Neighboring Georgetown County had many who called for the state to secede from the Union, but Horry County was fairly lukewarm about the idea.
Horry County, circa April 11, 1861, wasn't a participant in the big plantation economy that defined Georgetown and Marion counties, said Dr. Wink Prince, a Southern historian at Coastal Carolina University.
The county's commitment to slavery was also significantly smaller.
On the eve of the Civil War, Horry County had the second-smallest percentage of slaves in South Carolina. Only the mountainous Pickens County had fewer numbers, Prince said .
"We mostly had an area of small family farms, where families grew crops for their own tables," he said.
The 1860 census listed the population at 7,962. Of that number, 2,359 were slaves and another 247 were slave holders.
The slave population statistics for Horry County should come with an asterisk. Prince said many of them belonged to Georgetown County owners and were simply here working when the census was taken.
"Most had just one or two," said Jane Bunal, with the Conway Library.
Despite the county's lack of enthusiasm about secession, more than 90 percent of Horry's white male population joined the Confederate army, according to "The Illustrated History of Horry County."
"Why did almost all of Horry's young men willingly march off to war?" author Rod Gragg wrote. "The answer: like most rank-and-file Confederate soldiers, they were fighting for Southern independence. They saw themselves as the new generation of Washingtons and Jeffersons, with Northerners cast in the role of threatening outsiders much as the British had been viewed on the eve of the Revolution."
In its April 11, 1861, edition, "The Horry Dispatch" ran an article about a citizenship ordinance in the Southern states and a notice for a scheduled drill of the Waccamaw Light Artillery.
One headline in the edition produced on what would be the eve of the Civil War proved especially prophetic - "War Now Seems Certain."
Life before war
Horry County's higher elevation, which created less access to tide water, was a key reason it wasn't a major part of the rice culture, according to Prince.
The Horry County of the pre-war years was primarily based around two T's: timber and turpentine.
Naval stores were big business and sold all products distilled from the gum of pine trees, according to Lewis' book "Horry County, South Carolina: 1730-1993."
These products included turpentine and tar.
"The naval stores industry came to the Horry district as the pine forests to the north were depleted. Tapping or scraping the pines to collect gum eventually killed the trees," Lewis wrote.
One of the big players in the naval store business was Daniel W. Jordan, a North Carolinian who bought nearly a thousand acres of pinelands near present-day Little River for $1,200 in 1848, according to a 1984 edition of "The Independent Republic Quarterly."
The growing worldwide demand for turpentine as a rubber solvent, thinner, cleaner, preservative and lubricating oil - coupled with distilling his own turpentine - made Jordan a very wealthy man, the IRQ stated.
By 1850, there were 12 turpentine distilleries in Horry County and the profits were estimated at $200 to $300 per hand.
Horry's "magnificent cypress, pines and hardwood" also helped make it a prospering industry for lumber, Lewis wrote.
One of the biggest lumber merchants was Bucksport, Maine, native Henry Buck.
Buck came south in the 1820s to establish sawmills in the lower Waccamaw area, Bunal said. He built one of those mills in what is today the community of Bucksport, at the confluence of the Intracoastal Waterway and the Waccamaw River.
By 1850, sawmills at Bucksport and in the nearby Bucksville area were producing 3 million board feet of lumber each year, according to The Independent Republic Quarterly. Buck also had his own fleet of ships in which he sent lumber to Georgetown, Charleston, New York, Boston, Maine and abroad. Lumber from the Buck family mills was even used in the building of the Brooklyn Bridge.
"By 1860, due largely to Bucksville and Bucksport, Horry District had become one of the five greatest timber-producing districts in the state," the quarterly stated.
Buck was also one of largest slave owners in Horry County, with several hundred at his disposal, according to Bunal.
They worked on his plantation in the Bucksville community of what was then Conwayborough. His property at the time added up to 20,000 acres, according to Patsy Buck, wife of the late Henry Lee Buck IV.
She was born and raised in Horry County and now lives in the original plantation house, built in 1828. Buck and her husband moved back to the property, which then totaled about 300 acres, in 1984 and restored the house.
"Living in the community that I live in, there are a lot of blacks here and their ancestors came from this plantation," Buck said.
The property includes the original slave cemetery, which is still used, she said.
A state at war
While Horry County's leaders were not at the forefront of the secession movement, some were among its supporters.
Hanging on the wall at the Horry County Civil War Museum is the South Carolina Order of Secession. It has dozens of signatures, including three from Horry County men: Thomas Beaty; William Ellis; and Benjamin E. Sessions.
"I don't think you had any people here leading the charge to secede," said Ben Burroughs, a research specialist at CCU.
The three men whose signatures are on that document were well educated, according to Burroughs. This was especially true of the aristocratic Sessions.
Beaty was a lawyer, planter and newspaper editor who also had his hand in the turpentine trade, Burroughs said. Ellis owned a large plantation in what is now the Jordanville community in Aynor.
With secession in place and war at hand, Horry's men left their farms to join the cause.
"It was said that 800 Horry men were eligible for service and 1,200 volunteered," Lewis wrote.
Once the war ended, survivors returned to Horry County and hid out in swamps near their families.
"Because they had not been properly discharged, they were technically deserters," Lewis wrote. "They seized provisions from nearby farmsteads, sometimes with the collusion of owners, sometimes by force or stealth.
"Law and order had broken down."
Life after war
Today, remnants from that era in history can be found in the local Civil War museum. There you can find the names of the hundreds of Confederate soldiers who came from Horry County and the sword that belonged to Burroughs and Chapin founder Frank Burroughs.
Conway is home to many buildings and sites that still resonate with the history of that period, a live oak tree where Confederate Gen. Wade Hampton once stood to address the people of Conway; the old Horry County Courthouse, now the Conway City Hall; the Confederate Monument; and the Bell-Marsh-Pinson House where a gash on the door is said to have been made by a Yankee soldier's saber.
What left sometime after the war were the naval stores. Lewis wrote that the longleaf pine forests had been so depleted that it could no longer support the industry, which moved to Georgia.
The timber industry continued to employ many men, but prime stands of pine and cypress were gone, according to Lewis.
Ted Gragg, curator of the local Civil War museum, is one of those who continues to keep ties with not only Horry County's history, but the history of the entire country at the time before, during and after the Civil War.
Thinking about the 150th anniversary tomorrow of the war that began with the firing on Fort Sumter, Gragg said it was a war of "political ambition and economic attrition," and at the center was a "doomed institution."
"[Slavery] was an institution that was economically unfeasible for people to maintain, and there were too many people in the south that were against it anyway, because it was a very feudal system and it had no outcome," he said.
Contact BRAD DICKERSON at 626-0301.