The 1820 US Census of Matawasca (Madawaska) Parish

Penobscot County, Maine and York County, New Brunswick


Includes communities on both banks of the Upper St.John River Valley in what are today Aroostook Co., Maine and Madawaska Co., New Brunswick

Note: These returns are missing from the microfilm copy of the 1820 US Census of Maine. I have located them in another source. This transcription is from that other source, described below.

The 1820 US Census of Houlton and New Limerick is also missing from the microfilm copy, but is in this same source, and is transcribed on another page of this site.

Information on the 1820 US Census of Madawaska

The 1820 Census was the first US Census of Madawaska (spelled "Matawascah" and "Matawasca" in the census returns), which was included in the returns for Penobscot County, Maine. At that time Madawaska was a territory disputed between the US and Great Britain (more on the territorial dispute). According to the US, Madawaska had not been included in previous US censuses because the exact eastern boundary between Maine and New Brunswick was not surveyed until 1817-1818 (that survey was the result of negotiations between the US and Great Britain at Ghent in 1814). Here is the official U.S. government explanation:

"[Great Britain's] right to the possession of the Madawaska Settlement was not called in question, or even alluded to at Ghent, because it had not been ascertained at that time, whether that settlement lay East or West of the line drawn due North from the source of the St.Croix [the border agreed upon in 1783]. That line was not surveyed till the years 1817-1818: and this is also the reason why the inhabitants of Madawaska were included in the American Census of the year 1820, and not in that of the year 1810." [Source: "Definitive Statement of the United States...", p.59.]

Madawaska on both sides of the river continued to be included in US censuses until 1842, when the border issue was finally settled.

The microfilm copy of the 1820 US Census of Penobscot County (microfilm no.M33, reel no. 38) does not include the population schedules for the Madawaska Settlement; (the introduction to the Penobscot County returns on the microfilm copy notes, on, that "For Penobscot County the State Recapitulation gives totals for the subdivision of Matawasca, but no schedules have been identified for it"). The same note appears in the microfilm introduction for Holton Plantation and New Limerick, under Washington County (reel no.M33-37,; Matawasca, Holton Pltn. and New Limerick were the only places enumerated by True Bradbury, and seem to be the only places whose returns are missing from the microfilm copy. Indeed, the recapitulation page (giving totals for each township) does list these towns (reel no. M33-37, page 350), but in the margin there is a handwritten note next to Holton Pltn., N.Limerick Pltn. and Matawascah: "Missing M.C.O. 2-24-1917", which indicates that these returns were missing when someone checked them in 1917. (For all of the information on Matawasca that does appear in the microfilmed version, go here.)

What happened to those returns? It seems almost certain that the returns for the places enumerated by Bradbury are missing from the microfilm copy because they were taken from the census archives for use in documentation presented by the United States in 1829 to the King of the Netherlands in his 1831 arbitration over the border dispute.

Indeed, an abstract of the 1820 US Census of Matawascah Parish (Madawaska) (along with Houlton Plantation and New Limerick Plantation), was included in the documentation submitted in that year by the United States in the arbitration. It is likely that the originals are currently located in the US archives that deal with that 1831 arbitration decision, or with the 1842 Webster-Ashburton Treaty that finally settled the border between Maine and New Brunswick.

My search for the missing returns

In the summer of 2003 I went to Washington DC to look for the original returns in the National Archives. I searched through the records of the State Department related to the border dispute.

In the documents related to that dispute I found the handwritten manuscript copy of the published document that I cite below. Included was the copy of returns for Madawaska, New Limerick and Houlton. The copy was made in 1828 by the Clerk of the US Court for the District of Maine (where the 1820 census returns were deposited). This copy was then sent to Washington for inclusion in the documentation being prepared for submission to the arbitrator.

The document is a handwritten copy made from the original and certified as such. I have included the text of the certification at the end of the transcription of Madawaska. What we learn from this certification is that an original copy of the returns was present in the District Court of Maine as late as 1828. But we also learn that the State Department did not have the original version of the census returns, relying rather on this copy. I would also hazard to guess that the British government too had requested a copy of these returns in its preparation for its own arguments on the border.

Given these facts, it seems probable that when the returns were pulled in 1828 in order to make a copy for the arbitration document, they were not returned to their original place. Thus when the returns were all sent to Washington, the Madawaska, Houlton and New Limerick returns were not included. The question remains however, whether they are somewhere in Maine. I am currently trying to determine that fact.

