New Madrid was founded by a group of Americans under the leadership of George Morgan in 1789. Morgan and his group were discontented with the failure of the United States under the Articles of Confederation to achieve peace and prosperity. The colony in present-day Missouri, between the mouth of the St. Francis River and Cape Cinque Hommes, came under the jurisdiction of the Spanish, who were not supportive. Morgan abandoned the project and the remaining settlement was taken over by Spanish authorities.
A pair of huge earthquakes, the largest in the recorded history of the Eastern United States, struck on December 16, 1811, in the area now forming parts of Arkansas and Missouri. They were followed by aftershocks for months. The damage to structures was minimal, only because of the very light settlement of the area.