My grandfather came to Myrtle Beach in 1902. First hand, I don’t know much about him. James Edward Bryan, nick-named “Big Jim” died a good ten years before I was born. I can’t help bragging that I’m related to him.
He was an equity partner and general manager of interests particular to the Burroughs and Collins combine, their landholdings, mercantile, turpentine, and lumber enterprise, east of the Waccamaw River. The business became Myrtle Beach Farms and is now Burroughs and Chapin, the premier land developer on the Grand Strand.
Big Jim oversaw the people, white and black, who made up the labor force that started Myrtle Beach. He managed the mules that provided the greater portion of work units accomplished, husbanded the cattle raised for meat and milk, and the goats, and the chickens, and the guinea foul, and the crops in the field, and the boats on the beach, and the nets to catch the fish, and nurtured all there had to be to make a new town. Granddaddy saw to it, led his people wisely, so the family legend goes; and all agree who’ve told me stories passed along by the generations.
Most of them, who knew Big Jim personally, are dead now.
Memories of him are colored by the romance of his position. According to the stories, he was not a tyrant, more a teacher and preacher of the unbending work ethic it took to build a new community. And yet, I have heard men brag of the tongue-lashings Granddaddy gave them, when, according them, a good lashing was in order. As if, to be verbally whipped by an expert, were an honor.
To me, he is not a real person, not in the same sense as the storytellers I have listened to, who placed themselves beneath Granddaddy, who believed in him and followed him. He retains the quality of an icon, an object, which is worshiped for what it represents, not what it is.