The Grand Strand is full of history, starting more than 500 years ago when the area was inhabited by Waccamaw Indians. Colonists formed Prince George Parish in 1730. Plans for Georgetown were made and it became the center of America’s colonial rice empire; a stable food for the colonies. Prior to the Civil War, plantation owners turned Pawleys Island into one of the first summer resorts on the Atlantic coast. Four miles long and half a mile wide, Pawleys Island is made up of old summer cottages nestled in groves of oleander and oak trees. Wealthy planters and their families spent their summers there. Just a few miles north of Pawleys Island is Murrells Inlet, the source of the area’s most endearing ghost stories. During the 18th century, pirates found the water off the Grand Strand a paradise for their wild revelry. Blackbeard supposedly terrorized the Carolina shores before his gory death in 1718. Captain Kidd is thought to have buried some loot near Murrells Inlet.
Most of the Grand Strand beaches are located in Horry County. They were uninhabited until the 1900’s. Around the turn of the century the Burroughs & Collins Co., a turpentine firm, with beachfront holdings, began developing the resort potential of the virgin strand. They constructed a railroad from the Waccamaw River in Conway to the beach and built the first hotel, the Seaside Inn, in 1901. The Horry Herald newspaper held a contest to officially name the area. Mrs. F.G. Burroughs won the competition with MYRTLE BEACH…a name she chose for the many wax myrtle trees growing wild along the shores.
In the 1920’s a group of businessmen built Arcady, a dream resort at the north end of the community. Designed for the affluent, Arcady features the present day Pine Lakes International Country Club, the Strand’s first golf course. It was also the birthplace of the magazine, Sports Illustrated, as well as the legendary 300 room Ocean Forest Hotel. The elegant Ocean Forest held national prominence starting in 1930’s as a honeymoon resort with all the amenities. The Wall Street crash came along and devastated the Arcady resort, but it made its mark for about 30 years.
In 1938, Myrtle Beach was incorporated and in 1957 it became a city. Development started to boom in the early ‘50’s, but it took a giant step backwards in 1954 when Hurricane Hazel leveled all beachfront properties. The town was rebuilt in the 60’s as the Grand Strand became nationally known as a resort community. Golf courses sprang up overnight, as well as motels and amusement parks. Land values skyrocketed as major hotel chains arrived. Today the Grand Strand is a thriving tourist community and Horry County is ranked 20th in a survey of the nation’s fastest growing counties.