Washington County, Rhode Island
South Kingston is the shire town. This is a maritime county situated in the southwestern section of the state; bounded on the north by Kent county, on the east by Narraganset bay, on the south by the Atlantic ocean, and on the west by the state of Connecticut. The average length of the county, from east to west, is about 20 miles, and it has a mean breadth of more than 18 miles, comprising about 367 square miles. The geological character of this county is primitive; the rocks consist of granite and other original formations. The surface is generally diversified with moderate hills and narrow dales; there are, however, some considerable eminences in the northwest section of the county, and some flats of considerable extent in the south section bordering upon the Atlantic. The prevailing soil is a primitive gravelly loam, strong and fertile; there are some considerable tracts of sandy loam, and some of alluvial. A considerable section of this county was formerly called the Narraganset country, and was celebrated for an excellent breed of pacing horses; the other section was called the Shannock country, and was equally distinguished for a valuable breed of neat cattle. This county still maintains a high reputation as a grazing district, and affords many extensive and valuable dairies. But the agricultural interests are not confined exclusively to the objects of the grazing business; in some sections of the county considerable attention is paid to the cultivation of grain, particularly Indian corn and barley; some rye is also raised. The inhabitants are distinguished for their habits of industry and frugality, and in general enjoy their necessary results, health and competence.
The waters of the county are extensive and important, possessing a maritime border upon the Atlantic ocean and the Narraganset bay of more than 50 miles extent. There are, however, but 2 or 3 harbors; the principal of which is Wickford, in the northeastern section of the county; the next most important is the Pawcatuck. The principal interior waters of the county are embodied in the Pawcatuck river, which forms part of the western boundary of the state. The principal branches of the Pawcatuck are the Wood and Charles rivers; which, with their tributary streams, water a large portion of the western section of the county, and afford numerous sites for mills, and other hydraulic works.
There are, in the county, several salt and fresh water ponds, which are well supplied with fish.
The fisheries of the county are extensive and valuable, affording employment to considerable industry, which is usually well rewarded. The fish taken not only supply the home consumption, but constitute an atricle of exportation.
Although the commercial business carried on within the county is not very considerable, yet its maritime situation has had its natural influence upon the habits of the people; a considerable portion of whom are employed in seafaring business.
The manufacturing interests of the county are considerable, and consist principally of the woolen and cotton manufactures, and the business of ship building. Besides these, there is considerable mechanical industry in the other departments of mechanical business.
In 1837, there were 81,619 sheep in the county. Population, in 1800, 16,135; 1810, 14,963; in 1820, 15,687; 1830, 15,411. Population to a square mile, 42. From this statement of the population, it appears that this county must have suffered greatly by emigration.