"There has been too much emphasis on the rhetoric of failure," Kruczek-Aaron said.
"I see the archaeology as an avenue to explain how grantees sought to overcome obstacles. Questions we're looking to answer are: How did they organize the farms? Were they engaged in any household production strategies? What were their consumption strategies? What kind of dishes did they eat off of?"
The questions dig deeper toward the history of race relations as America struggled with slavery.
Before reaching Lot 84 in Timbucto, the road crosses the Henry Dickson lot, forming part of what Kruczek-Aaron calls the Bear Cub Road cluster.
"Most of these grantees were from Troy," she said, cranking the steering wheel with two hands.
Researching county records, the Potsdam class found entire blocks of 40-acre lots appear to have been given away according to grantees' county of origin.
Kruczek-Aaron thinks Smith's attempt was to group families from the same region.
Lot 84 was marked the "Epps Lot," granted to Lyman Epps, the longest-inhabited parcel of Gerrit Smith's Timbucto.
Epps was a respected and historic figure in North Elba his entire life and lived on lot 84 for 25 years.
He later had the road built.
Kruczek-Aaron produced state records accounting his wealth.
By 1854, Epps and his family had amassed "15 bushels of rye, seven cattle, two oxen, 35 bushels of corn, 12 bushels of peas, 300 bushels of turnips, 300 pounds of butter and 30 pounds of wool," valued altogether at $100.
He lost the property for debt owed once in 1870 and then bought it back.
Archaeological study focused on a clearing beside a camp near an old foundation.
Kruczek-Aaron had had the area surveyed with ground-penetrating radar first, looking for clues of metal or other buried artifacts.
Students crisscrossed the clearing, a corner of 40 acres in Lot 84, in grids with metal detectors. They marked every hit with Global Positioning Satellite coordinates.