In 1670, the British settled Charles Town (Charleston, SC). The area now knows as Horry (O-REE) County was part of old Craven County, established in 1682. In 1730, Robert Johnson, Royal Governor of SC, included Kingston Township in a plan to encourage development of the Province of SC. By 1732, the site of the town of Kingston (Conway) was marked out. In 1734, a plan for the town was completed and by 1735 the first settlers had begun to arrive.
Many area residents fought in the American Revolutionary War. Small engagements were fought near Kingston at Bear Bluff on the Waccamaw, at Black Lake along the Little Pee Dee, and in the Socastee area. Gen. Frances Marion, who was known as the “Swamp Fox”, had relatives living in the area. He and his troops encamped in the village of Kingston on his way to the battle of Black Mingo.
Kingston was located in the Parish of Prince George, Winyah, established in 1722. In 1769 the colony was divided into circuit court districts and the land comprising what is now Horry County became a part of the newly created Georgetown Judicial District. In 1785 new lines were drawn and “Kingston County” was created out of the old District. The new county’s name was changed to “Horry District” in honor of General Peter Horry in 1801 and a courthouse was established in Kingston at that time. The name of the village of Kingston was later changed to Conwayborough, for General Robert Conway, a general in the SC State Militia.
The village of Conwayborough was slow to grow. Methodist Bishop Francis Asbury recorded in 1801 that the town had a population of about 100. Thomas Lockwood’s geography of the state published in 1832 reported that the number of inhabitants was 200.
In 1860, Conwayborough had a population of 273 whites and 203 blacks. The Waccamaw River was the town’s main transportation link. Planters, who developed plantations both large and small, owned much of the land along the Waccamaw and Pee Dee Rivers. Throughout the rest of the county were small farms, plantations and forests. The important industry in the area in 1860 was “naval stores, “ i.e. turpentine and lumber. When South Carolina seceded from the Union, area residents rallied to the Confederate cause. Thomas W. Beaty and Benjamin E. Sessions of Conwayborough signed the Ordinance of Secession in Charleston. At the end of the war, Union soldiers from Maine occupied the town for a time.
During the 1870s the naval stores industries continued to expand. Riverboats transported passengers and goods along the Waccamaw River between Conwayborough and Georgetown. The South Carolina General Assembly shortened the town’s name to Conway in 1883. In 1887 the railroad reached Conway and in 1898 the town incorporated and elected its first mayor.
Much of present-day downtown was built in the early 1900s following a destructive fire. The old live oak trees and the beautiful Waccamaw River provide the perfect setting for South Carolina’s Historic River Town.