Galilee and Point Judith
The history of Galilee and Point Judith has always been tied to the Point Judith Pond and the Breachway that joins it to the sea. In the eighteenth century, the area around Point Judith Pond was inhabited primarily by farmers who used the Breachway to transport crops to markets in Providence, Newport, Boston and New London. In the nineteenth century, a thriving fishing industry also developed. Area farmers often supplemented their income by fishing for bass and alewife, or digging oysters.
As traffic between the busy ports along the east coast increased in the nineteenth century, many ships were wrecked during storms along the rocky coast of Point Judith. In 1806, a wooden lighthouse was constructed on Point Judith to aid navigation. That structure, destroyed in the Great Gale of 1815, was replaced with a existing stone lighthouse in 1816.
In the early 1900's, a series of construction projects allowed Point Judith's Port of Galilee to become one of the largest fishing ports on the east coast. First, the Town of South Kingstown and the State of Rhode Island dredged the current breachway and stabilized it with stone jetties. Then, the Army Corps of Engineers constructed nearly three miles of of stone breakwaters in open ocean to create the Point Judith Harbor of Refuge. Originally constructed to provide a refuge for ships traveling between Boston and New York during bad weather, the breakwaters also protected the Breachway from the full force of the sea.
Finally, in the 1930's, the State of Rhode Island dredged an anchorage basin just inside the breachway and built wharves to provide the Village of Galilee with a harbor for large, ocean-going fishing vessels. Many of these diesel powered trawlers are capable of traveling hundreds of miles to fishing grounds in Georges Bank. Each year, more than ten million pounds of fish and shellfish are process in Galilee and trucked to markets along the east coast.
During World War II, Point Judith became a key installation in the country's shore defense network. Huge sixteen inch guns were located in the area now known as Fisherman's Memorial State Park to protect the west side of Narragansett Bay. Smaller fortifications were located along the shore line. Some of these installations, now abandon, can still be found along the shoreline.
Today, Point Judith is home to shops, beaches, charter fishing boats, a fleet of commercial fishing and lobster boats and, of course, seafood restaurants.