Newspaper Accounts of the
Newspaper Accounts of the New Madrid
Saturday, December 21, 1811
On Monday morning last, about a quarter past two, St. Louis
and the surrounding country, was visited by one of the most
violent shocks of earthquake that has been recorded since the
discovery of our country.
As we were all wrapt in sleep, each tells his story in his own
way. I will also relate my simple tale.
At the period above mentioned, I was roused from sleep by the
clamor of windows, doors and furniture in tremulous motion, with
a distant rumbling noise, resembling a number of carriages
passing over pavement- in a few seconds the motion and
subterraneous thunder increased more and more: believing the
noise to proceed from the N. or N.W. and expecting the earth to
be relieved by a volcanic eruption, I went out of doors &
looked for the dreadful phenomenon. The agitation had now reached
its utmost violence. I entered the house to snatch my family from
its expected ruins, but before I could put my design in execution
the shock had ceased, having lasted about one and three fourth
minutes. The sky was obscured by a thick hazy fog, without a
breath of air. Fahrenheit thermometer might have stood at this
time at about 35 or 40 (degrees).
At forty seven minutes past two, another shock was felt
without any rumbling noise and much less violent than the first,
it lasted near two minutes.
At thirty four minutes past three, a third shock nearly as
tremulous as the first, but without as much noise, it lasted
about fifty seconds, and a slight trembling continued at
intervals for some time after.
A little after day light, a fourth shock was felt, but with
less violence than any of the others, it lasted nearly one
About 8 o'clock, a fifth shock was felt; this was almost as
violent as the first, accompanied with the usual noise, it lasted
about half a minute: this morning was very hazy and unusually
warm for the season, the houses and fences appeared covered with
a white frost, but on examination it was found to be vapour, not
possessing the chilling cold of frost: indeed the moon was
enshrouded in awful gloom.
At half past eleven, a slight shock was felt, and about the
same hour on Tuesday last, a smart shock was felt - several
gentlemen declare, they felt shocks at other intervals.
No lives have been lost, nor has the houses sustained much
injury, a few chimneys have been thrown down, and a few stone
In noticing extraordinary events, perhaps no attendant
circumstances should be deemed unimportant: This is one of that
character, and a faithful record of appearances in such cases as
these, may form data for science. Viewing the subject in this
way, it may not be amiss to notice the reports of those who have
explored the extensive plains and mountains of the West.
On the margin of several of our rivers pumice and other
volcanic matter is found. At the base of some of the highest of
the black mountains, stone covers the earth, bearing marks of the
violent action of fire. Within -0 miles of the great Osage
village on the head waters of their river, and 1-0 miles from
this town, it is said that a volcano had ceased to burn for the
last three years, and it is thought to have now broke out in some
quarter of our country. Upon the whole, this has been an uncommon
year; the early melting of snow to the north raised the
Mississippi to an unusual height. The continued rains in the
summer and the subsequent hot weather, and consequent sickness
amongst the inhabitants, rendered that period somewhat
distressing. - Autumn, to this time, has been unusually mild, and
health ____ the ____ in every quarter.
Since writing the above, several slight shocks were sensibly
felt, to the number ten or twelve.
Saturday, December 28, 1811
Our correspondent at Cape Girardeau has forwarded us with
the following notice of the Earthquake.
"The concussions of the Earthquake which commenced at two
o'clock on Monday morning still continue. We have experienced
five severe shocks which split two brick Houses and damaged five
brick chimneys in this place."
- Dec. 22, 1811
The Earthquake was felt at Nashville, Ten. with like effects,
and about the same moment it was felt here.
- J. McF.
Saturday, January 4, 1812
The editor of the St. Vincennes paper, notices an earthquake
to have been felt there on the same morning as with us -- and at
Saturday, January 18, 1812
The earthquake of Dec. 16 &c was felt in the states of
Ohio and Kentucky, some houses has been thrown down but no lives
Saturday, February 8, 1812
On Thursday morning last, between 2 & 3 o'clock, we
experienced the most severe shock of earthquake that we have yet
felt, many houses are injured, and several chimneys thrown down;
few hours pass without feeling slight vibrations of the earth.
Should we ever obtain another mail, we shall be
attentive in recording the progress in every quarter.
Saturday, February 15, 1812
A number of our readers having expressed a wish to become
acquainted with the opinions of the learned, on the subject of
earthquakes, we have principally devoted this number to the
theories which are held in the highest estimation, and which the
editors of the (last edition) of the Encyclopedia have selected
from the volumes written on geology.
From what we have read on that subject, we cannot find an
instant, where the earth's vibration has extended to such a vast
portion of country as of the last two months concussion:
travellers say that it has been felt in New York, Pennsylvania
and Virginia: In Kentucky and the state of Ohio its effects were
more distinctive to buildings than in Louisiana. Hunters from the
west, three or four hundred miles from this place, aver that the
shock felt on the 16th of Dec. was extremely violent in the
headwaters of the White river. From these circumstances it would
appear, that it is not limited to a particular portion of
country; its extent, we believe, will be ascertained to be more
wide, than any instance of such phenomena on record.
