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EARTHQUAKES IN NEW ENGLAND
TEW ENGLAND earthquakes worth noticing are rare enough,
about one every twenty years being a rough average for shakes
that can be generally felt, but there are about two shakes every year of some sort, mostly so slight as not to be noticed, except by the expert observer. The shake on October 21 was a fair sample of the worst New England earthquakes, just enough to be noticed generally in some one section, as around Portland, Me., this time. About 400 shocks have been recorded in New England since the first settlement.
So far as records go there have been only three earthquakes that were really enough to scare people. They came on June 2, 1638, October 29, 1727, and November 18, 1755. October 20, 1871, brought a lively shake to Boston and the suburbs, and there was another on August 10, 1884. On May 26, 1897, the northern portion of New England was shaken and Montreal had quite a scare. July 15, 1905, brought another shake, noticed in western Maine, particularly in Jackson, N. H. It came, in the height of the summer resort season, and at 4:55 A. M., suddenly waking many of the summer boarders in the White Mountains. Most of them reported mirrors rattling and shaking as the most noticeable incident. None of these latter group did any damage. The nearest really big earthquake to New England was the Charleston (S. C.), shock on August 31, 1886, that was barely perceptible hereabouts.
A graphic account of the earthquake on October 20, 1871, is given by Isaac Y. Chubbuck of this city, who has kept a record of these happenings for years. He was standing at 11:30 A. M., in the door of his machine shop, then located on Tremont Street, opposite Hammond Street. On the corner of Hammond and Tremont Streets a big apartment house was being erected, and was full of workmen. Suddenly, Mr. Chubbuck says, he felt giddy, and looking around, saw the hanging lights in his shop swinging.
“I was only alarmed for my health," he says, “thinking it was some symptom of sickness rather than any real swinging of the lamps. But looking across the street, I saw the workmen pouring out of the new
building; piling out anyhow, and shouting warning to the rest that the building was falling. No harm came except the scare, and I was at once reassured about my health. It was my first experience with an earthquake, and I would never have believed it was one if those men had not been scared, attributing it otherwise to momentary illness."
The shock on August 10, 1884, was very generally noticed around Boston. Vases on mantelpieces were reported overturned, falling generally in a north-south direction. There was only one shock, at about 3 P. M. On October 17, 1860, many stone walls and a few old chimneys were reported shaken down by an earthquake in Canada and northern New England. This is said to have had several very slight shocks at somewhat regular intervals for two or three hours; this fact being advanced, to account for such damage as was done. Only a few people seem to have noticed the earthquake, though those that did agreed fairly well on the “several shocks."
Bradford, in his history of New England, gives a lively account of the earthquake of June, 1638. “This year (1638)," he says, “about ye I or 2 of June was a great and fearfull earthquake. It came with a rumbling noise or low murmure like unto remote thunder.” Gov. Winthrop records it as coming at 2 P.M., and that there were two heavy shocks that day, with several smaller vibrations during the following twenty days. The original two shocks seemed to him to last for four minutes. Dishes were rattled on pantry shelves, and many people ran out of their houses in alarm. Winthrop appears to have been an acute observer of earthquakes, for he notes one on March 5, 1642, that no one else recorded.
A word to be said about these old records is that a great deal depended on there being somebody, not only able to recognize an earthquake, but who would put it down at once in black and white. There was, for instance, Rev. Matthias Plant, settled at Newbury from 1727 to 1741, who was an expert in earthquakes apparently, and who recorded everything at once. The recorded earthquakes for that period all count for Newbury therefore, though it may be supposed that if the shocks amounted to anything at Newbury, they were probably felt at Boston. Later in the century, there was a minister at East Haddam, Conn., with a similar habit, and practically all there is of earthquakes in New England during his time only tells of shocks at East Haddam.
Some of the early diaries refer to the “great" earthquake of January 31, 1660, but no damage was done, apparently. February 5 and 6, 1663, there were severe earthquakes in the St. Lawrence valley, recorded by the Jesuits, and the shocks continued at intervals until July of that year. Thirty-two shocks in two days are recorded. November 8, 1727, Mr. Plant said pewter and chinaware were shaken off the pantry shelves in Newbury, chimneys were shaken down, and that for a few minutes it was difficult to stand up.
October 29 of the same year there was an earthquake referred to so generally in the diaries and histories of that time, that Mr. Chubbuck thinks it was the greatest earthquake that ever visited New England. An old diarist, Stephen Jacques, says of it: “On the 29th day of October, it being Sabbath day, there was a terable earthquake.” Bricks were shaken out of walls, chimneys fell, and in low, marshy lands, there were small spouts of sand thrown up. Wells are said to have tasted bad for some weeks after it. Shocks are recorded for this year on January 3, 24, 28, 29, 30; February 2 1 and 29; March 17 and 19; April 18; May 17, 22 and 24; June 6 and 11; July 3 and 23.
