Rock and Roll: The New Madrid Fault System Part V: The Immediate Effects and Extent By Stephanie Osborn

NOTE – Not to detract from Stephanie Osborn’s great series, but I just came home to find out we’d lost Jerry Pournelle, great author, occasional commenter here, and a beloved friend.  I’d hoped to see him one more time in this world, but we’re not always given a choice.  I know I’ll see him again.
Meanwhile, my condolences go out to his family.  And the rest of us who loved him will strive to make him proud of us, so we can face him unblushing some day.

Rest in peace, Jerry.  I’m going to miss you.

Rock and Roll: The New Madrid Fault System Part V: The Immediate Effects and Extent By Stephanie Osborn

Excerpted from Rock and Roll: The New Madrid Fault System, ©2017

By Stephanie Osborn

Images in this article are public domain, unless otherwise specified.


This whole collection of writings started off with an email exchange, months ago. Our illustrious hostess was part of the discussion, and expressed interest in my converting the info to one or more blog articles. Then, when the LibertyCon programmers heard about it, they asked me to give a presentation on same, which I did.

The presentation was a full house, and at the end, there was a request for me to convert it to blogs and/or an ebook. I asked how many would like to see an ebook of the material; virtually every hand in the lecture hall went up.

A little over a month later, with additional research under my belt and factored into the manuscript, the book has gone live. And as promised, I am providing Sarah a series of blog articles on the subject. This series of blog articles is only a small fraction of the material contained in the ebook; it may be considered in the nature of a series of informative abstracts of the information contained therein. For additional information, may I recommend that you check out Rock and Roll: The New Madrid Fault System.


Part V: The Immediate Effects and Extent

The historic temblors, Winter, 1811-12

The principal temblors were as follows:

  • 16 December 1811, 2:15am local, M ~7.2–8.2, epicenter in northeastern Arkansas;

Multiple aftershocks continued every 6-10 min after this temblor until the next major tremor, 6 hrs. later.

  • 16 December 1811, 8:15am, M ~7.2–8.2, epicenter in northeastern Arkansas;
  • 23 January 1812, 9:00am, M ~7.0–8.0, epicenter in the Missouri Boot-heel;
  • 7 February 1812, 4:45am, M ~7.4–8.6, epicenter near New Madrid, MO.

There were uncounted multiple lesser foreshocks/aftershocks in the swarm.

I have also read eyewitness accounts which claimed that, in the central part of the affected area, the ground did not STOP moving for a period of 3-4 weeks (generally considered as being in roughly the January timeframe). This caused significant difficulties in evacuating heavily-damaged areas, as the horses often refused to move due to the uncertain footing. The time of year did not help matters, as the devastation was high and extensive, and most local inhabitants lost their homes (shelter), possessions (clothing/blankets), and food stores.


The Extent

Since 1812 vastly predates the invention of the seismograph, let alone the positioning of same, geologists have used later photographic imagery and contemporaneous eyewitness accounts to reconstruct intensities. The mapping of the central area of effect produced some interesting results.



But the total region affected by the quakes—the so-called “felt” region—is far bigger.

According to the USGS, the area of damage sustained (Modified Mercalli Intensity ≥ VII) was at least 230,000 square miles (600,000 sq. km.). Shaking strong enough to alarm the local populace (Modified Mercalli Intensity ≥ V) occurred over nearly a million square miles (>2.5million sq. km.). The “felt” region easily covered most of the eastern half of the continent.

the main

The main quakes were felt in the Front Range of the Rockies per some anecdotal reports, though populations were scanty and mostly consisted of mountain men.

Church bells were rung by the shaking, up and down the East Coast. This was especially noticed, since in that period, church bells were commonly used as a fire alarm.

The Mississippi River and her tributaries, including the Ohio River, were greatly disturbed.


[Residual forest debris resulting from falling trees, landslides, etc. Photo ~1906.]


Residents of Montreal, Canada felt the temblors.

Residents of various Caribbean islands were awakened by the nighttime quakes, running into the streets in fright.

Remember the first Mississippi River steamboat, the New Orleans? (We talked about it in a previous installment of this series.) And how they were on the Ohio River when the earthquake series began, and traversed the Ohio and Mississippi rivers during the series of quakes? Whatever happened to them?

Along the way, they were tied up at Yellow Bank near Owensboro KY on the Ohio River, laying in a supply of coal when the first shock hit; the boat’s crew and passengers thought it felt like the boat had run aground, despite it being tied up. The wave motion made even the most experienced crewman nauseated.


[The centennial replica of the New Orleans steamboat, ]

As long as the steamboat was under way, its own machinery drowned out sensation of subsequent tremors. However, the locals, both white and Native American, were badly unnerved; some even blamed the strange vessel’s appearance for the quakes. Oddly-flooded regions (that should not have been flooded — likely from the various uplifts damming the rivers in spots) and copious debris in the rivers — all caused by the quakes’ aftermath — impeded progress.

At every stop for fuel for the boilers, locals begged to be taken aboard and fed, as all homes in the area had been demolished, along with winter food stores.


Canoes full of angry, frightened Indians from the local settlements chased them along the river, blaming them — and their strange water craft — for the destruction.

All persons on board remained unnerved for the rest of the trip, to the point of only speaking when necessary, and then only in whispers.



