Bladen County
Bladen County Courthouse
Bladen County Courthouse
Flag of Bladen County
Official seal of Bladen County
The Mother County
"In God We Trust"
Map of North Carolina highlighting Bladen County
Location within the U.S. state of North Carolina
Map of the United States highlighting North Carolina
North Carolina's location within the U.S.
Coordinates: 34°37′N 78°34′W / 34.62°N 78.56°W / 34.62; -78.56
Country United States
State North Carolina
Named forMartin Bladen
Largest townElizabethtown
 • Total887 sq mi (2,300 km2)
 • Land874 sq mi (2,260 km2)
 • Water13 sq mi (30 km2)  1.4%
 • Total29,606
 • Estimate 
 • Density33.9/sq mi (13.1/km2)
Time zoneUTC−5 (Eastern)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−4 (EDT)
Congressional district7th

Bladen County (/ˈbldən/)[1] is a county located in the U.S. state of North Carolina. As of the 2020 census, the population was 29,606.[2] Its county seat is Elizabethtown.[3] The county was created in 1734 as Bladen Precinct and gained county status in 1739.[4]


Bladen County was formed in 1734 as Bladen Precinct of Bath County, from New Hanover Precinct.[5] It was named for Martin Bladen, a member of the Board of Trade.[6] With the abolition of Bath County in 1739, all of its constituent precincts became counties.

Bladen's original residents included the Waccamaw people.[7][5]

Bladen County began as a vast territory, with indefinite northern and western boundaries. Reductions in its extent began in 1750, when its western part became Anson County. In 1754, the northern part of what was left of Bladen County became Cumberland County. In 1764, the southern part of what remained of Bladen County was combined with part of New Hanover County to form Brunswick County. In 1787, the western part of the now much smaller county became Robeson County. Finally, in 1808, the southern part of Bladen County was combined with part of Brunswick County to form Columbus County. Bladen County is considered the "mother county" of North Carolina because of the 100 counties in North Carolina, 55 of them at one point belonged to Bladen County.


Interactive map of Bladen County

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 887 square miles (2,300 km2), of which 874 square miles (2,260 km2) is land and 13 square miles (34 km2) (1.4%) is water.[8] It is the fourth-largest county in North Carolina by land area.[9]

State and local protected areas

Major water bodies

See also: Category:Rivers of Bladen County, North Carolina

Adjacent counties

Major highways

Major infrastructure


2020 census

As of the 2020 United States census, there were 29,606 people residing in the county. Racially, 54.4 percent of residents identified as white, 32.3 percent identified as black, 2.7 percent as Native American, and 6.1 percent as other categories. Ethnically, 20.7 percent identified as Hispanic or Latino.[12]

Demographic change

Between 2010 and 2020, Bladen County experienced a population decline of 15.9 percent,[20] losing 5,584 residents.[12]

Government and politics


Bladen County is a member of the Lumber River Council of Governments, a regional planning board representing five counties.[21]

It lies within the bounds of North Carolina's 15th Prosecutorial District, the 13A Superior Court District, and the 13th District Court District.[22]


Following the 2018 United States Midterm Elections, an investigation was opened into accusations of an absentee ballot fraud scheme directed by McCrae Dowless in Bladen County, within North Carolina's 9th Congressional District. Accusations were based around the Republican Primary election, in which Mark Harris defeated incumbent Robert Pittenger, and around the general election, in which Harris initially appeared to defeat Democrat Dan McCready. As of December 2018, the investigation is currently ongoing.[24][25] Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman, Democrat, said it was possible over 1,000 ballots had been destroyed.[26] According to District Attorney Jon David, Republican, the county has a "troubled history of political groups exploiting the use of absentee ballots."[27] The scandal brought national media attention to Bladen.[28]

As of 2022, Bladen County is home to about 22,000 registered voters, comprising about 9,700 registered Democrats, about 5,100 Republicans, and about 7,000 unaffiliated voters.[29]


Bladen County is served by a single hospital, Cape Fear Valley Medical Center, based in Elizabethtown.[30] According to the 2022 County Health Rankings produced by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, Bladen County ranked 85th in health outcomes of North Carolina's 100 counties, an improvement of 10 ranks over the previous five years. Per the ranking, 26 percent of adults say they are in poor or fair health, the average life expectancy is 75 years, and 16 percent of people under the age of 65 lack health insurance. It has one primary care physician per 4,670 residents.[31]


Agriculture constitutes a major part of Bladen County's economy.[28] Smithfield Foods operates a pork processing facility north of the town of Tar Heel, the largest such plant in the world.[32] It employs 5,800 workers, making it the county's largest employer.[33] The county is the largest producer of blueberries in the state. Area farmers also grow soybeans, peanuts, corn, wheat, and cotton.[28] The county suffers from a large poverty rate and is one of the most economically distressed counties in the state.[9] According to census figures, about 70 percent of working people in Bladen are employed outside the county.[34]


Map of Bladen County with municipal and township labels
Elizabethtown Presbyterian Church, Elizabethtown


Census-designated places

Unincorporated communities


Population ranking

The population ranking of the following table is based on the 2022 estimate of Bladen County.[35]

county seat

Rank City/Town/etc. Municipal type Population (2022 estimate)
1 Elizabethtown Town 3,391
2 Bladenboro Town 1,550
3 White Lake Town 800
4 Clarkton Town 625
7 East Arcadia Town 401
6 Kelly CDP 395
7 White Oak CDP 337
8 Dublin Town 262
9 Butters CDP 246
10 Tar Heel Town 91

