The Horror of the New Madrid Earthquakes

    So much has been written on the dangers of a major earthquake on the New Madrid Fault, we have to look back to the big earthquakes of 1811 through 1812 if we want to get a glimpse of what could happen. The most asked question is “What can we expect in our area?”


So I did some intense research and found records of eyewitness accounts from people who actually lived through it. Here are some of their stories…
      Hopkins County, Kentucky – December 16, 1812 “At a distance of 130 miles from the center of the quake, the shocks and tremors were distinctly felt in Hopkins County.  The trees of the forest swayed, the houses rattled and shook, utensils were thrown down; and terror, as of the end of the world, was felt.  Superstitious awe pervaded the community, religious fervor was renewed, sinners saw the light, and backsliders renewed their faith.”

      Kaskaskia, Illinois – 1811 “At Kaskaskia, the earth several times waved like a river agitated by the winds; the steeple of the church bent like a reed; the old bell rang with tremulous strokes like some unseen demon pulling on the bell cord; the cattle wild with nameless fear, ran to and fro filling the air with howling; the soil cracked so deeply In the very streets that they could not sound the bottom of the crevice, and the water drawn from it exhaled a most disagreeable odor; stone and brick chimneys fell down; houses cracked as if it were doomsday.  The people, believers and nonbelievers, flocked to the church and listened with Catholic zeal to the stout old Father Donatien Oliver as he implored mercy from Him whom the elements obey."

      Muhlenberg County, Kentucky – December 16, 1811 “To see everything touching the earth, shaking-quivering, trembling; and men’s hearts quaking for fear of the approaching judgment.  Many families ran together and grasped each other in their arms. The people relinquished all kinds of labor for a time, except feeding stock, and eat only enough to support nature a few days.”

      Princeton, Kentucky – December 16, 1811 The earthquakes commenced on Sunday night between midnight and day.  We were all aroused from sleep by the lumbering noises like thunder and the shaking of the house while mother set up in bed and exclaimed: “Judgment!  The Judgment of God upon the world for its wickedness!’  We all put on our clothes in great consternation, waiting for day, but sometime before day, the neighbors began coming in and wishing to know my mother’s opinion as they all knew her to be a woman well read, so they got the Bible and read, and turned from place to place.  Just before day, they came to the conclusion that it was an earthquake.  So our minds was somewhat eased.  Just after light there came a very hard shock. We were all roused up, fearing the house would fall.  We rushed to get out.  Just then the dirt chimney fell the dirt bouncing upon the hearth.  I thought it was water and that the earth was sinking.  I jumped some two feet high out into the yard and it was some little while before I really believed I was not in water knee deep.  Such times was never seen before; people going to meeting day and night and crowding the alter to pray, singing and shouting, professing religions and sins.”

      Russellville, Kentucky – January 23, 1812 “An earthquake equally as considerable as the one felt about five weeks since, was felt at this place on Thursday morning last, at eight o’clock and several slight ones have been felt since.  The one on Thursday was, we understand, much more considerable at Hopkinsville than the first.”

      Christian County, Kentucky – December 16, 1811 “In this county of Christian, (Kentucky) a fine and fresh spring of water was observed to run muddy for several hours.  On examining it, after the feculence had settled, he found it to be strongly impregnated with sulphur; so much so that it was spoiled for domestic uses; indeed, it had been converted to one of the stronger brimstone springs he had ever met with.” The accounts and damage described in these accounts are minor compared to what was happening in the west near the fault. Many literally thought the world had come to an end. But these quakes had far reaching effects in other areas of the country. I will share those accounts in my next post.  Please feel free to comment on this and be sure to hit the “Like” button at the end of this post.