To obtain a copy of Rock and Roll: The New Madrid Fault System by Stephanie Osborn, go to:

126 thoughts on “Rock and Roll: The New Madrid Fault System Part V: The Immediate Effects and Extent By Stephanie Osborn

  1. On The New Orleans: You wrote they had stopped to take on coal. Was it coal or wood? If coal, it implies that it was in use in the area at that time, and that implies some sort of market infrastructure to have it available. That’s possible, so this is just a question out of curiosity.

      1. Talked to an operator of a traction engine a month ago. The engine they were using could use wood or coal. Coal was better over all and would use less over a course of a day. All I got was how many cords of wood they used though since they aren’t allowed to burn coal anymore.

        1. The original heating method for my house was coal. I still have the chute door on the side of the house, and the basement still has a bit of dust in the area that was the storage portion.

        2. heh, forgot the first portion I was gonna type.
          I have seen those with sales points of being able to run on pretty much anything that burned. The new modern steam engines (Cyclone, iirc) pretty much use the same sales point.

          1. Dug up my notes I took. Operating a saw mill the traction engine I was asking about used two bush cords a day and went through 1,000 gallons of water. It could use coal and straw in a pinch. Went to a steam show to see some of these devices in operation and for research purposes. 🙂

            1. Several of the fairs, esp. the Deerfield Fair in New Hampshire, have exhibitions of those old engines. Most are diesel fired, but usually one or two of the semi-external combustion type.

              1. The Antique tractor and Steam show an annual event near Lynden, Washington (just south of Vancouver BC) has a working Corliss steam engine that is in process of being st up to run a complete machine shop. Said Corliss engine is fed steam from a scrap wood hand fired boiler . An impressive sight a two story tall cast iron and brass monument to bigger is better.

              2. There are a few steamups in Klamath County, OR. Not sure where the Memorial Day event is held, but a Labor Day Threshing show is held near Hildebrand, east of Klamath Falls. The hosting chapter of EDGE&TA (Early day gas engine and tractor Assn) owns and runs one or two steamers at these shows.

                Every Father’s Day, the Collier State Park Logging Museum holds a steamup; there’s a 25HP Russell running a shingle saw, an Aultman-Taylor 75HP tractor towing visitors, and a 10HP Westinghouse tractor, though the last time I ran it, it was mostly stationary. Cute little rascal. The museum keeps the steamers in storage the rest of the year, but it’s a decent setup if you are interested in western logging.

                I know that the High Desert Museum has a working steam engine, but I’m not familiar with the place. It’s in Deschutes County, on US 97 south of Bend.

                I helped with the annual tests a few years and ran the engines at Collier, but life got in the way…

              3. Big exhibition at the fairs here, too. Actually, probably all up and down the mountain States – mine pumps, ore milling, sawmills, etc. Streams and rivers were usually not all that convenient to where the work had to be done (or running high enough most of the time).

            2. some of those old traction engines are very stout. They didn’t have a tone of horse power, but scads of torque and weigh tons. I’ve seen them hooked to multiple modern tractors and pull the lot backwards.

              1. From my research there’s two types of designations. There’s horsepower that we use for most engines today and then there was “Nominal Horsepower” or NHP which was mostly calculated by the size of the pistons rather then actual work preformed. Figure most traction engines had a NHP of between 3 and 7 and most locomotives were rated at 10 to 15 NHP. So actual real horsepower was far different in application.
                Been digging deep into the reason why for somethings and the history can be quite fascinating.

                1. Judging by the work they do, I think the Russell’s 25HP and the Westinghouse’s 10HP are pretty much actual values (modulated by the lower btu content of the wood they’re fired with). I don’t know enough about the Aultman-Taylor, but it’s a big fire box… Local woods would be mostly pines, douglas fir, and cedar, with a bit of juniper depending on the location.

                  FWIW, they have the dual Corliss engine from a mill that stood at Weed, CA. (Just north of Mount Shasta.) I gather they used several boilers to feed it, all fueled by slash and scrap wood. The belt that it drove is about 6 feet wide. No idea of the horse power, but “lots” comes to mind.

        3. You can get a tremendous amount of BTUs out of coal. Years ago, I had to do an analysis of cost per BTU of heating methods, and coal won hands down.

          You can actually see this if you compare fire places with coal grates. The coal grates are much smaller.

      2. Wood was used for some steamboats into the 20th Century, but that depended on availability. For instance, I knew a man who had a job providing wood for a municipal electric generator, but thirty years later I remember my grandparents using coal in place of firewood until they could no longer get it.

        Another was an old high school building built at the same time as that gentleman was hauling wood to a town generator, and it used coal for heating. They used so much of it that we could find coal on the grounds, and the underside of the building, where they once had the boilers, had all sorts of coal dust. Decades later, then they had an accident removing pipes with a torch and the building went up incredibly fast, I thought about that coal dust.

        Anyhow, it figures they were digging coal in Kentucky, but if they were buying coal, that means there was enough of a demand for a large enough quantity to be available. Of course, they could have made arraignments in advance. Again, I’m not arguing it wasn’t coal, only that if they took on coal, it says a number of things about what was going on in the region at the time.

        1. Coal dust burns *really* good. There have been internal-combustion engines that used it instead of liquid fuel. And there were even some experiments using coal dust in stationary turbines.

          As far as coal in riverboats… as far as I know there’s no source of coal near the river, so it would have had to come from somewhere else, which would have added to the cost.

          I do know that in Arkansas and Mississippi landowners maintained woodlots specifically for steamboats. Usually had a pier and stacks of wood right on the riverbank.

