Category

Earthquake of 1869

On October 22, 1869, Boston experienced a significant earthquake. It rattled windows and induced many people to notice the natural phenomena. A man living near State Street ran out into the street in his pajamas due to the shaking, and one superstitious woman believed that a ghost had shook her bed. In Cambridge it was first thought the Watertown Arsenal had exploded. The duration of the quake was about 16 seconds, with the epicenter somewhere along the North Shore. The following article was published in the October 29, 1869, Daily Picayune (page 1) about the earthquake in Boston:

"The Earthquake in New England. — Sensations in Boston and Vicinity — Interesting 'effects' of the Shake — A Newburyport incident — Recollections of former Earthquakes.

Boston Oct. 22 — The shaking sensation here was most awful. A gentleman who resides at the Pavilion Hotel says he was awakened by the shock and he noticed three distinct shakes, sufficiently marked to induce him to think that it was time to dress. A domestic in a house in Tremont street arose at half past 5 and awakened the household, declaring that some one was under her bed and had lifted it.

The shock was very distinctly felt in East Boston by various persons who were suddenly awakened from their slumbers by the shaking of beds, doors and windows, and in one family the entire household was aroused by the unusual phenomena. One gentleman whose occupation often calls him upon the sea, on being shaken up from a sound sleep by the strange motion communicated to his bed, and his returning senses convincing him he was not in the heaving main, deliberately charged his spouse of rudely disturbing his slumbers, but the general testimony of the family as to the cause of the agitation disposed him to retract the charge.

The shock was quite severe in Newburyport, shaking the doors and windows and many movable things in the houses. The people generally were awakened by the commotion. An ole brick mansion house, built seventy years age, having the thick, massive walls so common in those days was shaken from the roof to the cellar, rattling the doors and windows and creating general alarm among its occupants. The people in their beds were very sensible of a vibrating motion beneath them. One man who lodges in Lindale street, near the Boston post office rushed up State street about quarter to six o'clock partially dressed and thus accosted a policeman: 'Ten minutes ago I was in bed in my room alone, in the fourth story of a brick building near the Boston post office. I had been awake for perhaps an hour or more when I suddenly felt that the spring mattress beneath me was swaying to and fro. This continued for perhaps half a minute until I was fully conscious of the motion, when it censed and then after an interval of a few seconds, was repeated and for the last time, I could hear the door of my room gently swing to and fro. I immediately arose and found that my door had been left ajar which was unusual. The motion was easterly parallel with State Street. The time occupied by both shocks might have been only a minute, including an intermission of perhaps ten seconds.'

The great coliseum which was so terribly shattered by the September gale did not escape a wrenching by the earthquake . The watchman employed there were startled by the creaking of the timbers and they ran frantically outside, believing that the vast structure was surely tumbling. The historical edifice is to be drawn for tomorrow, and the 70,000 ticket holders are in great ecstasies that the building escaped the destruction which the elements of nature have from time to time seemed to have in store for it.

The phenomenon were also distinctly felt by the professors and the students of Harvard College, and its duration was marked at sixteen seconds, as near as could he calculated. The conductors of the early horse cars also noticed the phenomenon and their opinion was strengthened. By passengers going into Boston from Cambridge. The most marked manner in which the shock showed itself was demonstrated in a glazier's shop, where an apprentices boy on the night previous had accidentally or carelessly left five panes of glass lying almost poised on a shelf. This morning when he opened the shop he found the panes of glass lying on the floor in fragments. It is not often that the people of Cambridge are so sharply reminded of the unseen powers contained in the bowels of the earth. At first the people thought that an explosion had occurred at the arsenal in Watertown, a few miles distant, but the motion of the earth was so entirely different from the effect following a powder explosion that it was voted by all that the sensation was a sort of weak edition of some of the pleasantry experienced by San Francisco several months ago.

A gentleman living a little north of Harvard college was suddenly awakened out of a sound sleep and at first thought the Watertown Arsenal had blown up. His bed was quite violently moved first horizontally from north to south and afterwards up and down the same number of motions. A female domestic in his family, who had great fear of ghosts and for the first time had been persuaded to sleep in a room in which an aged lady had recently died, was so frightened at the shock that she came wildly rushing to her mistress, exclaiming 'Oh, missus, missus the old [w]oman is under the bed; the old [w]oman is under the bed.' "

A completely guess would be the earthquake was a about a 5 on the Richter Scale.




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