Crossing the state line from North Carolina into South Carolina on Hwy. 17, you find yourself in Little River, South Carolina, the farthest northeast community in the farthest northeast county in the state. Little River is the oldest village in Horry County dating back to the early 18th century. This unincorporated town is loosely bordered on the east by the Intracoastal Waterway on the south by Hwy. 9, on the west by the Waccamaw River, and the north by the state line.
In the late 1600′s and the early 1700s, fishermen and farmers settled along a stream called “Little River” which emptied into an inlet before going to the ocean. This inlet provided a sheltered port, attractive to pirates and smugglers.
Legend has it that pirates such as William Kidd, Edward (Blackbeard) Teach, and Anne Bonney visited the area. The early settlers lived on the bounty of the sea and the surrounding pine forests that provided lumber and naval stores. These products were sent out of the port to northern markets, since there was very little contact with the inland part of the county.
In 1791, President George Washington visited the South Carolina coast on his southern tour. He passed through Little River and had lunch with Revolutionary War veteran James Cochran. He spent the night nearby with local resident Jeremiah Vereen, an ancestor of the donor of the Vereen Memorial Historical Gardens.
On Tilghman Point in Little River Neck, which is across the river from the port of Little River, there are the remains of a Confederate battery that defended the entrance to Little River Harbor. It was called Fort Randall and was captured in 1863 by a Yankee naval landing party commanded by Lt. William B. Gushing. The Confederates counter attacked and drove the invaders out.
While the Civil War brought a halt to the industries of lumber and naval stores, local salt works became important to the Confederate forces. These, however, were eventually destroyed by Union troops.
In 1906, Thomas Philip Hammer leased an eight acre tract of land on the north side of Little River Neck from Louis Randall and his wife, Lillian Bessent Randall. This was the site for the Hammer Lumber Company. In its heyday, the Company employed fifty men before shutting down operations in the 1920′s. Barges and gasoline boats transported the workers over to the mill. The men thought they were rich -they made a $1.00 a day. Some accounts claim this site was part of the area where 9,000 Revolutionary War soldiers, including the legendary Swamp Fox, Francis Marion, camped during 1776.
Toward the end of the 19th century, the pine forests had been largely depleted. Road building in the area was very slow. An early unpaved road from Loris to Little River later became Route 9. Highway 17 was not paved until 1941. The Intracoastal Waterway (running from Maine to Florida) was completed in 1936, absorbing the original “Little River”.
During the prohibition years the sheltered port at Little River offered the same protection to bootleggers as it had to pirates. Today Little River is a center for sports fishing with numerous boats for hire. It continues to grow today attracting golfers, fishermen, boaters, and retirees, always with the lure of its beauty and its historic background.