Before the American Revolution, early settler seeking land near Lockwood's Folly River applied for patents and received warrants for surveys of selected tracts. Upon payment of fifty shillings for each hundred acres, the warrantee could receive a permanent grant for Royal Governor Arthur Dobbs.
Benjamin Holden in 1756 bought four mainland tracts and the island between his plantation and the ocean. This island extended from Lockwood's Folly Inlet west six miles to Bacon Inlet. Benjamin and his sons used the island for fishing and cattle grazing.
John Holden, Benjamin's grandson, started a commercial fishery on the island and in 1924 surveyed a section which he called Holden Beach Resort, the plat of which represented the first subdivision of beach property in Brunswick County (NC). In 1925, he built the Holden Beach bridge; it was subsequently destroyed by the Inland Waterway construction. "Mr. Johnny" negotiated with the state of North Carolina for the institution of a public ferry to reach the island, but he did not live to see the ferry begin operation in 1934.
Luther S. Holden, John's son, operated the old hotel that his father had built, started development of the property nearby and became a permanent resident in 1946. Soon afterwards, Luther S. Holden's son (John F. Holden) began building other homes and renting them to vacationers. Soon afterwards, smaller other developments were started west of the ferry location. Back in the early 1940s one could buy an oceanfront house with the land for about $600 dollars. John F. Holden and his wife Johnsie M. Holden actually began the development of Holden Beach that would slowly become a resort area. John and Johnsie Holden had two sons who are named Lyn Holden and J. Alan Holden. Lyn owns and operates the Beach Mart on the Holden Beach causeway that sells beach items and clothing. Alan Holden took over the family beach business of continuing to build and rent beach homes on Holden Beach. Alan owns and operates Alan Holden Vacations and RE/MAX at the Beach located on the island. Alan's son Shane Holden and his wife Dore' are now in the family business and help run the day to day operations at the rental company. This would be about 7 generations of the Holden family staying in the vacation industry.
In 1954, the island had about 300 homes and a turn-bridge. After that year's destructive Hurricane Hazel, which hit on Oct. 15, 1954, the rebuilding was slow. On February 14, 1969, the island was incorporated and, on May 13, 1986, the Town of Holden Beach dedicated a new high-rise steel and concrete bridge, allowing better access to the more than 1900 homes on the island.