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Pawleys Island: July 4th parade’s grand marshal will be oldest ever

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

The best-kept secret on Pawleys Island has traditionally been the identity of the grand marshal for the town’s Fourth of July parade. Not this year.

Mayor Bill Otis revealed all this week, out of deference to the marshal’s age and inability to get around. While family members will ride at the front of the parade, the marshal will watch silently from 520 Myrtle Ave.

“Liberty Lodge will be the grand marshal,” he said.

The house was once the property of Joshua John Ward, a prominent rice planter. Tradition holds that the house was originally built on the mainland in the 1700s, then taken apart and moved to the island sometime in the late 1850s.

But Otis said it is the house’s more recent history that led him to name it the grand marshal. The house has been owned by the same family for 100 years. That’s the kind of tradition worth celebrating, he said.

“That is so telling of what the history of Pawleys Island, the Pawleys Island experience, has been,” Otis said. “Is there another [island] house that’s been occupied by the same family for 100 years? I doubt it.”

The property was 10 acres when Cornelia Ehrich bought it in 1912. She used the proceeds of her husband’s estate, said Connie Bull, her great-granddaughter.

Her great-grandfather was a merchant and a former mayor of Georgetown. The family would come by ferry from Georgetown to Hagley landing, bringing farm animals as well as furniture, and move by cart to Pawleys Island.

Bull’s grandmother and two great-aunts lived on the Pawleys Island property year-round. As taxes rose, portions of the property were sold. Eventually Bull’s father, Marvin Thomas, and her uncle, Arthur “Pig” Thomas, inherited Liberty Lodge and a parcel on the north side, respectively.

Having a historic home wasn’t necessarily an attraction to earlier generations, Bull said. “Having a house was important,” she said.

Even now, as she recounts the history of the house, Bull points out that six generations of her family have enjoyed it.

“We always say that one of the things that sets Pawleys Island apart is that you can find three or four generations in the same house year after year,” Otis said. “The Liberty Lodge epitomizes that.”

Bull and her sister, Selena Harrison, will ride in the parade, something they say they haven’t done in years.

They usually watch from Liberty Lodge or from their cousins’ house next door. The family won’t be watching from Liberty Lodge this year, it was rented before the family learned of Otis’ decision.

“It’s the first time in eons it’s been rented on July 4,” Bull said. “I’ll probably give them a heads up and if they want to decorate tell them to go all out.”

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