The citizens of Halifax constructed three jails between 1759 and 1838. The first two stood near this spot. The North Carolina General Assembly ordered the construction of the first jail, along with the stocks and a pillory, for the "detention and punishment of offenders" in the newly created Halifax district. In 1762, five inmates set fire to the jail, burned it to the ground, and escaped.
In 1764, the assembly passed as act to replace the first jail.
Whereas, the gaol formerly erected for the District of Halifax was lately burned down and there being no place of sufficient strength to secure the many felons and other misdoers in that district by which means numbers of loose and disorderly person are daily committing the most atrocious crimes and impunity?
By the end of the year, a new jail had been completed which remained until 1836. It held not only common criminals, but also prisoners of war during the Amercan Revolution, including Tories captured at the Battle of Moore's Creek Bridge in 1776 and other Loyalists during the war. Despite, or perhaps because of, its heavy use during the Revolution, the jail fell into disrepair.
This deterioration continued until 1836 when, like its predecessor, inmates set it aflame. The culprits escaped, but were soon caught. At least one other prisoner died in the fire. This is the third jail, which was constructed in 1838, and designed to be fireproof.