Halloween quake 1895

Taken from a Special Edition of "The Gleaner"
printed November 21, 1999
permissive use granted by Editor
newspaper provided by Vonette Shelton-Curtis

Halloween quake left local residents shaken in 1895

By Frank Boyett
of The Gleaner staff

Halloween was pretty scary in 1895, and it wasn't because of spooks and goblins. Except for the powerhouses of 1811-12, which have been estimated to range somewhere between 7.6 and 8.8 on the Richter scale, the most powerful earthquake the New Madrid fault has generated in modern times struck Henderson just after 5 a.m. on Oct. 31, 1895. It measured 6.2 on the  Richter scale, which means it fell about midway between slight damage and devastating damage. "When first noticed there was a gentle, slow shaking of the room, hardly enough to arouse any uneasiness and this continued for seeral seconds when, of a sudden, there came a thunderous roar accompanied by a most frightful heaving of the earth," the Henderson Journal reported.

"Buildings plunged back and forth and cracked as if they were tumbling to pieces. Windows and doors and even walls rattled with a terrific fury never before heard. Great brick houses rocked and seemingly jumped as though they were play things." The force rang doorbells and burst open locked doors, but damage in the Henderson area was surprisingly slight. "It was remarkable how a large brick structure could be swayed to and fro and seemingly jump and bound and hold together in fact," the Journal reported. "Notwithstanding the intensity of it all but little damage was done here."

The wall on the Second Street side of the Ohio Valley Bank (the original building that formerly stood at Second and Main streets) was cracked, and a number of chimneys toppled, but other than that the only casualties were some hogs crushed under David Towler's corn crib at Baskett when it fell down. "The entire time consumed seemed an hour or more to those made most unhappy, but it really lasted not exceeding 25 or 30 seconds," the Journal reported. "At the first signal the far greater portion of the people were sound asleep but almost in the twinkling of an eye people could be seen in all directions making for the streets, some of them barefooted and in their night dress.

"Mothers rushed around with their little babes scarcely knowing what they were doing and powerless to do anything. It was indeed the most frightful scene ever witnessed here, far worse than that of the summer of 1891. The earthquake at that time was a severe one, but nothing to compare to that of yesterday morning. "Humanity was given abundant opportunity for thinking and then too for realizing how absolutely powerless and helpless we are on such an occasion to protect ourselves. It is the most distressing and t the same time demoralizing position a human can be placed in."

transcribed by Tina Hall 5-28-2007

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