1886 Charleston earthquake

The 1886 Charleston earthquake occurred about 9:50 p.m. local time August 31 with an estimated moment magnitude of 6.9–7.3 and a maximum Mercalli intensity of X (Extreme). The intraplate earthquake caused 60 deaths and between $5 million and $6 million in damage to 2,000 buildings in the Southeastern United States. It is one of the most powerful and damaging earthquakes to hit the East Coast of the United States. Very little to no historical earthquake activity had occurred, which is unusual for any seismic area.[3]

1886 Charleston earthquake
1886 Charleston earthquake is located in South Carolina
1886 Charleston earthquake
Local date August 31, 1886
Local time21:50
Magnitude6.9–7.3 Mw [1]
Epicenter32°54′N 80°00′W / 32.9°N 80.0°WCoordinates: 32°54′N 80°00′W / 32.9°N 80.0°W [2]
Areas affectedSouth Carolina
United States
Total damage$5–6 million [2]
Max. intensityX (Extreme) [2]
Casualties60 [2]


Hillers, J.K. 13 - Wrecked brick house on Tradd Street, 1886
Damage on Tradd Street

The shock was felt as far away as Boston, Massachusetts, to the north, Chicago, Illinois, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to the northwest, as far as New Orleans, Louisiana, to the west, as far as Cuba to the south, and as far as Bermuda to the east.[4] It was so severe that outside the immediate area, there was speculation that the Florida peninsula had broken away from North America.[5]

It is a heavily studied example of an intraplate earthquake and is believed to have occurred on faults formed during the break-up of Pangaea. Similar faults are found all along the east coast of North America. It is thought that such ancient faults remain active from forces exerted on them by present-day motions of the North American Plate. The exact mechanisms of intraplate earthquakes are a subject of much ongoing research.

Sand boils were common throughout the affected area due to soil liquefaction. Aftershocks continued to be felt for weeks after the event[5] and minor earthquake activity that still continues in the area today may be a continuation of aftershocks. There were at least 60 fatalities.

One of many "earthquake bolts" found throughout period houses in Charleston


Within the city almost all of the buildings sustained damage and most had to be torn down and rebuilt. Wires were cut and the railroad tracks were torn apart, cutting residents off from the outside world and vice versa. The damage was assessed to be between $5 million and $6 million.

Major damage occurred as far away as Tybee Island, Georgia, (more than 60 miles away) and structural damage was reported several hundred miles from Charleston, (including central Alabama, central Ohio, eastern Kentucky, southern Virginia and western West Virginia).

The Old White Meeting House near Summerville, Dorchester County, South Carolina was reduced to ruins.[6]


Earthquake bolts were added to existing unreinforced masonry buildings to add support to the structure without having to demolish the structure due to instability. The bolts pass through the existing masonry walls tying walls on opposite sides of the structure together for stability.

See also


  1. ^ Chapman, M. C.; Beale, J. N.; Hardy, A. C.; Wu, Q. (2016), "Modern Seismicity and the Fault Responsible for the 1886 Charleston, South Carolina, Earthquake", Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, Seismological Society of America, 106 (2): 364–372, Bibcode:2016BuSSA.106..364C, doi:10.1785/0120150221
  2. ^ a b c d Stover, C.W.; Coffman, J.L. (1993), Seismicity of the United States, 1568–1989 (Revised), U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1527, United States Government Printing Office, pp. 348–351
  3. ^ Bollinger, G. A. (1972), "Historical and recent seismic activity in South Carolina", Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, Seismological Society of America, 62 (3): 851–864
  4. ^ Charleston Quake, 1886, USGS, archived from the original on 2016-12-25, retrieved 2017-08-28
  5. ^ a b Pickney, Paul (1906), Lessions Learned from the Charleston Quake
  6. ^ "Old White Meeting House Ruins and Cemetery, Dorchester County (SC Hwy 642, Summerville vicinity)". National Register Properties in South Carolina. South Carolina Department of Archives and History. Retrieved 5 July 2012.


External links

1811–12 New Madrid earthquakes

The 1811–12 New Madrid earthquakes were an intense intraplate earthquake series beginning with an initial earthquake of moment magnitude 7.5–7.9 on December 16, 1811, followed by a moment magnitude 7.4 aftershock on the same day. They remain the most powerful earthquakes to hit the contiguous United States east of the Rocky Mountains in recorded history. They, as well as the seismic zone of their occurrence, were named for the Mississippi River town of New Madrid, then part of the Louisiana Territory, now within the US state of Missouri.

