Friday, February 17, 2023

Famous Maine cartographer’s work has unique Raymond connections

By Ernest H. Knight

Moses Greenleaf had a unique talent for cartography and his work included maps of Maine before and after it became a state by separation from Massachusetts in 1820. Among his finest works is a wall map which hung for years at Raymond Town Hall before its transfer to the Maine State Museum in Augusta.

Maine's first mapmaker, Moses Greenleaf, lived in New
Gloucester and surveyed much of Raymond and the
surrounding area for his definitive 1829 book
'A Survey of the State of Maine' in which he included
chapters about the land, rivers, mountains, climate,
and people of the state. COURTESY PHOTO 
Greenleaf was born in Newbury, Massachusetts in 1777 but moved to the District of Maine, then still part of Massachusetts, as a boy with his family and grew up a farmer. When a young man, he struck off on his own to become a storekeeper with interests in the Maine wilderness and devoted the rest of his life to Maine promotion and statistics.

His surveying and map-making, writings and gathering of information, and his belief in the future of his state both as Massachusetts and Maine, while an active promoter of the change, belied his meager formal education in the schools of New Gloucester.

In 1829, Greenleaf published “A Survey of the State of Maine” in which there are chapters on such subjects as the land, the rivers, the mountains, the climate, the natural resources, commerce, agriculture, manufacturing, education, and population. His writing showed that in 1820, the relative wealth or taxable property for Raymond at $43, compared to Portland’s $281.

Another of his tabulations, the value per acre of wood and improved land shows Portland’s at $5 per acre, while Raymond’s at just 50-cents. These statistics and the details of his maps are remarkably complete for the times and makes one wonder how he could carry out this work over such a vast expanse of wilderness without the help of telephones, vehicles, libraries, ballpoint pens and other technology we now take for granted.

Greenleaf was heavily involved in surveying land in the remote townships across the state including many of the first properties in Raymondtown and the surrounding area.

The name of Moses Greenleaf is not completely unknown locally even to this day. It is memorialized by the “Greenleaf Subdivision” off Route 302 a short distance east of the Bridgton Road Church in Casco.

There at the entrance, a large-polished granite monument has the name “GREENLEAF” and nearby a boulder has a bronze plaque to “Maine’s First Map Maker – October 17, 1777 to March 20, 1834” and his prophecy of 1815 that “Settlers may soon enjoy many advantages, pecuniary, civil, moral, and religious which flow from a residence in a well settled community.”

As Maine’s pioneer mapmaker, he also is credited with producing the first significant drawings of the many lakes and waterways surrounding the entire Raymond area, including Sebago Lake, Crescent Lake and Little Sebago Lake. <

This article was written by the late Ernest H. Knight, one of the founders of the Raymond-Casco Historical Society and contained in his book “Historical Gems of Raymond and Casco.” It was submitted by the Raymond-Casco Historical Society and articles about Raymond history from the historical society will appear regularly in The Windham Eagle newspaper. To find out more about the Raymond-Casco Historical Society, call Frank McDermott at 207-655-4646.

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