Charleston Earthquake Rattled North Carolina

Damage from the 1886 Charleston earthquake

On August 31, 1886, at 9:50 PM, the largest earthquake ever recorded on the east coast of the United States destroyed homes and other property in Charleston, S.C., leaving as many as 150 dead in that city alone. Registering between 6.6 and 7.3 on the modern Richter scale, the quake cracked chimneys and plaster walls across North Carolina.

The bell in Asheville’s city hall tolled as the ground shook. The Reverend Anthony Porter, rector of Holy Communion Episcopal Church in Charleston, was vacationing in Asheville on that night. He later recorded what he perceived first as his wife moving furniture, then as carriages arriving in the yard, then as railroad cars approaching and, finally, as a corner of his residence was raised and then slammed to the ground, a quake.

Reports of the earthquake came in from across the Tar Heel state. The lighthouse keeper at Cape Hatteras felt the rumblings and saw windows broken in the tower. Effects were documented in Elizabethtown, Stovall, Huntersville, Raleigh, Hillsborough and Waynesville. The Northampton County Courthouse in Jackson had its walls damaged. To this day the large brick chimney outside the Carson House in Marion carries a crack made by the 1886 Charleston earthquake.


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3 responses to “Charleston Earthquake Rattled North Carolina”

  1. Marie says :

    I am amazed to see these power lines/telegraph lines in 1886. Do you know what they are? I assume this is Charleston. It was not labeled as such.

    • NC Culture says :

      We actually don’t know what they are.

      This image isn’t from our collections. It’s originally from the U.S. Geologic Survey, and we found on the website of the Medical University of South Carolina at the link below. They may be able to help you a bit more.

      Thanks for following us!

      • Marie Benge Craig Roth says :

        Thanks for responding. I am editor of the Davie County Historical and Genealogical Society and one of my newsletters was based on a newspaper article I found about the first time that Mocksville had electric lights turned on in 1924. It was quite a celebration. That seems like a long time from 1886 to 1924. I can send you a PDF of the newsletter if you wish.

        Your article today brings back memories. My husband was forester on the USFS Pisgah District from 1964-1966 and helped when they were developing the museum at the Cradle of Forestry.

        Marie Roth

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