Onslow County


Located in Southeastern North Carolina, Onslow County was first formed in 1734 from New Hanover County. The county gets its name from Arthur Onslow, longtime speaker of the British House of Commons.

The county provided tremendous value to the state because while it had access to the ocean, it also had access to the New and White Oak Rivers. At the time, the Cape Fear River was the best and most traded in North Carolina. Because of their size, the New and White Oak Rivers also proved to be valuable for transporting goods.

In spite of its abundance of waterways, Onslow’s economy grew slowly until the mid-20th Century with the establishment of Camp Lejeune. Formed in 1942, the Marine Corps base found its home in Jacksonville due to the affordability of the land and the access to water. The first African Americans and women to join the Marines were trained at Lejeune and the base proved critical in training during World War II and Vietnam. To date, Lejeune remains one of the largest bases in the country, comprising over 156,000 acres with more than 43,000 marines and sailors stationed there.

Between 1946 and 1948, Camp Davis was used by the U.S. Navy for Operation Bumblebee, a covert operation testing rockets. In 1947, the Navy built a range of structures and towers on Topsail Island to assemble the missiles and house the project. Between 1946 and 1948, over 200 missiles were fired and tested there. Operation Bumblebee, named for the laws of aviation that say a bee shouldn’t be able to fly (a belief also held of rockets at the time), provided valuable intelligence for the American space program.

Lejeune continues to be a critical piece of Onslow County’s economy, along with its beaches and annual tourism. If you’re passing through Jacksonville, you might try Senator Lazzara’s Pizza and Subs.

Politically, though the proportion of Unaffiliated voters in Onslow County has increased by 10% over the past decade, the county remains a Republican stronghold. In 2022, statewide candidates averaged 68.5% of the vote – an improvement over 2020 by about three points.


County Seat: Jacksonville
Biggest Cities:
  • Jacksonville
  • Piney Green
  • Half Moon
  • Swansboro
  • Holly Ridge
  • Sneads Ferry
  • North Topsail Beach
Media Market: Greenville/New Bern

Elected Officials

County Data