Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Earthquake of 1868

On this date in 1868 a massive earthquake struck northern California, centered on what is now known as the Hayward Fault. Damage was extensive throughout Contra Costa and Alameda counties as well as in Oakland and San Francisco. Vallejo, located just north of the quake’s epicenter, was badly shaken but not severely damaged. The Vallejo Weekly Chronicle reported on the effects of the temblor:

“About 8 o’clock Wednesday morning, the city of Vallejo felt the effect of the earthquake that proved so destructive to San Francisco, Oakland, San Leandro, and other towns in the counties of Contra Costa and Alameda. The shock was of longer duration and severer than any experienced in the State heretofore, and having a vibration from northeast to southwest. Lighter shocks followed at 25 minutes to 9; 15 minutes past 9; 20 minutes past 10 (was sensibly felt); 3 minutes to 11. The introductory or heaviest shock occasioned considerable alarm among our citizens, as it commenced with an easy motion but gathered strength and greater activity in every quiver in its duration, and almost everyone having the idea that it would culminate in a general destruction of buildings. Many ran out into the streets, others of less excitability stayed where they were; some remained in their apartments on account of their not being able to present a very respectable appearance outside in way of toilet. No damages or injuries were sustained by any building or person in Vallejo, probably owing to the firm foundation upon which the buildings of the place are erected. The following ‘shakes’ caused an involuntary start by most everyone. At any rate the agitation of mother Earth was the topic of conversation during the balance of the day, completely absorbing politics. At almost any hour of the day a small number of men could be seen standing in different parts of the street relating their ‘experience’ to one another. The annexed are incidents that came to our knowledge:

A number of people were at breakfast, some of which were seized with a nauseating sensation, so much so that they had no desire to complete their meal. (Page says he made money by the ‘shake’).

A man lately from Peru was writing at the time - he didn’t appear to notice it, as he did not lift his pen off the paper. He is regarded as a natural curiosity by some.

The Bulletin says many chimneys were toppled down in Vallejo. A mistake, as no chimney was injured, if we except that of a dwelling on Virginia street, which lost two or three of its topmost bricks.

A partition in Bacheller’s building on Georgia street was slightly displaced.

The plastering in the public school house and in Capt. Wood’s dwelling on Capitol Hill, was cracked but not displaced.

A young man working in the Chronicle office considered it dangerous to continue work in a brick building; but upon being assured there was no likelihood of another quake he returned to his labors. However, the shock of 20 minutes past 10 ‘undone’ him. With a countenance expressing misplaced confidence and disgust for the country he left us.

Persons on the ferry-boat felt the shock, and say the effect was as if the boat’s bottom was bumping on a rock.

An officer on the Yard reports a wave of a foot in height. It was noticed by a number of officers, both at the City front and at the Railroad Terminus.

Nicholas, a hunter, was in Tules, about three miles above town, and reports the effects as startling; the banks of the small creeks closed and opened at short intervals. The tules having the motion of the swell of the ocean.

The water in the well on the property of the Rainbow Restaurant acted in such a manner as to cause the owner to have a disgust for the place, and advertise his place for sale, preparatory to leaving the country.

Thursday night at 15 minutes past 2, we experienced another ‘quiver,’ which lasted about five seconds, but was of a light character. At 20 minutes past 7, yesterday morning, a slight shock was felt.

One of our City Fathers was in the fifth story of the Cosmopolitan Hotel of San Francisco. He sat on the side of the bed and rode the shock out, making no effort to dress himself, probably thinking he was as well clad for leaving this world as many others.

A friend informs us that the scenes in the Occidental Hotel were both humorous and appalling. Men, women and children, completely paralyzed with fear, running frantically around the halls in their night clothes. He was partially dressed and consequently he got out into the hall with toilet very near complete; but he hardly made his appearance when an unknown female with toilet very incomplete caught him around the neck begging him to save her. Being a young man, and very modest, the ‘situation’ quite overcame him; and the only consolation he could offer was to assure the lady that it was only an earthquake; there was no danger, ‘for we’ll all die together!’ The young man hardly knew what he did say, for he was more scared by the woman than by the earthquake.”

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