Designated “Vacant Lands” until 1709, when the Rhode Island General Assembly sold the area into private ownership, Hopkinton remained part of Westerly until 1757. It took its name from Stephen Hopkins, the governor of the state at that time. Mill towns are scattered along its river boundaries: the Wood River, shared with Richmond to the east, which flows into the Pawcatuck to bound Hopkinton from Westerly to the south. In Hopkinton another line of small mills (Rockville, Moscow, and Centerville) once existed in a crescent of minor waterways and millponds across the town's north center, with Canonchet off by itself. Almost a thousand acres to the north and west, where the land is hilly and forested, is included in the Arcadia Management Area, most of which is in adjacent Exeter. Most of Hopkinton's farms were once concentrated toward the south, where the land makes a long slope into Westerly. Here, as elsewhere in western Rhode Island after the mid-nineteenth century, steadily abandoned fields tended to revert to woods, until suburbanization eventually reversed the town's long-term population decline beginning in the 1960s.
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