Bladen County (1734)

Written By Jonathan Martin

A Coastal Plain county and the third largest in North Carolina, Bladen County is rightfully named the “Mother County.”  Of the state’s 100 counties, 55 of them were originally part of Bladen County. 

Fashioned from New Hanover County in 1734, Bladen County was named after Martin Bladen, Lord Commissioner of Trade and Plantation. Elizabethtown, the county seat, was formed in 1773 and incorporated in 1895. There is debate on the inspiration for the town’s namesake. Historians claim that the name was from either Queen Elizabeth I of England or Isaac Jones’ wife. Jones supplied the land where the original town was built. Other important communities in Bladen County include White Lake, Bladenboro, Dublin, Clarkton, East Arcadia, and Tar Heel.

The Waccamaw were the first to live in the region, but the Highland Scots claimed the area upon English settlement. Seeking freedom from religious persecution in Scotland during the Jacobite Revolt, some settlers stayed in the Bladen region while others moved throughout the Cape Fear River Valley. During the Revolutionary War, a decisive battle took place outside of Elizabeth Town in August 1781. Colonel Thomas Robeson, once receiving news about the British camp near the city, rallied his 70 troops to fight the nearly 400 Tory soldiers. The patriot soldiers were able to push the British back into a ditch near the Cape Fear River. The Battle of Elizabeth Town was a victory, and the ravine where the Brits retreated is now referred as the “Tory Hole.” Other important history sites include Harmony Hall, the Elwell Cable Ferry Crossing, the Oakland Plantation, as well as the historic churches of the area.

Bladen County has several notable geographic features, most of which are bodies of water. The Cape Fear, South, and Black Rivers all pass through the county while the Bladen Lakes State Forest is an important woodland in the region. The White and Jones Lakes are a few of Bladen County’s lakes; most are Carolina Bay phenomena, and Bladen County has more of these bays than any other county in the state. Carolina Bays are oval-shaped depressions that can be hundreds of feet or miles wide and between 15 to 50 feet deep. Scientists dispute the reason for these Carolina Bays but many hold to the belief that meteorite showers caused these indentations.

In regards to Bladen County’s economy, it is largely agricultural. Many of Bladen County’s farmers grow tobacco, peanuts, blueberries, and cotton. Peanut processing and textile manufacturing are the greatest industries in the area. The East Coast Delta Kite and Glider Competition is just one of the several, annual festivals held in Bladen County.