Wake County was carved largely out of Orange County in 1771 with a bit from Johnston and Cumberland. It was created by Governor Tryon as part of an effort to quell the Regulators that were active in Orange and Rowan. Because people congregated during court week it gave opportunity to talk and plot. Governor Tryon used the creation of Wake County to divide Orange County, making it more difficult to gather in one location. The official reason, however, was to reduce distances to court and make attendance at court more convenient. In all, four counties were created to divide the Regulators and silence their discussions: Guilford, Chatham, Surry and Wake. Source: History of Wake County, North Carolina
Wake County was named for Margaret Wake, wife of Governor William Tryon. The first courthouse was built at a place called Wake Courthouse, commonly known as Bloomsbury.
The Fendol Bevers 1871 map of Wake County was created from actual surveys by Fendol Bevers, County Surveyor and is a great resource. It can be viewed at the University of North Carolina website: http://dc.lib.unc.edu/cdm4/item_viewer.php?CISOROOT=/ncmaps&CISOPTR=241&CISOBOX=1&REC=1.
Granville County on the north, Franklin County to the northeast, Nash County on the east, Johnston County to the southeast, Harnett County to the southwest, Chatham County to the west and Durham County on the northwest.
NOTE: The US Federal Census of 1810 and 1820 for Wake County are not extant.