Mary Sue Anton
Author, Historian, Speaker

New Madrid:
A Mississippi River Town in History and Legend

Henry Lewis painting showing New Madrid as it looked in about 1848.  Not for reproduction.  Used with permission of the State Historical Society of Missouri, Columbia.


Dear Reader:

Thank you for visiting my web site.  My book “New Madrid: A Mississippi River Town in History and Legend” focuses on the hearts and minds of a restless population as it moved west into the Mississippi River valley in the 1800s. The river port town of New Madrid, Missouri, destined to be the capital of “New Spain,” was “on the way” for thousands of early Americans. New Madrid’s tales are America’s intriguing tales.

I allow New Madrid’s pioneers to reveal their past and their stories through letters, newspapers, official records and other sources. I then take the reader for a walk through history as I recount tales of legendary people whose lives crossed with those of area residents. Lively illustrations, photographs and maps enhance the stories. This account will be fascinating to those whose ancestors experienced the westward movement, participated in the Civil War, were slave-owners, slaves, or American Indians, or those who are simply curious about how life played out in earlier times.

An examination of New Madrid leads the reader immediately into the world of our American ancestors, and provides insight into the triumphs and hardships of frontier life. This study is unique in its focus upon a historic region of America’s heartland, with emphasis upon its people and their river. These stories preserve an important slice of 19th century American history for future generations.

In New Madrid, before the days of the levee, the river swallowed huge portions of earth time and time again. The town site has moved three times due to the meandering Mississippi, with the original town now located in the river near the Kentucky shore. After the devastating 1811-1812 New Madrid earthquakes, officials removed many records for safekeeping. In keeping the courthouse one step ahead of natural disasters, some records disappeared, and townspeople thoughtlessly discarded letters, diaries and documents. Over the years, stately buildings and modest dwellings succumbed to fire and flooding. Many graves were plundered by Old Man River, and other burial places fell victim to the plowshare. Considering the region’s ups and downs, sorting out the history of New Madrid was a daunting task, but one well worth undertaking. Scholars and students and the general public will purchase this book for reading enjoyment as well as research for years to come.

Endorsements and other testimonials

The first -- and quite probably most important -- factor the reader cannot help but note concerning Mary Sue Anton's fine work in 'New Madrid' is the meticulousness of her research, which underlines the considerable care she employs in searching for the truth. Wherever notable personages appear in history, extravagant tales are generated that extend well beyond the elements of known fact; some of which may have some basis in historical accuracy, while many others are drawn of whole cloth and are in no manner accurate representations. Ms. Anton's careful research, which appears beyond reproach, explores the known possibilities of historical events and, in presenting them as she does in a singularly unbiased format, she provides the reader with the latitude to judge on a very personal level what actually occurred. Furthermore, she does this in a decidedly engaging and entertaining manner. Refreshingly honest and delightfully readable, clearly, this is history as it needs to be revealed.

 -- Allan W. Eckert award winning author of historical and natural history books 


'New Madrid' is a labor of love that bears witness to the ancestral roots of its author and celebrates the history of the place she once called home. Mary Sue Anton draws from a wide-ranging assortment of primary and secondary sources and a storehouse of local lore to fashion this lively and comprehensive portrait of her native New Madrid and its environs. The book is sure to delight residents of the region and find a ready audience among those desirous of learning more about Missouri’s colorful past.

 -- William E. Foley author of The Genesis of Missouri 


Just as the New Madrid earthquakes were special earthquakes and the mighty Mississippi is a special river, Mary Sue Anton shows us in her superb ‘New Madrid’ that New Madrid was and is a special town, sustained under four different flags over two difficult centuries by a very special people.

 -- Dr. Arch C. Johnston Director, Center for Earthquake Research and Information, University of Memphis



As an astronaut, I am often asked about the value of the time and effort put into exploration. Mary Sue Anton shows how our ancestors answered that question. They faced challenges and took risks that would seem unacceptable today. But they had the right stuff. These stories from one town on the Mississippi—New Madrid, Missouri-- remind us of the boldness, drive and dedication that made America the country we love today.

 -- Jay C. Buckey, M.D. Payload Specialist, STS-90 Professor of Medicine, Dartmouth Medical School



'New Madrid' is a fascinating read and does a great job of informing and entertaining its readers. The author, Mary Sue Anton, is to be commended for bringing this intriguing slice of history to life.

 -- Jonathan Zophy professor of History at University of Houston-Clear Lake



'New Madrid'--a forgotten crossroads town, the stomping ground of explorers, westbound settlers, Indians and slaves--emerges as a picture of America itself on the banks of the Mississippi River.

 -- Anthony Cohen Director, Menare Foundation, Germantown, Maryland


When 'New Madrid' focuses on the cataclysmic earthquakes of 1811 in the Mississippi River Valley, the reader is transported back into one of the most turbulent eras in American recorded history. The eyewitness accounts are riveting. The destruction to farms and livestock and families was incredible. But, the folks in this area were survivors, and fortunately many of them kept diaries and wrote letters that survived. Other stories from this region in Mary Sue Anton's comprehensive work are equally fascinating, making history human and a good read as well.

 -- Gloria Morris professor of Media Studies, University of Houston-Clear Lake, retired

What a beautiful job you have done in 'New Madrid' describing life in the New Madrid, Missouri area from 1789 to 1900 plus the floods of 1927 and 1937. As I read the stories, I could put myself in the time period and envision the events as they unfolded.

 -- Jane Randol Jackson retired Archivist, Cape Girardeau County Archive Center, Jackson, Missouri