•  
  •  
 

Northeast Historical Archaeology

Abstract

By the beginning of the 19th century the Methodist movement had gained so many converts in the state of Delaware that Francis Asbury had likened it to the coming of the New Millenium. The growth of Methodism I the state was a powerful social force in rural 19th-century Delaware. Guidlines and behavioral rules were published annually in a series entitled the Discipline. The Methodist Discipline provides a contextual backdrop for understanding 19th-century farming families. This case study examines the Methodist farmer George W. Buchanan and his family who in the mid-part of the century established a farmstead in southern New Castle County. The Buchanan farm prospered until a dispute over a fence resulted in the death of a neighbor at Buchanan's hands. In the six years following the murder trial, the Buchanan family suffered a string of deaths that took every member of the household over the age of 10. The once successful Buchanan farm was broken up, leaving Buchanan's surviving sons a small plot of land only a tenth the size of their father's farm. This paper attempts to connect the archaeological and historical information with contextual bridges in order to piece together the circumstances of the failure of the Buchanan farm. The story behind the Buchanan farmstead has demostrated that social factors, rather than agricultural practice, determined the origin and eventual end of this farm. This interpretation carries with it implications for future research into the people who operated 19th-century farms.

Share

COinS