History of Reelfoot Lake

 

Historic New Madrid quakes transformed Samburg area 200 years ago.

Tucked away along the southern shoreline of Tennessee’s Reelfoot Lake is the quaint small town of Samburg.

It is known as regionally as the jewel of Reelfoot Lake.

Tourism is really picking up in Samburg as a growing number of travelers are discovering all this small town has to offer, not the least of which are the spectacular sunsets over Reelfoot Lake.

History buffs will be interested in how Reelfoot Lake was developed 200 years ago when a series of earthquakes along the New Madrid Fault forever changed the landscape of northwest Tennessee.

It is estimated that more than a thousand recorded earthquakes occurred between mid-December 1811 and early February 1812.

The earth transformed during the violent series of earthquakes and Reelfoot Lake was created. The real history of Reelfoot Lake is mixed with a little myth and legend to go along with factual accounts.

“Witnesses reported that the earth and river were torn with furious convulsions. During the quakes, ground waves near the epicenter moved a foot to and fro creating sunken lands, fissures, landslides and land domes,” according to the Tennessee State Society Daughters of American Colonist (1985).

“Sand blows erupted belching hot water, mud, fumes, coal and carbonized wood. The explosions coupled with the crashing of timbers, falling of banks along the river and the cries of frightened wildfowl created a terrible rumbling and roar. The air smelled of sulfur and the sky was unusually dark and dreary.”

One of the most detailed reports of the 1811-12 earthquakes was recorded by Eliza Bryan, who wrote in a letter dated March 22, 1816, which stated in part, “The awful darkness of the atmosphere which was as formerly saturated with sulphurous vapor, and the violence of the tempetuous thundering noise the accompanied it, together with all the other phenomenas mentioned, formed a scene the descriptions of which required the most sublimely fanciful imagination.