Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Faculty of Arts

First Advisor

Cynthia Comacchio

Advisor Role

Dissertation Supervisor


This study considers the industrial development and subsequent decline of the town of Indiana, Ontario, during the years 1830–1900, a period of intense socioeconomic change and population mobility. This dissertation applies interdisciplinary frameworks, especially those derived from archaeological inquiry, in order to assess the documentary evidence and also the material culture of nineteenth-century Indiana, in the interests of understanding both the historic process of rural industrialization by means of a case study and also the elusive processes of social and familial interaction in the Ontario towns caught up by the swirl of socioeconomic change during this period. How, and why, did a town of such promise reach its peak and then decline, in a short span of time between 1830 and 1900, especially when it was so well-positioned to succeed? Why did Indiana fail when other towns of the district succeeded?

Residents of what was, until the 1860s, the largest industrial town in Haldimand County, sustained complex relationships and alliances with employers, employees, family members, and the wider community, shaped by, and in turn affecting, the relations of class, gender, race, family, and age. Life in nineteenth century Ontario was based on these ever-widening and interrelated circles of membership and relationship. There were families that stayed together whenever possible for economic and social reasons, but there were also affiliations based on patron-client relationships, religion or race, as well as the less obvious connections with home and landscape. The Thompson family, headed in turn by David Thompson and his son David Thompson II, owned numerous businesses in Indiana and consequently were involved in many of these circles of relationship as these developed through the process of growth and expansion that, for several decades, characterized this town. This study of Indiana suggests that rural industrialization, as a larger transformative process in nineteenth-century Ontario, frequently entailed rapid growth followed by stasis, and, not infrequently, as Indiana’s case demonstrates, decline and disappearance. The data, both textual and artifactual, also support the notion of a fairly representative social hierarchy in the town, based on class and status as defined by occupation, personal wealth, and familial and community standing—all in relation to the male family head—but also delineated by race, religion, gender, age and country of origin.

Convocation Year