The magnitudwe 4.0 quake struck well before dawn at 3:58 a.m. local time in southeastern Missouri, near the convergence of the Ohio and MIssissippi rivers.
Local residents said the shaking lasted about seven seconds, causing minor household damage that included cracked sidewalks and items falling off shelves.
A few residents as far away as North Carolina and Georgia also reported that they felt the ground move.
U.S. Geological Survey geophysicist Amy Vaughn told reporters that earthquakes east of the Rocky Mountains are more likely to be widely felt than those along the Pacific coast.
The New Madrid Seismic Zone was responsible for the most powerful earthquakes to strike the eastern United States in recorded history.
Four intense quakes centered there in 1811 and 1812 caused damage as far away as Boston and Washington, D.C.
A seismic thrust on December 16, 1811, caused the flow of the Mississippi River to reverse for a time in some locations, according to eyewitness accounts.