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The Hermitage — Murrells Inlet, South Carolina

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The Hermitage

Constructed in 1849, The Hermitage in Murrells Inlet was originally the summer home of rice planter and Methodist minister James Lynch Belin (pronounced Blane). Belin, who had no children, gave the property to his nephew, Allard Belin Flagg II, at least a decade before his own death in 1859. Belin also transferred Wachesaw Plantation to Flagg, who managed its rice fields in addition to practicing medicine. Nearby Belin Memorial United Methodist Church is named for Pastor Belin and was built on another of his properties, Cedar Hill, which he bequeathed to the South Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church.

The Hermitage House, Murrells Inlet

Brandon Coffey of Charleston, 2013 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Dr. Flagg’s parents had nine children – seven boys and two girls. Their father, Ebenezer “Eben” Belin Flagg, died young at just 43. Thus at age seven, the youngest Flagg child and the only Flagg daughter to survive infancy, Alice Belin Flagg, was sent to a boarding school in Charleston. Alice is the subject of fervent lore, and it is said that her ghost haunts The Hermitage today, where she is sometimes called “The Lady in White.” However, Alice lived most of her short life in Charleston and could never have resided at The Hermitage since it was not completed until after her death in January, 1849.

The Hermitage overlooking pond

Brandon Coffey of Charleston, 2013 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Interestingly Dr. Flagg was proceeded by another Allard Belin Flagg, an older brother who died in 1822 at the age of two. Dr. Flagg was born the following year, in 1823, and his uncle, the Reverend Belin, encouraged his sister and brother-in-law to name their new son after his brother as a way to honor his memory. (Note that some sources – most notably his own gravestone – give his birth date as April 14, 1820 instead of June, 10, 1823. This is inaccurate. April 14, 1820 was the birth date of the first Allard Belin Flagg, who died as a toddler.)

After 1825, all of Eben and Margaret Elizabeth Belin Flagg’s children were born in Charleston, where it is said Eben (also a doctor) provided medical care to the city’s poor. According to the United States College Student Lists, 1763-1924, an Allard B. Flagg attended Charleston College (now known as the College of Charleston) in 1833 and 1834. Although it is correct that he lived in Charleston at this time, it is unclear why he would have attended Charleston College when he was but 10 and 11.

Dr. Allard Flagg and his wife, Penelope Bentley Ward Flagg, lived with his mother, Margaret Elizabeth Belin Flagg, at the Hermitage. Penelope died in 1856, and his widowed mother, Margaret Elizabeth Belin Flagg, died almost 30 years later, in 1885.

The Hermitage passed out of the Flagg family following Dr. Flagg’s death in 1901 and has changed hands several times since. Today the antebellum planter’s retreat remains a private residence, albeit in a new location. The house was moved in –, when a developer bought the plantation and established a gated community there.

The Hermitage Side View, Murrells Inlet

Brandon Coffey of Charleston, 2013 © 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:

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: 565 Chandler Avenue, Murrells Inlet, SC 29576
GPS Coordinates: 33.559713,-79.033528

The Hermitage Map

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30 Comments about The Hermitage

Glenn H. Kunkle says:
October 20th, 2019 at 10:21 pm

Any area oldtimers recall a “fishing camp” near south end of Bus17 where it rejoins 17? Perhaps in the area of Horry Drive? Arrived too late one vacation trip to register and get into Huntington Beach and stayed in this fishing camp. All the comforts (not) of modern tent camp sites. Showers were a hoot with plenty of mold, tree frogs, and other little four-legged critters. My adult children still talk about that trip as much as our several adventures on Cumberland Island in Georgia.

Hutch says:
October 10th, 2019 at 1:29 pm

Had the honor of painting the interior of this awesome home many years ago. 12” baseboards and some HUGE pocket doors were a treat to paint. Joe Chandler helped with some of the items. Had to strip several doors due to the build up of the layers of paint on them. Painted Alice’s room but never saw or heard anything.

Sherri Fran says:
October 8th, 2019 at 9:43 am

Anyone have any speculations of the location of the unmarked area where Alice Flagg may be buried at Belin UMC? I live very nearby in Murrells Inlet.

Sarah Thompson says:
March 21st, 2019 at 11:48 am

I grew up in the 60s and 70s listening to Mr. Wilcox’s booming voice telling the tale of Alice the ghost on his screened-in back porch at The Hermitage. My aunt and uncle lived in a small apartment built on the back of the house, and she worked for him at the nursery that was down the pathway from the house. I spent many summer days crabbing, swimming, and fishing in the ‘crek’ and many nights sleeping with the light on for fear of seeing a big white ghost. I am so glad they were a part of my childhood – such a sweet, loving couple that always treated us like family.

Glenn Kunkle says:
October 7th, 2018 at 11:32 pm

Made my first visit to Myrtle Beach area in May of 1957 on weekend pass from Ft. Jackson basic training. Loved the area. Next visit, after move from PA to OH in 1961, marriage in 1964, and taking up tent camping in the early 1970s. Avid tent campers, we migrated from Del. State Parks to Huntington Beach State Park in 1977-1978 and saw our first turtle egg laying near the public beach area (park personnel insisted turtles did not nest at the park – now they mark and monitor). Visited with Mr. & Mrs. Wilcox at The Hermitage in 1978 with my wife and three young children (6-13), toured the house, saw Alice’s room, listened to Clarke spin his tales on the front porch, and left with his “Musings” book. We also bought a cookbook (my wife an avid “from scratch” cook) written by either Clarke’s wife or a daughter. Visited the Alice stone marker at All Saints Waccamaw Cemetery. Kids did the required backward walk, but Alice never showed. Camped (typically 2-3 weeks) and toured the greater area for next six years and periodically after that. Last visit was with son and grandson about 2007, now in a minivan. We got to see the hatching of a turtle’s nest near the public beach area. My son and I got to see both the nest laying and hatching – just 25 years apart.

