Tracing the Roots: A Look into the Past of Conway, South Carolina

Conway, South Carolina, is full of history and culture that has continued for centuries. The city was founded in 1732 as part of Royal Governor Robert Johnson's Township Scheme, making it one of the oldest cities in the state. For nearly three centuries, Conway has seen many changes and growth, becoming a bustling and modern City today. In this article, we'll explore the history and development of Conway, SC, to learn more about what has made it the City it is today. 

Early History

Conway was founded in 1732 as part of Royal Governor Robert Johnson's Township Scheme. Johnson established several townships to increase settlement, promote commerce, and stimulate development. The town of Conway was originally settled by Scots-Irish immigrants and named Kingston to honor King George II. During the Revolutionary War, it was the site of operations by Brigadier General Francis Marion, known as "the Swamp Fox of the Revolution."

 After independence, the town was renamed Conwayborough in honor of a veteran of the Revolution and later shortened to Conway. The town thrived as an export center for timber products in the 1870s and later as a center of one of the largest tobacco-producing regions in the nation. 

In the aftermath of the American Revolution, the State of South Carolina embarked on a journey of territorial redefinition. In 1785, it revamped its internal districts, giving birth to a new version of "counties" vastly different from the most ambiguous and unsurveyed ones before 1769. This process of reshaping districts continued in 1791 when South Carolina again redefined its districts to include the newly-created counties. 

By 1800, South Carolina had decided to rename all existing counties as districts, and the term "District" was no longer in use - it had outlived its purpose of aggregating counties.

Amidst these changes, Kings Town Township was a casualty. In 1785, Kingston County was established with its current boundaries, and in 1801 it was renamed Horry County in honor of Colonel Peter Horry, a French Huguenot officer in the South Carolina Continental Line during the American Revolution and later a Brigadier General in the South Carolina Militia and State Senator for the area. In 1868, all districts were retitled as counties, and the town of Conway was chosen as the county seat for Horry County, South Carolina.

Railroads Open New Possibilities:

In the 1880s, a railway opened between Georgetown (to the north) and Charleston (to the east). This opened up new possibilities for travel and trade with other parts of South Carolina and improved transportation within Conway. With this new railway came economic activity in the form of increased tourism to Conway and new manufacturing jobs. 

In addition to these changes, many new businesses began to open their doors in Conway, taking advantage of its increased connectivity with other parts of South Carolina. This allowed for new perspectives on development and growth within Conway that had not been present.

20th Century Development 

In the early 20th century, Conway continued to see development primarily from agriculture and tobacco production. As roads improved throughout Conway and its surrounding area, trucking companies began to make regular trips through town carrying goods from around the state. This increased connectivity opened up new markets for businesses in the area, allowing for more prosperity. 

In addition to its growth, Conway also benefited from being close to Myrtle Beach, which also experienced an economic boom during this time due to its popularity with tourists year-round. This allowed many businesses in Conway to cater to visitors from Myrtle Beach who were looking to purchase goods they didn’t find back home. 

One business that benefitted from this influx was Waccamaw Pottery, which opened in 1977 on Highway 501 near Myrtle Beach State Park. The pottery became popular with tourists for its unique artistry and handcrafted pieces from local clay deposits found throughout South Carolina’s Lowcountry region. 

21st Century Progress 

In modern times, Conway continues to experience growth as new businesses move into town and existing ones expand their operations. One such business that has been key to this development is Burroughs & Chapin Company Inc., an owner, and operator of shopping centers, hotels, and office properties throughout South Carolina’s Grand Strand region. Burroughs & Chapin has invested heavily in Conway by developing Town Centre Shopping Plaza adjacent to downtown Conway and offering incentives such as tax credits for businesses moving into or expanding within the city limits. 

In addition to new projects bringing development into town, there have also been efforts put forth by locals to preserve some of Conway’s historic sites, such as Longleaf Pine Plantation, which dates back to 1837, as well as other historic landmarks throughout the city such as City Hall which was built in 1825 or Methodist Church which has been standing since 1874.  These preservation efforts have helped keep some of Conway’s rich history alive and provide residents with tangible reminders about what their community has been through over the centuries. 

Modern Development & Culture

Today, Conway is a vibrant city full of culture and activities which draw people from all over the region each year. It is home to many festivals, such as 'Rivertown Music Festival, which celebrates local music and culture throughout Horry County. In addition to festivals, several museums are located throughout town, such as the Horry County Museum, which documents local history over two centuries ago. Further cultural activities include art galleries where artists showcase their work for visitors to explore or purchase souvenirs from local shops. 

With an increasingly diverse population, businesses have taken advantage of catering to different areas within Conway, such as restaurants serving Latin American cuisine or specialty stores promoting regional items from nearby towns or states. Overall this cultural diversity has provided many different experiences for visitors to enjoy when visiting Conway today!


Conway has come a long way since its founding in 1732 by Royal Governor Robert Johnson’s Township Scheme. However, it retains many elements from its earliest days, including a thriving economy, access to nature’s resources, and preserved historic sites throughout town, all helping create a high quality of life for residents who call it home today. With more development on the horizon for this quaint little town, there is no doubt that generations will continue reaping the benefits these investments have provided them long after we are gone! Contact for more information.

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