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How and when did Atkinson get its name?

Ben Steelman

According to The North Carolina Gazetteer, this western Pender County community was named for the engineer who helped complete the railroad line through the community. That would have been Roger P. Atkinson, chief engineer of the Cape Fear and Yadkin Valley Railway, a line from Wilminton to Fayetteville and points west, which was absorbed by the Wilmintgton & Weldon Railroad (later the Atlantic Coast Line) in 1894. Railroad tracks still cross Atkinson’s Main Street.

Atkinson essentially began as a country railroad stop. The first station was constructed in 1882, and the community was laid out some years later — some sources say in 1883, others in 1890 — on land belonging to W.H. Lewis, the local railroad agent, who later became the first mayor. In fact, the new settlement was apparently known as “Lewis” at first. The Atkinson name, however, had taken over by the time the town was incorporated in 1909. As the questioner noted, the town will mark its centennial in 2009.

In the automotive age, Atkinson stands at the intersection of N.C. 53 and N.C. 11. Its landmarks include the 1929 Atkinson School building and the wooden Halfway Branch School building. The surrounding land is a center for blueberry growing. According to local historian Glen Jenkins, Atkinson [Map this]’s old Atlantic Coast Line depot still stands on the Jim Eakins farm, two miles north of town, where it was moved.

User-contributed question by:
Bill Barnhill

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