It is very exciting to have entered the second state of my journey, North Carolina. North Carolina has a lot of history, some of which I know and some of which I hope to uncover for both of us in the month or so to come. It's nice to be here.
I began my journey into the Tar Heel State by visiting the tiny town of Halifax, and more specifically Halifax State Historic Site. This seemed like an appropriate place to start my travels in the state, not just geographically, but because of the history of the area. It was in Halifax, on April 12th, 1776 that the underground, non-British, Fourth Provincial Congress met and passed what became known as the Halifax Resolves. The Halifax Resolves essentially authorized North Carolina's delegates to the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia to vote for independence for the colonies. This is cited as the first official action taken by a colony calling for independence from Great Britain. It should not go unrecognized that because the delegates who met there were, at the time, British colonials, that this was also an act of treason which was punishable by death. The date is of great importance to the state, so much so that they have emblazoned it on their state flag.
I began my visit at the Visitor Center which had a wonderful, small museum which featured displays not only on the Halifax Resolves, but also on the local economy, the native people of the area, colonial construction and the historic slave population. Because Halifax is on the Roanoke River, there was a transportation link to the outside world, so in colonial times there were many cotton and tobacco plantations in the area and it had one of the higher populations of slaves in the region. The museum also featured a short film which gave the history of the area, but was a little bit dry.
After the Visitor Center, I set out into the site and visited the Eagle Tavern and the old jail. The Eagle Tavern featured some displays on the history of taverns in colonial times which I found particularly interesting. If I had been making this trip back then, I undoubtedly would have stayed in taverns along the way which provided beds, meals, stables, and of course libation. The jail I hopefully would have avoided, but I enjoyed having a quick peak in the cells. The courthouse in which the Halifax Resolves were passed no longer exists, but there is a nice plaque to it near the jail.
After these self-guided stops, I joined a guided tour provided by one of Halifax's interpretive rangers. He took us through the "Tap Room" - a recreated tavern, the court clerk's office which included a recreated print-shop, an old home and an archaeological site. The tour was very informative about the area at the time, and I liked that some of it was hands-on. I got to pull the lever on the printing press and make a small print and try my hand at the table-bowling which was set up in the tavern. I'm a tactile person so I much prefer being able to touch things than just to look at them from behind a rope. I know that this is unrealistic in places that get millions of visitors, but it was a really nice aspect of my time in Halifax. I should note that our tour was a little bit of a mash-up of several tours they normally offer throughout the day. Since the area had gotten a lot of snow(!!!) recently, the ground was soft so some of the normal sites were inaccessible.
In short, I really enjoyed my time in Halifax. I learned not only about the Halifax Resolves, but also a lot about the colonial history of the area and about travelling in the area in those days. The staff was very knowledgeable and enthusiastic and I loved being able to pick up and look more closely at some of the pieces on display. And best of all, it was free. If this is any indicator of what's in store as I visit other historic sites around the state, I'm very excited. It should be noted that there don't seem to be any lodging options in this tiny town of just over two hundred, and only one restaurant which was closed when I visited. Halifax is, however, only 15 minutes or so from Roanoke Rapids which has all the amenities you could need. If you are travelling down Interstate 95, Halifax would be a great little diversion. It was a wonderful place to start my North Carolina adventure and I'm sure you would enjoy it as well.