          1. And with the proper encouragement, it explodes even better. During WWII, OSS and SOE put out pamphlets showing how to streeeetch your explosive budget using coal dust, flour, chaff from grain elevators, etc.

          2. The earliest discoveries of coal were made by French explorers in what would become Illinois, in the late 1600s. The coal was found where river valleys had exposed the seams. The first commercial mining of coal was in the Pittsburgh area, and high grade Pittsburgh coal would become famous. This coal would have been available in 1811. Commercial mining did not begin in Kentucky until 1820.

            However, wood was more commonly available at that time. I know something of early railroads, and a locomotives of similar dimensions (cylinder and boiler size) would produce about 25% more horsepower using coal compared to wood. The coal industry expanded quickly after railroads were built, providing transportation from the mines and spurring development. The Ohio River and its tributaries passed through the heart of coal country, but most of this was undeveloped until the 1850s and later.

          3. Diesel’s early experiments used coal dust, but oil worked a lot better, with much less drama…

            1. Just to follow up on Writing Observer, because that statement is terse enough to be overlooked: coal dust is the normal fuel of a modern coal-fired electric power plant. It is delivered in the chunks you may think of as “coal”, pulverized to dust on-site, and blown into a combustion chamber.

              1. Thank you, Clive. Probably terse because I get into conversations about coal technology more over on WUWT – where just about everyone knows more about it than I do, so I can afford to be terse.

              2. Out of curiosity – do you know when this change was made? I’m curious if the “Fluidized Bed Combustion” ads about new coal technology from the 70s refer to this process.

            2. When I was growing up, some of my cousins were using coal to heat their house. They, too, had a grinder to pulverize the coal into dust before burning it.

        2. Yeah, I am just going from stories told about the riverboats from when I first moved to New Orleans, back in 1984. I know, as time went on, coal was preferred.

        3. IIRC, the boiler for radiator steam at my elementary school (built 1917) was coal fired. Makes sense – the nearest wood supplies are well up in the surrounding mountains, while coal was being railed in for the smelters anyway.

    1. It easily could have been coal, shipped if necessary down the Ohio and then Mississippi rivers from (say) the Pittsburgh area (where the “New Orleans” started, and likely was built). That would’ve taken nothing fancier than a flatboat, and Pennsylvania has mined coal (both kinds) from ‘way back.
      Kentucky also has a long tradition of mining, though maybe not quite that long.
      So if the original sources say, coal, I’m really inclined to believe them.

      As already noted, coal has a very high heat value for its weight and volume both. Wood is okay by volume, not so good by weight, charcoal is the other way around. Coke is even better than coal, and burns cleaner, but it’s got to be “cooked” from coal (making coal gas and coal oil and tar as other products) — though all the early railroad engines ran on it, not coal (e.g. the “Rocket” and “Novelty” and so on). If you wanted maximum energy to weight for, e.g., airship engines (*evil grin*), you’d pick coke.

      Wow, but that’s a *huge* area of effect, even for a 7-8 magnitude quake. (Mid-plate seismic wave propagation, like hammering on a railroad’s rail, right? And the #1 reason mid-plate quakes are so scary to a lot of people?)
      And I can only barely *begin* to imagine how unsettling (maybe nigh-apocalyptic) that ongoing stream of big and little earthquakes must’ve been, for months on end, and not just locally but over whole states’ worth of area at the “big” end.
      Since this is pre-Removal, did the Cherokee (or other tribes more to the “civilized” end of the spectrum) have anything recorded to say about this, I wonder..?

      1. The river valleys, loaded with saturated sediment, would tend to amplify the power of a quake. Liquefaction would occur, and the ground waves might continue to “echo” in the valleys after solid rock had ceased shaking. A close look at the intensity contours shows increased damage along the Mississippi, Ohio, and Wabash valleys.

        1. one small town was said to sink into liquefied ground. This was said to be near the epicenter and where the crack that sucked water into it for some time after (The Mississippi ran backwards) is suspected to be. I don’t know if it was the first or second big’un that was to have done this.

    2. I’ve seen store advertisements from newspapers of the time. There were lots of town and stops on the way that had things I wouldn’t have thought would be generally available there but we’re widely advertised as in stock. I wouldn’t be surprised to find coal among those things.

      1. Cherokee would have been on the edge of VI effects near V effects. They would have had approximately the same as Augusta, Georgia.

        Other than oral accounts, any written by Cherokee would have had to be in a European language. Sequoyah wouldn’t finish his “Talking Leaves” until 1821.

        The Creek at the time were situated from halfway into Georgia and westward, but I’m drawing a blank on how far west. They would have experienced VII through II effects.

        1. Well, there is some debate about the written language. According to the elders I’ve talked to, the priests and such like of the tribe (the tribe is structured very different now from what it was in the earlier years of white settlement, let alone before Europeans arrived) actually DID have a written language, but somewhat like Latin in Medieval times in Europe, it was restricted to the learned class. What I have been told by elders is that all Sequoyah really did was make it available to the whole tribe.

          1. That’s absolutely fascinating, and very much in line with paralllels elsewhere (ogham in the Celtic world, and the Elder Futhark [runes] in the Norse world, though the Viking-era Younger Futhark was much more “open literature”). It also matches the Cherokees’ long-standing reputation (with other tribes and the New Guys) for being both traditional and forward-looking.
            Mostly I was thinking the earthquake “season” would be memorable enough to still be clear in living memory a couple of decades later, or even to be talked about at second hand in the years after the event and recorded that way.

