Steamboat Adventure
Made possible by the Rivers Institute and the History Department of Hanover College.

New Madrid

When the steamboat New Orleans made her way down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers from Pittsburgh to New Orleans in 1811-1812, it marked a turning point in the Transportation Revolution.  After the New Orleans showed that it could be done, steamboats proliferated on the Ohio and the Mississippi and their tributaries.  Steamboat traffic helped create a national economy, opening markets for farm goods and drawing people and commerce to cities along the rivers.

On December 16, 1811, a major earthquake occurred with its epicenter in the town of New Madrid (now in the state of Missouri).   The Roosevelts and the crew of the New Orleans were about 200 miles from the epicenter on December 16, and they felt the shock distinctly.  They passed through the worst damage only days after it occurred. 

News of Events in New Madrid:

Dec. 28, 1811, Western Spy - editors conjecture that the earthquake "had its source on the Missouri country"
Jan. 15, 1812, Liberty Hall - report of the earthquake and damage near New Madrid
Jan. 18, 1812, Western Spy - similar report of the earthquake and damage near New Madrid
Jan. 31, 1812, Pittsburgh Gazette - eyewitness reports that nearby Little Prairie is abandoned
Feb. 1, 1812, Western Spy - eyewitness to the earthquake: "at New Madrid the shocks have been uncommonly violent"
Feb. 8, 1812, Western Spy - the editor responds to charges that it exaggerated earthquake reports, referring to an eyewitness account from New Madrid
Feb. 12, 1812, Centinel - report of "uncommonly violent" shocks in New Madrid
Feb. 14, 1812, Pittsburgh Gazette - James Fletcher reports on the Dec. 16 earthquake at Little Prairie (in present-day Missouri); they "supposed the whole country sinking!"
Feb. 15, 1812, Western Spy - detailed report from New Madrid on the earthquake (Dec. 16 through Dec. 28): "the house danced about"
Feb. 19, 1812, Connecticut Current - William L. Pierce's detailed reports on the earthquake near New Madrid: "utmost consternation prevailed"
Mar. 3, 1812, Liberty Hall - William L. Pierce's detailed reports on the earthquake near New Madrid
Mar. 13, 1812, Pittsburgh Gazette - James Smith provides revisions for The Navigator: downriver from New Madrid, "the river is wholly changed"
Mar. 14, 1812, Western Spy - shocks of the earthquake continue - "there have not passed many hours together without concussions of the earth" since Dec. 16
Mar. 20, 1812, Pittsburgh Gazette - John Vertner gives eyewitness account of Feb. 7 shock in New Madrid and his inability to hire help there
Apr. 4, 1812, Western Spy - Jesse Hunt reports that New Madrid inhabitants have fled the town, which suffered extensive damage
1827, Recollections - longtime residents of New Madrid share detailed memories of the earthquake with Timothy Flint

More about the "Steamboat Adventure" of 1811-1812 --



Steamboat Adventure homepage


Spring 1811
Summer 1811
Fall 1811
Winter 1811-1812
Spring 1812


Louisville (Kentucky) and Madison (Indiana Territory)
New Madrid (now in Missouri)
Chickasaw Bluffs (now Memphis)
New Orleans


Nicholas and Lydia Roosevelt
The Transportation Revolution
The Great Comet of 1811
The New Madrid Earthquakes
Indian Relations

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