Date: August 31, 1886

Location: Charleston, South Carolina

Magnitude: 6.7

Milwaukee Sentinel, Wednesday, September 1, 1886, page 1 .

THE EARTHSHAKES. A Vast Area of the Country Affected. THE TERRIFYING UNDULATIONS FELT IN MILWAUKEE. Fears of a Catastrophe at Charleston, S.C. The Shocks in Southern States Most Severe, Causing the Greatest Alarm.

Large buildings were shaken violently by an earthquake shock at 9:30 o'clock last evening, and the inmates fled terror stricken to the streets. Pictures fell from the walls, and chairs and tables danced lively jigs around the rooms. The shock lasted a little over a minute. Strangely enough only the upper stories of the high buildings in the city seemed to be rudely shaken, and people in houses of less altitude next door did not experience even a tremor.

The most violent shock was felt in the vicinity of the New Hampshire block and Belvedere flats on Grand Avenue, and the Colby & Abbot building on Milwaukee Street, (at Mason) though the shock in milder form was felt in many parts of the city.

Milwaukee Journal, Wednesday, September 1, 1886, page 1, col. 1.

EARTH WAVERS. Charleston City Full of Ruin and Death. The Shocks General East of the Mississippi. Hundreds Dead and Many Thousands Homeless. Tall Buildings Teeter in Chicago and Milwaukee Perceptibly. A Continuance of the Disturbances on the Atlantic Coast Today. Thrilling Scenes Among Terror Stricken People - Local Interviews - What an Earthquake is in Fact. The Shock in Milwaukee. People Rushing From Their Homes - One Minute of Terror.

At precisely 9 minutes and 26 seconds after 9 o'clock, last evening, Milwaukee experienced an earthquake shock that was distinctly felt in all parts of the city. In the streets and on the lower floors of buildings it was barely perceptible, but on the upper floors of the higher structures the earth appeared to tremble violently.

A man who was on the upper floor of the new insurance building (on the corner of Broadway and Michigan Streets) describes the sensation as not unlike that of a powerful explosion, without the noise; or the feeling to that of a steamer that is leaving a wharf and feels the first vibrations of the engines. Pictures fell from walls in many houses, clocks were stopped, and tables and other furniture seemed to dance. Chinaware clinked and jingled and in some instances was broken. Inmates of taller buildings fled for their lives, while people living on lower floors in adjoining houses, looked on wonderingly, having felt no shock greater than would have been made by a heavy wagon having been jolted rapidly over the rough pavement.

This morning everyone is enquiring about the effects of the shock. It was thought that some of the larger buildings must have suffered material damage, but no disturbance occurred in this city. The experience of all persons who felt the shock was similar in one particular; they describe the peculiar sinking, swaying sensation that can result from but one thing - an earthquake.

Mr. Simpson, clerk of the Plankinton house, (on Wisconsin Ave between Plankinton and 2nd Streets) said "I was sitting in my room, on the fifth floor with my feet braced against a trunk, reading a newspaper. About 9 o'clock I felt a peculiar dizzy sensation, and the paper seemed to sway back and forth. I thought at first that it was a throbbing of my heart, but the stove door began to rattle. Then I rose and walked around, and as I was walking I concluded that I was mistaken, and sat down in the same position again. I felt the same sensation and the stove-door kept up a pendulum-like vibration, nothing like what would be caused by a wagon driving by in the street. I should judge that the vibrations were southwest and northeast.

The housekeeper on the fourth floor felt the motion, and could scarcely credit her senses till she saw a rocking-chair begin to rock.

One guest went down and reported that there were symptoms of an earthquake, but they thought in the office that he was crazy.

One gentleman who was sitting in the parlor on the second floor said that they felt it there. He himself felt a dizzy sensation, but said nothing about it thinking he would be ridiculed.

Superintendent Donohue, of the Lake Shore & Western, was in his office on the fourth floor of the new Insurance block. He was looking at a map, with his arm resting on a step-ladder. He felt a vibration of the step-ladder, and said to his companion, "This building is shaking!" Mr. Thayer, who was with him, said it was not. Mr. Donohue then pointed to the chandelier in the next room, which was swinging from north to south. This seemed to be conclusive.