Saturday, February 22, 1812
Natchez, Jan. 2
Arrived here on Monday last, the Steam Boat from Pittsburgh
which had on account of low water been some time detained at the
falls of the Ohio; and is destined to run between this place and
New Orleans as a regular trader. She was only 221 hours under way
from Pittsburgh to this place, a distance of near two thousand
- IMPORTANT ARRIVAL
No very satisfactory account of the shocks of Earthquake, and
their effects, which have lately happened could be expected; that
received from the gentlemen on board, is rather more to than we
The shake or jar, produced by the powerful operation of the
engine, rendered the shocks imperceptible, while the boat was
under way. While at anchor five or six shocks were felt, two or
three more severe than the rest. On enquiry at New Madrid, a
small town about 70 miles below the mouth of Ohio, they found
that the chimnies of almost all the houses were thrown down, and
the inhabitants considerably alarmed. - At the little Prairie,
thirty miles lower down, they were bro't to by the cries of some
of the people, who thought the earth was gradually sinking but
declined to take refuge on board without their friends, whom they
wished to collect. Some distance below the little Prairie the
bank of the river had caved in to a considerable extent, and two
islands had almost disappeared.
From the Evening Ledger
Mr. Evans - The repeated shocks of Earthquakes, which
have been felt in this place since the morning of the 16th,
having drawn forth some speculations and hypotheses from the
scientific. I shall take the liberty of giving as perfect an
account of the phenomena as they occurred, as my own
observations, assisted by that of others, will enable me to
About 3 o'clock of the morning of the 16th, a shock was felt
which produced an oscillating movements of the houses, and lasted
for nearly a minute. It was not preceded by any noises which
usually portend this phenomenon, nor was its approach announced
by any other appearance than a great serenity in the atmosphere.
An hour afterwards another shock was felt, but of shorter
continuance than the other and a person then up, has said, that
he observed at the same time a tremulous undulating motion of the
earth like the rolling of waves. At 8 o'clock a noise resembling
distant thunder was heard, and was soon after followed by a shock
which appeared to operate vertically, that is to say, by a
heaving of the ground upwards - but was not sufficiently severe
to injure either furniture or glasses. This shock was succeeded
by a thick haze, and many people were affected by giddiness and
nausea. Another shock was experienced about 9 o'clock at night,
but so light as not to be generally felt - and at half past 12
the next day (the 17th) another shock was felt, which lasted only
a few seconds and was succeeded by a tremor which was
occasionally observed throughout the day effecting many with
giddiness. At half past 8 o'clock a very thick haze came on, and
for a few minutes a sulphurous smell was emitted. At nine o'clock
last night, another was felt, which continued four or five
seconds, but so slight as to have escaped the observation of many
who had not thought of attending particularly to the operations
of this phenomenon. At one o'clock this morning (23d) another
shock took place of nearly equal severity with the first of the
16th. Buried in sleep, I was not sensible of this, but I have
derived such correct information on the fact that I have no
reason to doubt it; but I have observed since 11 o'clock this
morning frequent tremors of the earth, such as usually precede
severe shocks in other parts of the world.
It is something extraordinary, that these shocks so numerous
should not be attended with more formidable effects, or that they
should not have increased in their severity. There is nothing
extraordinary in their frequency, but as in other countries, not
so much subject to the influence of the sun as this is, such
frequent shocks usually have ended in mischief and desolation, we
ought to have calculated upon similar effects from similar
The mildness of those we have felt can be attributed only to
the distance of the cause by which they have been produced. On
this subject, of the cause of earthquakes, there are numerous and
discordant opinions from the ancient philosopher. An __xagoras,
to sir William Hamilton or Mr. Oplomien.
According to the hypothesis of some, earthquakes are
occasioned by subterranean fires throwing down the arches
or vaults of the earth; according to others the rarefaction of
the abyss waters, interior combustion and fermentation, volcanic
operations, and lately by the electric fluid.
The latter hypothesis seems to be the most accredited, as it
evidently is the most rational. The instantaneous effects of ____
earthquakes prove beyond doubt that electricity __iss be the
principal agent in this alarming and terrible phenomenon. Whether
according ___ ___, this electricity is superficial, or is buried
in and pervades the bowels of the earth, as is supposed by
others, is among those ____ of nature, which human wisdom may be
never able to ascertain.
The most rational hypothesis to me seems to be, that
earthquakes are produced by an ____ of terrestrial and
atmospheric electricity, as by the former the heaving of the
ground upwards is easily explained as the corruscations and
explosions which sometimes precede and accompany earthquakes may
be accounted for by the influence of the other.
Volcanic operations may have their influence in the production
of earthquakes, by giving an extraordinary impulse to the
electric matter which everywhere pervades the interior of the
earth, and as no bounds can be fixed to the progress of that
subtle fluid, the impulse which may be given by a volcano of the
Andes would reach us in the course of an hour, or sooner, in
proportion to the quantity of electric fluid affected by the
The celebrated earthquake in 1755 appears from all the facts,
as they have been carefully compiled, to have travelled four
millions of square miles in about one hour and ten minutes.
From the nature, quality and direction of the shocks felt in
this city I am induced from a variety of circumstances to
suppose, that they may be traced to some of the volcanic
operations of the Cordillera de los Andes, and if the hasty
remarks which I now do myself the pleasure of submitting are
deemed sufficiently interesting for publication, the subject will
be renewed with more method and reflection.
- A SUBSCRIBER