Renowned as Maine's most important map-maker, Greenleaf (1777-1834) was born in Newburyport, Massachusetts, the eldest of the five children of Lydia and Moses Greenleaf, Sr. The family moved to New Gloucester, Maine in 1790, where they engaged in farming. In 1799 Moses Jr. opened a store in New Gloucester, then relocated to nearby Poland, before removing to Kenduskeag in 1803 and settling in Bangor by February of 1804. In 1806 Greenleaf purchased from William Dodd of Boston one-quarter of the township of Williamsburg, north of the Waldo Patent. Under contract to serve as Dodd’s agent for the settlement of the township, Greenleaf began building a house on his land in 1809, moving his family there in 1812. He lived there until his death in 1834.
Soon after settling in Williamsburg—essentially a wilderness outpost at the edge of largely uncharted territory—Greenleaf began to work in earnest on his map, while also gathering data for his book, A Statistical View of the District of Maine, published in 1816 as a companion volume to the map. It is unclear when Greenleaf first conceived of an improved map of Maine, but he began collecting data on the District as early as 1803, as documented in a letter to the Massachusetts Legislature. He also owned a manuscript map dated 1806, entitled “Plan of that part of the county of Hancock lying on the Piscataquis & its branches” (collections of the Maine Historical Society), of which he may or may not have been the author. Of more certain authorship are a number of maps by Greenleaf of Williamsburg and other townships in the region, held by the Maine State Archives. In addition, Greenleaf owned a copy of John Norman’s map based on Osgood Carleton’s first large map of Maine (sold by this firm in 2016) with his ownership inscription on the verso dated 1806—the year he purchased land from Dodd. While presumably of some use to Greenleaf, the Norman/Carleton map would nevertheless have had limited utility and likely contributed to his growing awareness of the need for an improved map of the District. According to Walter Macdougall, Greenleaf’s “first intention was to produce a map of the interior.” As it turned out, what began as a land purchase and a need for a better regional mapping grew into a full-fledged ambition to produce a proper map of the future state of Maine.
Greenleaf’s sources included previous publications, his own surveys and explorations, and correspondence with knowledgeable individuals in the field. The initial fruits of his efforts included the present map; state II of 1820 (the first map of the state of Maine); and a third state in 1822. In 1829, Greenleaf published a second, more expansive and considerably more detailed map, embracing not only the state of Maine, but also a considerable portion of New Brunswick. This map was updated and re-issued multiple times, first by Greenleaf himself, and after his death, by his son, Moses Greenleaf III, through 1846. In conjunction with his 1829 map, Greenleaf also published Atlas Accompanying Greenleaf’s Map and Statistical Survey of Maine--the first atlas of the state--along with Survey of the State of Maine, an updated version of A Statistical View of the District of Maine.
Greenleaf’s maps neatly coincide with the period covering Maine’s movement toward statehood (achieved in 1820) to the final resolution of its present-day boundaries, and are closely associated with the formation of state’s identity. Regarding Greenleaf’s contributions, Samuel Lane Boardman perhaps put it best:
We do but justice to a remarkable man, now almost forgotten, by saying that Mr. Greenleaf through his published writings and his accurate and beautiful maps, did more than any other man to make known to two states the value and importance of Maine while it was simply a district under the Government of Massachusetts…Mr. Greenleaf was the real state-maker of Maine.” (Samuel Lane Boardman, Introduction to Moses Greenleaf : A Biography, Bangor, 1902)