Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Historical Archaeology

First Advisor

John Steinberg

Second Advisor

Stephen Mrozowski

Third Advisor

James Garman


Little Compton, Rhode Island has long been considered a stable, isolated and rural location relative to surrounding towns and cities. A geophysical and archaeological examination in the front yards of the Wilbor house and Brownell farm was undertaken in order to gain a better understanding about how residents of the town maintained stable, rural lifeways during the period of industrialization and urbanization that characterized the rest of the state in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The results from these examinations revealed that there was a distinct lack of features and landscaping changes in the archaeological record in the front yards of these two farmsteads. An examination of historical and genealogical documents coupled with the above data revealed that family structure played an important role in the everyday lives of residents in Little Compton, as it does in many agricultural communities. As many archaeologists have demonstrated in the past, changes in the household are often identifiable in the archaeological record. The current research in this essay demonstrates that the longevity of a single family on a single site coupled with the fact that households changed very infrequently is a likely reason for the lack of landscaping changes present at both the Wilbor house and Brownell farm. Furthermore, this family continuity on the land is most likely part of larger trends in the town that have contributed to its stability over the past 300 years. These include: the initial settlement processes, maintenance of agricultural practices, stable population influx and outmigration, reification of rural idealism in the midst of an industrializing world, and modern conservation efforts.