Little Egypt Heritage Articles
© Bill Oliver
20 April 2008
Vol 7 Issue: #12
O’siyo, Good Evening Ladies and Gentlemen of Little Egypt,
"The Bed is Shaking!"
Gather ‘round folks, the stories you are about to read are true! The
names of the participants are real and do not need their privacy. One of
the stories comes from family lore and the other story can be gleaned
from "Panther-Across-the-Sky", a biography and "The Frontiersmen" both
by Allan W. Eckert.
In the night of 16 December 1811 there came a force which made the
timbers groan, creak, and crack. Furniture rattled and was thrown about.
Chimneys broke apart and crashed to earth.
Early that morning, preceded by a low rumbling, there was a very severe
shock. The ground rose and fell like ocean swells. Trees were tilted as
the ground rippled. Branches tangled, deep cracks occurred in the lands
surface as the earth flexed.
Part of the land uplifted and part of the land sunk so as to become
covered by water. Steep bluffs gave way to become landslides. The
Mississippi River became such an angry waterway that huge waves swamped
boats and washed them high and dry upon the banks. The returning current
broke trees and changed the course of the Mighty River.
It is not hard to imagine that during that night William and Elizabeth
[HART] CRENSHAW and their family were startled awake and to avoid injury
by indoor flying objects rushed out doors to huddle in fright for what
was happening and to keep warm.
The following morning, preceded by a low rumbling, a severe after-shock
was experienced. Now they could see what was happening during the
previous dark. Shocks continued through the day, to be followed by two
other great shocks on the 23rd of January and the 7th of February.
With the thousands of after-shocks and the sinking of thousands of acres
of their land the Crenshaws decided to move from New Madrid, up the
Mississippi and Ohio Rivers to land near Shawneetown in Gallatin County,
Illinois. This was a move from Louisiansa [Territory] to the Territory
of Illinois in the Northwest Terrirory.
The second story is about the Shawnee War Chief, Tecumseh, who was the
equal of any man of the day. He was a great and powerful warrior, as
well as, a respected diplomat, peacemaker, and ‘prophet'. The American
History of my youth did not teach that Tecumseh predicted the New Madrid
earthquake of 1811. This greatest earthquake on this continent was
‘prophesied' and predicted many months before it happened – accurate to
the very day. This quake was to be the signal to the American Indians of
North America to unite into one army and drive the invading, land taking
Euros from the continent.
This story begins in the year 1768, the night of Wednesday, March ninth,
to be exact. The embers of the camp fire had turned to orange coals and
the clear night seemed to be low enough to touch. Pucksinwah, a Shawnee
Kispokotha Sept Chief, and his party witnessed a huge meteor, suddenly
plunging into the atmosphere and bursting into brilliant greenish-white
flame. It streaked across the heavens from the north in an awe-inspiring
spectacle which lasted fully twenty seconds. From the tales of the old
people it, this shooting star, was The Panther, a great spirit passing
over to the south where it seeks a deep hole for sleep. A good omen --
from a temporary shelter came the sharp wail of a baby; Pucksinwah had a
son. The Panther, he told his wife, was the boy's unsoma, the event
which The Great Spirit wished the child to be called and this event had
happened at the moment of birth. Thus, the name for this boy, was
The-Panther-Passing-Across – Tecumseh.
Tecumseh grew to become a great hunter and warrior, whose Father and
Brother were able to see much in the future. Both these men had
predicted their own time and cause of death. The death of Chiksika,
Tecumseh's brother, happened at high noon on 13 April 1788, exactly as
he had predicted.
Early in the year 1811, another and younger brother of Tecumseh,
Tenskwatawa, known as The Prophet, was instructed to make a large number
of slabs of red cedar and each was to be accompanied by a bundle of thin
red sticks. The slabs would have engraved on them symbols which would
have duel meanings; one for whites to believe that they were simple
values of Indian life. The other meaning would be instructions for the
tribes to move immediately to a location to form the largest
confederation of warriors ever known. Each of these red sticks was to
represent one moon. These slabs and bundles of red sticks were to be
given to various chiefs. The chiefs were directed to throw away one
stick for every full moon and that when only one stick remained , they
must prepare for a great sign to appear, which would be the signal to
When there was but one red stick left, a sign -- that which was present
when Tecumseh was born -- would occur, and the remaining stick was to be
cut into thirty segments. Each day one segment was to be burned to keep
count of the days remaining until the "great" sign would be given them.
