Scientists include these reports with their own observations of increased amounts of radar in local wells, or changes in direction for the subtle electric currents far under the Earth, in their attempt to find reliable predictors of imminent earthquakes.
We are quickly aware, of course, of the occurrence of modern disasters. TV brings us pictures of earthquakes in India and Turkey while they are still going on; it was a different story in 1812.
At that time there was no telegraph or telephone connection. Letters were carried long distances by people who happened to be traveling in that direction. Reports of the New Madrid earthquake trickled into the Maryland Gazette, published weekly in Annapolis, over a period of months.
Eye-witness accounts of glass breaking in Kansas, clocks being stopped abruptly on Long Island, a state house shaking in Milledgeville, Ga., gave information from which seismologists have mapped the course of the series of quakes and estimated their intensity in Richter-scale terms.
Our planet continues to change. The tectonic plates far under the Earth clash, and grind together, and move apart, spawning volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and tropical storms.
Seismologists agree that some time between now and the year 2050 there will be a Big One, but when and where it will occur is anyone's guess.
Betty VanNewkirk is the historian for the Frostburg Museum.