Monson, Maine--Early Nineteenth Century


During the fever for land speculation in the early 1830s, Seba Smith acquired a piece of land referred to in letters usually as "#8," presumably because what would become Monson, Maine was more of a camp (and, as the illustration below indicates, a mailing address) than a village or town at the time. As one can see from early maps of the state of Maine, there were many "number 8"s in the state, designating parcels of land or future townships, the rights to which were bought and sold. When the Crash of 1837 arrived, Seba seems to have had either title in or the right to buy land of a much lower value than he had originally invested. In her autobiography, Elizabeth Oakes Smith looked back with some pique at her husband's poor financial dealings writing

"I did not fret, nor waste myself in mean foolish regrets--I saw the shipwreck before us, but made the best of it, and it was nothing I could in any way prevent. Inter­nally I vented my spleen upon the false position held by women, who seemingly could do nothing better than suppress all screaming and go down with the wreck."

Still, her letters to her husband that Spring of 1837 are more supportive than this later assessment would reveal. Writing to Seba, who was on a trip surveying "No 8," on June 4, Smith wrote,

I am willing to break away from the trammels of artificial life and go into the lone wilderness, and methinks we might near there, another Eden, and bring up our sons to manliness and virtue. You shall be Adam, and I Eve, a little antique to be sure, and our sons shall all be Enochs."

Xerox of envelope courtesy of The University of Virginia Library, Special Collections Department


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