There are estimates that these stable continental region earthquakes were felt strongly over roughly 130,000 square kilometers (50,000 sq mi), and moderately across nearly 3 million square kilometers (1 million square miles). The 1906 San Francisco earthquake, by comparison, was felt moderately over roughly 16,000 km2 (6,200 sq mi).

The New Madrid earthquakes were interpreted variously by American Indian tribes, but one consensus was universally accepted: the powerful earthquake had to have meant something. For many tribes in Tecumseh's pan-Indian alliance, it meant that Tecumseh and his brother the Prophet must be supported.

1916 Irondale earthquake

The 1916 Irondale earthquake struck in the north–central region of the U.S. state of Alabama on October 18. The strongest earthquake in state history, it registered an estimated Richter scale magnitude of 5.1 and resulted in extensive, but minor damage. This damage, limited to Shelby and Jefferson counties, reached its maximum severity near the epicenter in the city of Irondale, including cracked windows, fallen chimneys, and dried-up wells. While there were no fatalities, the earthquake spawned widespread panic, sending alarmed workers from tall buildings.

The earthquake originated in the Eastern Tennessee Seismic Zone, a fault noted for earthquakes of moderate magnitude. Faulting in the area is strike-slip-oriented, probably because of the Alabama-New York Lineament, which runs adjacent to the seismic zone. Several scientists believe that small earthquakes from the zone indicate the reactivation of deep, ancient faults. Alabama has seen roughly 20 earthquakes since the beginning of the 20th century. The earthquakes have been moderate, never reaching above magnitude 5.1, and they tend to cause damage only near their epicenters while reaching areas much further away. Major events include those in 1916, 1997, and 2003. Despite the lack of powerful seismic events in Alabama, earthquakes from nearby fault zones, including the New Madrid Seismic Zone, pose a serious threat to infrastructure. Even an earthquake similar in size to the 1916 Irondale event today could damage thousands of buildings and cause up to $1 billion in damage.

2006 Gulf of Mexico earthquake

The 2006 Gulf of Mexico earthquake occurred in the eastern Gulf of Mexico on September 10 at 10:56 AM Eastern Daylight Time. The intraplate earthquake measured 5.8 on the moment magnitude scale and its epicenter was located about 250 miles west-southwest of Anna Maria, Florida. The event was felt throughout much of the Gulf Coast of the United States and was the second earthquake of magnitude 5 or greater in the Gulf during 2006. Felt intensities, as measured on the Mercalli intensity scale, were as high as IV (Light) in Florida, with parts of Georgia at III (Weak).

Cathedral of Saint John and Saint Finbar

The Cathedral of St. John and St. Finbar was the first Roman Catholic cathedral in Charleston, South Carolina. The cathedral followed the first Roman Catholic Church in Charleston, St. Mary's, founded around 1800. Construction began in 1850 with the cathedral consecrated on April 6, 1854. It was destroyed on December 11, 1861, in a fire that ravaged much of Charleston. A new cathedral—the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist, built on the same site-was started in 1890. It opened in 1907 and was completed in 2010 with the addition of the long anticipated steeple.

The first Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Charleston (previously the diocese of the Carolinas and Georgia), Bishop John England (of County Cork, Ireland), originally conceived of the Cathedral, purchased the land in 1821, and started the planning and fundraising. However, Bishop England did not live to see the Cathedral constructed. The Right Reverend Ignatius Reynolds succeeded Bishop England in 1844 and oversaw the final construction. The Cathedral was designed by Patrick Charles Keely (of County Tipperary, Ireland) in the highly ornate Gothic Style, as a 219 foot tall structure topped with a steeple and bronze cross. The Cathedral of St. John and St. Finbar was, like it's successor the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist, clad in brownstone from Connecticut.Believing the cathedral's brownstone construction made it fire safe, congregants and neighbors filled the cathedral with their valuables hoping in vain to protect them from the Great Fire of 1861. A week prior to the 1861 destruction by fire, the Cathedral's insurance policy was allowed to lapse. This lack of insurance coverage combined with the realities of the Civil War in Charleston caused the Cathedral ruins to stand for decades unaddressed. The ruins stood, as pictured below after the Great Fire of 1861, until the major 1886 Charleston earthquake caused part of the ruins to collapse.

