Charleston, SC Earthquake - from the History of Mecklenburg County
August 31, 1886, was the date of the great earthquake of the century. Its centre was near Charleston, S. C. Probably its centre was in the Atlantic ocean near Charleston. The damage to buildings and railroads was very great. The ground in many places near the coast was sunken several feet and in other places was raised, making it appear in waves. It cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to repair the damages to buildings and railroads. In the up-country but comparatively little damage was clone to buildings, except that brick buildings were cracked and rendered unsafe. A perfect pandemonium of fear and alarm ran riot over the country. The people were not educated in the behavior of earthquakes, and not one out of fifty persons knew what it was. Of course fright and fear filled the hearts of most persons who had no knowledge of such phenomena. In every direction in the country you could hear cries of dirtress---one person called to another to come to them. The lamps setting about in the houses were shaken so violently that they were taken from the mantle or table and put on the floor.
Many persons who paid no attention to religion were persuaded through fear, that they needed assistance from a higher power. Loud prayers and strong crying was heard in many places, and many joined the Church.
A friend of mine coming home from Church in the upper part of this county, said when he heard the rumbling noise that accompanied the earthquake, he immediately got off the track of the railroad, thinking it was the train coming. Others saw electric balls of fire flashing along the track. I had two little boys, 15 years old, sleeping out in my office, who ran into my dwelling house after the first shock, and I asked them "what the dog was barking at so furiously." They said, "Somebody's horses and wagon went by the office like a whirlwind." This noise was from southeast to northwest; such appeared to be the course of the cesmic [sic] disturbince [sic]. These shocks were continued for several days, at intervals of a few moments to several hours. This is a fair statement of what took place in one hundred miles of Charlotte. But the nearer you approach to Charleston, or the centre of the disturbance, the greater was the destruction of property, many houses were rendered unsafe, and some were shaken down.
The history of Mecklenburg County from 1740 to 1900 , Charlotte, N.C.: Observer Print. House, 1902, Pages 318-319