Explore the Mother County and the Cape Fear River
BLADEN COUNTY HISTORICAL SUMMARY
Bladen County is the third largest county in North Carolina, with 879 square miles. Its location in Southeastern North Carolina assures Bladen of a good climate, with an average annual temperature of 63 degrees, precipitation of 49.1″, and an annual snowfall of less than 4″. The county lies within 25 miles of the Atlantic Ocean. Of the 100 counties in North Carolina, 55 were once a part of Bladen County which accounts for the name “Bladen, The Mother County”.
The Counties formed from Bladen County are as follows:
Bladen is a county rich in history and tradition. It was first settled by the Highland Scots in 1734, who came to the Cape Fear River Valley seeking religious freedom. The Scots settled throughout Bladen County. Families migrated northwest along the Cape Fear River where they founded Fayetteville and populated Harnett, Richmond, Moore, Robeson, Scotland and Montgomery counties. Many of the descendents of these first settlers still live in Bladen County.
Bladen County was named for Martin Bladen, Lord Commissioner of Trade and Plantation. The County’s boundaries in the year 1734 were described as, “…no less than man dared to travel West.”
Bladen contains over 1,000 lakes sharing the same oval shape and directional orientation. It has been speculated and is widely accepted that a meteorite shower created the “Carolina Bays” possibly 100,000 years ago. The lakes have developed into important recreational areas and tourist attractions. Within its present boundaries seven of the lakes remain. The Cape Fear River, South River and Black River assure Bladen ample water for commercial and industrial development.
Two hundred years ago rivers served as highways. During the Revolutionary War, the Cape Fear River was used to float flour, pork, beef, rice, butter, indigo, tar, pitch, turpentine, and lumber to ports in Wilmington and Fayetteville. By 1775, the manufacturing of turpentine was the principal industry. The turpentine and tar barrels were lashed together to make huge rafts which were floated down the Cape Fear River. This practice labeled North Carolina the “tar-heel” state.
Settlements sprang up all over the county. Landings on the river grew into communities. When the railroad came, it spawned still another set of communities.
When steamboats arrived on the river, local planters expanded their market opportunities. Bladen County soon boasted of fine southern plantation homes.
Because of the presence of early missionaries, several churches in the area have records of very early organization. Two historic church buildings are still standing. Brown Marsh Presbyterian Church was built in 1818 and is located in Clarkton. Carvers Creek Methodist Church, erected on the spot where Bishop Ashbury established the first Methodist Church in this area, is located south of Elizabethtown. The site was first used as the Carvers Creek Quaker Monthly Meeting House, established in 1734.
HARMONY HALL, White Oak, NC
Open each Sunday 2-4 p.m.; for other appointments call 910-866-4256.
National Register of Historic Places. West of White Oak / State Road 1351. Period of significance 1750-99
Harmony Hall, the simple but stately home of Colonel James A. Richardson was built on a 12,000 acre tract of land in Bladen County near the village of White Oak, NC. The property which is bordered on the south by the Cape Fear River, was acquired in part by a grant from King George III. It was constructed prior to 1768 and is a two-story, A-Gable form with two-story galleries. The foundation is tall in keeping with one of the building traditions of the period and has rather unusual flared ventilator holes. The foundation accommodates storage space under the house. Stairs from the second floor lead to a full attic. Inside the home, some of the walls are paneled with wide pine boards, some have chair rails and some are plastered above a paneled dado. The mantels are of the Adam design. Colonel James Richardson, an officer in the Revolutionary War, owned Harmony Hall. During the latter part of the war, Lord Cornwallis came into this part of North Carolina to make a quick march into South Carolina. He and several of his offices demanded quarters at Harmony Hall for a few weeks.
CARVERS CREEK METHODIST CHURCH, Carvers Creek, NC
Open by appointment. Call 910-669-2738 or 910-669-222 or 910-669-2972.
Carvers Creek Methodist Church is an active present-day church. It is located on the site used by Quakers as early as 1734. Circuit rider, Francis Asbury, established the Methodist church in 1790 and the present building was built in 1859. The building is 60 ft. by 40 ft. and 39 ft. from the base to the eaves. There are two aisles, original pews and siding, and a cemetery. A large slave gallery runs across one end and down two sides. The entrance to the gallery is in the front of the building. The church was built of the best area timbers. The sills are made of heart pine and the weather-boarding and floors were dressed by hand. The church is located approximately 35 miles west of Wilmington, NC and 17 miles east of Elizabethtown, NC on Highway 87.
BROWN MARSH PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, Clarkton, NC
Open by appointment. Call 910-645-4544 National Register of Historic Places
North of Clarkton on Brown Marsh Road Period of significance 1825-1849
Brown Marsh Presbyterian Church was organized prior to 1756. The first two buildings were made of logs. Until 1848 the church was also used for secular education. The present structure was built in 1818. It is a substantial frame house with hand-dressed cypress weather-boarding. The church is constructed entirely with handmadeiron nails. The building is supported by pillars made from heart pine beilieved to have been erected in 1818. There are 18 small panes in each window. The wooden shutters are attached by handmade hinges in the shape of the carpenter’s square. The pews, pulpit, wooden window closings, rough cedar siding and cedar shingle roof are original. There is a cemetery. Services are not held here and it is rarely open to the public. It is located 2 miles north of Clarkton.
“OLD” TRINITY METHODIST CHURCH, Elizabethtown, NC
Open by appointment. Call 910-862-3706 or 910-862-7209. National Register of Historic Places
East Broad Street, Elizabethtown, NC. Period of Significance 1825-1849
Trinity Methodist Church was built in 1834. It is the original structure. A slave balcony exists on three walls. In the adjacent cemetery, the oldest marked grave belongs to Mr. William Trapp,who died on August 5, 1788. Special services are still held in this facility.
PURDIE METHODIST CHURCH, Tar Heel, NC
Open by appointment. Call 910-862-8337 or 910-862-2369. National Register of Historic Places.
Purdie Methodist Church is the original structure. It has slave balconies, lath and plaster interior, louvered shutters, and a cemetery. It is used for services.
MT. HOREB PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, Council, NC
Open by appointment. Call 910-645-4334 or 910-645-4234.
Mt. Horeb Presbyterian Church is listed in the National Register of Historical Places. It originated in 1843, and the original building, built in 1845, is in use today. It has handmade pews and pulpit, original siding, and a cemetery. It is located 15 miles east of Elizabethtown on Hwy 87.
ELWELL CABLE FERRY CROSSING (on Cape Fear River), Kelly, NC or Carvers Creek, NC
Elwell Cable Ferry is a two car ferry operated daily by the NC Department of Transportation.The ferry runs between Hwy 53 in Kelly and Hwy 87 in Carvers Creek, NC.
TORY HOLE BATTLEGROUND, Battle of Elizabethtown
The Whigs broke Tory power in Bladen County in August of 1781. Fleeing Tories retreated from the Whigs attack, leaping into a ravine at the Cape Fear River. This battleground runs from the main street of Elizabethtown to the Cape Fear River. A park, exercise trail, picnic shelter, playground, and amphitheatre are on the site.
OTHER HISTORICAL SITES
BETH CAR PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, Tar Heel, NC
WINDSOR METHODIST CHURCH, Ammon, NC
HAW BLUFF BAPTIST CHURCH, 25577 Hwy 210 East, Kelly, NC 28448
OAKLAND PLANTATION, Carvers Creek, NC
MASONIC BUILDING, Ammon, NC