The fire that destroyed the Cathedral also destroyed the diocese seminary, the first Catholic free school for girls, the diocese 17,000-volume library, the offices of the first Catholic newspaper in the US (The Catholic Miscellany), and countless church documents. The total destruction left the congregation without a home for 29 years until the Cathedral's replacement with the new Keely designed brownstone Gothic style Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist at the same Broad Street location.

The original Cathedral was named for the well known St. John the Baptist and the lesser known St. Finbar. Bishop John England is probably responsible for honoring St. Finbar in the naming of the Cathedral. St. Finbar was the founder of the abby that became the City of Cork, Ireland. The Right Reverend John England was consecrated in Cork Cathedral prior to coming to Charleston in 1821, and was thus quite familiar with the Irish Saint Finbar. Other than being well represented in the naming of Catholic institutions throughout history, it is not known why St. John the Baptist was honored in the naming.

The Gibbes Museum of Art and the Carolina Art Association possess a famous 1868 painting of the ruins of the Cathedral of Saint John and Saint Finbar by William Aiken Walker. There is also a likeness of the Cathedral from April 1854 to December 1861 available in Wikipedia.

Citadel Square Baptist Church

Citadel Square Baptist Church was the fourth Baptist church built in Charleston, South Carolina. The church began as an outgrowth of the First Baptist Church when, in 1854, a dozen members sought permission to establish a new church for the upper peninsula. The new church was to have been known as the Fourth Baptist Church but, when an existing Baptist church closed, leaving only three Baptist churches, the name was changed to Citadel Square Baptist Church. The name refers to the church's location on upper Meeting St., immediately across from Marion Square,which at the time was the location of the Citadel.

The Charleston architectural firm Jones & Lee designed the building and construction of the church at 328 Meeting St. began in June 1855. The new building was opened on November 23, 1856. A hurricane in 1885 blew over the original steeple and a year later, the 1886 Charleston earthquake damaged the tower. The tower was repaired and a steeple designed by the Boston, Massachusetts architect Edward Silloway was installed. Following Hurricane Hugo, which blew the steeple off of the church, it was rebuilt at 210 feet, shorter than the steeple of St. Matthew's across Marion Square; the choice was to avoid a race for the tallest steeple.A Sunday school building added in 1891 was replaced in 1921. In April 1951, an educational building was added to the campus.The church was the first in Charleston to televise its services, doing so for more than 40 years until ending the practice in 1998.Seven churches have been created under the auspices of Citadel Square Baptist Church including the Emma Abbott Memorial Chapel.

City of Charleston Fire Department

The City of Charleston Fire Department provides fire protection and emergency medical services to the city of Charleston, South Carolina. In all the department is responsible for an area of 109 square miles (280 km2) with over 135,000 residents.

Confederate Home

The Confederate Home is a retirement home located in an early 19th-century building at 60 Broad St., Charleston, South Carolina. The building started as a double tenement in about 1800, built for master builder Gilbert Chalmers. From 1834 to 1867, it was operated as the Carolina Hotel by Angus Stewart. In 1867, sisters Mary Amarinthia Snowden and Isabell S. Snowden established the Home for the Mothers, Widows, and Daughters of Confederate Soldiers (the Confederate Home) and operated their housing program at the house. The Confederate Home bought the property outright in May 1874. Two stores operated on Broad Street, with the educational and residential facilities behind.When the building was damaged by the 1886 Charleston earthquake, it was restored with Victorian details including mansard roof and dormers.

First (Scots) Presbyterian Church

First (Scots) Presbyterian Church (locally known as "First Scots") is a historic church located at 53 Meeting St., Charleston, South Carolina. The congregation was established in 1731 when a dozen Scottish residents left the Independent Church of Charleston, now the Circular Congregational Church. The current building was constructed in 1814, making it the fifth oldest church building in the city.

The buildings design was inspired by Baltimore Basilica in Baltimore, Maryland and contains a number of Scottish symbols in the stained glass windows and a symbol of Scotland, the thistle, on the wrought iron grilles. The building was built by Scottish brothers John and James Gordon. Their building replaced an earlier, wooden church, whose location is marked in the churchyard with tartan flags.The church has two bell towers, but its bells were donated to the military during the Civil War. For years after, the story was told that the bells were never replaced to honor the Confederate dead. In 1999, a bell, built in 1814, was reinstalled in the northern tower. St. Johns Church in Preston, Lancashire, England, had had eight bells in its own historic church, but no longer needed them when a replacement set was acquired. One bell had been damaged, but seven were passed to a British bell company. First Scots made plans to bring the seven working bells to Charleston and hang them in their towers. The southern tower, however, was found to be too weakened from the 1886 Charleston earthquake to support the six smaller bells. Still, the largest of the bells from St. Johns was hung in the northern tower. The bell, which weighs 1,470 pounds and is 43 inches in diameter, was funded in large part by congregant Bonnie Workman; the bell is named "Bonnie" in her honor.

