Waterpower was key to the Head’s development in the 1700’s and to its involvement in the whaling industry. The river, which dropped nearly 40 feet just before the Head, provided consistent and abundant energy to power mills. George Lawton, one of the first to exploit this natural phenomenon, built a saw and grist mill north of the Head on Gifford Road in the mid 18th century.

The Head of Westport also played a significant role in supporting the center of the whaling industry, New Bedford. In 1795, William Rotch Jr. of New Bedford purchased a portion of land and mills north of Forge Road which he used to provide metal, wood and grain for his whaling empire.