NICHOLAS ROOSEVELT'S 1811 STEAMBOAT NEW ORLEANS
Extracts from Louisiana Gazette (St. Louis)
Thursday, 1 August 1811
The present season has been noticed as the most inclement since the great flood of 1783. From the breaking up of the ice in the spring till within a few weeks, we have had a constant succession of wet weather. However, we have experienced very little injury compared to those of the lower country.
From the New Orleans Gazette
[probably Louisiana Gazette as published in New Orleans]
The waters of the Mississippi have risen this spring to a height never before paralleled in the recollection of the oldest inhabitants of Louisiana, and we are sorry to say, has injured the planters on the banks to an amount almost incredible. That part which lies below New Orleans has suffered greatly. We are informed by a respectable gentleman who arrived in town some days since, that upwards of twenty plantations between this and Fort St. Philip (Plaquamines) are entirely inundated -- that the waters have destroyed the sugar cane, cotton and everything else, on a great number of them. Between this and Mauchac Point, (the upper end of the Island of Orleans,) the damage has been very great, and the other side of the river has suffered immensely -- The Time Piece, say that upwards of 30 miles of the Parish of Point Coupee, (one of the richest parishes in our Territory) has been inundated, and the inhabitants have abandoned their possessions and removed to Florida "that the Concordia is nearly depopulated, being covered about three feet with water; and that "the settlements of Tensas, Catahula and lower Attacapas are variously flooded from six to thirty feet." It would be vain to attempt an estimate of the damage sustained -- but we do not hesitate to say, that a calamity of such magnitude has never before been witnessed in America. We do not say that this has proceeded entirely from the neglect of the planters to repair their Levees -- but we believe that is a great measure owing to it, and we feel confident that their present losses wil teach them to guard against such accidents in future.
19 September 1811
I beg leave to notice a COMET, which I have observed here, the 7th inst., and which may be seen every evening an hour after sunset in the N.E.
On the evening of the 7th it was in LEO MINOR, one of the new constellations established by HEVELIUS, out of the then unformed stars. It is now in the feet of URSA MAJOR, will pass near the COR CAROLI, and through the shoulders of BOOTES. The nucleus is very small, and its motion comparatively slow. It has passed its perihelion and is on its ascent from the sun.
Merino Farm Sept 17, 1811
[The Oct 3, 1811, issue has an advertisement signed by Samuel Bridge, Merino Farm (near St. Louis)]
3 October 1811
We again resume publication of this paper, after having been twice compelled to desiot[?] by sickness. Pandora is about to resume her gifts, and Hebe, the goddess of health designs once more to smile on us.
The oldest inhabitants do not recollect a season so universally sickly; though not often fatal, yet few have escaped the autumnal fevers. At this period a season so remarkable for sickness, may be considered as a very serious calamity to this country, which at the moment when it begins to attract attention abroad is in danger of obtaining the character of unhealthy. Many of the new settlers we are informed have been so much alarmed as to think seriously of leaving the country. From travellers we learn that throughout the western states and territories the season has been remarkable for unhealthiness as this. The cause may be attributed to the heavy rains in the early part of the season, and the great heat which immediately succeeded. In the neighborhood of the Mississippi and the great western rivers, the annual overflowings have contributed to the causes just recited, to afflict these parts more severely. The deaths, however, in proportion to the number of sick, have been inconsiderable.
2 November 1811
[2 1/2 columns on the comet -- most is scientific description -- only the most relevant 40% copied here. KWD]
[quoted from Enquirer, Richmond, about 15 Sept]
. . . .
As the most remarkable Comets have been generally attended with extraordinary tides and tempests, it were to be wished that those who have the opportunity would be particularly careful in noticing such natural phenomena as may take place during the appearance of this Comet. Such an opportunity may not again present itself for many years.
Richmond, September 15
. . . .
