A common question from those visiting or new to Rhode Island is "What (or where) is South County?" While not technically the official name of one of Rhode Island's five counties, "South County" has been a popular nickname for the state's southern region since the mid-nineteenth century. Indeed, perhaps the earliest written usage of this nickname was from the 1767 written testimony of Levi Whipple, which reads in part, "he was the man that caused the tax to be taken off from the South County, and put upon Providence County."
However, South County's boundaries remain elusive. As noted by writer Betty Cotter in the book "Simply South County," many South County natives believe is it "not a place as much as a state of mind." She continues, "South County cannot be measured by metes, bounds or government edict."
As illustrated in Whipple's written testimony, historically "South County" has sometimes referred to Washington County, the formal name of Rhode Island's southernmost county (originally called "King's County"). Indeed, in 1926, artist Sydney Burleigh entitled his map of the area "Map of Washington or the Old South County of Rhode Island: Once the King's Province."
At the South County History Center, we choose to follow this definition of South County, and thus our collections reflect the geographic boundaries of Washington County, including the towns of Charlestown, Exeter, Hopkinton, Narragansett, New Shoreham, North Kingstown, Richmond, South Kingstown and Westerly. Also within this area are many smaller villages and communities, such as Carolina, Kingston, Matunuck, Peace Dale, Point Judith, Saunderstown, Usquepaug and Wakefield among many others.