Halifax Historic District: The Importance

The River and the Valley

Settlement of the Roanoke River Valley began in the early 1700s when English colonists moved south from Virginia. The valley’s fertile bottomlands were ideal for farming, and a plantation system gradually developed. Wealthy planters used slave labor to grow wheat, corn, peas, tobacco, and other staple crops for markets outside of North Carolina. The Roanoke River provided access to the Albemarle Sound and ocean-going seaports such as Edenton.

Halifax was founded in 1757 at the instigation of several merchants who desired to take advantage of the commercial possibilities afforded by the nearby Roanoke River. Settlement of the town was delayed somewhat by a smallpox epidemic in 1758, a condition which unfortunately would crop up again and again during the long history of the town. Afterwards, the town of Halifax was settled in 1760 as the county seat of Halifax County (1759). This new town was at a major crossroads between North-South trading paths between the American colonies and West-East trading paths between the coast and the interior of the state. With this advantage, the small town quickly became a major trading center and river port for good moving between the backcountry, the plantations, and Virginia.