Book Review: “The Lost History of the New Madrid Earthquakes”

A few years ago, my wife and I took a road trip back to the center of the country and visited the small town of New Madrid. Missouri, which is located at the far eastern side of the state, cradled between the states of Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky and Indiana. This town sits right in the middle of a fault line, which led to the remarkable story (or stories) of the Great Earthquake of 1811-1812.

When you visit New Madrid, there is a small museum that archives the stories and any remaining artifacts covering this event. In fact, there is even a seismic monitor to show the continual tremors that exist along that fault line.

This book, by Conevery Bolton Valencius, is a good and lengthy companion piece to what is seen in the museum. Basically, in 1811-1812, there was a great series of earthquakes that started in December of 1811 and returning tremors continued over the course of several months.

Three main tremors measured (by historical accounts without a seismograph) upward between 7.0 and 8.7. This book is filled with story after story of what happened, including lakes being formed, (Reel Foot Lake being one of them) the Mississippi River running backwards, and whole communities just disappearing.

The connection this has with the Book of Mormon is that many of the stories in this book match those of 3 Nephi Chapter 8. That chapter has always been a sore spot when talking about the locations in Central America. The Mesoamerican researchers utilize the need for a Volcano (when Volcano is not even mentioned in the scripture) to explain fires and the three days of darkness.

First off, we have so many fires today that we can’t control with modern technology…just sayin’. So I doubt we need volcanoes to create these fires. But the three days of darkness has always been a concern leaning toward the “magical” side of the Lord’s work. But there can be a natural explanation, other then a volcano that is not mentioned in the scriptures. You would think that if the author mentioned the fires, earthquakes and whirlwinds, they would also mention the volcano as well.

In the case of the great forgotten earthquake of 1811-1812, there were accounts of darkness that come along with the earthquake. The author states “Many people noted that the earthquakes were accompanied by fog, haziness or a darker then usual atmosphere.”

One quote the author used was from an engineer on a flatboat at the time “the atmosphere was filled with a thick vapor of gas to which the light imparted a purple tinge resembling but different from Indian summer or smoke.” There was also a quote from John James Audubon who claimed that is was so dark that you could no longer see the sun, moon and stars.

If you watch the 5th episode of Hidden in the Heartland, Rod Meldrum gives a great presentation about this comparison between the stories from this book and 3 Nephi chapter 8.

This book is filled with the stories that most people have never heard of, simply because it was in a part of the country that was not very populated, thus a low death count for something this big, hence it is known as the Great Earthquake America Forgot.

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