It was named in 1875 for William Dorsey Pender, a Confederate major general who died heroically, at the age of 29, at the Battle of Gettysburg. Pender, who was born in Edgecombe County, N.C., had no particular ties to the region, but he was a Confederate and he was a hero, and back then, that was good enough. A monument to his memory stands on the county courthouse grounds in Burgaw.
Pender County was sliced off from New Hanover County. Back then, the territory was largely Democrat, and North Carolina Democrats (who had just regained control of the state General Assembly after Reconstruction) wanted to dilute the voting clout of Republican-leaning New Hanover County. Naming the new county for a dead Confederate war hero was just another way to stick it to the Party of Lincoln.
Date posted: May 30, 2009