Tim Brosnihan

Date of Award


Level of Access Assigned by Author

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Alaric Faulkner

Second Committee Member

Richard Judd

Third Committee Member

Stephen Hornsby


During the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries, a series of interrelated changes, often considered collectively as the "Market Revolution," moved New England farming communities from a state of tightly-knit, regional self-sufficiency towards a more market-oriented system of agriculture. This thesis, which explores the development of a single central-Massachusetts farm between 1760 and 1840, investigates the impact of these changes on agricultural land use. Using documentary sources incuding deeds, tax records and farm accounts as well as data gleaned from an archaeological survey of extant surface features, a snapshot of agricultural land use is presented for two key phases in the farm's development. The first, which runs from about 1760 through 1800, coincides with the farm's management by the Stephen Waters household. During this period, a forested landscape was converted into a farm supporting the type of mixed husbandry common across New England. The second, which runs from about 1800-1840, coincides with the farm's management by the John Waters household. While mixed husbandry remained the rule during these decades, and the Waters' agricultural landscape remained remarkably diverse, the balance shifted considerably, particularly in the 1820s and 1830s. Wooded land shrank as new markets for sawn lumber and charcoal spurred more intensive exploitation of timber. Orchards, by contrast, grew markedly, as the Waters took advantage of a growing regional demand for fresh fruit in the rapidly industrializing Blackstone River Valley. While focused on the evolution of a single farm, this thesis speaks to a larger process of agricultural specialization which unfolded as developing markets increasingly shaped choices made by individual New England farmers during the early-nineteenth century.

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