Myrtle Beach is the heart of the Grand Strand, which encompasses more than 60 miles of coastline.
Most people only think of Myrtle Beach as a great place to vacation or retire, but the region’s early history is fascinating and colorful.
The first inhabitants of Myrtle Beach were the Waccamaw people.
These Native Americans were living in the area long before European settlers arrived in the late 18th Century. The Waccamaw were a river dwelling people and were very adept at domesticating animals. History tells us that the Waccamaw produced cheese from doe’s milk, kept chickens, geese and many other varieties of fowl, while also planting a large variety
Spanish explorers were the first to arrive in South Carolina, driven by a search for gold and riches. English settlers soon followed, but were mainly tradesman, craftsman and farmers. These settlers arrived with boats full of seeds and farming equipment and spent their early days establishing the rich agricultural culture that would drive South Carolina for centuries to come. A heavy influx of settlers arrived in the late 1600’s and for these early colonists, corn was the primary crop. Soon after that, Indigo became a major crop and launched South Carolina into a competitive textile industry.
After European settlers arrived, the Waccamaw people found themselves embroiled in conflicts over territory. Additionally, illness and disease took a hard toll on the Waccamaw because they had no natural immunity to European diseases. However, a modest population was able to thrive in small settlements and preserve the culture of their people for generations to come.
In 2005 the Waccamaw people sought and were granted formal recognition as a Native American people by the state of South Carolina. Historians and archeologists continue to find evidence of the early native inhabitants of South Carolina, and history buffs can see exhibits at the North Myrtle Beach Area Historical Museum Wednesdays-Saturdays, 10 AM to 4 PM. For more information about the Waccamaw people click here.