The Grand Strand in Myrtle Beach

The history of Myrtle Beach is quite fascinating, especially for one of the most visited beach towns on the East Coast. The first people to ever live in the area were the Winyah Indians and the Waccamaw Indians. They originally named the area Chicora, which meant, “the land.” Now the roads in Myrtle Beach are rather confusing, in that there is a 17 Bypass and a 17 Business. They both run parallel to each other, with 17 Business being closest to the beach. The 17 Bypass was originally meant to bypass all the beach traffic. Now 17 Business is also often referred to as King’s Highway, which ultimately began as an Indian Trail. Over time, this trail became the major thoroughfare for those in the Northern States to visit locations in the South, such as Savannah and even Charleston.

This is where things really start to get interesting. In 1651, major settlement of the English colonization began in the original 13 colonies, including Carolina.  But in the Northern half, they attracted frontiersmen from Pennsylvania and Virginia, while the Southern half attracted wealthy English people who set up large plantations of cotton, rice and indigo. The colony was then separated into the Province of South Carolina and the Province of North Carolina in 1712.

But supplies needed to be imported and exported across the ocean, and this was very attractive to pirates. They could take over huge cargo vessels and steal away with their bounty. Now the waters along South Carolina were filled with coves and inlets, which made the perfect hiding place for these pirates and they soon became local legends. Blackbeard, whose real name was Edward Teach, was known by his beard that was black as coal. So one day they hijacked some rum and stopped at an island in Murrells Inlet to bury it, with the plan being to come back later when things settled down. The pirates drank and partied all night, and the next morning sailed off to the Caribbean. But along the way, they realized they forgot this pirate named Jack and left him on the island with all that rum. Well, it wasn’t until two years later, these same pirates returned to the island and found 32 empty casks of rum and the remaining bones of “Drunken Jack.”

Myrtle Beach is also famous for its ghost stories. The two most popular were about Alice Flagg and the Gray Man. Alice Flagg was born into a very wealthy family, but eventually fell in love and was secretly engaged to a man from a lower class. Her family forbade her to see this man and sent her away to a boarding school in Charleston where she became very ill. Her brother discovered her engagement ring worn around her neck and in a rage, tossed it into the inlet. After her death, many have sworn to see her … searching for her lost treasure. Gray Man was also a rather tragic love story. He was a soldier who was killed in an accident as he returned home to marry his sweetheart. His horse was caught in the pluff mud in Pawleys Island, and they both died. And while he is said to haunt the nearby shores of Pawleys Island, his story was made famous after Hurricane Hugo, where his spirit is credited for protecting a few homes of the locals from serious damage.

Now it wasn’t until about the 1900s when a company, Burroughs and Collins, started to develop Myrtle Beach and built the first hotel in 1901 called the Seaside Inn. Before this time, the beaches of Horry County were virtually uninhabited primarily because of the poor economy. Soon, oceanfront lots were selling for $25. This new developing neighborhood was simply called, “New Town,” until the local paper, the Horry Herald, held a contest to come up with a new name. It was then the wife of the founder of Burroughs and Collins won the contest with the name Myrtle Beach, which she thought of because of all the wax myrtle trees growing along the beach.

Over the years, more and more development took place. The Arcady was an upscale resort built in the 1920s, which featured the first golf club as well as the legendary Ocean Forest Hotel. In 1936 the Intracoastal Waterway was opened to accommodate boats and commercial shipping. During the 1940s, an Air Force base was established and used for training and coastal patrols during World War II. In 1949, the Myrtle Beach Pavilion was built, and the historic band organ and carousel were installed in 1954. And while Myrtle Beach was incorporated in 1938, they truly became a city in 1957.

Now while most locals have heard the Myrtle Beach and surrounding areas called “The Grand Strand,” most don’t really know where this name originated. To be clear, the Grand Strand consists of a 60-mile stretch of beaches along the Atlantic Ocean. It ranges from Little River, all the way down to Georgetown, and includes all the towns in between. So how did the name “The Grand Strand” actually come about? In 1949, the Myrtle Beach Sun published a column called “From the Grandstand” followed by another titled “From the Grand Strand” in the Myrtle Beach News, and thus the nickname was born.

A few years before Myrtle Beach became a city, Hurricane Hazel demolished buildings and trees along the Grand Strand in 1954. This however cleared the way for new hotels and homes. During the rebuilding phase of the 1960s, a golf boom began, with new courses being built each year. Flash forward to 2021, Myrtle Beach was named the fastest-growing city in the United States, according to a list by U.S. News and World Report.