Moses and Ebenezer Greenleaf Manuscript Surveys

By Roberta Ransley-Matteau, Cartographic Cataloger at the Osher Map Library and Smith Center for Cartographic Education

“Long and attentive inquiry and observation had convinced the writer, that the real value and character of the extensive wilderness in the interior was very imperfectly understood, even by those to whom a correct knowledge of it was important…” From the preface by Moses Greenleaf for A Statistical View of the District of Maine, 1816.

This is one of a collection of 14 manuscript surveys by Moses Greenleaf and his brother Ebenezer. Pictured here is the Plan of Wallahgas River ca. 1820.

Moses Greenleaf is considered Maine’s mapmaker. He was born on October 17, 1777 in Newburyport, Massachusetts, the son of Captain Moses and Lydia (Parsons) Greenleaf. The family settled in New Gloucester, Maine in 1790. The reason for the move from Newburyport was Captain Moses’ disapproval that “the wealth of the town appeared to be in the hands of the parvenu”.
Throughout his life Greenleaf promoted development in Maine in particular surveying remote townships. He settled in Williamsburg, a township in southern Piscataquis County. It was there that he produced Statistics of Maine which was later enlarged and amended in 1829 as Survey of Maine. The first map of Maine was developed there as well which showed settlement patterns since 1778 including political and property data shown in this survey from about 1820.

Township No. 5 in the 8th Range surveyed by Moses and Ebenezer Greenleaf. Grid pattern shows public and private ownership near the Ebeemee Lake or Indian Lake and Pleasant River. Township No. 5 is Harrington.

In 1831 Ebenezer surveyed Township No. One copied from an earlier plan.

The survey includes a key to the various types of trees that grow in the area and includes ponds and lakes.


Plan of Matawamkeag River from the Forks to Baskahegan Falls surveyed by Joseph Treat & Eben. Greenleaf.

Ebenezer Greenleaf, known as “Eben” was born on November 23, 1781. At nineteen he went to sea skippering a packet between Portland and Liverpool. After the birth of his first child he decided to quit the sea and stay ashore. He became a surveyor and worked occasionally with his brother Moses which becomes apparent in some of the manuscript surveys in the collection.
These surveys were a challenge to catalog. The dates are estimates and a few are dated. But I learned a great deal about Maine’s very rural townships, plantations, ponds, lakes and rivers. Researching the names of these natural resources and seeing where they are located gave me a better understanding of the state – there are some beautiful environments undisturbed and undeveloped. As I was researching and cataloging these manuscripts I was thinking of the indigenous peoples who knew and understood the natural environment around them. The Wallaghas River survey contains indigenous names and it refers to the Allagash River, a tributary of the St. John River. The Natives called it “Wallahgas quegamook” or “bark wigwam pond” The Walloostook was “very fine river”. These place names are on the survey and also list types of trees in the area such as pine, spruce and juniper very likely for future lumber industries.
These surveys are important documentation of rural Maine and its little known natural environment. The contributions of both Moses and Ebenezer show the significance of land development but at the same time preserving what was there before and keeping it for other generations. The manuscript surveys have been digitized and are on our website.
To view them search by the barcode number in Advance Search:
Township No. 5 in the 8th Range: Barcode 58074 (Note: This is Williamsburg where Greenleaf lived)
Plan of Orland: Barcode 58069
Plan of part of Bucksport annexed to Orrington: Barcode 58072
Plan of the town of Brewer: Barcode 58059
Eddington: Barcode 58073
Sebech Stream: Barcode 58076
Part of Sebek Pond: Barcode 58062
Plan of Township N 1-4th Range transcribed from a plan taken in 1795: Barcode 58070
Plan of 10,046 Acres belonging to Sewall Salisbury & Co. in the north part of Jarvis Gore: Barcode 58068
Letter to Hon. Daniel Dewey, Esq.: Barcode 58089 (Greenleaf concerned about land settlement)
Plan of No. 6 & 7 8th Range: Barcode 58075
A curious survey was a Map of portions of Egypt and Canaan that featured locations of the time of the Exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt. Moses Greenleaf was, as Walter MacDougall observed, had established a “household of faith”.
If there are any questions please feel free to contact the author at