city, seat (1821) of New Madrid county, southeastern Missouri, U.S., on the Mississippi River, 35 miles (56 km) southwest of Cairo, Ill. It originated as a French Canadian trading post about 1783. The town was initiated in 1789 by an American Revolutionary War veteran, George Morgan, who had received a land grant from Spain, but it did not begin to flourish in farming and trade until after the purchase of the Territory of Louisiana by the United States in 1803. New Madrid's growth was slowed by violent earthquakes in 1811-12 (it lies on one of the most active faults in North America) as well as floods and shifting of the river's course, which caused several removals of the city to different sites. The city was the site of an American Civil War battle in 1862.
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