Named for Madrid, Spain, the City of New Madrid, Missouri, holds the distinction of being the oldest city west of the Mississippi River and its rich history is diverse and interesting! Located on a bend in the river already known as "Greasy Bent," the LaSieur brothers, who were French-Canadian fur trappers, founded the town in 1783 and called it L'Anse a la Graisse or "The Cove of Grease.” In 1789, Spain granted Col. George Morgan, a Princeton graduate and Indian trader, governorship of a portion of New Spain (the area now known as the Louisiana Purchase). Promising to develop the region, he took control of the town and renamed it New Madrid, hoping to turn it into the future capital of New Spain.
Incorporated in 1803, French and American settlers contributed to the town growth. By 1810 New Madrid boasted two churches and was the southern extent of El Camino Real (or King’s Highway). The following year the New Madrid Earthquake, made up of a series of monstrous and lesser shocks, which began Dec. 16, 1811, and continued over a year, centered in the town. One of the great earthquakes of the world because of severity and length, some of the shocks were felt as far as 1100 miles. Reelfoot Lake across the river is a result of the disaster.
In 1862 Union forces captured New Madrid and by means of a "canal" sawed through a submerged forest to a bayou, gained control of Island No. 10 and command of the river. Nearby in Mississippi Co. is Belmont battlefield, scene of an 1861 engagement in which both Federal forces under Grant and Confederates under Pillow claimed victory.
New Madrid, as the seat of government for one of five Spanish districts in the territory, became one of the first five counties in Missouri. With rich land reclaimed by the Little River and St. Johns Levee drainage systems, the town continued to grow and prosper so that by 1900 the city boasted 1,489 citizens.
According to census data in 2000, the population of New Madrid, Missouri, stood at 3,334. Situated on the Mississippi River and Interstate 55 (exits 44 and 49), New Madrid is a town with old south traditions and charm but still offers plenty of things to do. There are historical attractions, overnight accommodations, dining, shopping, parks, recreational opportunities and special events. We want to make all visitors feel welcome and want you to know that the City of New Madrid is a great place to live, work and raise a family!