Geography of Florida

Much of the state of Florida is situated on a peninsula between the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Straits of Florida. Spanning two time zones, it extends to the northwest into a panhandle along the northern Gulf of Mexico. It is bordered on the north by the states of Georgia and Alabama, and on the west, at the end of the panhandle, by Alabama. It is near The Bahamas and several Caribbean countries, particularly Cuba. Florida has 131 public airports, and more than 700 private airports, airstrips, heliports, and seaplane bases. Florida is one of the largest states east of the Mississippi River, and only Alaska and Michigan are larger in water area.

Geology of Florida

The Floridian peninsula is a porous plateau of karst limestone sitting atop bedrock known as the Florida Platform. The emergent portion of the platform was created during the Eocene to Oligocene as the Gulf Trough filled with silts, clays, and sands. Flora and fauna began appearing during the Miocene. No land animals were present in Florida prior to the Miocene.

The largest deposits of rock phosphate in the country are found in Florida. Most of this is in Bone Valley.Extended systems of underwater caves, sinkholes and springs are found throughout the state and supply most of the water used by residents. The limestone is topped with sandy soils deposited as ancient beaches over millions of years as global sea levels rose and fell. During the last glacial period, lower sea levels and a drier climate revealed a much wider peninsula, largely savanna.

While there are sinkholes in much of the state, modern sinkholes have tended to be in West-Central Florida.

Hibernian Hall (Charleston, South Carolina)

Hibernian Hall is a historic meeting hall and social venue at 105 Meeting Street in Charleston, South Carolina, United States. Built in 1840, it is Charleston's only architectural work by Thomas Ustick Walter, and a fine example of Greek Revival architecture. The wrought iron gates were made by Christopher Werner, a German-American master ironworker in Charleston.

The hall is nationally significant for its use during the 1860 Charleston Convention, in which the Democratic Party, divided by opinions on slavery, failed to select a presidential nominee, ensuring victory for the anti-slavery Republican Party in the 1860 presidential election. The building was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1973. The building continues to be used as a function and meeting space today.

List of earthquakes in the United States

The following is a list of notable earthquakes and/or tsunamis which had their epicenter in areas that are now part of the United States with the latter affecting areas of the United States. Those in italics were not part of the United States when the event occurred.

Earthquake swarms which affected the United States:

1962–71 Denver earthquake swarm

Enola earthquake swarm

2008 Reno earthquakes

Guy-Greenbrier earthquake swarm

2009–present Oklahoma earthquake swarmsEarthquakes which affected the United States but whose epicenters were outside the United States borders:

1925 Charlevoix–Kamouraska earthquake – magnitude 6.2 earthquake, no injuries or fatalities anywhere

2010 Baja California earthquake (Mexico near S California) – magnitude 7.2 earthquake, 4 fatalities and 100 injuries, none in the United StatesEarthquakes which did not affect the United States directly, but caused tsunamis which did:

1960 Valdivia earthquake and tsunami – magnitude 9.5 earthquake, between 2200–6000 fatalities, including 61 in Hilo, HI

2006 Kuril Islands earthquake and tsunami – magnitude 8.3 earthquake, no injuries or fatalities anywhere

2009 Samoa earthquake and tsunami – magnitude 8.0 earthquake with an epicenter 120 miles (190 km) southwest of American Samoa generated tsunami waves up to 16 feet (5 m), killing 34 people in American Samoa and causing extensive damage

2010 Chile earthquake and tsunami – magnitude 8.8 earthquake, ~525 fatalities and unknown number of injuries, none in the United States

2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami – magnitude 9.0 earthquake, 15,850–28,000 fatalities and 6,011 injured, one fatality and unknown number of injuries in the United States

2012 Haida Gwaii earthquake – magnitude 7.8 earthquake with an epicenter on Moresby Island in British Columbia, the second largest Canadian earthquake ever recorded by a seismometer, over 100,000 people were evacuated to higher ground in the state of Hawai'i

