How Myrtle Beach got its name

How did Myrtle Beach get its name?
Published: Sep. 23, 2013 at 3:31 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 23, 2013 at 9:00 PM EDT
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Myrtle Beach's Main Street, circa 1940
Myrtle Beach's Main Street, circa 1940
Adeline "Addie" Burroughs, credited with naming Myrtle Beach for a contest.
Adeline "Addie" Burroughs, credited with naming Myrtle Beach for a contest.

MYRTLE BEACH, SC  (WMBF) - Walking in downtown Myrtle Beach, you'll find it splattered across t-shirts, mugs, hats - you name it, and Myrtle Beach is on it. Apparently, no one seems to really know how that name stuck.

In the days before the railroad improved access to the nearly-deserted beach, vacationing families endured a lengthy, exhausting journey followed by rough conditions and frontier living. That was life during the turn of the century in what was then called "New Town."

"You could go down Ocean Boulevard and literally tumble weeds would be going down Ocean Boulevard during the winter time," says Buck Waters.

His great great grandfather, Franklin G. Burroughs, saw "New Town" as a diamond in the rough with real potential.

"One of the saddest things is that my great great grandfather passed away before he knew Myrtle Beach was going to be a destination," Waters says.

The Burroughs family made a living in the turpentine and timber business, acquiring 100,000 acres of land between Horry and Georgetown Counties.

"We were very tied to the agriculture in the county and that was really the start. At the time nobody cared about the sand, so it was pretty cheap," Waters explains.

Cheap is an understatement. In a time now where ocean front property will put you back millions of dollars, they were basically giving away lots back then.

"As the stories go, they were selling oceanfront property from the Myrtle Beach Farms Company. You could buy a lot for $25. And if you paid in cash, you could get the lot next door for free," Waters says.

As transportation options to the sleepy beach town improved and interest in the area grew, many felt the name "New Town" was lackluster for a place with so much beauty.

So where did the name Myrtle Beach come from?

"Myrtle sounds like a woman's name," exclaims one beach-goer.

Another guess? "The Indians. Yeah, I'm going to have to go with the Indians."

"My Grandfather told me it had to do with a guy's daughter that would come to this beach a long time ago," guesses another boardwalk walker.

In reality, "They had a contest among the residents and my great great Grandmother submitted the name of Myrtle Beach, because of all the wax myrtle trees that grew in the area," Waters says.

Adeline "Addie" Burroughs was her name, and she's forever credited with coining the name for the 16-mile stretch of beach that now has 15 million tourists flocking to it each year.

"There are other places in the country you can go, but there aren't places as unique as Myrtle Beach and places that are as affordable as Myrtle Beach. That's what we'd really like to see continue," says Waters.

The biggest thing to take away from this story is that Myrtle Beach didn't just appear. It was a slow process - well over 100 years. While there are still challenges ahead, it's still pretty remarkable to see all that's been accomplished in really such a short existence.

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