Don't know much about History

Story by Lois Carol Wheatley

Apparently Myrtle Beach has no history. Charleston and Columbia have plaques, monuments and markers on every street, but you will find no such thing on or near The Boulevard. The closest you'll come to encountering any kind of background material is the fable that Wonder Works was once the laboratory of a mad scientist who experimented with creating high winds in the Bermuda Triangle.

This curious absence of any kind of a past demands explanation, or at least a formulation of some possible theory. Maybe Myrtle Beach exists only in the moment, a here-and-now kind of place, and that's just one element of its essential magic. Maybe history is a schoolroom subject that has no place in a fun-filled setting where everyone goes to party. Maybe a big old chunky historical marker would anchor the fairyland to this world, root it in reality, tether it to a chain of dry and inconsequential facts and figures.

Clearly there's an argument to be made here. You wouldn't expect historical markers on space ships, in jungles or aboard pirate ships, would you?

Sometimes a stray scrap of pertinent information escapes the confines of the public library and finds its way into a brochure, a menu or a web site, and usually these slip in from around the edges, maintaining a respectful distance from the central party district. Nearby places like Georgetown and Pawley's Island diligently put out the word that their downtown districts are on the National Register of Historic Places. Brookgreen Gardens makes much of its founders, Archer Milton Huntington and his sculptor wife Anna Hyatt Huntington. Vereen Memorial Historical Garden proudly reports that George Washington slept here.

So there is after all some history here, appearances notwithstanding. You just have to dig around a bit for it, maybe with a little sand shovel and bucket. The early stuff is buried deeply under the weight of centuries that passed without a whole heck of a lot going on, leaving the historians with little or nothing to report.

The Waccamaw tribe either inhabited or, more likely, visited the Long Bay area as summer tourists, where they scattered about some burial grounds and random shell mounds. Farming was not hugely rewarding in this sandy soil, so European settlers were reluctant to stay very long. One of several families to receive a land grant on this coast was the Withers, and that name has survived as Wither's Swash, later known as Myrtle Swash or the Eight-Mile Swash. Mary Withers is buried in a colonial graveyard at Prince George Winyah Episcopal Church in Georgetown.

In 1822, a storm swept the Withers home out to sea and drowned all 18 of its inhabitants. What little was left of the hearty Withers clan reached the conclusion that it was time to move on.

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