            This information is also very useful in a strictly “goal-oriented” sense, since I’ve already had to invent a fictional Cherokee Morse variant, and wonder which ‘noun class’ a rigid or semi-rigid airship would belong to…

            Thanks so much for doing all this, and especially for sticking with it today.

            1. Well, there’s a whole subset of study where the Cherokee, especially, are concerned, that most Europeans tend to blow off, because Cherokee=Native American=uncivilized peoples in most peoples’ minds, and the elders don’t talk about it much — because nobody likes to be ridiculed or whatever. And one of the problems the Cherokee had was that the local Europeans were actually jealous of their established civilization, farming techniques, and general wealth — they were GOOD at it. (They’d been doing it for centuries and knew the land; it stands to reason.) Anyhow.

              FWIW I have a little bit of knowledge of the language, if need be. I can’t write in the syllabary for spit, but I used to be able to do some basic conversation in the language, and I tend to transliterate the sounds into Roman alphabet. If you’re on Faceplant and you’ve ever seen me wish some one, “Alihelisdi nihi!” then you’ve seen me wish them happy birthday in Cherokee. (It’s not literal; it’s shorthand for a full phrase that I think means something closer to “I’m happy it’s your birthday” or the like.) We have the Cherokee (actually Tsalagi) language to thank for the whole, “Ugh” thing for American Indians, because the Tsalagi for “yes” is Roman-written as “vv,” which is pronounced as two grunts: “uh-uh.” If you’re not paying attention, you can mistake it for a very modern American, “Uhn-uh,” meaning no…

              1. +++
                and I tend to transliterate the sounds into Roman alphabet
                This is a Done Thing too — the equivalent for Japanese is called “romaji” in contrast to its two “alphabet” (really syllabary) variants (katakana and hiragana, and I don’t “really” know Japanese either). Apparently whole series of manga are published this way.
                So maybe you’ve just invented Tsa-la-gi ro-ma-ji.

                I’m sure there’s phoneticspeak for the two grunts, but basically, that.

                And at least Cherokee *has* a “yes” and (IIRC) a “no” — some languages don’t.
                Like Scottish and Irish.
                You have to say things like “it is” or “it isn’t” (both are short, though, “tha” and “chan eil” in Scottish). Or repeat the question as a positive or negative statement. It’s not remotely as clumsy as it sounds, in context, but tends to really blow the minds of new initiates.

                The first “Division One” book is really good, with unexpected depths. (Unexpected, but not surprising. And isn’t the whole burden of mystery writing reliably delivering the unexpected, anyway?)

                1. The first “Division One” book is really good, with unexpected depths.

                  (cough) Have you posted as much on Amazon?

                  On the matter of negativity, much has been made of the “inability” of Japanese to say “No.”

                  But you do not need “no” to convey the negation. Consider the case of the young Japanese man asking a father’s permission to woo his daughter.

                  (Looooooong pause.) “… Sure.”

          2. Except that we know that Sequoyah first looked at pictographs, but discarded them when he realized it would take thousands. We also know he stopped development on a written system of Cherokee during the War of 1812, when he served in a Cherokee units that may (hazy memory) been involved in the Upper Creek/Lower Creek war. If so, that unit is interesting in itself, as there was bad blood between the Creek and Cherokee.

            Anyway, it looks as though that Sequoyah created a writing system for Cherokee, and now I’m trying to remember the account of Cherokee leader he showed the system to, and how he exclaimed “The leaves talk!”

            Whether or not they had another writing system prior to Sequoyah is an interesting question. Leather goods don’t hold up unless in an anaerobic environment, and if you make anything out of wood or bark in the South, the termites say “Thank you!” This means if they had a writing system, they don’t seem to have used it on pottery or carved into stone. The latter would have been a strong possibility, as some knapped pieces show a strong artistic sense. I remember an ax head with a small shell fossil on the surface, and the chert was knapped in a way to preserve the fossil in the center. It’s thought that Indians heated chert to make it finer to knap, thus yielding a keener edge, but it also turned it red, and I wonder if color was a factor in of itself.

            Anyway, off that rabbit trail, if they had a written language, the next question is whether we’d recognize it. Like the (mumble mumble) in Central America with a knot system that was likely a language, and it seems the Spaniards on the spot trusted their accounting over their own.

            I’m pretty sure that what Sequoyah came up with was independent of any prior written language, if it existed, simply because he wouldn’t have investigated pictographs if he were using a preexisting system.

            Now two things are bugging me. One is whether US archeologists are checking wet areas near Indian sites for possible preserved material, and the other is I need to pull down a book by Swanton to look up something.

            1. Well, we actually don’t know. We know what we’re told and what the linguists think. And the syllabary isn’t a pictograph system. If he ever looked at a pictograph system — and I was never taught that by the elders — he may have been working out a way to ‘dumb down’ the syllabary to start educating the underclass, less-educated Tsalagi.

              But the Cherokee and many of the eastern nations — the elders indicate they are offshoots of the Maya confederacy, and the Maya definitely had a written language and a fairly sophisticated numerical/mathematical system.

              The notion that they had little to write on that would have survived very long is quite accurate, though.

              This is gonna sound weird, but I was expressly told that, if it came from a European researcher, chances are, it does not contain the correct version of events “as told by the natives,” because they don’t just up and tell the real version of events to those outside their milieu.

