History of the Town of Enfield


(Main St., Enfield, ca 1915-1930; photo from UNC Library Digital Collections)


Enfield is the oldest town in Halifax County. The area was settled prior to 1725; however, the town was not founded until 1740. According to one of many stories on how Enfield got its name, the original name was Huckleberry Swamp, probably due to the low swampland and the many huckleberry bushes which grew in the area. No one really knows how Enfield got its name though some stories say that it was named for Enfield, England, after the custom of the day to name colonial towns after villages back in England. Other stories say it was named for an inn which was located in a field on the stageline which passed north and south, thus the name "Inn-field." Some say it was named for a tract of land known as the "Enfield Tract" on which the town was built. However, no one knows how the tract of land got its name. Another version was that two men were walking across a field and when they came to the end, one man said, "We are at the 'end of the field.'" It was at this spot that the town grew up and the name Enfield was born.

The economy of Enfield stagnated until, in 1896, when the opening of the Enfield Tobacco Market brought a glimmer of prosperity to this small town of 700 people. As the tobacco market grew, new businesses were established along with the Bank of Enfield, the oldest bank in Halifax County. Over the years the Enfield Tobacco Market gave way to markets in Rocky Mount and other areas. Peanuts, however, soon became the leading agricultural market in Enfield. The establishment of many buying and cleaning stations for peanuts soon made Enfield the world's largest raw peanut market.

An event in Enfield's history which probably helped to spark American independence was the "Enfield Riot," one of the earliest political actionsagainst British tyranny. In January, 1759, a group of backwoodsmen seizedLord Granville's land saint, Francis Corbin, in Edenton and brought him to Enfield. There they forced Corbin to give bond to return illegal fees which had been collected. On May 14, 1759, a group of citizens in Enfield expressed the same sentiments against British tyranny. Several of the "rioters" were arrested and jailed. However, they were soon released when a irate group of citizens, broke into jail and freed them. It is thought that the actions of these men probably encouraged Willie Jones and the other radical leaders of North Carolina to push for independence from England through the Halifax Resolves of April 12, 1776.

Before the establishment of Halifax County, Enfield was the county seat of Edgecombe County. It was also the site of the district court of Edgecombe, Granville, and North Hampton Counties. Enfield remained the seat of Edgecombe court until 1758, when Halifax County was formed and the town of Halifax was established. Enfield continued as the temporary seat of the Halifax County court until arrangements could be made to provide a court building in Halifax.

Several political leaders have come from Enfield including a governor "John Branch", three Chief Justices of the N.C. Supreme Court: "Joseph Branch, M. Victor Barnhill, and R. Hunt Parker", a Comptroller of North Carolina "James Grant", and a African-American Republican Congressman "James Edward O'Hara".

Though the story of Enfield's past has faded into the pages of history, the strength of the town comes from its people through which the courage, faith, determination, and spirit of its pioneer builders have been handed down from generation to generation.

(Source: The Town of Enfield)




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