Section 4: The New Madrid District
Earthquakes Page #1
In 1811 and 1812 the inhabitants of New Madrid District
experienced a series of the most terrific earthquakes
that have ever occurred on the American continent.
The center of the disturbance seems to have been in the vicinity
of Little Prairie, as it was there the greatest damage done.
Mr. Godfrey Lesieur, then a boy living at that place, wrote a
description of phenomena, from which the following is condensed:
The Earthquakes spent their greatest force in Pemiscot County.
The first shock occurred at 2 o'clock A.M., on December 16, 1811,
and was very hard, shaking down log houses, chimneys, etc. It
was followed at short intervals by comparatively slight shocks
7 o'clock in the morning, when a rumbling noise was heard in the
west resembling distant thunder, and in an instant the earth
began to shake
and totter to such a degree noone was able to stand or walk.
This lasted about one minute. At this juncture the earth was
observed to be rolling in waves
of a few feet in height, with a visible depression between.
Soon the swells were seen to burst, throwing upward large
volumes of water, sand, and species of charcoal,
some of which was covered with a substance having a sulphurous
odor. When these swells burst, large fissures were formed,
running north and south, parallel
with each other for miles. The rumbling noise and the waves
seemed to come from the west and travel eastward. Slight shocks
were felt at intervals until January 23rd, 1812,
when the country was visited by another earthquake, equally as
violent as the first, and characterized by the frightful
results. Then it was that the cry arose among the people,
"sauze qui peut!" ("who save can"), and all but two
families left the country.
After the terrible shock of the 7th of January slight ones were
from time to time experienced, until the 7th of February, when
another very severe one, having the same effects as the
other occurred, and caused great injury to land, in forming more
extensive fissures, sinking high lands, and forming it into
lakes, and making deep lake high land.
It is a remarkable fact that so few casualties occurred during
these terrible convulsions. Among the citizens there were but
two deaths. Mrs. Lafont died from fright, and Mrs.Jarvis
injury from the fall of a cabin log, from which she died a few