The census takers of the 1840 US Census of Aroostook County, Maine

Gorham Parks
The enumerator, or census taker, for the Madawaska settlements in the 1840 census was Gorham Parks. Parks was born in Westfield, Mass., May 27, 1794; attended the common schools and graduated from Harvard University in 1813; studied law; was admitted to the bar in 1819 and practiced; moved to Bangor, Maine, in 1823 and continued the practice of law; elected as a Jacksonian to the Twenty-third and Twenty-fourth US Congresses (March 4, 1833-March 3, 1837) from the eight district of Maine; candidate for Governor of Maine, 1837. He was a United States Marshal for the district of Maine from 1838 to 1841, in which capacity he was appointed to take the 6th Federal Census in the Madawaska settlements.

While taking the census, Parks encountered officials of the Province of New Brunswick. Here is the text of a letter sent by the "Warden of the Disputed Territory" J.A. Maclauchlin to the Private Secretary of the Lieutenant Governor of New Brunswick

Fredericton, 16 August '40

N.J. Harvey, Private Secretary

I have the honor to acquaint you for the information of his Excellency the Lieut. Governor that immediately on the receipt of your communication to me of the 9th Inst. [of the current month] on the subject of the arrival of Col. E. Parks an American agent at Madawaska for the purpose of taking a census of that settlement. I proceeded to the Grand Falls and upon my arrival there on the morning of the 11th Inst. was informed that Col. E. Parks had completed the census of the population on the right bank [south bank] of the Saint John and had only left the Grand Falls the day before for the purpose of continuing that duty on the left Bank [north bank].

From this information I had reason to believe there was every probability of our meeting each other some time during the day but from the great expedition he was enabled to make in ascending the Saint John by not stopping at every house or visiting the Back Settlements on the Green and Little Madawaska Rivers. I was unable to overtake him until the morning of the 12th Instant within a few miles of the entrance of the Fish River now occupied by the American armed Posse [at what is now Fort Kent], when no time was lost by me in protesting against the authority he was exercising in the Madawaska Settlement and further in order that he Col. Parks might be fully in possession of the views as well as the forbearance of His Excellency Sir John Harvey I deemed it necessary to furnish him with a copy of your communication to me which after perusing assured me that he was not an agent sent to Madawaska on the part of the State of Maine but of the General Government of the United States and that he was fully sensible of the kind intentions and forbearance of His Excellency towards him, but at the same time declined making any written communication on the subject, but begged me to understand although he did so, it was not from any disrespect towards His Excellency for whom he entertained the highest respect and esteem.

[signed] J.A.Maclauchlin, Warden of the Disputed Territory

[from PANB, RS344C 1840/22, pp.69-72]

What is clear from the letter is that the United States and New Brunswick had an agreement that agents of the State of Maine were not to enter the disputed territories (this was after the "Aroostook War"), but agents of the US government were so permitted. Also of interest is that Parks apparently did not thoroughly count the population on the north bank, and seems to have skipped those living along the Green and Madawaska Rivers, and in the "Back Settlements."

Given the clearly sensitive situation in this region, it is perhaps no surprise that a prominent political personality like Parks was sent to conduct the census in the Madawaska Settlement.

Subsequenty Parks served as United States attorney for the district of Maine 1843-1845 and United States consul at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from 1845-1849. He died in Bay Ridge, Kings County, N.Y., November 23, 1877, and was buried in Greenwood Cemetery, Brooklyn, N.Y. (from and

The other census takers in Aroostook County were:

Jesse Gilman, who in 1840 was living in Belfast Academy Grant with his family (p.77). He was a surveyor by occupation, and according to the 1850 US Census, was born in Norridgwock, Maine. In 1850 he and his family were still living in the Belfasts Academy Grant (pp.77b-78a, lines 40-42 and 1-2).

John M. Hutchinson

Thomas Bartlett, Jr.

If you have any further information on Gorham Parks or any of the other census takers, please

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Last revised 19 Jan 2002
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