Guest Author - Nick Greene
The earliest known inhabitants of the Myrtle Beach area were the Native American tribes of the Waccamaw and Winyah. Very little is known about these people and their language seems to have completely disappeared, but it's possible they were part of the Siouan family (Sioux or Dakota). It is known that they traded with the Cheraw tribe, who tried to draft them as allies along with other local tribes against the white settlers. Both the Waccamaw and Winyah tribes were very small and as they faded away, their remnants probably merged into the Catawba. Their name for the area was "Chicora" which means "the land."
According to the city of Myrtle Beach's website, the first tourists were a party of Spaniards from Hispaniola. In 1526, they landed about 50 miles north of present-day Myrtle Beach. Later, they created the first European settlement in the US, called San Miguel de Cauldape. Located about 30 miles to the south, it was abandoned within a year.
Nearby Georgetown, the state's third oldest city was started in 1730. Georgetown County became a thriving plantation based community; while nearby Horry County was more isolated and featured small farms and timber businesses. The wealthier plantation owners began to visit Pawley's island in the sweltering days of summer. The cool island breezes were a relief from the heat and helped protect against malaria and other diseases. The poorer families of Horry County eventually made their way to the beaches near present-day Myrtle Beach for their own relaxation and relief.
The Myrtle Beach we know today had its beginnings in 1900 when construction started on a rail line to the beach. Built by Burroughs & Collins Company, a timber-turpentine firm, it provided access never known before. The company also began to develop their beachfront holdings and built the first hotel, the Seaside Inn, in 1901.
In those days, you could purchase an oceanfront lot for $25.00 or a lot one row back for $2.50 per year. If you built a home worth $500.00 or more, you would receive an extra lot. The wife of the founder of Burroughs & Collins, Mrs. FE Burroughs held a contest to name the city. Her entry, Myrtle Beach, from the many wax myrtle trees in the area, won.
The area continued to flourish and attract visitors. A Chicago businessman named Simeon Chapin purchased property there in 1912. His influence is still felt today and a park and public library are named after him.
The 1920s saw the construction of the luxurious resort called Arcady. The resort and its grand Ocean Forest Hotel were very popular with affluent society and remained a center of social life for years. It included present day Pine Lakes International Country Club, the area's first golf club. It is said that the magazine Sports Illustrated was born here. The Ocean Forest Hotel was torn down in 1974 to make room for future development.
Myrtle Beach was incorporated as a town in 1938 and became a city in 1957.
The Intracoastal Waterway opened in 1936, bringing an influx of boaters to the area. The Myrtle Beach Pavilion opened in 1949, starting a new phase of family vacations. In 1954, Hurricane Hazel demolished many buildings and leveled trees. While tragic, this actually paved the way for the next building boom. As construction continued in the area, a large number of golf courses were installed, making Myrtle beach a favorite destination for golfers for many years.
During the last couple of decades of the 20th century and up to the present, the building boom has continued in Myrtle Beach and has expanded to include other nearby cities. Hotels and resorts as well as shopping and attractions are springing up in a rapid fashion.
Today, Myrtle Beach and the entire Grand Strand continues to be a very popular vacation spot. The addition of theaters, dinner attractions and shopping has made Myrtle beach a year round destination, hosting millions of visitors annually.