                1. That was according to what I was told by a couple of elders, yes. Many if not most of the eastern nations were. The Maya, contrary to popular belief, are not one nation, it was and is a very large confederation of nations that extended from the eastern parts of Mexico, across the Caribbean, and into the northern shores of the Gulf of Mexico. According to the story of the elders, when there started to be contention among the confederation (most notably, I was told, about the increasing amount of human sacrifice, some of which were produced from internal fighting), some groups broke off — seceded, I suppose — and came up the east coast, with different groups breaking off to settle different regions — the Seminole, Cherokee (later fracturing to produce the Choctaw and Chickasaw) and ultimately the Iroquois Confederacy.

                  I can’t verify any of it, and I’m not trying to. I’m just recounting what I was told by some Cherokee elders. But given certain things like language similarities, the known internal structures of certain groups, and the incredibly wide and far-reaching trade routes extant before ever European settlers made it this far, it makes a lot of sense to me. I think there has been a book or two written about this particular oral history, but I’m not sure.

                  Why did they tell me, if they don’t talk to outsiders? I wasn’t considered an outsider. While I can’t prove it yet, I have certain genetic markers indicating I have Native American in my ancestry, and I was therefore accepted — the Tsalagi people in general do not require proof of blood quantum; only the US gov’t does that. I am one of the few inhabitants of Alabama that has been recognized in court by what used to be called the Western Band of Cherokee, as being Cherokee.

                  1. Consider that the Creeks describe coming up from Mexico and moving northeast. One key aspect is their description of an erupting volcano, which may or may not have been tied with a modern one. Yes, Creeks aren’t Cherokee, but they are one who have roots in that part of the world.

                    An historian (maybe Bernice McCullar?) thought there was a Mayan link in a Creek festival, and something’s bumping around about trade.

                    The Seminole, though, are pretty well documented, with a nucleus coming from the Oconee Indians when they migrated south after experiencing pressure from settlement. They basically took all comers, from escaped slaves to Creeks. They took in some Upper Creeks after the defeat at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, but I think there may have already been some ties with the Lower Creeks. IIRC, Osceola came from one of the Upper Creeks AKA Red Sticks.

                    Not sure what to think about the Mayan story, whether the Mayan’s reach was much further than we realize and the Mound Builders a part of it, and it all fractured during the collapse, or something else. But I’ve been asked several times by Indians if I’m Cherokee, and I’m only mentioning that because some Cherokee do tend to have lighter skin. That may not be from intermarriage, as I knew a Cherokee who’s family tried to pass. That implies a different group, but if they were taken by conquest (thinking of the much later account of Tama being a vassal town to Ocute), that wouldn’t matter at all.

                  2. For whatever it might be worth, neither expert nor insider here, I’ve also heard of this same Cherokee / Mayan connection before. I think the most “authoritative” was a book called “Voices of Our Ancestors” by Dhyani Ywahwoo (don’t even *think* of believing this spelling since it’s years later and by memory, but something a lot like that). She even gives a Mayan-derived calendar — then proceeds to tell you (IIRC) that it’s still not exactly the “real” Cherokee traditional calendar she knows.
                    Again there are parallels; anyone familiar with the “Age of Migrations” in general and the Irish “Book of Invasions” in particular knows some pretty large-scale, long-distance population movements took place in Europe & neighborhood. (It’s worth reading, note well and always it’s legend not literal history of course, but suggestive at the very least. And Schliemann did find Troy, right?)

                    The very idea that a traditional culture of any kind would approach someone who’s basically just showed up at the door with an “I’m gonna give all my secrets away” attitude is, well, pretty outright bizarre. Hospitality, yes in many cases, but *that*..?
                    Cherokee, homeland Scottish, Scotch-Irish here (and don’t try to tell me different, I half grew up in one), Hungarian for all I know (N.B. not Indo-European in a sea of same), despite all the rest would likely agree on that.
                    The big successes otherwise (Alexander Carmichael and his Carmina Gadelica, some of the Appalachian folktale collectors) are due to persistence coupled with genuineness, I’d have to say. To, basically, becoming an honorary insider.

                    1. I hate to say “take with a grain of salt,” as that sounds dismissive, yet I’m thinking that timing is a huge aspects of these accounts. Think of it like standing at the goal of a football field and looking at the other goal with binoculars. There’s a shortening effect that “squishes” everything and makes it seem closer to each other than they are.

                      I was thinking about the farming story. Both Creeks and Cherokee practiced farming, but they also adopted European methods. According to Indian Agent Benjamin Hawkins, some Creeks were reluctant to adopt European methods because agriculture was traditionally what those who were unable to hunt did, and they worried about disrupting that safety net. Seriously. Yet they did adopt European farming methods, such as the plow.

                      Here, I think, we get a “squish” effect. By the time of the Trail of Tears, their farms in Georgia were no doubt an envy, because that hilly terrain wasn’t exactly seen as prime farmland, yet they made it work. Here also we get into conflicting stories; some claim that they saw white settlers move into their cabins before they were out of sight, and some claim they saw them burn them. But I know with a certainty that the big factor in Georgia was gold, followed by forcing the US government to live up to it’s part of the bargain in surrendering claims to territory east of the Chattahoochee and a line south. The deal was Georgia would relinquish claims if the US government would make treaties with the Indians within Georgia boundaries to cede the territory to settlers. Georgians got to thinking that the US government was dragging its feet, and at least three times violated the constitution by making its own treaties (I’m lumping the land seizure from the Cherokees into this one – notice how fast my hand is waving).