Tecumseh then traveled south and back north explaining his plan of
confederation. When a chief demanded a sign from Tecumseh to prove that
the Great Spirit was directing him, he would tell them a prophecy which
would convince them. One such was that in two days time an ocean vessel
would come to the Florida shores with supplies for the Seminoles. In
that time a British ship anchored at the designated bay and unloaded
supplies of guns, powder, and tomahawks, cloth, jewelry and food.
Saturday, 16 November 1811 came; the night sky was cloudless. No
campfires were lit to interfere with witnessing the sign. On this night
men from Florida came up along the Great Lakes to the banks along the
Mississippi and Missouri Rivers watched and their principle chiefs held
in their hands the remaining red stick.
At just about the midpoint of night, from out of the southwest a great
bright weird green-white light came streaking across the sky. Who knows
how many hundred thousands of Indians watch it cross and disappear in
the northeastern horizon. From fear and/or anger, some chiefs broke
their sticks and threw them away; others cut them, as instructed, into
thirty equal lengths – and, they waited.
Finally Monday, the 16th of December 1811 came. Along the shores of the
Great Lakes the waters danced and great waves crashed onto the shores
without benefit of winds. From south of Canada along the banks of the
mighty rivers and creeks came a rumbling which caved in their banks with
crashing sounds like those of snapping branches. On the western plains,
the shuddering and fierce grinding of the earth split open waking the
buffalo into panicked stampeding. Some streams went suddenly dry from
uplifting land leaving fish to flop until their life force left them. In
the woodlands of the eastern Mississippi, trees fell in tangles and new
streams appeared when there were none. To the south and east great sink
holes created new ponds while other lakes suddenly emptied and the palm
trees lashed about like whips. In the Mississippi Valley land rose and
sank with such intensity that the mighty river flowed backwards for a time.
And, that land which was owned by the William Crenshaws, and the Simon
Girtys vanished forever, and only the ugly and austere was left behind.
Such was the great sign of Tecumseh, prophesied many months before.
Other powerful quakes along the New Madrid Zone:
Arkansas, 1843, magnitude 6.3. Tennessee, 1865, magnitude 5.0. Missouri,
1895, magnitude 6.6. Indiana, 1909, magnitude 5.1.
Illinois, 1968, magnitude 5.3. Kentucky, 1980, magnitude 5.2.
The U.S. Geological Survey says that the New Madrid fault zone, the most
seismically active area east of the Rocky Mountains, produced a series
of powerful quakes in 1811/12 that were estimated at greater than 7.0.
That on last Friday, April 18th, along the northern branch of the New
Madrid fault zone, produced a 5.2 quake just before 4:37 a.m. centered
six miles from West Salem, Edwards country, Illinois.
My cousin in Peducah, Kentucky says she woke from a sound sleep with the
bed vibrating. She was fully awake when the after-shock happened about
10 a.m. and reported that she again felt the vibrations but that they
didn't last long. She reports that this was the third time she
experienced a quake since moving to Kentucky. During the 1968 quake she
was in a grocery store and everything came off the shelves. Other
friends from Cincinnati, Ohio report feeling the ground and buildings
Even before Friday, earthquakes — or the possibility of them — in the
central U.S. were getting plenty of attention.
Early next month, agriculture extension officials from various regional
states already are scheduled to convene an earthquake summit, hosted by
the University of Illinois' extension service.
Planners of the New Madrid Earthquake Emergency Preparedness Conference
in the Ohio River community of Metropolis, Ill. say representatives from
Illinois, Arkansas, Indiana, Missouri and Tennessee are to attend.
These quakes have ‘far reaching' effects. [grin]
e-la-Di-e-das-Di ha-WI NV-WA-do-hi-ya NV-WA-to-hi-ya-da.
(May you walk in peace and harmony)
"Myths are universal and timeless stories that reflect and shape our
lives ..." Alexander McCall Smith, Dream Angus
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