The Boneyard




1811 - "Annus Mirabilis" - The Year of Miracles

Throughout history an occasional and bizarre year has been called a "Year of Miracles" or "Annus Mirabilis".
Most certainly the year 1811 in mid-America was that and more.



by Harold Morgan


The Evansville Boneyard - 15th Year

Throughout history an occasional and bizarre year has been called a "Year of Miracles" or "Annus Mirabilis". Most certainly the year 1811 in mid-America was that and more.

In 1811 Mid-America was marked by a great twin-tailed comet, an eclipse of the sun, a mass migration of squirrels, a time of general sickness and the first of thousands of earthquakes on the New Madrid fault line.

Several historic Tri-state events had taken place; Red Banks (Henderson) settlement begins in 1791, Isaac Knight (Knight Township) is kidnapped by Shawnee Indians in 1793, Vincennes University is founded in 1801 and George Linxweiler builds a cabin at Reitz Hill in 1802.

Lewis & Clark passed the Evansville site on way to St. Louis on Oct. 29, 1803, Primrose is first girl child born in the area near Pigeon Creek mouth, Hugh McGary visited the "crescent river bend" in 1806, John James Audubon moved to Henderson in 1811, the first flatboat is built and sails from New Harmony in 1811 and the Methodist Church creates the "Western Conference" circuit in 1811.

In the spring of 1811 the Great Comet became visible. It was brightest in Oct, 1811; it faded in April, 1812. This comet was the most visible that occurred in the previous 2000 years. (The comet will return in year 3775.)

It caused great concern to all humans. After the first 1811 earthquake, it was "reckoned" the Great Comet had fallen into the Ohio River and caused the tremblors.

During the summer and fall of 1811 there was a great squirrel migration. In those years Mid-America was covered by a great forest of trees. Southern Indiana was a hardwood forest. There were far greater numbers of woodland animals including squirrels.

Periodically the squirrels made a mass southerly migration. Squirrels are poor swimmers and many would die while swimming the rivers. Native Americans and pioneers would harvest as many squirrels as they could eat.

It was said that during the summer of 1811 into the fall and winter that animals acted strangely; without fear of humans. In September there was a total eclipse of the sun that moved across the tri-state lands, including the New Madrid region. Can you sense the fear the area humans felt that summer?

One can guess there may have been traditions about many things but seeing a comet, the squirrels going south and the sun turning black must have made many fear their world was doomed.


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