The Hermitage – Murrells Inlet, South Carolina

South Carolina  |  SC Picture Project  |  Georgetown County Photos  |  The Hermitage

The Hermitage in Murrells Inlet, built circa 1848, was originally the summer home of rice planter and Methodist minister James Lynch Belin (pronounced Blane). At some point Belin conveyed the home and his rice plantation – called Wachesaw Plantation – to his nephew, Dr. Allard Belin Flagg. Nearby Belin Memorial United Methodist Church is named for the minister and was built on another of his properties, Cedar Hill, which he bequeathed to the Methodist church.

The Hermitage

Brandon Coffey of Charleston © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

As a young man Dr. Flagg lived with his widowed mother, Margaret Belin Flagg, and his sister, Alice Belin Flagg. Alice is the subject of local lore (see below), and legend has it that she died at the Hermitage in 1849. It is unclear if she actually ever lived here, though it seems unlikely as the home was either newly-built or not yet completed at the time of her death in January 1849. (Due to the loss of the Georgetown County records during the Civil War, the exact construction date of the home is unknown.) Alice also is said to have attended boarding school in Charleston, casting further doubt on her occupation of the Hermitage. The Hermitage left the Flagg family following Dr. Flagg’s death in 1901 and has changed hands several times. Today the antebellum planters’ retreat remains a private residence.

The Hermitage Murrells Inlet

Brandon Coffey of Charleston © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

The Legend of Alice

The story of Alice Flagg can be described as an historical legend, or a folktale laced with historical facts. Alice Belin Flagg was the sister of Dr. Allard Belin Flagg, who acted as a father figure following the death of their father, Ebenezer, in 1838. According to the legend, when Alice was a young woman of fifteen or sixteen, she fell in love with a man whom her brother considered beneath the family’s social status. The story goes on to say that in an effort to keep the two apart, Alice was sent away to boarding school in Charleston. However at the time it was common for young women to receive educations away from home, so separation may or may not not have been the impetus for this departure.

Alice Marker All Saints

Sara Dean of Moncks Corner, 2016 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

While at school, Alice began to exhibit symptoms of a disease known as “country fever.” The disease most likely was malaria, a common affliction for people exposed to the relentless mosquitoes found on boggy rice plantations. As her brother was a doctor, he came to Charleston to bring her back to the Hermitage and provide her with medical care. The story claims that Alice slipped into a comatose state at some point either during the ride back to Murrells Inlet or shortly thereafter. While caring for his gravely ill sister, Dr. Flagg noticed a ring tied around her neck, apparently from her forbidden beau. He removed the ring from her neck and tossed in into the creek. When Alice awoke, she clutched at her neck only to discover that her cherished ring was gone. Sadly, Alice soon succumbed to the disease and died at the Hermitage. The story claims that her spirit haunts the home and its grounds, looking for the ring.

Alice Marker

Bill Segars of Hartsville, 2006 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Variations of the story also place the spirit of Alice at All Saint’s Episcopal Church, where many of her family members are interred. A marker bearing the single name “Alice” and nothing more attracts people who say that circling the marker backwards thirteen times and then lying on top of it will surely invite a visit from Alice’s ghost. Others drop coins and rings upon the marker, as seen in the photos above.

However, records from All Saint’s indicate that no one is buried in that spot and that the marker is strictly commemorative. Many believe the marker honors another Flagg family member who shared Alice’s first name and who was swept out to sea in a devastating hurricane of 1893. Alice Flagg of the legend is actually interred at Belin Memorial United Methodist Church – then called Cedar Hill – along with her uncle and the church’s namesake, the Reverend James Belin, according to church records. Her burial spot is unmarked.

Alice’s ghost story can be traced to the 1940s. According to the book Shared Traditions: Southern History and Folk Culture by Charles W. Joyner, writer and folklorist Genevieve Willcox Chandler, who lived in the Hermitage as a child, published accounts of stories and legends from the Waccamaw Neck in the 1941 Federal Writers Project State Guide Series. The story of Alice is not mentioned in the volume. Chandler herself claims that the ghost tale was made up by her brother, Allston Moore Willcox, to frighten their out-of-town cousins upon their visits to the Hermitage. The story first appears in print in 1946 when Julian Stevenson Bolick, who learned it from the Willcox family, mentions it in his book, Waccamaw Plantations. From that point the story has grown and adapted through the years.