I have compared the handwritten copy to the published version and have updated the online transcription to reflect the original handwritten copy (I found about 5 errors in the published version).

I would like to express my appreciation to the staff of the US National Archives in College Park, Maryland, Washington, DC, and Waltham, Mass. for their great assistance to me in my search. Thanks in particular to Michael Hussey, Connie Potter, and Walter Hickey.

Details about Madawaska from the census

Since the US claimed Madawaska on both sides of the St.John River, this census of Madawaska includes communities on both north and south banks (the 1830 and 1840 US Censuses also cover communities in today's New Brunswick). It was undertaken by True Bradbury, apparently without any interference from British authorities (though they may not have been aware of his activities). In addition to "Matawascah Parish," Bradbury also surveyed Houlton Plantation and New Limerick Plantation, both of which were also included in the Appendix to the Definitive Statement of the United States.

The Madawaska Settlement had a population of 1,114, and was included in the returns for Penobscot County.

Since the transcription did not indicate page numbers or line numbers relative to the rest of the census of Penobscot Co., the page numbers and line numbers given here are for purposes of reference in this transcription only.

In Madawaska in 1820, there were 72 people who were listed under "foreigners, not naturalized." Here is a breakdown of the population by age and sex:




0-10 years








(not counted separately)







45 +







*Males age 16-18 not added into total; they are already included in Males age 16-26

The "Recapitulation" or totals from all the counties and townships of Maine in the 1820 census includes further information on Madawaska: that there were no "free coloured persons" living in the parish; that 500 persons were "engaged in Agriculture", but none in commerce or manufactures.

The Recapitulation also includes a footnote next to Madawaska:

"A French Settlement near Canada, 40 miles on the River, about 200 miles from any Town in Maine, from which there is no way to "Matawasca" but from "St.John's" in New Brunswick, up the River St.John's, a way very circuitous. The French have supposed they were in Canada. It is probable the county line (when run) dividing the counties of Penobscot and Washington, will divide this settlement. This line, I am informed, was never made or run."

Go to the transcription

If you have any other information about the 1820 US Census of Madawaska, please .

The full citation of the source of this transcription:

"Appendix L, Extract from the Census of the United States, for the Disrict of Maine, in 1820," in Definitive Statement, on the part of the United States, of the Case Referred, in pursuance of the Convention of the 29th September, 1827, between the said States and Great Britain, to His Majesty the King of the Netherlands, for his decision thereon. (Washington: Office of the United States' Telegraph, 1829), pp.349-354.

The original handwritten copy of this appendix is in the US National Archives, Record Group 76, PI 170, Entry 66, Box Number 13, "Appendix to the US Definitive Statement." The specific document is titled "Extract from the Census of AD 1820." This document is located in the US Archives facility in College Park, Maryland.

Source of "Recapitulation": Appendix No.39, "Extracts from the Census of the United States for the Years 1810 and 1820, published by authority of an Act of Congress," in First Statement on the part of Great Britain, according to the Provisions of The Convention Concluded Between Great Britain and the United States, on the 29th September, 1827 for Regulating the Reference to Arbitration of the Disputed Points of Boundary under the Fifth Article of the Treaty of Ghent (1829), p.287. The Recapitulation is also in the Microfilm copy of the 1820 US Census of Maine, number 33, reel number 37, pp.350 and 382.

Other sources: Raymond, p.353; Microfilm copy of 1820 US Census of Maine, Penobscot County, roll M33-38; Washington County, roll M33-37.

Special thanks to Craig Walsh for helping me locate this source for the 1820 US Census of Madawaska.

These pages are transcriptions of a transcription as published in the "Definitive Statement of the United States..." as referenced above. The names are transcribed as the census taker wrote them. Some of the names (especially the French ones) were not taken down correctly by the enumerator, but the census transcription project's goal is an exact copy of what was written. Only information in the space after "Remarks" is not transcribed from the census (rather, it explains or gives further information).

For clues on the French names that are misspelled, see my page on French names in the 1820 US census of the Madawaska Settlement. For a few people for whom I have specific information, for example the "correct" spelling of the name, I have put that information into the "Remarks" space (in parentheses).

If you have information about someone in the census--correct name spelling, maiden name, etc.--let me know and I'll add it.

I am also putting links into these pages. If there is a page elsewhere with info on an individual, I will put a link from the census transcription page to that page. If you'd like me to link anyone, please let me know the page address.

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Last revised 2 Feb 2005
©2005 C. Gagnon