George Washington slept here

The Father of Our Country launched a so-called nation-building tour in 1791, recording in his journals the details of the sights he saw, the sounds he heard, the people he met. He departed Wilmington, NC on April 19, 1791, in a neat white coach with brass handles and moldings, festooned with gilded paintings of the Four Seasons by Cypriani. In a stately fashion and with a small entourage he proceeded down King's Highway, then a stagecoach route that in many places was paved with planks. And since that was a high-maintenance type of road surfacing, it was in many places a toll road. We can all be grateful that better ideas came along before road crews moved in to build Highway 17 along roughly the same route.

After lunch with James Cochran in Little River, Washington proceeded to the home of Jeremiah Vereen, where he would spend the night. One might get the impression he was none too favorably impressed with what he saw from the outset. The cabins and hovels were "small and badly provided, either for man or horse," and even those were few and far between. The 90 miles from Wilmington to the Georgetown port was, until this past century, for the most part a vast wasteland of wild forestlands and murky swamps.

Washington described his conveyance across the swamp to the sparkling sands of what would someday become Myrtle Beach. "Mr. Vereen piloted us across the Swash . . . on the long Beach of the Ocean; and it being at a proper time of the tide we passed along it with ease and celerity to the place of quitting it, which is estimated 16 miles." At this point he seemed to abandon his god-forsaken outlook on a dismal swamp and brightened considerably. Even later his journal overflowed with joy and enthusiasm when he reached the grand estates of the wealthy rice planters of Georgetown County.

The plantation of Colonel William Alston "looked like a fairly land" where he was welcomed, fed and feted. "The manner of the people, as far as my observation . . . were orderly and civil and they appeared to be happy."

The home of Jeremiah Vereen does not survive, at a place near the North Carolina state line on a vast 114-acre tract now occupied by Vereen Memorial Historic Gardens, off Highway 179. The gardens are open to the public and include Revolutionary War-era gravesites. Vereen's point of embarkation across the swamp was on land now occupied by Dunes Golf & Beach Club - not that there's a historical marker or any such thing in the vicinity of the ninth hole.

Spotting a historic marker on a golf course is not a physical impossibility in this neighborhood. A 600-pound granite monument at the Marsh Harbor clubhouse marks the spot where the Boundary House used to be, half in North Carolina and half in South Carolina. You have to wonder where they paid their taxes.

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