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The Roots of Penderlea by Ann S. Cottle

The Roots of Penderlea
A Memory of a New Deal Homestead Community
Ann S. Cottle


The Publishing Laboratory of UNC Wilmington
$19.95 paperback
6 x 9
100 pages
Published in 2008
Coastal, History, North Carolina

The northwestern Pender County community of Penderlea, in the rich, low-lying farmlands of southeastern North Carolina, has many years of history connected to it. But few people are aware of the importance of this quiet agricultural community that at one time encompassed nearly ten thousand acres of swamp and savanna land, and was transformed by ingenuity, labor, and investment into productive farms and homesteads at the height of America’s Great Depression.

Penderlea was the first farm colony established under the United States Department of the Interior’s Division of Subsistence Homesteads in 1933. The homestead project was designed to provide employment for thousands of out-of-work men and, upon completion, was also intended to provide modern new homes and land to tenant or part-time farmers who were trying to eke out a living from worn-out soil.

The homesteaders who settled the project were a special group of people. Each family was handpicked by the federal government. The uniqueness of the plan contributed greatly to the success of the colony, but behind the success is hidden the reality that, in many ways, other citizens were excluded. Only those who fit the criteria of  being poor white Protestant families who at some time in their lives had farmed for a living were chosen. This book is their story.


“What did Franklin Delanor Roosevelt's New Deal mean at a personal level? The Roots of Penderlea: A Memory of a New Deal Homestead Community seeks to answer that question. Cottle grew up on one of these agricultural colonies and recounts her life and times on one of these places and the heartbreak and triumph that occurred there. A personal look at what dragged America out of the Great Depression, The Roots of Penderlea is recommended for a memoir of a time rarely recounted.”
Midwest Book Review