At 11 A. M., September 15, 1732, there was a violent earthquake at Montreal that was felt slightly in Boston, and that stopped a clock at Annapolis, Md. December 17, 1737, a few bricks were shaken out of Boston chimneys by a slight shock. December 6, 1741, there was a noisy earthquake around Dedham and Walpole, or so say people there who took the trouble to note, but no damage was done.
What is generally regarded as the most violent earthquake ever felt in New England, or at least around Boston, was on November 18, 1755. It was an echo of the great earthquake at Lisbon, November i of that year, when the city was destroyed, causing the greatest loss of life known in modern times by an earthquake visitation. The shock appears to have taken seventeen days to cross the ocean, when what are now known as waves in the crust of the earth began to be felt in New England. They continued for several days, at first comparatively slight, rapidly growing more severe, and slowly dying out.
Old stone walls were shaken down in the country; chimneys toppled, particularly if at all old; a distiller's tank, newly made, burst in Boston ; wells dried up in many places, and in other wells the water became considerably deeper, many acquiring a bad taste that was difficult to remedy. Repeated cleaning out seemed to do little good in some of them. One of the most striking incidents of this earthquake was the fall of the weather vane on Faneuil Hall.
In Newbury an observer records that about twenty yards from his house there were several small eruptions, the largest from a hole about twelve inches long and three inches wide. They threw up large quantities of water, and altogether about ten cartloads of a strange sort of earth “ compressible as flour and of a white complexion."
The Boston Evening Post of November 24, 1755, in an editorial, comments on the earthquake as follows: “As God in his holy Providence hath been most awfully shaking the Earth whereby many houses and Chimneys, particularly in this town, are prodigiously weakened; I would recommend it to the inhabitants that they would employ proper Persons to sweep and examine their Chimneys.”
In Scituate, one Joseph Bailey's house was severely shaken, the chimney demolished, ceiling fractured, drawers of bureaus thrown open, and seventy square feet of cellar wall thrown down.
May 16, 1791, brought a severe earthquake in western New England. The East Haddam minister records 100 shocks during the night. There was a severe shock November 28, 1814, recorded at North Adams, and probably felt elsewhere, the man at North Adams being the only one to record it.
New England is not well served in the matter of exact observation of earthquakes. There is not a single seismograph to record the shocks in the region, and nowadays scientists pay no attention to observations not made by the delicate tracing pen of the pendulums of their seismographs. Major C. E. Dutton, U. S. A., an expert seismologist, says of these instruments: “A seismograph is a very delicate, costly, and complicated instrument. Its instalment requires great care and skill, its attendance is expensive, and a severe draught on the patience of the observer. The probability of securing from it a valuable record of an earthquake is usually very small. Instruments adapted to light or moderate quivers of the earth are unsuited to more forcible ones, and a severe or destructive shake is apt to wreck the entire establishment. Observed data, in order to be most useful for seismic study and analysis, ought to be numerous and well distributed over the affected area.”
THE DUTCHMAN'S FIRESIDE
A HIT AND A MISS
weck to one of her friends. It
N ATALINA, a few days or rather, as I believe, the very next day
after the appearance of the will-o'-the-wisp, went to Albany on a
visit of a week to one of her friends. It was customary in those days to make little journeys as well as great ones on horseback, and Catalina was fond of an exercise in which she excelled. In returning from this visit she was caught in a heavy shower, which obliged her to change her dress, and the maid had placed the wet garments on an old-fashioned high chair, just before her chamber window, for the purpose of drying.
“What, you here!” cried Ariel, who had just entered through the garden, as usual, that he might have a chance of reconnoitering the kitchen; "you here !—why I'll swear I saw either you or your ghost sitting at the window as I came in.”
Catalina smiled, and explained the cause of his mistake.
“By Jove!” cried Ariel, “I must get your woman to dress me up a scarecrow for my cornfield, for I never saw anything more natural.”
About ten in the evening of that day, as the whole family, together with Sybrandt and Ariel—the latter, as usual, fast asleep in his chairwere sitting around the supper-table, they were startled by the report of a gun close to the rear of the house, as it seemed, followed by a loud barking of the dogs. Sybrandt and Ariel ran out of the back door to see what was the matter, and found the whole population of the kitchen in great commotion, talking all together, each one telling what they knew or imagined. One declared that the gun was fired from the little copsewood, another from behind the raspberry bushes, a third from behind the garden fence, and a fourth was sure he saw a man jump over the fence immediately after the report of the gun. As usual in such cases, it was impossible to come at the truth, and as no harm seemed to have been done, most people came to the conclusion that none was intended. On returning to her room, Catalina found the old high stuffed damask chair on which her wet garments had been