Information on the 1837 Maine Census of the Madawaska Settlements

In 1837 the Legislature of the State of Maine called for a census of the state to be undertaken in order to distribute "surplus revenues" to the various communities.

Since the Madawaska Settlements on both sides of the upper St.John River were considered by the US to be part of the State of Maine (at that time within Penobscot County), this census was also to include these settlements. The State appointed Ebenezer Stevens Greeley (1797-1869) of Dover, Penobscot Co., Maine, to undertake the census of Madawaska.

Greeley duly set off to undertake his duties in May 1837, and began surveying the population of the valley. Near the end of that month, however, he was arrested "while performing his duty" by James MacLauchlin, Warden of the Disputed Territory for the Provincial authorities of New Brunswick.

Here's a summary about his actions, from Aroostook: The First Sixty Years by Clarence A. Day:

"He [Greeley] went to Madawaska, and while engaged with the census was arrested by the New Brunswick authorities and taken to Woodstock for imprisonment. But the sheriff there refused to receive him, and he returned to Madawaska and resumed his work. A week later he was again arrested and taken to Fredericton and put into jail there."

The British description of Greeley's activities:

"Greely had been arrested for openly taking a Census of the Population of the Madawaska Settlement, and holding language tending to disturb and unsettle the minds of the Inhabitants,--acts which constituted an exercise of Jurisdiction on the part of some of the Authorities of the State of Maine, and an interference with that of New Brunswick;--and that he had told the people that they would shortly receive from the State of Maine a Sum of Money, not exceeding Three Dollars for each Head of a Family, out of the Surplus Revenue of the United States;--that it had been suggested to him that he must have mistaken the intention of his Instructions, as no allusion was made either to the Madawaska Settlement, or the Territory in dispute;--and that, if he would desist, no notice would be taken of what had passed: but to this he would not consent;--in consequence of which he was taken into custody." Source: "Doc. 33: American North-Eastern Boundary. Memorandum, shewing what has passed between the Goverments of Great Britain and the United States, upon the Question of the Occupation, Sovereignty, and Jurisdiction, of the disputed Territory on the North-Eastern Boundary of the United States," April 1839, in British Documents, p.60

Upon his arrest, the adjutant general of Maine issued a general order:

Fellow Soldiers: The soil of our State has been invaded, one of our citizens, while in performance of a duty required by law, was arrested within the territory of Maine, and carried to an adjoining foreign province, where he now remains incarcerated within the walls of a prison. This is but a repetition of former acts of injustice committed against our border inhabitants by officers acting under the authority of the British Province of New Brunswick. [Raymond, pp.368-369]

Raymond explains further events: "The militia were called upon to hold themselves in readiness for service. After a little negotiation, however, Greely was set a liberty, the general government of the United States meanwhile bringing pressure to bear upon the State of Maine to prevent any further attempt to complete the census, pending the negotiations in progress for determining the boundary."

Here is Day's explanation:

"Governor Dunlap [of Maine] appealed to Washington, and in August Greeley was set free and went home to Dover. The Penobscot County Commissioners ordered him back to Madawaska to complete the census, and he was arrested the third time and again thrown into the prison at Fredericton. This time he was kept there about four months before the federal government could secure his release." (at

The part of the census that Greeley did manage to finish seems to have disappeared. I have sent information requests to the Maine State Archives as well as to the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick asking whether this census information is in their holdings. Both archives responded that they did not have the documents.

update 8/26/2010: Larry Glatz recently located a letter written by Greeley in June 1837 while he was in the Fredericton jail, addressed to Major General Isaac Hodsdon (1781-1864), who was in command of the state’s militia division based in Bangor and who would eventually lead Maine’s troops in the Aroostook campaign. In the letter, Greeley states that he had managed to count 1,247 persons; he notes that he estimated the total population of Madawaska to be about 2800. The main gist of the letter is Greeley's belief that the state of Maine needed to be more aggressive in asserting its claim to the disputed territory. Here is the text of the letter, with an introduction, thanks to Larry Glatz, who found it in the papers of Isaac Hodsdon at the Maine Historical Society.

Here is correspondence among New Brunswick provincial authorities related to Greeley's attempts to undertake the census and his arrest by provincial officials.

If you have any further information about Greeley's attempts to conduct the census of Madawaska, or of the fate of the census returns, please

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Last revised 26 Aug 2010
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