The Daily Bug

125th Anniversary of the 1886 Charleston Earthquake

By: palmettobug53, 4:22 PM GMT on August 31, 2011

I am revisiting the 2006 blog that I'd put up for the 120th anniversary. Sorry, but all the images I had in that header have winked out and I'm not going to hunt them down again. There is a link to an archive of images at the St. Louis University lower down as well as a link to more images at the Lowcountry Digital Library.

I have added a couple of new links, including one from the Waring Library at MUSC. See below.


Though I was just a lad at the time, I vividly recall the sensations of the moment and many heart-rending incidents of that night of terror. In view of the sharp intensity of the shock and its destroying affect, I do not hesitate to assert that the temblor which wrecked Charleston was more severe than that of April 18 last, and in relative destruction considerably worse.

It was about 9:50 o�clock on the evening of August 31, 1886, that the people of Charleston felt the quiverings of the first earthquake shock ever known in that part of the country. They had just returned from worship and not many had yet retired.

The day had been an exceedingly hot one and the evening was unusually sultry, with such a profound stillness in the air that it provoked general remark.

The temblor came lightly with a gentle vibration of the houses as when a cat trots across the floor; but a very few seconds of this and it began to come in sharp jolts and shocks which grew momentarily more violent until buildings were shaken as toys. Frantic with terror, the people rushed from the houses, and in so doing many lost their lives from falling chimneys or walls. With one mighty wrench, which did most of the damage, the shock passed. It had been accompanied by a low, rumbling noise, unlike anything ever heard before, and its duration was about one minute.

No need to tell of the horrors of that moment or of those succeeding. The fact that lighter shocks continued at frequent intervals throughout the long, dreary night kept the nerves of all keyed to such a high tension that it is not strange that several persons lost their reason.


Paul Pinckney in Lessons Learned from the Charleston Quake



As you walk around the residential streets in downtown Charleston, you will see many old buildings that had earthquake rods installed after the 1886 quake. Some are decorative and some are plain. Some are not real. They are simply there for show; they were not installed for stability but for charm.

Once you know what to look for, you can find evidence of the earthquake everywhere. Repair jobs can be spotted by rather large zig zags in the mortar work on the sides of houses and buildings. Sometimes you'll notice a slight difference in the shade of the bricks that were used for the repairs.


This is a collection of photos of the quake damage maintained at St. Louis University.

Here are some more photos from the Lowcountry Digital Library.

Excerpt from City of Heroes: The Great Charleston Earthquake of 1886 by Richard Cote.

Damage at the Medical College of S.C., now called the Medical University of S.C. (My employer)

USGS: S.C. Earthquake Information

Article in the Post and Courier Aug 31, 2011. There will be another, more in depth article in Sunday's paper.

Here it is: One Night That Changed Charleston Forever

Faults and Fractures- The Medical Response to the Charleston Earthquake of 1886, an MUSC online exhibit to commemmorate the 125th anniversary of the quake.








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1886 earthquake

Updated: 1:26 PM GMT on September 05, 2011

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Summer Reading

By: palmettobug53, 12:13 AM GMT on August 16, 2011

At the end of each school year, many of us were handed summer reading lists by our teachers. I don't recall any of my teachers handing out reading lists but I didn't have to be forced to read during summer vacation.

I was always checking out books from the school library or ordering from the Weekly Reader book club. I would even read my history, science and literature textbooks at the beginning of the school year, before we started studying them.

I had chores during the summer, like I did during the school year. There was still plenty of time spent playing with the neighborhood kids, riding bikes, skating on the basketball court at the school across the road, chasing fireflies in the early evenings, games of Simon Says, Red Rover and backyard baseball. I spent summer afternoons and evenings listening to the bob whites, mourning doves and whip-poor-wills. Dad and I would sit in the carport during those late afternoon thunderstorms, watching the lightning and feeling the thunder rumble, whilst Mama peeped out the back door fussing, "You two are gonna get killed!"

For me, though, summertime was a stretch of unbroken hours when I could read as much as I wanted for as long as I wanted and for as late at night as I could keep my eyes open.

Mama came from a family of readers. I got a lot of books as gifts from relatives on her side of the family, when I was young.

When the library opened up a branch near us, we were delighted. The Bookmobile would visit our neighborhood every couple of weeks or so, as well. I forget the schedule now but I always staggered down the steps and out with as many books as they'd allow.

Summer vacations were when I read "Gone With The Wind", "Tom Jones" and "The Amourous Adventures of Moll Flanders", much to Mama's concern. I was about 14 or 15, maybe. She muttered a few times that she wasn't quite sure they were suitable but let me read them.

Summertime was also the time I scared myself half to death, reading Bram Stoker's "Dracula" into the wee hours one night. I couldn't go to sleep until I'd raided Mama's spice cabinet for the ground garlic and placed my Bible at the bottom of my bedroom door.

I was a bit embarrassed the next morning, in the light of day. Mama opened my bedroom door and said, "What in the world?" She laughed but then told me a story.

She had read "Dracula" one night into the wee hours, herself. She said she was in her teens at the time. She woke up at some point with something warm on her neck. Scared stiff, afraid to move and afraid to even squeak for help, she lay there for some minutes, her heart pounding. Finally, she worked up enough nerve to bring her hand up and touch the 'warmth'. It was one of the kittens that didn't get put out for the night with the rest of the cats. She said she was so relieved it was a kitten and not Count Dracula, that she didn't even move it. She just let it sleep on her neck and went back to sleep, herself.

I didn't feel so silly about the garlic and Bible, once she told me her story!

I've been to the library a good bit this summer. I've dipped my toes into a few classics and some old favorites. I get mostly fiction but there's quite a few "looking" books, as well. Coffee table type books and, then, my current favourites: the books from Arcadia Publishing.

It dawned on me a while back that there are a lot of classics out there that I have not read, for whatever reason. I want to work my way through some of those in the next year or two.

I just finished reading Frank McCourt's "'Tis". I found a pristine hardback copy, dust cover and all, at the thrift shop Saturday for only $1.50. I'd read "Angela's Ashes" not too terribly long after it came out. Sad books but, at the same time, funny and nostalgic.

What books have you been reading this summer? Any thing good? Anything new? Old favourites?






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Updated: 12:44 AM GMT on August 16, 2011

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About palmettobug53

WU member since Oct. 2005. I enjoy reading, crafts, crosswords, puttering in the yard, old movies and hanging out with my friends on WU.

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