On November 21, 1757, the town of Halifax was established by the colonial legislature, which was meeting in New Bern. The act called for the establishment of a town on the lands of James Leslie on the Roanoke River. The new town was named Halifax, in honor of George Montagu, the second Earl of Halifax.
The site for the town is just south of the Virginia border and at the intersection of major north-south and east-west roads, with falls and rapids just upriver. The positioning made Halifax the head of river navigation, and quickly enabled it as a trading center and river port for goods moving between the backcountry, the plantations and Virginia.
The original plan called for 120 half-acre lots to be laid out on a grid about a four-acre market area. The buyer of each lot was required to build a house of certain size within three years. Within a year, the town and its area prospered enough that a new county, Halifax, was created with the village as its county seat.
Today the Historic Halifax State Historic Site encompasses many of the original town lots.