Thursday, April 17, 2014
Whether you are on North Kings Highway or South Kings Highway in Myrtle Beach, you are not on the original road that was given that name.
If you were to travel the original Kings Highway, you would be trespassing on a lot of private property.
That is what Dennis Chastain discovered as he explored the 123-mile stretch of highway in South Carolina to collect information for an upcoming article that will be published in South Carolina Wildlife magazine.
He has written for the magazine for 25 years. Chastain shared his knowledge of the path used by George Washington in 1791 during a lecture at Coastal Carolina University last week.
While Chastain centered his presentation on the South Carolina portion of the historic passageway, what was known as Kings Highway was actually a 1300-mile stretch from Boston to Charleston. The road was directed to be built by Charles II of England in the late 1600s.
Chastain said his interest in the original north to south route began while he was on Highway 179 in Calabash gathering information for a different story. While there, he saw a historic marker noting the Kings Highway and the fact it had been used by America’s first president.
“I was intrigued by this story,” he said, adding he spent about two years researching the former highway.
Chastain began his journey near the border of North and South Carolina where he discovered a portion of the original Kings Highway is on Marsh Harbour Golf Links in Calabash. Through a series of slides he took those in attendance southward along the former roadway which, in many areas, was farther east than Highway 17, which is the current Kings Highway in the Myrtle Beach area.
Before 1929, the road was not called Kings Highway. It was called the Georgetown Highway, Chastain explained.
The road, in many areas, was right along the beachfront. Horses and carriages had to deal with swamps and sandy dunes.
Chastain said the road was along the beach through most of Horry County but shifted west - closer to the current Highway 17 - in Surfside Beach.
For part of his research, Chastain met with Doc Lachicotte of Pawleys Island.
“Doc always knew tourism was the way of the future,” Chastain said, adding as a child and teenager, Lachicotte lived at Waverly Mils but went to school in Georgetown which was a two hour trip each way because it consisted of two bus rides and one ferry ride across the Winyah Bay.
Chastain said Lachicotte explained how Kings Highway “roughly paralleled” what is now Kings River Road.
“A lot of names have been preserved in that area, like Caledonia and True Blue,” Chastain said.
The research shows Kings Highway went through the Brookgreen Gardens property which is where the road split. It became a single road again on the Hobcaw Barony property.
Chastain spent a lot of time exploring Hobcaw Barony and the role Kings Highway played in the development of that area.
The first bridge connecting Georgetown and the Waccamaw Neck was completed in 1929, Chastain said. It was the Lafayette Bridge, which is known to locals as the “broken bridge” which is now used for fishing. Before that a ferry ride was required from what was known as Fraser’s Point on Hobcaw. Pilings from the Fraser’s Point landing can still be seen from the remains of the Lafayette Bridge.
Those traveling Kings Highway had to use a ferry to cross the Sampit river from Georgetown to what is now Maryville and the Santee River along the Georgetown-Charleston County border.
In McClellanville, Bud Hill is working to get a 12-mile stretch of the former highway placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
“It is currently under review,” Chastain said.
Kings Highway ended at Shem Creek behind Wando Shrimp Company.
Chastain explained his fascination with the original Kings Highway is because of its importance to history. He said if there had been no Kings Highway, the Grand Strand of today would not exist.
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