The Hermitage is listed in the National Register as part of the Murrells Inlet Historic District, which notes the following about the area:

The Murrells Inlet Historic District contains a significant concentration of buildings which visually reflect the transition of the area from adjoining estates of two nineteenth-century rice planters into a twentieth century resort community. In the mid-nineteenth century, homes were built for two prominent Georgetown County rice planters, Jacob Motte Alston and Dr. Allard Belin Flagg. After the lands began to be subdivided in the early twentieth century, a small community of summer houses developed. Today the historic district contains two antebellum houses, which are local interpretations of the Greek Revival style, as well as a collection of early twentieth century vernacular resort buildings.

Residential in character, the historic district contains approximately nineteen houses. Although they exhibit some diversity, the prevalent use of wood as a building material, the large screened porches, and the setting of moss draped trees, marshland, and piers provide a visual unity. Since most of the buildings overlook the creek and marshland to the east, and since the creek and marshland provide the essential setting, a substantial amount of this area has been included in the potential historic district. Besides being crucial visually to the area, the marshland has played an integral part in the historical development of Murrells Inlet.

The Hermitage Info

Address: United States Highway 17 Business, Murrells Inlet, SC 29576

The Hermitage Map

The Hermitage – Add Info and More Photos

The purpose of the South Carolina Picture Project is to celebrate the beauty of the Palmetto State and create a permanent digital repository for our cultural landmarks and natural landscapes. We invite you to add additional pictures (paintings, photos, etc) of The Hermitage, and we also invite you to add info, history, stories, and travel tips. Together, we hope to build one of the best and most loved SC resources in the world!

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12 Comments about The Hermitage

LisaNo Gravatar says:
October 1st, 2015 at 6:35 am

I was lucky to get to visit The Hermitage in the late 70s and get a tour from Mr. Wilcox himself. I too, am glad to see this home had survived, as I had heard it had been torn down. I have been fascinated with Alice’s story since I was a child and still am. I have been to All Saint’s several times and find it very sad that she not there but instead buried in an unmarked grave at Belin Methodist 🙁

JeremyNo Gravatar says:
July 14th, 2015 at 7:43 am

Thanks for the response!

SCIWAYNo Gravatar says:
July 14th, 2015 at 3:35 am

Hi, Jeremy! The home was a private residence with generous owners giving a tour!

JeremyNo Gravatar says:
July 13th, 2015 at 3:34 pm

In the late 80s or early 90s we went to the house and were told of the story and given a tour. Would the house have been a private residence then and the owner giving tours or was it part of something else.

SCIWAYNo Gravatar says:
January 16th, 2015 at 4:23 pm

Glad to help!

PamelaNo Gravatar says:
January 16th, 2015 at 3:10 pm

I understand perfectly about the privacy issue, I’m just glad to know the house wasn’t torn down or removed. Thanks.

SCIWAYNo Gravatar says:
January 16th, 2015 at 2:58 pm

The house is still extant and used as a private residence. Out of respect of the owners’ privacy, we have not published the address nor the home’s exact location on our map (just an approximation), as per their request.

PamelaNo Gravatar says:
January 16th, 2015 at 2:34 pm

I’m a bit confused. I thought the house was removed and that a private, gated community is now there, or was the community build around the house. Can you confirm this? Thanks.

SCIWAYNo Gravatar says:
December 23rd, 2014 at 6:57 am

Sunnyside Plantation in Murrells Inlet is available for private events such as luncheons: If you are looking for a restaurant, I imagine someone there may be able to guide you. Here is the venue’s Facebook page: Best of luck!

Judy walkerNo Gravatar says:
December 22nd, 2014 at 7:47 pm

Thank you for your response. Doc you have suggestions? Wedding at Belin and reception at Wachesaw. Thanks.

SCIWAYNo Gravatar says:
December 19th, 2014 at 9:22 am

Hi, Judy. The Hermitage is a private residence.

Judy walkerNo Gravatar says:
December 18th, 2014 at 5:18 pm

Is the Hermitage available for luncheons?

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