DGS Estimated Location of 1871 Earthquake on Google Maps.jpg

DGS Estimated Location of 1871 Earthquake on Google Maps.

If you were reading the October 14th 1871 edition of the Cecil Whig you would have quickly noticed the correspondents in the local affairs section all reporting the occurrence of a strange phenomenon on or around the 9th of October 1871.

“Local Affairs – Earthquake – The shock of an earthquake was felt through this section of the county, on Monday morning last at 9:40. The vibration was quite violent; several of our correspondents speak of it, and in Wilmington some walls were cracked by the shock, and a chimney partially thrown down. The shock seems to have been the most violent in that city and vicinity, and was at first supposed to have been a powder mill explosion; but nothing of that kind having occurred, the general belief is that it was an earthquake.”

“Chesapeake City Items: A considerable shock, supposed to have been from an earthquake was felt here, on Monday morning last at 9:40. It was thought by many, to have been a steamboat explosion in Back Creek. The tug boat, Swallow, was sent down the creek to ascertain if such was the case. After proceeding a few miles found all right, and returned.”

“Rising Sun Items: On Monday forenoon, we were quite astonished by a general shaking up, Anxious inquirers attended at the depot at train time, in the evening, to ascertain the cause. In reply to their question of – ‘What’s blowed up?’ a man put his head out of a car window and replied, ‘the Democratic party.’ It appears he was about correct.”

“Fourth District Items: On Monday morning last between 9 and 10 o’clock we were very much startled upon hearing, and at the same time, feeling something very much like an earthquake, being so violent as to jar the windows of the most solid houses. The general belief here is that it was an earthquake somewhere along the coast of New Jersey.”

“Pilot Town Items: Our town was shaken on Tuesday morning by what some though an earthquake; it caused the windows to rattle for two minutes.”

While seismic recorders were in use in other parts of the country, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) does not appear to have had any in the area at the time. However the Delaware Geological Survey (DGS) has estimated the event at a magnitude of 4.1 on the Richter Scale and occurring in the Wilmington area on the Delaware/New Jersey Border.

From the Delaware Geological Survey website:

“An earthquake occurred in Delaware on October 9, 1871, and caused severe property damage. In Wilmington, Delaware’s largest city, chimneys toppled, windows broke, and residents were quite bewildered by the unusual event. Lighter damage was sustained in northern Delaware at Newport, New Castle, and in Oxford, Pennsylvania. Earth noises, variously described as “rumbling” and “explosive,” accompanied the shock in several areas.”

Access to the digital newspaper collection of the Cecil County Historical Society is free to members and is included in the $5 library fee for non-members. We are currently open, please visit www.cecilhistory.org for news and updates.

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