                      I’m also wondering how much of the squish is from the Oklahoma Territory itself. In other words, what accounts from there have gotten squished in with the others?

                      This is not dismissive, BTW. If you want another example of this kind of squish, I give you no other than Roswell, New Mexico. Several separate events seem to have gotten the squish effect and all associated with 1947. We even saw the squish at work, where us old timers were talking about storms and finding them squished together, and we separated them by other key events that happened.

                      Please note I’m not being dismissive; I’m only thinking about squaring documentation with accounts.

                      BTW, for the State of Franklin fans, this brings to mind the Trans-Oconee Republic. That was a separate country that briefly existed on the west side of the Oconee River in Georgia. No less than Elijah Clarke was involved in it. Georgia Militia eventually rooted it out.

          3. Interesting, The Daughter was telling me about this just this past Thursday. Mind you, I was driving in less than pleasant rush hour traffic at the time so I was unable to give her my full attention.

            From what I recall her telling me the meaning of the original written language is essentially lost to us. It was not a phonetic script like that which Sequoyah developed.

            I’ll have to ask The Daughter to tell me more. Thank you for the conversation starter.

    3. I may have neglected to mention it in the blog, though I thought I did. It was either — whichever they could get. Coal if there was a population center nearby with it, otherwise they tied up along the bank, sent crew inland, and chopped trees for all they were worth. Which is why they occasionally had problems with the American Indians along the way; it seems that some of the less tied-in groups blamed the strange giant canoe on the river for the ground upsets.

      1. I recall reading many years ago, perhaps Louie L’Amour, that mountain men were known to in lean times cut a few cords of wood and stack them along the bank of a navigable river. Eventually a river boat would come along, need fuel, and pay them a bit of coin. Seemed a bit chancy to me, but old Louie in addition to telling some great stories was known for the accuracy of his research.

        1. Don’t know about mountain men, but certainly small farmers would. They needed to clear land, it was cheaper than the boat would pay for wood that was hauled into town, and a well sited stack of logs would last for at least a year or two and only get more burnable.

  2. OMG. This is painful, indeed. For some reason, I had cracked open one of The Endless Frontier anthologies last night. Very hard to believe that his voice is stilled. Damn. Can’t write anything more coherent right now.

    1. Perhaps a bit more coherent now. But WAY too much poured out to fit into a comment, so it’s on the blog. (Even too much for that venue, or for three hours of writing.)

  3. I have also read eyewitness accounts which claimed that, in the central part of the affected area, the ground did not STOP moving for a period of 3-4 weeks (generally considered as being in roughly the January timeframe). This caused significant difficulties in evacuating heavily-damaged areas, as the horses often refused to move due to the uncertain footing.

    By two-thirds through January there had already been three major quakes in short order, by that point even if the ground movement wasn’t non-stop I know I would be less than trusting of the world around me.

    I wonder how felines reacted.

    1. I haven’t heard reports of cats, but horses were thoroughly freaked. They were very prone to doing that spread-eagled stance they do, and refusing to move, while rolling eyes, snorting, and generally panicking.

  4. Canoes full of angry, frightened Indians from the local settlements chased them along the river, blaming them — and their strange water craft — for the destruction.

    Serves them right for mis-naming the ship. It is a basic rule that all ultra-innovative craft ought be named Correlation is not Causation for just such reason.

        1. All the better to grow my garden; the wallaby being a renowned vegetarian beast that eats, shoots and leaves.

  5. This makes me want to look up news stories from the time period. Research project!! This is fascinating!

    1. One of the links I have in the ebook’s bibliography is one website with literally hundreds of various kinds of accounts. When I was researching for the book, I prowled that thing for hours.

      1. One of the links I have in the ebook’s bibliography
        This is where the pure gold is to be found, historically, the best of both worlds; you get the summary of the material by someone who’s spent all those hours reading, then you get to go back and trace down whatever you need through their research. (I’d likewise recommend the very recent “Iron Dawn” about the ironclads of the 1860s, if anyone’s interested in those.And I’d have to say, this scholarship looks comparable.) Clickable links in an e-book, why, that’s almost too good to be true.

        Any ideas what the next one might be? NERVA/ROVER? Project Orion? Supervolcanoes/area eruptions? Stuff I don’t know enough about to even guess? One could get used to this, in the best of ways.

        1. Well, in terms of blog posts, I have a post about the solar eclipse that Sarah can have if she wants it.

          In terms of popular science books, probably the Yellowstone supervolcano, and supervolcanoes in general; suggested title from a fan was “Kiss Your Ash Goodbye” — which had me rolling on the floor howling.

          1. Inspired by your posts I’ve found out that the Balcones Fault run through Dallas. There was actually a 3.1 earthquake in Irving last week. Of course it was blamed on fracking. I was wondering where I should look for more info on the Balcones Fault. Also what’s a good introduction to Geology? Preferably not one who thinks that fracking and oil drilling cause earthquakes. Thank you for your interesting and informative posts.

            1. I’d recommend just starting to websearch on the fault and see what you can find out. Go to the USGS website and see what they have on it.

              As for a good general intro to geology text, I honestly don’t know offhand. Not even my geology classes in college used a whole lot in the way of textbooks that I recall; they used ’em, but there was a lot of class lectures by the profs, who were experienced geologists. I’ll have to look at that.

