History of Pender
The first explorers to see what is now called Pender County coasted on-shore in 1524. They reported on the numerous varieties of game, particularly wild turkeys, found in the area. A century later in 1663, the Barbados commissioners, in attempting to settle the Lower Cape Fear, explored the northeast branch of the Cape Fear River. The Commissioners named the community “Rocky Point”, the name which it retains today.
Although settled by 1725, the county itself was not formed from New Hanover until 150 years later. While the Moores opened up the area to the south at New Brunswick, the Lord Proprietors laid out a tract to the north for Welsh settlers. They came seeking good bottom land and tidal river transportation. Brisk commercial success followed and large plantations were built during this period of prosperity.
The people of Pender were ardent patriots during the Revolution and it was here, at Moore’s Creek, that they defeated the Scottish Highlanders sent from Fayetteville by Flora McDonald, the Scottish heroine.
In the War Between The States, this area sent nearly 4,000 troops to battle and gave the Confederacy its youngest general, William D. Pender, for whom the county was named.
Still a part of New Hanover after the war, Pender’s prosperous plantation system was swept away during the Reconstruction years. However, it was out of Reconstruction politics that the county was born in 1875. Wilmington, overrun with carpetbaggers, was under corrupt rule. By popular vote, and despite strong Republican opposition, the county was created with the City of Watha as the first county seat. Burgaw, the present county seat was chartered in 1879 and received its name from a local tribe of Indians.