“The Louisiana Earthquake”


On a Sunday night, God sets the earth shaking. Singer stands expecting "louder clouds of thunder." In the morning "the elements were darkened"; six month pass, but the earth continues to shake; Christians fear, while "sinners? hearts were aching"


The song's reference to the area as "Louisiana" suggests that it was composed shortly after the events; while the region was part of the giant Louisiana Purchase, it became known as Missouri Territory within a year or two after the earthquake. At the time of the quakes, New Madrid was the second largest settlement in the area, after St. Louis.

The earthquakes of 1811-1813 affected an area of a million square miles, and included the most severe shocks ever recorded in North America; the worst were felt as far away as Washington, DC, New Orleans, and northern Canada. The course of the Mississippi River was affected (and with it the boundaries of several states); islands and lakes vanished and new ones were formed; the river was observed to flow backward for a time. Remarkably, there were very few fatalities. After two years the shocks diminished, but small aftershocks were common in the area for nine years or more. The New Madrid Fault is still active, and shakes the region every few years; New Madrid residents sell T-shirts reading, "It's Our Fault." - PJS

Historical references

  • Dec 16, 1811: Series of earthquakes begins, centered on New Madrid, Missouri
  • Feb 7, 1812: Worst shock of earthquake series


  • Stella Walsh Gilbert, "The Louisiana Earthquake" (on Ashley02)


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1961 (recording, Stella Walsh Gilbert)
Keywords: disaster religious gods
Found in: US(SE)