History

Pawleys Island touches the heart and soul of all those who visit. Generations of visitors return again and again to escape the worries of the mainland and experience the true relaxation that Only Pawleys can offer. Pictured at right is Benjamin Porter Fraser and his dog, Grab, sitting atop a dune on Pawleys Island around 1910. Although his house was destroyed in the storm of 1893, his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren built homes on the island, and six generations of Frasers have vacationed on Pawleys during the past 125 years.

Percival Pawley was the first European settler to develop plantations on the Waccamaw Neck. He received land grants in 1711 of a type that became the norm on the Waccamaw Neck: the land ran from the river to the sea. It’s not certain if Percival had an island getaway. But historians say that the island itself was named for Percival’s sons George, Anthony and Percival Jr. Because of the loss of property records during the Civil War, it’s not certain if any of the Pawleys had a house on the island, but tradition says the historic Pawley House on the island was owned by a family member.

The Civil War and several major hurricanes have changed the face of the island but it still retains the nickname “arrogantly shabby.” Unlike its neighboring resort islands, parts of Pawleys have changed little since the 1700’s. In our historic district you will see a number of signs with a brief history of the antebellum homes, most of which are available for summer rental. Many of these homes are still owned by 3rd, 4th or 5th generations of the same families. In 2012, Liberty Lodge celebrated ownership by one single family for 100 years! The owner of Liberty Lodge, one of the historic houses on Pawleys Island, is said to be the inventor of the Pawleys Island Rope Hammock unchanged and still sold just off the island today.

Over the years, a few inns opened to accommodate vacationers, but there was never a large hotel. Today the Sea View Inn, built in 1937, is still operating, as is the Pelican Inn, built in 1858. There is no other commercial business on the island. When property owners heard talk of large chain hotels considering vacant land on the island, they incorporated as a town in 1986 and passed ordinances forbidding commercial establishments. The slogan was “Keep Pawleys as it is” in order to not spoil the feel of the island and what makes Pawleys Island so special.

Today the beach is peaceful and pristine, and renowned for its surf. Within five miles of the island there are approximately ten first-rate golf courses and a large tennis complex. Fishing is available both in the surf and from our two marsh bridges. On the island are three fine launch boat ramps. Pawleys is a family beach where you can enjoy crabbing off a crab dock, shelling, biking and canoeing or kayaking. The ambiance is laid back. Our town speed limit is 25 mph, making it as safe as possible for the many users of the road. During high tide explore the salt marsh with your own kayak or rent one. Swimming, fishing and sunning are the main activities of the day. Night life consists of dining out, long conversations on screened porches, shopping in a mainland boutique or strolling the beach. Pawleys is an island of simple virtues and lack of pretense – come visit!

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