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Washington County, Rhode Island
Map of Rhode Island highlighting Washington County
Location in the state of Rhode Island
Map of the U.S. highlighting Rhode Island
Rhode Island's location in the U.S.
Founded 1729
Seat N/A
Largest Town South Kingstown
 - Total
 - Land
 - Water

563 sq mi (1,458 km²)
333 sq mi (862 km²)
230 sq mi (596 km²), 40.87%
 - (2010)
 - Density

382/sq mi (147.3/km²)
Congressional district 2nd

Washington County, commonly known colloquially as South County, is a county located in the southwestern part of the U.S. state of Rhode Island. Washington County borders Kent County to the north, New London County in Connecticut to the west, Suffolk County in New York to the southwest, the Atlantic Ocean to the south, and Newport County, Rhode Island, to the east. As of 2010, the population was 126,979.

Formed as King's County in 1729 from the southern portion of Providence County, its name was changed to Washington County in 1781.

Rhode Island counties, including Washington County, have no governmental functions (other than as court administrative and sheriff corrections boundaries which are part of state government).[1]


Washington County is the largest county in area in Rhode Island, and the smallest county in the US that is a state's largest county. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 563 square miles (1,458 km²), of which 333 square miles (862 km²) is land and 230 square miles (596 km²) (40.87%) is water.

Historic Downtown Westerly, Rhode Island

The county's topography ranges from flat along the shoreline to gently rolling hills further inland. The highest point is a large area approximately 560 feet (171 m) in the Exeter neighborhood of Black Plain[2]; the lowest point is sea level along the coast.

National protected areas[]

  • Block Island National Wildlife Refuge
  • John H. Chafee National Wildlife Refuge
  • Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge
  • Trustom Pond National Wildlife Refuge


The region of southern Rhode Island that encompasses modern-day Washington County was the subject of conflicting land claims by the late 1650s. The English colonies of Massachusetts Bay, Connecticut and Rhode Island as well as two different land companies claimed jurisdiction and title. In 1664 a royal commission under Charles II stepped in to adjudicate these conflicting land claims over the so-called Narragansett Country. The commission extinguished the claims of Massachusetts, and Rhode Island was granted jurisdiction until the commission finished processing Connecticut's appeals, which were not ended until 1726. Settlements of King's Province were named to reflect the English Restoration (like Charleston County, South Carolina), because King Charles II of England also finalized Rhode Island's charter.


Historical populations
Census Pop.
1790 18,323
1800 16,135 −11.9%
1810 14,962 −7.3%
1820 15,687 4.8%
1830 15,411 −1.8%
1840 14,324 −7.1%
1850 16,430 14.7%
1860 18,715 13.9%
1870 20,097 7.4%
1880 22,495 11.9%
1890 23,649 5.1%
1900 24,154 2.1%
1910 24,942 3.3%
1920 24,932 0%
1930 29,334 17.7%
1940 32,493 10.8%
1950 48,542 49.4%
1960 59,054 21.7%
1970 83,586 41.5%
1980 93,317 11.6%
1990 110,006 17.9%
2000 123,546 12.3%
2010 126,979 2.8%

As of the census[6] of 2000, there were 123,546 people, 46,907 households, and 32,037 families residing in the county. The population density was 371 people per square mile (143/km²). There were 56,816 housing units at an average density of 171 per square mile (66/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 94.82% White, 0.92% Black or African American, 0.93% Native American, 1.50% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.46% from other races, and 1.35% from two or more races. 1.44% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. 19.2% were of Italian, 18.5% Irish, 14.7% English, 6.7% French and 5.8% German ancestry according to Census 2000. 92.8% spoke English, 1.8% Spanish and 1.6% Italian as their first language.

There were 46,907 households out of which 31.80% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 55.50% were married couples living together, 9.40% had a female householder with no husband present, and 31.70% were non-families. 24.10% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.20% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.52 and the average family size was 3.01.

In the county, the population was spread out with 23.40% under the age of 18, 11.20% from 18 to 24, 28.30% from 25 to 44, 24.40% from 45 to 64, and 12.80% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females there were 94.20 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.30 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $53,103, and the median income for a family was $64,112. Males had a median income of $43,956 versus $30,659 for females. The per capita income for the county was $25,530. About 4.20% of families and 7.30% of the population were below the poverty line, including 7.40% of those under age 18 and 5.60% of those age 65 or over.

Cities, towns, and villages*[]

Map of Washington County, Rhode Island showing towns, census-designated places, and Narragansett tribal lands

  • Charlestown
    • Carolina (a village of Charlestown and Richmond)
  • Exeter
  • Hopkinton
    • Ashaway (a village of Hopkinton)
    • Hope Valley (a village of Hopkinton)
  • Narragansett
    • Galilee (a village of Narragansett)
    • Narragansett Pier (a village of Narragansett)
  • New Shoreham (coextensive with Block Island)
  • North Kingstown
    • Wickford (a village of North Kingstown)
    • Saunderstown (a village of North Kingstown)
  • Richmond
    • Carolina (a village of Charlestown and Richmond)
    • Kenyon (a village of Richmond)
    • Shannock (a village of Richmond)
    • Usquepaug (a village of Richmond)
    • Wyoming (a village of Richmond)
  • South Kingstown
    • Kingston (a village of South Kingstown)
    • Matunuck (a village of South Kingstown)
    • Peacedale (a village of South Kingstown)
    • Wakefield (a village of South Kingstown)
  • Westerly
    • Bradford (a village of Westerly)
    • Watch Hill (a village of Westerly)

*Some villages are census designated places, but Rhode Island villages have no legal existence apart from the towns in which they are located.

See also[]

  • National Register of Historic Places listings in Washington County, Rhode Island


External links[]

Coordinates: 41°23′N 71°37′W / 41.39, -71.62

This page uses content from the English language Wikipedia. The original content was at Washington County, Rhode Island. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with this Familypedia wiki, the content of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons License.