David Edgerley says:
June 10th, 2019 at 3:34 am

Yes, that is correct. The Alice of the legend is buried in an unmarked grave at Cedar Hill, although I’m sure she’s near her two younger brothers in the cemetery.

Betsy Dollarhite says:
September 18th, 2018 at 10:35 am

I was very fortunate to have met Clarke Wilcox and his wife in 1983. A gracious and friendly couple! They took us on a tour of their lovely home and told Alice’s story. “Musings of a Hermit,” by Clarke Wilcox, relays poetry and stories of the area. I am proud to own a copy. Such wonderful memories!

P.S. The Alice at All Saints Cemetery is said to be a relative of the same name swept out to sea around 1893 (thus the stone).

John Field Pankow says:
May 14th, 2018 at 12:23 am

I visited the Hermitage several times when I was a child, with my parents and grandmother, when Mr. Clarke Willcox and his wife lived there. I don’t believe for a minute that the story is made up. They even had an outdoor drama of it in Murrells Inlet one summer. As I recall, Mr. Willcox had a nursery there and sold plants and also other items. (My grandmother bought a pair of andirons from him, which I still have.) He was also a poet, and somewhere around here I have an autographed volume of his poetry that he gave my mother. One of the fascinating things I remember is that he told us that the columns were made of trunks of pine trees, and they still ran sap sometimes. He and his wife were charming and gracious people. (John Field Pankow, Asheville, NC)

Hope says:
October 19th, 2017 at 2:13 pm

There’s a movie based on Alice Flagg. It’s about these two young newlyweds, Julia and Rivers, who find themselves trapped in a quaint, Carolina coastal bed & breakfast with fellow stragglers during a dangerous hurricane. They soon begin to suspect they are being haunted by the legendary ghost of Alice Flagg. The movie is called “Honeymoon from Hell.”

SC Picture Project says:
October 14th, 2017 at 12:04 pm

It is beautifully maintained by the current owners – such a wonderful property full of legend and history alike.

Christine says:
October 13th, 2017 at 10:18 am

I include the story of Alice on my ghost/history tour on the MarshWalk. There are at least 4 different versions of the story, but I tell the one Clarke Willcox wrote in his book. The Hermitage was moved once Clarke died and is near my home in Murrells Inlet. They do not have tours in the home. Alice is supposedly buried in Belin Cemetery, which is a stone’s throw from the current Hermitage location.

SC Picture Project says:
March 24th, 2017 at 8:08 am

It has been preserved, fortunately! How lovely to have had a tour!

Cheryl says:
March 23rd, 2017 at 4:19 pm

I also had a tour of the house and grounds by Mr. Wilcox. It was a beautiful home, which was, to my understanding, moved so the gated community could be built. I have never found it once it was moved … I hope it was preserved.

Pat says:
March 4th, 2017 at 9:19 pm

I am doing research on the history of Wachesaw and Richmond Hill Plantations but am coming up short. I even went to the Georgetown Historical Society and searched the archives in the local libraries. Any ideas? I have the book on Richmond Hill Plantation. I am specifically interested in old photos. Thanks.

SC Picture Project says:
December 28th, 2016 at 9:16 am

She is buried at Belin Memorial UMC in an unmarked grave, according to church records.

Sarah says:
December 24th, 2016 at 9:01 am

Hi, I am currently doing research about the story/past of Alice Flagg and I was wondering if she is actually buried where the marker lies or if she is buried somewhere else?

Barbara says:
September 17th, 2016 at 4:06 pm

Where’s Alice Flagg’s grave marker/grave? Also where’s The Hermitage located? Is it true about Alice’s ghost: does it exist? I’m here in Myrtle Beach until Thursday and would like to see this. Thanks.

Marsha Murdock says:
September 13th, 2016 at 12:46 pm

I too was lucky to tour the Hermitage in the late 1970s or early 80s and get a tour from Mr. Wilcox himself. Stone for grave markers was probably not available in Murrells Inlet area of SC until the railroad came to Conway in the late 1880s. Therefore, Alice’s grave in Belin Methodist Church cemetery may have had a wood marker at one time, which would have since disintegrated. I was lucky enough to tour the Hermitage with Mr. Wilcox, at which time I bought his book (pamphlet) about the house.

SC Picture Project says:
August 19th, 2016 at 8:15 am

This is correct; Alice is buried elsewhere. Why her grave is unmarked is not known, but church records indicate she is indeed buried at Belin Memorial UMC. As for your question about the lumberman, that is also unknown.

Latoya Collins says:
August 19th, 2016 at 6:46 am

I have a question: so is this correct? Are you telling me that Alice isn’t buried in that grave, that her family had her buried in an unmarked grave? Did they do that so that her young lover couldn’t come and pay his respects? If so that’s just so sad. Also, who was the lumberman and where is his family now?

Lisa 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 🙁

Jeremy says:
July 14th, 2015 at 7:43 am

Thanks for the response!

SC Picture Project says:
July 14th, 2015 at 3:35 am

Hi, Jeremy! Yes, The Hermitage was indeed a private residence. Its owners were very generous when it came to giving tours, as evidenced by the many comments on this page.

Jeremy 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?

Pamela 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.

SC Picture Project 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.

Pamela 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 built around the house? Can you confirm this? Thanks.

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

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

SC Picture Project says:
December 19th, 2014 at 9:22 am

Hi, Judy. The Hermitage is a private residence.

Judy Walker says:
December 18th, 2014 at 5:18 pm

Is The Hermitage available for luncheons?


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