              1. Thank you. Some of the websites seem to be written for experts. I took Oceanography for my Geology requirement in college. Lo those many years ago. By the way someone from the USGS came to Dallas to help SMU set up seismographic observation station. If I’m not misremembering what I read, there never been an earthquake in Irving befre. Also they’re considering raising the earthquake threat level for Dallas.

                1. What I know about that area seismically is what I learned researching for this book (and blog articles, and presentation). There’s so much out there, you can’t know everything about everything, you know? But I’d be interested in knowing what you find out. And I’ll be glad to help you look.

  6. Damn. Jerry seemed like the man who would never die, no matter what. I’ll miss his insightful, clear, and interesting mind. He was at Dragoncon here recently (I think Larry Correia got to meet him and Niven there for the first time).

    Some men when they pass leave little more than wisps of fog, memories in friends and loved ones, and the work of thier hands to this ever changing world. Others leave a shadow broad and deep, and an example for younger men to try and live up to, no matter how imperfect our efforts may be.

    Requiescat in pace. The heavens are the richer, and we the poorer, for his passing.

    1. The first time I saw him comment here, my reaction was “Huh. Jerry Pournelle. Wait— Jerry Pournelle? The real Mr. Pournelle of all those books?!? Squeeeeeeeeee! Ohmygoshohmygosh he’s still alive?!? Squeeeeee!” Happily, my hands were off the keyboard at the time. I’ve been slowly picking his “There Will be War” series up again. Dang, but he left a huge mark and a high bar to try to reach.

      1. Been working my way through the same series these past few years. And yeah, that was pretty much reaction too. *grin*

        If I could ever write 1/12th that good (as he did, every day), my hands would never leave the keyboard.

      2. Met him once a book signing. The high point of my online existence remains the one time my email wound up on the front page at Chaos Manor.

      3. I read them when they first came out. Whatever knowledge of the military I have is due to those books.

      4. Yeah, that was similar to my reaction too. I was like “Wait, Jerry Pournelle, the sci-fi writer… holy crap, that’s awesome.” then started readign his comments, and my respect just went up, because it’s clear he wanted to discuss topics, talk about stuff. It was great to see his comments every time, because he’d put things in such a reasoned out and intelligent, erudite manner, that it was refreshing to see.

  7. I got a chance to meet Jerry in person at a Chicago Worldcon many years ago. Read his and LN’s stuff of course. And recently by my association with Stephanie got pulled into some amazing round robin e-mail discussions with her, Jerry, Uncle Timmy, and several other unsavory types. I know he was terribly frustrated that while his mind was sharp as ever the stroke had forced him to slow down tremendously. To borrow a phrase from a favorite movie, Grumpy Old Men, “he passed away peacefully in his sleep, the lucky bastard.”
    Being a night owl Steph will be along eventually to answer your questions. Go easy on her, she’s as upset about Jerry’s passing as Sarah is.

    1. Yeah, I’m pretty upset. I still can’t really believe it.

      Plus it looks like the remnants of Irma are gonna track over us and maybe stall out on top of us, so I have been spending time trying to get ready for that. Got in some bottled water and some food that doesn’t need cooking, stuff like that.

      FWIW, this is what I posted on the condolences/comments page of Jerry’s blog last night (okay, very very early this morning):

      “To Jerry’s family, thank you for sharing him with us for so many years. I feel for you, and my heartfelt prayers are with you. Jerry was a good friend, a dear man, a cool teacher, and I will miss him terribly.

      “Jerry is why I’m a member of SIGMA; a mutual friend introduced us when he thought a science question Jerry had for something in his blog was right up my alley, and it was. So I got involved in a big email conversation. It was tremendous fun, and it ended up in his blog. Then he asked me if I’d be interested in SIGMA, and told me all about it. I said I would, so he nominated me, and Larry Niven seconded the nomination. Next thing I know, I’m in.

      “We talked a lot, mostly via email, but often at various and sundry conventions we found ourselves attending. And always there was the blog. I was so honored that he thought highly enough of my knowledge base to use my comments.

      “A couple years back (before his stroke), SIGMA sent me, Jerry, Ed Lerner, and Arlan Andrews to a nanotech conference as consultants. Jerry was evidently already there when I arrived at the hotel, and when I went to the desk to check in, there was Jerry, talking to the concierge about something. He came over and gave me a hug, then said, ‘Stand right there.’ He yanked out his cell phone, snapped a photo of me, and sent it off somewhere into the ether.
      “’What was that about?’ I asked.
      “’Oh, that was for Roberta,’ he told me. ‘She sees your emails all the time, with your sig file, and wanted to know what an Interstellar Woman of Mystery looked like.’
      “We had a really good laugh.

      “Stories, stories.
      “Jerry, I miss you already, hon.”

      1. As we’ve seen with Harvey, the storms that sit and spin are trouble. I’m worried about this one because it’s so big. We’re already feeling effects, and odds are I’ll be out of pocket for a few days.

        Don’t forget ice. I had planned to get some this morning, but when I went, it was clear hardly anyone was stocking up. I hope we got more than we needed (wife’s an optimist and I’m a pessimist). She made a comment about we’d have to give it away, and I didn’t tell her we likely would to our parents. Hope we don’t need it.

