The area known today as the communities of Bucksport and Bucksville—about a dozen miles south of Conway along SC 701—was once dense cypress forest.
Henry Buck, originally from Maine, moved his family there in the 1820s to establish a plantation and harvest trees.
He built the country’s first steam sawmill there, as well as a plantation. Slaves working on the plantation harvested the trees for Bucksport’s sawmill and grew cotton, rice, sweet potatoes and corn, according to a history of the area published by Bucksport marina operators.
Bucksport Marina’s historical account of Buck’s operation stated that its operation produced three million board feet of lumber each year by 1850. Its lumber was shipped to Georgetown and Charleston and even New York where some was used for build the Brooklyn Bridge, according to Marina operators.
Buck had 133 slaves working for him in 1850, according to Susanna Buck Register, an ancestor of Buck, and 312 slaves in 1860. Buck Register told The Sun News in 2011 that Buck paid the people he enslaved.
After the Civil War, the Bucks experimented with shipbuilding, but the business never took off, in part because he brought shipbuilders from Maine to South Carolina who later returned home, according to the marina operators’ account.
Parts of the old sawmill can still be seen in Bucksport to this day, including a brick chimney.
Emancipation in the 20th century
After emancipation from slavery and the Civil War, Buck continued to harvest timber in the area and produce timber at his three mills.
The timber industry continued into the 1930s and several villages sprang up near the mills, according to a historical account published by Roots and Recall, a historic preservation group.
The area also became home to large farms, including the Thompson Farm which still exists today. The Thompson farm housed many essential businesses, such as a blacksmith shop and a general store.
Black farmers were also part of the fabric of the community, growing crops and raising pigs and cattle for their families and for the community.
Bucksport is one of the few majority black communities in Horry County today. About 600 people live in Bucksport today, according to the U.S. Census, almost all of them black.
During World War II, the U.S. military used Bucksport’s waterfront and housed soldiers nearby, according to Roots and Recall.
Current use and new industrial park
Over the past few decades, Bucksport’s waterfront on the Waccamaw River has become a recreation site for locals.
Fishing and boating at the marina are common and some nautical events are held there.
In 2018, following Hurricane Florence, the marina was heavily flooded.
It was also in this recent history that Horry County leaders sought to turn the marina into an industrial park.
In 2013, Grand Strand Water & Sewer began applying for permits to build Bucksport Industrial Park. A public hearing for these permits was held in 2014.
The project obtained state permits in 2016 and federal permits in 2017.
Improvements to the marina included dredging 40,000 cubic yards of material from the Waccamaw River; install lifting shafts capable of lifting 100 tons and 300 tons respectively; construction of a new wharf and a new bulkhead for large vessels.
Sandy Davis, director of the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corporation, said in a recent interview with The Sun News that her agency is looking to attract boat builders and other marine-related businesses to the new industrial park.
Davis said she could get commitments from those companies within a year or two.
Some Bucksport residents welcome the industrial park and hope it will bring well-paying jobs to locals. Others fear it will lure developers into the area and end up depriving them of their homes.
“There is hope that if jobs come in, we can provide training and our residents will be proactive,” Kevin Mishoe, a community organizer in Bucksport, told The Sun News in a recent interview. . “As a community, we need to focus on how we can make the most of growth.”