town (township), Washington county, southwestern Rhode Island, U.S. It lies along the Pawcatuck River across from Pawcatuck, Connecticut. The state's westernmost town-hence the name-it includes the villages of Westerly, Bradford, White Rock, and Potter Hill and the resorts of Weekapaug, Misquamicut, and Watch Hill. In 1648 the first permanent European settlers arrived; newcomers from a land company in Newport came in 1661, and the town was incorporated in 1669. Westerly was a shipbuilding centre from its early days until the 19th century. Before the War of 1812, Oliver Hazard Perry, the American naval hero, built gunboats there for the government. The present economy depends on tourism, the manufacture of textiles, and granite quarrying. A U.S. Coast Guard lighthouse is at Watch Hill. Woody Hill Management Area (for sustained forest growth) is in eastern Westerly. Area 30 square miles (78 square km). Pop. (1990) 21,605; (2000) 22,966.
Learn more about Westerly with a free trial on Britannica.com.