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Northeast Historical Archaeology

Abstract

This paper uses data from a colonial-period maritime household site to expand understanding of the economic and subsistence practices of fisherman-farmer families. The site is the 1777 homestead of Ebenezer Story on the eastern bank of the Thames River in Preston, Connecticut, about 12 miles from Long Island Sound. Like many New England Yankees, Story had a diverse household economy: he practiced subsistence farming, fished and shellfished, and owned a saltworks, boats, and cider mill in common with his family. During the Revolutionary War, Story leased part of his land for the construction of the Continental frigate Confederacy, and he opened a tavern in his home to serve the shipyard workers, two opportunities that proved lucrative. Story’s descendants continued as fishermen-farmers for several generations, adapting to changes in fish and shellfish availability and to new markets, until a maritime-oriented life was no longer tenable. The combined archaeological and documentary data from the Story site permit an unusually close look at the daily lives of a southern New England riverine-maritime family over time, illuminating poorly understood social and economic aspects of Yankee lifeways.

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