Morris Island Light

Morris Island Light is a lighthouse on Morris Island in South Carolina. The light stands on the southern side of the entrance to Charleston Harbor, north of the City of Folly Beach. The lighthouse was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.Although the lighthouse now stands several hundred feet offshore, it was originally inside a much larger island. When constructed in 1876, the light was approximately 1,200 feet (370 m) from the water's edge. However, the construction in 1889 of the jetties which protect the shipping lanes leading to Charleston Harbor altered ocean currents, resulting in the rapid erosion of Morris Island and the destruction of many structures and historical sites (such as Fort Wagner). By 1938 the shoreline had reached the lighthouse, forcing its automation as it was no longer safe or practical to keep it manned. In 1962 the Morris Island Light was decommissioned and replaced by the new Charleston Light, located on Sullivan's Island at the north end of the harbor.

Saluda Dam

The Saluda Dam or Saluda River Dam, officially the Dreher Shoals Dam, commonly referred to as the Lake Murray Dam, is an earthen embankment dam located approximately 10 miles (15 km) west of Columbia, South Carolina on the Saluda River. Construction on the dam began in 1927 and was completed in 1930. The purpose of the dam is flood control, hydroelectricity, recreation and water supply. At the time of its completion, the Saluda Dam was the world's largest earthen dam, creating the world's largest man-made lake, Lake Murray. In 2005, construction on a 213 ft (65 m). tall roller-compacted concrete (RCC) dam was completed at the toe of the original dam in order to mitigate an earthquake-caused dam failure.

South Carolina Highway 6 crosses over the dam and is used as a fast connection between the towns of Lexington and Irmo. The yearly football game between rival Lexington High School and Irmo High School is often called "The Battle of the Dam".

Shaking Rock Park

Shaking Rock Park is located in Oglethorpe County, off Highway 78 in Lexington, Georgia.

Before being settled by American pioneers and European emigrants, the area around Shaking Rock was a camping ground of the Cherokee and Creek Indians.

Shaking Rock derived its name from a 27-ton boulder that was so perfectly balanced atop a granite outcrop that it could be moved by the pressure of a hand. Over time, the elements have disturbed this balance to a degree that the boulder can no longer be moved. Reportedly, the "shaking rock" was knocked to the earth by the 1886 Charleston earthquake. Other huge natural granite outcroppings in unusual shapes are scattered throughout while a picnic area active beaver pond, and several nature trails with identified trees enhance the park.[1]

The park was established in 1968. Mrs. Andrew Cobb Erwin, Mrs. Sallie McWhorter Hawken and Mr. Thurmond McWhorter (three heirs of the park's former owner, Judge Hamilton McWhorter) donated the land for the park to Oglethorpe County at the request of the Lexington Women’s Club.

Since establishment of the park, Mr. Bobby Maxwell has served as custodian.

In recent years, there has been a surge of college students from the University of Georgia, as well as other rock-climbing enthusiasts who have ventured to climb the boulders at Shaking Rock Park.[2]

Thomas Elfe House

The Thomas Elfe house is a property located in Charleston’s French Quarter at 54 Queen Street in Charleston, South Carolina. It was at one time owned by the well known colonial period furniture craftsman Thomas Elfe, whence its name. The eighteenth century house has been completely restored.

Tybee Island Light

Tybee Island Light is a lighthouse next to the Savannah River Entrance, on the northeast end of Tybee Island, Georgia. It is one of seven surviving colonial era lighthouse towers, though highly modified in the mid 1800s.

United States Custom House (Charleston, South Carolina)

The U.S. Custom House or U.S. Customhouse is the custom house in Charleston, South Carolina. Construction began in 1852, but was interrupted in 1859 due to costs and the possibility of South Carolina's secession from the Union. After the Civil War, construction was restarted in 1870 and completed in 1879. The building was placed on the National Register of Historical Places on October 9, 1974. It is also a contributing property of the Charleston Historic District.

William Ravenel House

The William Ravenel House was built in 1845 by shipping merchant William Ravenel. The drawing room runs the entire width of the house and is perhaps the largest drawing room in Charleston. The house suffered severe damage in the 1886 Charleston earthquake; its giant order Tower of the Winds portico was destroyed, leaving only the base. One of the capitals from the columns was unearthed 73 years later when Hurricane Gracie felled a tree which had grown atop the capital where it had fallen and been imbedded in the soft soil. The drawing room of the house spans the width of the house and has been described as the largest room in Charleston.


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