December 16 is the 200th anniversary of the most powerful earthquake in eastern North American history.
The death toll was never tabulated but populations in middle America were small and not heavily concentrated.
The New Madrid earthquake had an interesting connection to Tecumseh, the Shawnee chief who spent much of his life fighting American advancement into Indian lands.
Tecumseh travelled extensively on horseback trying to recruit tribes into an alliance against American takeover of their lands. In October 1811 while he visited the Creeks in the south, a huge, bright comet appeared and Tecumseh, whose name meant Shooting Star, told the Creeks this boded ill for his enemies.
The New Madrid earthquake of Dec. 16 occurred while Tecumseh was returning home to the Ohio-Indiana region. Some tribes recalled that the great chief told them that he would stamp his feet or clap his hands and make the earth shake, and they took the earthquake as an awesome sign of his power.