The Lower Creek Road Site represents a mid-19th century rural farmstead in the Town of Dryden, Tompkins County New York. The site represents a household in transition. During their time at the site, Casper Miller and his Wife Deborah grew from middle age to 60 and 70 years old and ultimately passing away during the 1860s and 1870s. Their children also grew up, moved away, and in some cases moved back with their own families. The household cycle was an ever present example of transition that affected the household’s practices.
Based on the artifacts, the household reached a peak in the 1850s. This was a period of transition not just for the Miller family, but society and economics in the United States. The rise of industrialism and westward expansion meant the role of a New York farmer went from primarily a local level to having to address national economic trends. Previously most farmers could produce goods for their family and the locally economy based on trade with occasional trade with larger urban markets. However, with the United States acquiring new territories, farmers competed with each other economically not just within a town, county, or state, but across the nation to meet the demands of the rising industrial and urban centers. New York farmers had to transition their production methods and crops to meet these demands. The Millers focused their investment in producing certain livestock and crops, specifically swine, to meet the demands and gain surplus cash. Evidence of early forms of threshing suggests that their adoption of farming technology may have been limited. By picking specific crops, the Millers attempted to meet market demand and improve their economic status.
Material culture also was changing during the mid 19th century. With mass production decreasing the expense of goods, not only did materials and items change, but the social rules attached to them did as well. Etiquette transformed to require people to purchase enough goods to provide individuals with variations of the same item. It became expected that each individual dining at a table would have their own individualized table setting. Styles and design separated table settings so that people had to purchase sets rather than piece settings together to show their socio-economic position. Consumerism changed from self-production or individualized craft production to mass production leading to consumer culture.
Environmentally, the surge of agriculture in Upstate New York altered the state’s landscape. Forests were cut for timber and replaced with agricultural and grazing fields. Pollen analysis conducted at the site showed that the Miller’s farmstead existed in this changing environment. When Casper Miller purchased the land that made up his farm, he probably clear cut the forests to make open fields for grazing and growing crops. With the Miller’s loss of the property, the land started to transition back to forest. It was a trend present across New York State.
It is in these transitions where the Miller household existed. Their farmstead was a nexus between production and consumption; it was where older practices in farming, sanitation, and consumption were meeting new practices brought in by the consumer society based in the industrialized cities. The Millers had to strategize how their farm production and their buying habits to meet the demands of a world in transition.