HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) — If you’re a history lover, this story is for you. A Grand Strand diver found keys in the Waccamaw River that might belong to the old Conway jail.
The person who found them, Ron Willmann, has been diving for more than 50 years and has quite the collection.
Willmann shared how he found the keys, as well as a few other artifacts over the years — one of those being a megalodon tooth right out of the Waccamaw River.
“That’s part of the fun of the hunt and I think you got to have the love for the hunt as much as the find,” he said.
Willmann is an artifact diver who has a massive collection of thousands of artifacts in his home and at the Conway Museum.
He said when he found the keys, it reminded him of Barney Fife, a character on the “Andy Griffith Show” who played a deputy sheriff in the 1960s.
Willmann added that he has an idea of how the keys got in the river.
“I think when it was torn down they probably took the keys,” he said. “Anything you wanted to get rid of back in the day, you threw it in the river. River was out of sight, out of mind.”
Willmann has buttons from plantations, GW King Dairy Milk Quarts local to Myrtle Beach and bag tags from the Conway Seashore Railroad that ran from Conway to Myrtle Beach in the early 1900s.
He said he found one artifact 30 years ago and the exact identical piece to it 28 years later. He said knowing these kinds of historical markers are out there excites him, even after 50 years.
“Tomorrow we’re going there and you got that, ‘we’re going to find some good stuff,'” Willmann said. “It’s hard to sleep that night or you’re dreaming about it.”
Willmann said a lot of artifacts he’s found out of the Waccamaw River are from the 17 or 1800s. He said every single button, marble, shark tooth or bottle he’s found has a story.
“When you pick up a bottle or particularly Native American stuff, you think, ‘who was the last guy who held this thing,’ and even a liquor bottle, dispensary bottle, I bet he had a good time before he emptied this thing and threw it in the river,” Willmann said.
Willmann said the keys are back with the Horry County Sheriff’s Office.
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Adrianna Lawrence is a multimedia journalist at News13. Adrianna is originally from Virginia Beach, Virginia, and joined the News13 team in June 2023 after graduating from Virginia Commonwealth University in May 2023. Keep up with Adrianna on Instagram, Facebook, and X, formerly Twitter. You can also read more of her work, here.