[from Boston Cent., no date given]
The COMET which is now traversing our hemisphere may be seen every clear morning and evening. It rises about half past one in the morning and sets about half past 8 o'clock in the evening. Its present situation maya be readily found by the cluster of stars, which are denominataed the Cleaver, Plough or Pointer, near the north pole star. The elongation of a line from the North through the South Pointer will pass through or very nigh the Comet. Its appearance to the eye answers the description of Comets in the books, that of cloudy stars emitting a dull light and presenting no definite outline. Its present position as to the earth hinders its tail or blaze from being seen. The hair (coma) surrounds the nucleus (head) -- but projects upwards more in length than from any other part. Its tail is now seen lengthwise; should it be in a situation to be seen sidewise the full length of the blaze will be apparent: but it will appear of different lengths in different situations. It apparently is on its retreat from the Sun into regions of space -- and probably is trhe same seen some months since having passed its perihelion -- Anciently these sideral erratics were held to be precursors of great calamities -- revolutions, pestilence and wars. But philosophers of later years have ascertained their nature to be like that of the planets "parts of one harmonious whole." It is calculated there are about four hundred and fifty belonging to the solar system.
9 November 1811
. . . .
From the velocity of the Comet still increasing, as likewise its apparent magnitude, it still continues to approach the earth.
Saturday, 21 December 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°.
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 minute.
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 houses split.
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 pervades the land 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.
Dec. 22, 1811
"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."
The Earthquake was felt at Nashville, Ten. with like effects, and about the same moment it was felt here.
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 lost.
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.
[This is followed by a five column general article about earthquakes, copied from Encyclopedia Britannica, not copied here.]
Saturday, February 22, 1812
[apparently copied from the Aurora]
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 miles.
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 anticipated.
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 do.
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 causes.
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, Anaxagoras, to sir William Hamilton or Mr. Dolomien.
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 strong[?] earthquakes prove beyond doubt that electricity must be the principal agent in this alarming and terrible phenomenon. Whether according to Mr. Stuckley[?], this electricity is superficial, or is buried in and pervades the bowels of the earth, as is supposed by others, is among those arenas 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 union 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 contact.
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.
Savannah, Dec. 23, 1811
Saturday, February 22
By a gentleman just from Arkansas, by way of White river, we learn that the earthquake was violent in that quarter that in upwards of 500 places he observed coal and sand thrown up from fissures in the earth, that the waters raised in a swamp near the Cherokee village, so as to drown a Mr. Carrin who was travelling with his brother, the latter saved himself on a log. -- In other places the water fell, and in one instant it rose in a swamp near the St. Francis 25 or 30 feet; near Strawberry a branch of Black river, an eminence about 1 1/2 acres sunk down and formed a pond.
The Earthquake noticed in our list has been felt in various parts of the country. The paper from Richmond, Edenton, Wilmington, Charleston and Savannah, mention the phenomenon-- In Charleston, six distinct shocks were felt; the first and most violent about 3 o'clock, and one minute and a half in duration. It was very severe and alarming; indeed, the vibration was so great as to see some of the church bells ringing- the pendulums of the clocks stopped, and the picture glasses in many houses were broken.
Saturday, February 29, 1812
New Orleans, December 26
A letter from Fort Stoddert mentions, that on the morning of the 16th inst., two shocks of an earthquake had been felt. This is precisely the time it was felt at Natchez. It is evident that our being on an island and resting on the water, prevented us from feeling part of the shocks.
Cape Girardeau, Feb. 15th, 1812
The concussions of the earthquake still continue, the shock on the 23rd ult. was more severe and larger than that of the 16th Dec. and the shock of the 7th inst. was still more violent than any preceding, and lasted longer than perhaps any on record, (from 10 to 15 minutes, the earth was not at rest for one hour.) the ravages of this dreadful convulsion have nearly depopulated the district of New Madrid, but few remain to tell the sad tale, the inhabitants have fled in every direction. It has done considerable damage in this place by demolishing chimnies, and cracking cellar walls. Some have been driven from their houses, and a number are yet in tents. No doubt volcanoes in the mountains of the west, which have been extinguished for ages, are now opened.
