For years, an old magazine clipping has bounced around the internet claiming to originate from “a young man in Aroostook County, Maine” who is looking for a wife.

Its headline reads “CHANCE FOR A SPINSTER” and it proceeds to describe a rural Mainer in search of a partner.

“I am eighteen years old, have a good set of teeth, and believe in Andy Johnson, the star-spangled banner, and the 4th of July,” it continues.

For about as long as the clipping has been shared on social media, people have been trying to figure out if it’s true.

That answer remains elusive – though there’s a strong possibility that it was a joke from day one – but it turns out the Lewiston Evening Journal printed the earliest available account of the letter, on July 14, 1865, and included information that may help pinpoint its true origin.

The Lewiston paper’s account said, “A fellow in Aroostook County answered a New York advertisement representing that the advertiser could furnish any person with a wife.”


“The advertiser replied directing the writer to a neighboring asylum for idiots!” the Journal said.

“This same youth – not at all abashed – whose name is John Morris, speaks of himself in the Houlton Times as follows,” the Journal said before publishing the man’s entire letter in the same form in which it is routinely shared.

However, a search of census and military records for a John Morris from Aroostook County at the time turned up nothing.

Every John Morris in Maine who was born about the right time appears to have either died during the war or as a baby with a single exception of someone who lived on the coast, far from Aroostook County.

The letter he supposedly wrote, after making his patriotism clear, said, “I have taken up a State lot, cleared up eighteen acres last year, and seeded ten of it down.”

“My buckwheat looks first-rate, and the oats and potatoes are bully. I have got nine sheep, a two-year-old bull and two heifers, besides a house and barn,” Morris’ letter said.


“I want to get married. I want to buy bread-and-butter, hoop-skirts and waterfalls for some person of the female persuasion during life,” he went on. “That’s what’s the matter with me. But I don’t know how to do it.”

A short piece in the July 14, 1865, edition of the Lewiston Evening Journal passing along a story about an Aroostook County farmer seeking a wife.

In the days that followed the Journal’s publication, at least three newspapers – the Portland Eastern Argus, The Baltimore Sun and the Wheeling Daily Intelligencer in West Virginia – republished the Journal’s account, a commonplace snitching in those days, when the Journal routinely supplied material for papers across the nation.

Harper’s Weekly provided an account in its Sept. 2, 1865, issue. A copy of that version, which is virtually identical to the Journal’s, has become a staple on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and other social media sites as people share it anew.

For Harper’s, the piece was clearly meant only as humor. It appeared with other humorous notes. In the Journal and other papers, however, its humor appeared to be tied in part to its truth.

Maybe the Houlton Times, which appears to have offered the first printing of the wife ad, could offer some enlightenment. But, unfortunately, copies of the 1865 editions of the Houlton Times may not exist.

It is entirely possible that the whole searching-for-a-wife thing was a joke from day one that everybody understood back in 1865.


The Spirit of Democracy, a paper in Monroe County, Ohio, published in May 1865 what it called “A down easter” advertising for a wife “after the following fashion.”

“Any gal what’s got a cow, a good feather bed with comfortable fixin’s, $500 in hard pewter – one that’s had the measles and understands tendin’ children – can find a customer for life by writing’ a billy dux, addressed to Q.Y. and stickin’ it in a crack in Uncle Ebenezers barn, back side joinin’ the hog pen.”

That piece is clearly a joke – or at least one hopes it was – and one that seems suspiciously akin to the tale passed along by the Lewiston paper a couple of months later.

People back then obviously considered advertising for a wife funny.

In February 1865, the Wyoming Democrat in Pennsylvania wrote about “a young man from the country who advertises for a wife received answers from eighteen husbands informing him he could have theirs.”

A California paper, The Sacramento Bee, wondered if anyone had a spare wife for a needy mechanic in Napa.


Many newspapers printed a terrible poem from “Farmer Boy” looking for a wife “who can go to a meeting without silk” and sew buttons without hurting her hands.

If nothing else, the jokes from that era make modern-day dating sites seem positively enlightened.

As for the old advertisement by Morris, there’s no proof he ever lived in Aroostook County or sought a wife shortly after the Civil War or even existed at all.

On the other hand, maybe the guy was real and perhaps he found a wife who appreciated first-rate buckwheat.

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