Changing Landscapes People and Places in the Mill Creek Valley Lower Merion c.1870-c.1920

Vaughan Property



Lower Merion was home to many farms during the 19th century. The moderate climate, easy access to Philadelphia markets, and plentiful water supply made it an ideal location for farmers. Over the course of the century agriculture would decline, the cleared farmland gave way to a suburban landscape that remains today. The increase in mechanized methods of farming meant that the massive farms that could afford the machinery would take over the industry. Owners of small family farms would be forced to find new work elsewhere; many did so in the expanding industrial economy and development of local communities. Lower Merion was home to many affluent farmers who would have been financially stable enough to weather the falling prices of their crops as mechanization increased the supply.

Another reason Lower Merion farms would begin to decline in the late 19th and early 20th century is suburbanization. The land the farms stood upon became increasingly valuable as potential residences for large numbers of people who wanted to live in the clean countryside yet work in Philadelphia. Mill Creek would be somewhat insulated to these changes because of its wealth, and its distance from budding suburban areas such as Narberth and Ardmore. Eventually, however the movement of suburban neighborhoods would break up the formerly massive plots of land once tended by Lower Merion farmers. Farming as an individual’s sole profession in the Mill Creek Valley was not as popular as in other parts of Lower Merion. This was because many wealthy professionals settled in Mill Creek, and farming was a something they did in addition to their work as Doctors, Lawyers and businessmen. Others preferred to use the creeks energy to power mills. Gabriel’s property had a creek too small to power a mill and his property sat on a hilltop where the slope is not as steep as many parts of the valley. Gabriel’s farm and how it was operated can be reconstructed by examining the appraisement of Gabriel’s personal property, written by hand over 100 years ago.


Gabriel Vaughan: The Self Sufficient Farmer

The Changing Landscape