        1. North Alabama where Steph and I are both located will get the tail end, see one to two inches of rain, and possibly high winds. May be some spun off tornadoes and we are always at risk of power outages as much of that utility still runs above ground.
          Ice is a good thing. Bags of it in the freezer will extend the time before the contents start to thaw by a day or more. Bagged cubes are also a reliable indicator as to whether your freezer thawed sufficient to put the contents at risk. After power returns you check, and if they are no longer individual cubes your frozen foodstuffs are suspect.

          1. Quick lunch break comment:

            Opening your freezer and refrigerator increases warming. A full freezer and refrigerator hold temperature better. My all means check, but do so sparingly. We have thermometers in ours.

            Widespread outages here. Won’t get better until the winds start to die down.

    2. Oh, and yes, Jerry was very frustrated. We were working on a book off and on, actually, when the stroke happened, and he lost his ability to type. He never did get back more than pretty much two-finger typing — which aggravated him no end — and eventually he told me to go it on my own on the book, because he thought he’d slow me down too much. I haven’t, because Jerry. I guess I just kept hoping he’d change his mind and come back to it. I probably ought to go ahead with it, but I need to talk to some of his kids and find out if they’d like an attribution of some sort, since he helped with the brainstorming of it.

    3. At his last panel at Dragoncon on Monday, his voice sounded congested — but his thinking seemed as clear as it was when I first met him at the Toronto Worldcon in 1973, He will certainly be missed.

      1. He came home with a bad case of con crud and was not feeling well. I’m not sure how much that may have had to do with it. I gathered he laid down to take a nap — yesterday afternoon, I think it was, but my days are all off — and just didn’t wake up.

  8. I just found newspaper accounts of the first major shock and the February shock. The first shock got a huge write-up in the newspaper. The editor thought, at the time, that a volcano had maybe turned active within 200 miles of St. Louis near a “great Osage village”.

      1. Jefferson was still hoping for mastadons, mammoths, and other giant fauna to send to France as a “nyah nyah.” Alas, they were a few years too late.

        1. And while his agents Lewis and Clark got their hands on some megafauna bones at Big Bone Lick in Kentucky and send them on to Jefferson at Washington, the ship carrying them sank.

  9. A column nobody wants to read, which nobody wanted to write …

    Farewell To A Friend: Jerry Pournelle 1933-2017
    By Sarah Hoyt
    Two weeks ago, while getting ready for two weeks in the South of France (probably a once in a lifetime thing) I had an email from a friend. The email said “Hey, I’m going to Dragon Con. May I look forward to seeing you there? We could discuss the story.”

    The friend was Dr. Jerry Pournelle, one of the legends of science fiction, and any other year, any year when I didn’t already have all arrangements made to be out of the country, I’d be tempted to ditching everything and asking Larry Correia if I could crash on his floor, for the chance to spend a couple of evenings talking to Jerry.

    I knew he was my father’s age and time was getting short, and given both of our schedules, the time to actually meet in the flesh was limited and far in between.

    But I couldn’t, and I told him so, and also that I was traveling every month through November, but perhaps I could fly out and visit in January?

    That visit won’t happen. We landed yesterday, and when I woke up from my jet lagged sleep, it was to the news that Jerry had died, peacefully, in his sleep.

    I’ve spent most of the day having irregular crying fits, and let’s just say my bathrooms are very clean because cleaning is how I cope with most things: grief, anxiety, shock.

    There is the sense that a giant has fallen, and that the world has stopped in stunned silence, listening at nothing where there used to be so much.


      1. Anyone who looks can tell that I’m a horrible blogger, despite best intentions.

        I didn’t want to write mine, either. I hated every minute, every word. But it was one of those that I HAD TO – once the initial shock dulled, the thinking would not stop about this man that I never met, exchanged maybe half a dozen emails with – and still owed so much to.


        When Earth’s Last Picture Is Painted


        L’Envoi To “The Seven Seas”
        When Earth’s last picture is painted and the tubes are twisted and dried,
        When the oldest colours have faded, and the youngest critic has died,
        We shall rest, and, faith, we shall need it — lie down for an aeon or two,
        Till the Master of All Good Workmen shall put us to work anew.
        And those that were good shall be happy; they shall sit in a golden chair;
        They shall splash at a ten-league canvas with brushes of comets’ hair.
        They shall find real saints to draw from — Magdalene, Peter, and Paul;
        They shall work for an age at a sitting and never be tired at all!

        And only The Master shall praise us, and only The Master shall blame;
        Andd no one shall work for money, and no one shall work for fame,
        But each for the joy of the working, and each, in his separate star,
        Shall draw the Thing as he sees It for the God of Things as They are!

  10. My deepest condolences to all of you who were lucky enough to have known Jerry Pournelle. What a hole there is in the world now!

    I only knew his books and his website — he thought “blog” an ugly word so I won’t call his Daybook that — but I am the richer for them. Maybe we all are, even those who never heard of him; no one in this life knows “what woulda happened if,” but he may have had an indispensable hand in keeping the Cold War from going hot in the Eighties.

    Thank you for all you did for this world, Dr Pournelle. Rest in peace.

  11. Depending on ones’ belief system Jerry is either in a better place or at the very least spared further suffering. For those who knew him and are hurting from their loss this came to mind. The Eagles originally wrote it as a tribute to 9/11, but is seems strangely appropriate now.

    1. I choose to believe, as in MHI Grunge, that he’s now in a place beautiful and peaceful and wonderful beyond imagining.
      And he’s probably writing. Because that’s what we are, that’s what we do.

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