This weekend, I attended a birthday cookout for a friend in the small town of Galivants Ferry, SC, northwest of Conway (where I live), but barely still in Horry County. (That “h” is silent, folks.) Driving home, I called my brother, because he has an almost encyclopedic knowledge of the South and its post-Reconstruction history. I thought he could tell me stories about the area to help pass the time. He told me many interesting things, and it would be worth a few minutes to skim the Wikipedia articles linked above. But I found the political history most interesting.
The county was fiercely independent from the beginning. It basically serves as a counter to the very conservative upstate, where I’m from. Until recently, though, it was not very heavily populated. That’s because until 1902, the only way to get to what is now Myrtle Beach from the more westerly parts of the state was by crossing the ferry over the Pee Dee Swamp. In fact, Horry County was so isolated, that in the years after the Civil War, there were discussions of secession from the state. (Take that, Rhode Island! Horry County is about 4/5 of RI’s size.) As a way to bridge the political divide between the two sides of the Pee Dee, a meeting was held in 1876 at Galivants Ferry to discuss political issues. This would usually take the form of crowds gathering to listen to politicians, who would stand on an old tree stump so everyone could hear, a real “stump speech”. The tradition continues to this day, making it the longest-running American political meeting.