See also


  1. ^ Talk Like A Tarheel Archived 2013-06-22 at the Wayback Machine, from the North Carolina Collection's website at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Retrieved 2013-02-08.
  2. ^ "U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts: Bladen County, North Carolina". Retrieved April 19, 2022.
  3. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Archived from the original on May 31, 2011. Retrieved June 7, 2011.
  4. ^ "North Carolina: Individual County Chronologies". North Carolina Atlas of Historical County Boundaries. The Newberry Library. 2009. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved January 20, 2015.
  5. ^ a b Jason, Bordeaux (2010). "Bladen County in the 1700s". NCpedia. Retrieved July 17, 2018.
  6. ^ Proffitt, Martie (April 17, 1983). "Local history offers tasty tidbits". Star-News. pp. 1C. Retrieved November 1, 2015.
  7. ^ Martin, Jonathan (2016). "Bladen County (1734)". North Carolina History Project. Retrieved July 17, 2018.
  8. ^ "2010 Census Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. August 22, 2012. Archived from the original on January 12, 2015. Retrieved January 12, 2015.
  9. ^ a b Mildenberg, David (April 20, 2021). "Bladen County's crafty approach to economic development". Business North Carolina. Retrieved November 17, 2022.
  10. ^ a b c "NCWRC Game Lands". Retrieved March 30, 2023.
  11. ^ Stahle, D. W.; Edmondson, J. R.; Howard, I. M.; Robbins, C. R.; Griffin, R. D.; Carl, A.; Hall, C. B.; Stahle, D. K.; Torbenson, M. C. A. (May 16, 2019). "Longevity, climate sensitivity, and conservation status of wetland trees at Black River, North Carolina". Environmental Research Communications. 1 (4): 041002. Bibcode:2019ERCom...1d1002S. doi:10.1088/2515-7620/ab0c4a.
  12. ^ a b Johnson, Kristen (August 16, 2021). "Hoke, Harnett counties experienced major population growth since 2010, Census results show". The Fayetteville Observer. Archived from the original on September 25, 2021. Retrieved April 15, 2023.
  13. ^ "U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts: Bladen County, North Carolina". Retrieved May 31, 2022.
  14. ^ "U.S. Decennial Census". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 12, 2015.
  15. ^ "Historical Census Browser". University of Virginia Library. Retrieved January 12, 2015.
  16. ^ Forstall, Richard L., ed. (March 27, 1995). "Population of Counties by Decennial Census: 1900 to 1990". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 12, 2015.
  17. ^ "Census 2000 PHC-T-4. Ranking Tables for Counties: 1990 and 2000" (PDF). United States Census Bureau. April 2, 2001. Archived (PDF) from the original on March 27, 2010. Retrieved January 12, 2015.
  18. ^ "State & County QuickFacts". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on July 28, 2011. Retrieved October 17, 2013.
  19. ^ "U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts: Bladen County, North Carolina". Retrieved May 31, 2022.
  20. ^ Schofield, Ivey (August 17, 2021). "Columbus leaders react to disappointing census results". The News Reporter. Retrieved January 25, 2023.
  21. ^ "Richardson explains role of LRCOG to Rotary Club". The Laurinburg Exchange. January 28, 2020. Retrieved July 21, 2022.
  22. ^ "Bladen County". North Carolina Judicial Branch. Retrieved February 12, 2023.
  23. ^ Leip, David. "Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections". Retrieved March 14, 2018.
  24. ^ Morrill, Jim (November 29, 2018). "'Tangled web' in Bladen County has questions swirling about votes in the 9th District". The Charlotte Observer. Charlotte, North Carolina. Retrieved November 30, 2018.
  25. ^ Gardner, Amy; Ross, Kirk (November 29, 2018). "Certification in limbo in N.C. House race as fraud investigation continues". The Washington Post. Washington, D.C. Retrieved November 30, 2018.
  26. ^ Casiano, Louis (December 6, 2018). "Over 1,000 ballots may have been destroyed in NC congressional race, DA says". Fox News. Retrieved December 6, 2018.
  27. ^ Henderson, Bruce; Doran, Will (December 7, 2018). "In 2 NC counties with 'rough politics,' election fraud claims are nothing new". The Charlotte Observer. Retrieved December 9, 2018.
  28. ^ a b c Nagem, Sarah (March 30, 2022). "Bladen County, shrinking but hopeful, creates a plan for its future". Border Belt Independent. Retrieved April 12, 2022.
  29. ^ Nagem, Sarah (April 20, 2022). "Here are some primary races to watch in Bladen County for May 17 election". Border Belt Independent. Retrieved July 21, 2022.
  30. ^ Nagem, Sarah (November 16, 2022). "How safe are the hospitals in North Carolina's Border Belt? New grades released". Border Belt Independent. Retrieved November 28, 2022.
  31. ^ Nagem, Sarah (May 9, 2022). "The fight for better health (and health care) in rural North Carolina". Border Belt Independent. Retrieved November 28, 2022.
  32. ^ Wooten, Alan (April 18, 2020). "Coronavirus: Smithfield Foods worker at Tar Heel plant tests positive; a second Bladen resident also infected". The Bladen Journal.
  33. ^ Schofield, Ivey (May 16, 2021). "'Strong human capital and innovation:' How Bladen County has created plans for future development". Border Belt Independent. Retrieved July 21, 2022.
  34. ^ Williams, Joseph (June 15, 2022). "Most county residents work elsewhere, and those who do earn more, data shows". The News Reporter. Archived from the original on January 28, 2023.
  35. ^ "Bladen County NC - Cities, Towns, Neighborhoods, & Subdivisions". Retrieved April 19, 2022.

34°37′N 78°34′W / 34.62°N 78.56°W / 34.62; -78.56