Bladen County


Bladen County is North Carolina’s fourth-largest county by land mass, at 877.33 square miles, and is part of the state’s Coastal Plain region. Formed out of New Hanover in 1734, Bladen has been referred to as the “Mother County” as at least part of 55 of the state’s counties were originally part of Bladen.

With an abundance of natural beauty, Bladen is home to White Lake, the “nation’s safest beach”, which is known for its crystal clear water, white sand floor, and no undercurrents, slopes, or dangerous marine life to guard against. At one time, 1,000 lakes existed in the county. Bladen boasts more bays than any other county in North Carolina and is home to three major rivers, including the Cape Fear. Additionally, the county has two state parks – Jones and Singletary Lakes – as well as Bladen Lakes State Forest which is the largest state-owned forest in North Carolina.

Bladen’s economy has been driven predominantly by agriculture and textile manufacturing. Historically, the natural waterways within the county allowed Bladen to be an early and leading exporter of swine, tobacco, blueberries, peanuts, and cotton. Located in Tar Heel, Smithfield Foods is consistently ranked as one of the largest meatpacking plants in the United States and, in 2000 was ranked the largest meatpacking plant in the world. Smithfield Foods is also the county’s largest employer, followed by Gildan Yarns in Clarkton.

Dublin is often referred to as the “peanut capital of North Carolina” thanks to Houston’s Peanuts (a Differentiator client gift from time to time.) In 1992, the town organized a peanut festival to raise money to build the elementary school a gymnasium. Since then, the initial fundraising festival has become an annual attraction drawing attendance from all over the state.

Like many Eastern North Carolina counties, Bladen was once reliably Democratic but has shifted over the past decade. Since 2012, Democratic voter registrations have dropped more than 25 points, while GOP registrations have increased and Unaffiliated voters are up 14 percent.

The 2018 absentee ballot controversy in Bladen County ultimately resulted in the State Board of Elections invalidating the election results in the 9th Congressional District race between Republican Mark Harris and Democrat Dan McCready.


County Seat: Elizabethtown
Biggest Cities:

Elizabethtown, Bladnboro, White Lake, Clarkton

Media Market: Wilmington

Elected Officials

County Data