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The county was formed in 1750 from Bladen County. It was named for George Anson, Baron Anson, a British admiral, who circumnavigated the globe from 1740 to 1744, and later became First Lord of the Admiralty. Anson purchased land in the state.
Like its parent county Bladen, Anson County was originally a vast territory with indefinite northern and western boundaries. Reductions in its extent began in 1753, when the northern part of it became Rowan County. In 1762 the western part of Anson County became Mecklenburg County. In 1779 the northern part of what remained of Anson County became Montgomery County, and the part east of the Pee Dee River became Richmond County. Finally, in 1842 the western part of Anson County was combined with the southeastern part of Mecklenburg County to become Union County.