Plaques memorialized with the names of Horry County natives who served in World War I or II have moved a few blocks from a library to a museum within Conway, but they’ve always had their own walls, out of community respect and gratitude.
Horry County Memorial Library’s name, dating to the 1940s to honor World War II military personnel returning home, also remains an eternal salute for every person who has served in uniform.
This summer marked the centennial of the start of World War I, begun in 1914 by a Serbian with the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand. That European conflict would involve U.S. forces in 1917 for a year to bolster the Allies to a victory over the Central Powers. That formal end to “the war to end all wars,” Nov. 11, 1918, became known as Armistice Day, now the U.S. observance of Veterans Day. Also, more than two years have passed since the death of the last known World War I survivor, Florence Green, at age 110. The London native had served in the Women’s Royal Air Force.
Even in the second decade of the 20th century, long before Myrtle Beach’s rise as a tourist hub, Horry County had its own boots on the ground for deployment in World War I. Visitors to the Horry County Museum in Conway can see names of 1,098 known Horry County residents who served the Allied effort at that time, during the presidency of Woodrow Wilson, who lived in Columbia briefly as a teen.
Just walk up the circular stairs by the aquarium centerpiece – the tank has two longnose gar, by the way – and turn down the right hall and look on the left for two long, brass-framed plaques, the first panel of which lists the World War I personnel. Those 10 rows reflect a different style and culture then with first names such as Asie, Boisy, Dusenbury, Emple, Leamon, Mordecai, Onslow, Perlic, Tresvant, Ulrio and Volley. Also, for anyone who wonders why the alphabetized list begins anew in the eighth row, all the way to Z again: That’s the sizable grouping of black soldiers, 268 in all, R. Walter Hill, museum director, confirmed.
New focal point for public
Double checking the count of all the names Thursday afternoon with Hillary Winburn, his curator colleague, Hill said with the museum reopening last October after relocating to the renovated and larger, historic Burroughs School building at 805 Main St., the stone-backed plaques regained a prominent viewing spot, as part of a veterans memorial collection.
He said when Horry County Memorial Library moved its Conway branch two years ago to a new, larger building at 801 Main St., management did not want the stone-backed plaques, longtime fixtures in what then became the library system’s administrative headquarters, on Fifth Avenue, to fall out of view and from easy public access.
Hill said World War I developed into “a major global conflict,” although the U.S. part in it was “pretty short lived,” hence his understanding why it’s “easy for us as Americans to let it be overshadowed by World War II.”
“Still, the role we played, and the outcome,” he said of the first war, “really defined what modern global politics and future global warfare would be about.”
Each World War I person’s name is spelled out on dark lettering on a white slab overlay on marble, and room remains for other names that might turn up through confirmation from local families’ research. Record keeping back then, Hill said, was not as advanced, and that we “take it for granted” today because it has gotten so “routine and efficient.”
Nearby on the list of more than 4,000 names of Horry Countians who served in World War II, for which enough additions happen regularly that the museum will put up a new, prominent printout on the marble every year. That World War II list carries its own story, from a project in the mid-1990s by Ann Long’s service learning class at the former Aynor-Conway Career Center, to update that docket with names that awaited addition to those rolls.
“These are our people,” Hill said, standing before both massive compilations. “This is our past.”
He also voiced hopes for a long-term goal to gather names of men and women who served in subsequent wars, including Korea and Vietnam.
Two more names for family tree
Winburn, an Aynor native, pointed to two Booth men on the World War I memorial – Allen J. and John P. – first cousins whom she found, through genealogy, are her forebears. Discovering these ancestral connections to the war let her take any lineage shared by her grandmother to a new level. Having had only a long-sought photo of John P. Booth’s gravesite in France, then learning the remains were later interred at Arlington National Cemetery, gave Winburn closure to a journey.
“He was there, and I didn’t even know it,” she said.
That added branch in her family tree also crosses paths with Johnnie C. Winburn, an uncle who enlisted for World War II, and whose name sits just down the museum hallway.
Winburn also continues preparing an exhibit of World War I-era photos of local troops that she said is scheduled to go on display by Aug. 19 in the Horry County Government & Justice Center, 1301 Second Ave., Conway, in the front, center corridor, which leads to the road. This display, part of the museum’s community outreach, will cover 20 to 25 photos donated by local citizens, all gifts treated as rare treasures, because World War II artifacts and pictures are more abundant in the museum than those from World War I.
“They’re a little harder to come by,” said Winburn, who has spent two months on the endeavor. “Putting faces with names, it becomes a little more real.”
Name to salute all veterans
Clifton Boyer, director of Horry County Memorial Library, walked through the system’s offices Thursday and showed where the mounted plaques occupied the “focal point” of the former nonfiction reading room. Now the main site for occasional library system board meetings, those two spots remain bare, because Boyer said, putting something else just might not feel right.
He said that before the plaques’ were moved, once a month, someone would stop by the library system offices, asking if he or she could see a relative’s name on the rolls, mostly of World War II veterans.
“That made me think about donating those to the museum,” Boyer said, mindful of a place “where the entire county can see them.”
Boyer said he found Hill “extremely appreciative” to welcome and refurbish the plaques for the new museum, and he remembered how four or five men mustered the muscle to “handle them with care” to get them down, because “they’re that heavy.”
Since meeting the people who asked to look at the plaques, Boyer said, “I kind of miss it.”
Noting the key word in Horry County Memorial Library, Boyer applauds the county library commission members who in 1946, “had the foresight to honor veterans” in the library system’s name, for the personnel returning home from World War II deployments.
“I can’t think of a better way to honor them,” he said. “It’s a living, growing memorial.”
Boyer also pointed out, if not for veterans’ cherished duty and work to preserve freedom for which the Founding Fathers laid the roots, “we wouldn’t have libraries,” which he said carry on, per a classic quote, as “arsenals of democracies.”
Thanking all veterans, and thinking about Horry County’s own plaques from the two World Wars and the county library’s name, Boyer concluded, “Even if they’re not on that list, they’re memorialized.”