Saturday, March 7, 1812
Orleans, January 13
By a gentleman who came on the Steam Boat we are informed that this convulsion of nature, (the first, we believe that has ever been felt on the Mississippi since the settlement of the country by the whites,) has destroyed several islands in the Mississippi, and has thereby endangered its navigation very considerably. He also states that it has sunk the land in a number of places on the margin of the river.
I here give you an extract of a letter, dated Orleans January 16th, from my friend John Bradbury. It will be found to contain some information relative to the effects of the earthquake of 16th Dec. on the Mississippi river and its banks; permit me to add that you have no information from any source which can be more implicitly relied on.
"Our voyage was from various causes tedious and disagreeable, we being 28 days from St. Louis to this place, Mr. Comegys has fared worse, being two months. Our progress was considerably impeded by an alarming and awful earthquake, such as has not I believe, occurred, or at least has not been recorded in the history of this country. The first shock which we experienced was about 2 o'clock on the morning of the 16th Dec. at which time our position was in itself perilous, we being but a few hundred yards above a bad place in the river, called the Devils Race Ground:* in our situation particularly, the scene was terrible beyond description, our boat appeared as if alternately lifted out of the water, and again suffered to fall. The banks above, below and around us were falling every moment into the river, all nature seemed running into chaos. The noise unconnected with particular objects, was the noise of the most violent tempest of wind mixed with a sound equal to the loudest thunder, but more hollow and vibrating. The crashing of falling trees and the loud screeching of wild fowl made up the horrid concert. Two men were sent on shore in order to examine the state of the bank to which we were moored, who reported that a few yards from its summit, it was separated from the shore by a chasm of more than 100 yards in length. Jos. Morin, the patron, insisted on our all leaving the boat which he thought could not be saved, and of landing immediately in order to save our lives: -- this I successfully combatted until another shock took place, about 3 o'clock, when we all left the boat, went on shore and kindled a fire. Between the first shock and daylight, we counted 27. As day broke we put off from the shore, at which instant we experienced another shock, nearly as violent as the first, by this the fright of the hands was so much increased, that they seemed deprived of strength and reason: I directed Morin to land on a sloping bank at the entrance of the Devil's Race Ground, intending to wait there until the men should be refreshed with a good breakfast. While it was preparing, we had three shocks, so strong as to make it difficult for us to stand on our feet; at length recovered from our panic we proceeded; after this we felt shocks during 6 days, but none to compare with those on the memorable morning of the 16th. I made many and minute observations on this earthquake, which if ever we meet, I will communicate to you, &c."
* 120 miles below N. Madrid
Extract of a letter from Orleans dated Feb. 11, to a gentleman in this place.
"This city has experienced some slight concussion of earthquake, particularly on the 9th, whilst a number of persons were at the theatre and the ball, some of whom were much alarmed, tho' the shock was not severe, nor had done any damage."
Saturday, March 14, 1812
The Earthquake of the 16th of December last was felt as far North as Charlestown, New Hampshire.
Saturday, March 21, 1812
The Indian mode of worship, as happened in consequence of the late Earthquakes.
This alarming phenomenon of nature struck with such consternation and dismay, those tribes of Indians, that live within and contiguous to that tract of country, on the Mississippi, where the severity of the earthquake appears to have been the greatest, that they were induced to convene together in order to consult upon the necessity of having recourse to some method of relief, from so alarming an incident; when it was resolved to fall upon the following expedient to excite the pity of the Great Spirit. [There follows a description of the religious ceremony of the Shawnees. KWD]
We are informed from a respectable source that the old road to the post of Arkansas, by Spring river, is entirely destroyed by the last violent shocks of earthquake. Chasms of great depth and considerable length cross the country in various directions, some swamps have become dry, others deep lakes, and in some places hills have disappeared.
Pittsburgh, Feb. 14
On Friday morning the 7th inst. about 4 o'clock, a shock of an Earthquake was severely felt in this town. The effects of this convulsion were much more sensibly felt, than the one which happened on the 16th of December. Many of the houses were violently shaken.
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