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Historic Love Stories from Along the Grand Strand

  By  Kathryn Hedgepath
Exterior of historic Charlies Place in Myrtle Beach

I love love stories and the Myrtle Beach area is filled with them.  Most we will never know, but some have become a part of our regional history.  They span from our country’s earliest years to the present day.  The ones that resonate most with me are the accounts of husbands and wives who worked together to make history, whether they realized their impact at the time or not.  Here are some notable couples who have made their mark locally and nationwide.  Theirs are the love stories behind a few of the Grand Strand’s most historic places. 

sign at brookgreen gardens
1. Henry and Rachel Flagg

Dr. Henry Flagg, who had been George Washington’s Surgeon General of the Continental Army, came to Brookgreen Plantation to visit his old friend, William Alston, Jr., but discovered with dismay upon his arrival that his friend had recently died.  Shocked by the news, he immediately set out to the main house to extend his condolences to the family.  En route, Dr. Flagg fell in love with the beauty of the place, and soon after…with his late friend’s widow, Rachel, and her children.  He and Rachel were married in 1784.  She confided in her cousin that she had married William Alston to satisfy the family, but married Henry Flagg for love.  But I can’t imagine that the family wasn’t impressed with Henry Flagg too, especially in 1791, when George Washington paid them a visit and spent the night because he was friends with Flagg.  Yes, George Washington slept at Brookgreen.

theodosia burr alston
2. Joseph and Theodosia Alston

Some historians speculate that Vice President Aaron Burr’s daughter, Theodosia, may have married Joseph Alston of The Oaks Plantation (one of four plantations that now make up Brookgreen Gardens)  in order to give her father the political ties he would need in the South if he wanted to run for president again after narrowly losing to then president, Thomas Jefferson. And she may have, but there is also evidence of her genuine affection for her spouse.  Her biographer quotes a letter she writes to Joseph while she and their small son are away visiting Aaron Burr.  She tells her husband that, “As long as you love me, I am your wife and friend:  contented and proud to be that.”

joseph rainey
3. Joseph and Susan Rainey

Before Joseph Hayne Rainey became the first African American member of Congress, he and his wife, Susan had lived through quite an adventure.  He was a Georgetown native whose freedom had been purchased by his father, a successful barber who had earned enough money to set himself and his family free.  Joseph took up the profession and established a thriving business of his own in Charleston by the start of the Civil War when, despite their free status, they had to flee to Bermuda where slavery had been abolished.  For the first time, they could live and work in a free Black community where Joseph became a sought-after stylist and Susan was a fashion designer with her own satellite location of a prominent New York ladies’ dress store.  They eventually returned to Georgetown after the war and, later, Joseph was elected to the House of Representatives.

addie burroughs
4. Franklin and Addie Burroughs

Franklin G. Burroughs was historically one of this area’s most prominent businessmen.  It is he for whom the Burroughs and Chapin Company is named and the Burroughs and Collins Company that came before it.  He was also a family man who would bring his wife, Addie, and their children over from their home in Conway to go camping in the beautiful wilderness now known as Myrtle Beach.  He instilled in his children before his death in 1895, his vision for the seaside resort we know today.  Five years after his death, his widow, Addie, won the contest to name this place that had casually became known as “New Town.”  She was drawn to the beauty of the wax myrtle bushes that she admired on those camping trips and thought Myrtle Beach would be an apt name.  Had it not been for Addie, we’d be in Edgewater, SC, today. 

robert white pine lakes plaque
5. Robert and Mary White

Robert White was the first president of the PGA and the designer of literally hundreds of golf courses around the country, including Myrtle Beach’s first course, Pine Lakes, originally known as The Ocean Forest Country Club.  It was built to be the amenity for our locally famous Ocean Forest Hotel that was razed in 1974.  It’s fitting that Robert White was born in the birthplace of golf, St. Andrews, Scotland.  He came to the US at the age of 18 with essentially no money in his pocket, but a heart that was overflowing with love.  His plan was to earn enough money over here to send for his fiancé, Mary.  She was gorgeous. Her friends called her “The Fair Maiden of Perth.”  Robert had to quickly raise the funds before someone else back home caught her eye.  He did anything.  He gave golf lessons to children, worked six days a week in a Boston sporting goods store, and on the seventh day, he designed golf courses.  Soon he had the money he needed and Mary was on her way to him--  accompanied by her father to make sure everything was on the up and up.  They married in February of 1895, traveled the country as he created courses and they created a family.  They retired to Myrtle Beach in a home that overlooks Pine Lakes’ course.

anna huntington
6. Archer and Anna Huntington

I enjoy sharing the story of how the founders of Brookgreen Gardens met.  Anna was a self-taught sculpting genius.  She earned her own money selling small sculptures through art galleries and jewelry stores to wealthy collectors in the early 1900s.  She was making at least $50,000 a year in 1912.  Marriage was not a concern for her as she devoted herself to her work and gained fame in the art world when she won a Joan of Arc contest in New York for her large sculpture that can be seen today in Manhattan’s Riverside Park. That put her on the radar of philanthropist Archer Huntington, who set a meeting with her to discuss her designing the annual bronze medallion for his beloved Hispanic Society in New York which he had founded.  When he opens his office door, while they had never met each other, they realized that they had seen each other…all most every day…on the train when he would go to his office and she to her Greenwich Village studio.  When she saw him on the train, not knowing who he was, it is said that she didn’t see him with the eye of an artist, but with the eye of a woman.  Can you imagine how she felt showing up to that meeting with the art connoisseur who could take her career to the next level only to realize that he was her secret crush from the train?!

sarah and charlie fitzgerald
7. Charlie and Sarah Fitzgerald

In 1937, Charlie and Sarah Fitzgerald opened an entertainment venue in Myrtle Beach that would come to host the biggest names in 20th century over the next three decades.  Charlie was an African American entrepreneur and along with his other ventures, he was considered one of the most successful businessmen of his time.  It was said that he dressed like a movie star and he and his wife ran one of the classiest clubs on The Hill, now known as the Booker T. Washington Neighborhood.  They later opened a hotel that was listed in the Green Book when other accommodations were not available to Black travelers during the time of segregation.  Their actual home and a replica of their hotel are now a city-owned museum that welcomes visitors by the hundreds each year. 

Kathryn Hedgepath

Myrtle Beach native, Kathryn Hedgepath, loves to share her hometown’s history with visitors and newcomers to the Grand Strand.  She is the creator and narrator of the Myrtle Beach History Trolley and Step-On Tours, and the author of the book, Myrtle Beach Movies, that tells the stories behind the motion pictures that were made or premiered in Myrtle Beach.  She has traveled in 40 countries on 6 continents and uses her experience to convey our local history through a world lens. Kathryn returned home from NYC in 2002 to marry her beloved husband, Jenks, after a career in television and publishing (and even worked in Space Shuttle Operations at NASA Headquarters in DC for a semester before starting grad school at Georgetown University).  Her first career job was as Personal Assistant to television icon and wildlife expert, Jim Fowler, of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom fame. Her dad, Myrtle Beach’s first veterinarian, arranged the job interview when Jim Fowler came to Myrtle Beach for a speaking appearance at a veterinary conference in 1991.