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New book by CCU professor explores area history

March 22, 2005

Swamp, Strand and Steamboat: Voices of Horry County, 1732-1954, a new book by Coastal Carolina University professor Randall Wells that chronicles the history of the area through written and spoken memories, has been published by the Horry County Historical Society.

The idea for the book grew out of Wells long involvement with the Horry County Oral History Project, which he founded and directed from 1989 to 2004 with support from CCUs Waccamaw Center for Cultural and Historical Studies. The goal of the project was to conduct and collect video and audio interviews with older residents of the county. More than 100 interviews of a varied cross-section of Horry County citizens were conducted through the project, mostly by Wells and the late historian and author Catherine Lewis with technical support from CCUs Media Services department.

From the beginning I was mesmerized by the rich expressiveness, the wisdom, the humoras well as the historyI heard in the plain talk of these interviews, says Wells.

In order to reach farther back in the countys history than the memories recorded in the interviews, Wells began searching the files of the Historical Societys Independent Republic Quarterly for family histories, letters, interviews, memoirs and other autobiographical voices from the past. In all the book draws from the memories of more than 200 peoplenatives, settlers and sojournerscovering the 222-year period from 1732, when the town of Kingston (later Conway) was surveyed, to 1954, the year that Coastal Carolina University was established.

Each chapter of the heavily illustrated book is devoted to an important topic in the countys history and development, including timber, tobacco, transportation and tourism, as well as social life. The books publication coincides with the 50th anniversary of Coastal Carolina University.

Wells says that many CCU faculty and staff had a hand in the project, including art professor Paul Olsen, who designed the book, and photographer Bill Edmonds.

Originally from Glen Ellyn, Ill., Wells became fascinated with the people and history of Horry County after moving to Conway in 1974, when he joined the CCU faculty. His experience as a newcomer to the area is the subject of his book Along the Waccamaw (1990, Algonquin Books). Wells earned a Ph.D. in English from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

The book is being sold by the Horry County Historical Society for $30. For more information, call 488-1966. #