Mrs. Curt M. Treat was on the second floor of the New Hampshire block (SW corner of 6th Street and Wisconsin Avenue). She says she first felt a swaying sensation. The strings of the piano jingled, the doors creaked and bits of plaster could be heard falling within the brick walls. Then the building seemed to sway from side to side and to rock. The persons occupying apartments on the third and fourth floors rushed down stairs, terror-stricken. The shock seemed to last fully a minute.

Dr. Stanhope, who occupies a flat in the Belvedere block, corner of Eighth Street and Grand (Wisconsin) Avenue, said his family had just seated themselves at the teatable. "My feet first seemed to move," said Mr. Stanhope, "and then my chair swayed and I nearly fell headlong to the floor in attempting to see if the chair was broken. The building seemed to rock and the chandelier swung to and fro. Pictures rattled, and the transom over the door swung back and forth." Dr. Stanhope said he experienced an earthquake in Arkansas in 1863, and he says the sensations were similar.

Other occupants of the Belvedere Block declare that the floor seemed to slide from under their feet and the tiles to rattle and upheave. Several persons ran from the building.

Herbert Sheridan, who was in the New Hampshire Block, describes the feeling as one as if the building was sliding toward the street. He says he felt sick, the sensation being similar to that caused by sea-sickness.

O.T. Renning, secretary of Scandinavia lodge, I.O.O.F., says that while writing at his desk during a meeting of the society, he observed that the table was moving. It seemed, he says, to sink away from him. There was also an oscillating movement of the floor and everything indicated that the building was moving from its foundations.

Milwaukee Sentinel, Thursday, September 2, 1886, page 1, col. 3.

THE LOCAL SHOCK. It Was Severest in the Third Ward (south of Wisconsin Ave, between the river and the lake) -- Some Personal Experiences.

Thousands of Milwaukeeans on reading The Sentinel yesterday morning had their first intimation that the city had experienced an earthquake shock. Many people in coming down town gazed on the Colby & Abbot, New Hampshire and Belvidere Blocks, probably expecting to see large cracks in these structures, but in this they were disappointed.

The shock was the talk of the city yesterday, and many stories were told of "personal experiences in the earthquake." In this city, from all accounts, the shock appeared to be severest in the Third ward. Here, at least, the shock was felt in small dwellings.

A lady living on Huron (Clyborn) Street was so frightened that she fainted. In a house on the opposite side of the street, a lamp was overturned, and in another house near by a lamp was extinguished. The dwelling of the lighthouse keeper on the north pier was shaken so severely that Miss Keniston, the daughter of the keeper, became very ill.

At exactly 9:10 o'clock the clock in No. 3 engine house on National Avenue (at 2nd Street) stopped, for the first time since it has been in place.

Reports were received yesterday from various points in the interior of the state where the shock was felt. The building in which the Janesville Business Men's association has rooms was so shaken that the members fled precipitately into the street. One of the largest fire cisterns in Janesville was wrecked. At Beloit people would not believe they had felt an earthquake shock until The Sentinel arrived with its reports of its earthquake, although the occupants of the Goodwin house, and Parker block, solid stone and brick buildings, plainly felt the structures sway, and saw things swing. Similar reports were received from other Wisconsin cities, but nowhere in the state does the shock appear to have been severe.

Milwaukee Journal, Wednesday, September 8, 1886, page 1, col. 4.

EFFECT OF THE EARTHQUAKE.  A Crack in the Custom-House That Was Caused by the Recent Shake.

Traces of the effect of the earthquake have been discovered in the custom-house building (NE corner of Milwaukee Street and Wisconsin Avenue) in this city. They consist of a crack in the plastering on the right jam of a window on the north side of the first floor. The crack is about three-eighths of an inch wide, and one and a half foot long, extending from the middle of the window in a curved line downward. The wall is protected by an iron stop, which seems to have been disturbed so much as to crack the paint on the edge where it is joined by the plastering.

Back to Quake Index