What's in a Name: Penderlea - WECT TV6-WECT.com:News, weather & sports Wilmington, NC


What's in a Name: Penderlea

Reported by Colin Hackman - bio|email
Posted by Debra Worley - email

PENDER COUNTY, NC (WECT) - People say history repeats itself, and for a place in Pender County that saying may ring true.

The community of just under 500 people, known as Penderlea, rests along Highway 11 in the northern part of Pender County. 

It's a place that has fewer people than fields, and is even named after two fields: battlefield and a meadow.

The Pender in Penderlea and Pender County get their name from Major General William Dorsey Pender. 

At 29, Pender was Robert E. Lee's youngest Major General in the confederacy. 

A veteran of many battles, the decorated war hero's career ended at Gettysburg when an artillery shell took his leg, and later his life. 

In honor of the war hero the town adopted his name: Pender.  But, according to Jimbo Robbins the "lea" is another story.

"The lea part is a Leah," said Robbins.   "L-E-A-H, is an Anglo-Saxon word for open grounds."

Robbins has lived in Penderlea his whole life, and helps run the Penderlea Homestead Museum.

He says the area was created out of a financial crisis, much like today's. 

"President Roosevelt's New Deal program was very similar to President Obama's now to get the country back on it's feet following very critical economic times," said Robbins.

The New Deal Plan was called the Resettlement Act, one of Eleanor Roosevelt's pet causes. It spawned 200 towns like Penderlea. 

In Penderlea it created some 40 homesteads where residents were given land to work, and an opportunity to buy out their homes. 

In fact the first lady Eleanor Roosevelt visited Penderlea in 1937. Robbins' grandfather met her, as did most of the town. 

It's also when one of the best stories to come out of Penderlea occurred.

Eleanor Roosevelt wasn't the best looking first lady, and legend has it the town drunk had one too many on the morning of her visit. 

"He [the town drunk] went up to her and said, 'Ma'am, you're the ugliest woman I've ever seen,'" said Robbins. "'Sir, you are drunk,' replied the First Lady.  And he said, 'Well at least I'll be sober in the morning."'

If you'd like to learn more about why a certain place is called what it is, email Colin at whatsinaname@wect.com.


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