Living history on the Waccamaw River

12/09/2010  |  Carl White

Kingston Township was named in honor of Great Britain’s King George II and officially opened for settlement on February 26, 1734. This was part of South Carolina Governor Robert Johnson’s “Township Scheme” to increase security within 100 miles from Charleston along the waterways. Among the first were the “Poor Protestants from Ireland” that chose to make their new life in Kingston Township. The lands were marked by sprawling groves of life oaks trees, pine woodlands, a maze of swampland, numerous wildlife and a dark and lazy river know as Waccamaw.

While a new life was starting for new arrivals, it was the Native Americans who first inhabited the lands. The Waccamaws used speedy dugouts and the Waccamaw River was part of the waterways highways. It would be this same notion, albeit with larger boats that would eventually bring successful development and prosperity to the area.

In 1801 Kingston Township was renamed Conwayborough after Robert Conway. The name would soon be shortened to Conway. It was in the 1820’s that riverboats had become active in commercial trade, shipping cotton, rice, and exporting timber and naval stores. The riverboat business would soon be at the core of it all. As time moved forward, the people of Conway proved to be great visionaries for education, commerce and the preservation of nature.

One visionary was Conway citizen Franklin G. Burroughs who formed a business partnership with Benjamin Grier Collins. This new company had interests in timber, farm credit, consumer goods, riverboats and eventually, the first railway through the swamps of Horry County to the beaches of what are today Myrtle Beach and the Grand Strand.

Today, Conway demonstrates a commitment to preserve its past as well as an educational vision for its future. Conway has a successful Main Street USA program that provides a look at a thriving southern river town. As you walk the streets of Historic Conway you can stop for a great lunch, coffee or dinner. The theater of the Republic produces frequent theatrical performances which offer a great example of small town theater done well.

Conway’s history of protecting its Live Oak trees dates back to the 1880’s and today the city has a tree ordinance designed to protect what they refer to as their “Oldest Citizens.” A Live Oak Guide book is available and the tour can easily take two to four hours with stops and photos. The Wade Hampton Oak and The Alligator Oak are among the favorites.

The Waccamaw River is great natural attraction. It flows approximately 140 miles from its headwaters in the Lake Waccamaw area of North Carolina. Several extensive wetlands around the lake, most notably the Green Swamp, contribute water to streams flowing into the river. This easy flowing water trail is ideal for canoeing and kayaking and provides habitat for a collection of diverse and rare flora and fauna.

In keeping with the natural flow of the river, a meandering walkway makes its way along the river front of historic Conway. This is a great opportunity to be close to the river and enjoy nature’s beauty. A kayak rental is available on the waterfront.

The Larry Paul Living Farm is part of the Horry County Museum system and is a great addition to your family vacation. The farm offers a look at a period working farm with many exhibits and volunteers in period attire to provide good interaction. Admission is free and the visit can take two to four hours.

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