard's sword is among their latest finds, presented here by National Geographic.

George Washington’s goodwill tour of 1791 passed through the North Myrtle Beach area. At that time, the Waccamaw Neck was a long, inaccessible area without a major port. It was the last part of the road between Boston and Savannah to be served by stagecoach. On April 27 at 12:30 p.m., Washington entered the state crossing the northern border of South Carolina near Little River, riding his overhauled, handsome white coach decorated with designs of the four seasons and bearing the Washington coat of arms. The old road was lined with forests of tall, stately trees, spreads of pine needles mixed with a low ground cover and patches of sand.  He followed the King’s Highway to near the ocean at Myrtle Beach from which point he traveled along the Grand Strand south to Surfside Beach.

Until the 1900s, when the railroad connected inland towns to the ocean, the beaches of Horry County were virtually uninhabited due to the county's geographical inaccessibility and poor economy. The Intracoastal Waterway opened the area further in 1936.

Cherry Grove Fishing Pier
I caught mine at the Cherry Grove Fishing Pier
Cherry Grove Pier is a popular landmark of Cherry Grove Beach. It was built early in the 1950s. Hurricane Hugo destroyed the pier in 1989, but the ambitious reconstruction plans added a two-story observation deck. Ten years later, the pier was damaged again by Hurricane Floyd and yet again the observation deck has been rebuilt, to last to this very day. The new pier brought good luck to many fishermen who cast their lines from the wooden deck into the generous waters washing the pillars. It became a tradition for people to take a picture with their catch in front of the "I caught mine at the Cherry Grove Fishing Pier" sign.

Walter Maxwell's world record tiger shark
Walter Maxwell's world record tiger shark
On June 15, 1964, Walter Maxwell caught a 1,780-pound, world record tiger shark. The Guinness Book record lasted for 40 years, until a bigger shark was caught off the coast of Australia, which was only 5- pounds, 11-ounces heavier. You can read more about Walter Maxwell's amazing perseverance and the three days it took him to catch the shark on Grand Strand Magazine's website, and you can see pictures of other people's catch on the Cherry Grove Pier's website.

In 1968, Cherry Grove Beach merged with Windy Hill Beach, Ocean Drive Beach, and Crescent Beach to form the city of North Myrtle Beach, ready to build its own unique identity and path toward future!

Shag Dance in North Myrtle Beach
Shag Dance in North Myrtle Beach
Many believe North Myrtle Beach to be the birth place of Shag, adopted as the official state dance of South Carolina in 1984. The roots of shag can be found in the '40s in the unconditional adoption of the R&B music by the vivacious white teenagers dancing frantically in the clubs around the Myrtle Beach area. The youngsters played the music on jukeboxes and danced on the rhythms of the black music banned from being aired by the mainstream radio stations of the '40s South. Soon, they started dancing on the beach; thus, molding the Shag, a dance meant for people holding a beer in one hand and their darling in the other.

Barefoot Landing is a true North Myrtle Beach landmark, a large shopping complex consisting of several divided sections of stores and attractions located on filled land over top of Louis Lake, next to the Intracoastal Waterway. The shopping complex, started originally in 1972 as The Village of Barefoot Traders, consisted of only 15 stores. The Barefoot Landing as we know it today opened in 1988, soon becoming one of South Carolina's most impressive tourist destinations. Currently, Barefoot Landing includes more than 100 stores, restaurants and attractions. On March 1, 2013, Burroughs & Chapin bought Barefoot Landing, paying $43 million for the 64-acre complex, according to the Register of Deeds office of Horry County. The complex has since witnessed a facelift and improvements, including the replacement of some of the aging boards in the wooden walkways. The Barefoot Landing area of North Myrtle Beach also hosts the House of Blues, the Alabama Theatre, the Alligator Adventure, and a golf resort.

North Myrtle Beach Historical Museum
If you are looking for more information to immerse even deeper in local history, stop by the North Myrtle Beach Area Historical Museum located at 799 2nd Avenue North, North Myrtle Beach or visit their website. As mentioned on the website, "the Museum promotes a strong sense of community pride and fosters an appreciation for our place in the region's rich history."

The city has witnessed great development and sustained growth over the last few years, with numerous facilities built for its growing number of residents, like the modern Aquatic and Fitness Center and the newly built public library. Today, North Myrtle Beach is a popular family tourist attraction for vacationers from around the country and Canada. A state-of-the-art 145-acre park and sports complex has recently opened to encourage sports-tourism, featuring 6 ball fields, 8 regulation soccer/lacrosse fields, 3 playgrounds, walking trails, concession stands, picnic shelters, a 25-acre lake for water-related activities, and a 2,000-seat amphitheater. North Myrtle Beach is poised for continued growth, with many available commercial and residential sites across the waterway. The future looks bright for North Myrtle Beach!
North Myrtle Beach today
North Myrtle Beach today


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