The Magnitude 7.4 Washington State Earthquake of 1872

This large earthquake occurred on Saturday December 14, 1872 at 9:40 pm. The magnitude has been estimated at 7.4. The exact location is uncertain, but it appears to be in northern Washington State, about 100 km or more south of Hope, B.C. The strongest shaking, and most of the aftershocks were reported in the Lake Chelan area in Washington State - suggesting that region was the closest populated area to the epicentre. However, because of the sparse population in 1872, it is impossible to assign an accurate epicentre based on felt reports or the aftershock information. The shaking was strong enough to frighten people and cause them to run out of buildings in Victoria, New Westminster, and Yale, B.C., and in Seattle, Washington. The earthquake was reported felt from central British Columbia in the north (Quesnel) to central Oregon in the south (Salem) and east into the present day Alberta and Montana.


Wallula, W.T.
...it is reported as very heavy, lasting fifty seconds...The shocks continued at intervals until 4 A.M. The first shock was violent enough to shake the buildings and contents pretty lively.
Colville, W.T.
The first shock lasted about three minutes, toppled clocks, shook down crockery and bottles from shelves, etc. Several slighter shocks occurred during the next five hours.The weather is cold, and sleighing good.
Ft. Simcoe, W.T.
The buildings here shook like leaves in a heavy wind. The doors, windows, and everything that was not a positive fixture, rattled, and seemed for a few moments to indicate that we were to have a general crash.
Near Ellensberg, W.T.
...old mother earth was being shaken from the west to the east, throwing all the poultry from their roosts, frightening dogs, cats, horses, and cattle, stopping clocks, and jarring chimneys from their foundation... cattle ran and bellowed piteously, and dogs barked and howled.
LaConner, W.T.
...a heavy earthquake shock was felt here... It was so violent that people vacated their houses, which shook like cradles...duration about one minute and a half.
Duwamish, W. T.
At Duwamish head a flagpole thirty feet high waved a distance of four feet.
Olympia, W. T.
...our citizens were surprised and startled by an earthquake that shook the buildings until everything rattled and creaked and strained like a ship in a cyclone ...and left a profound impress, a feeling of awe, on the minds of all. The shock lasted quite two minutes...while all things human appeared to dwindle into insignificance when compared to the mighty throes of the earth.
Port Gamble, W.T.
Things were pretty well shaken up. The Teekalet Hotel was so jarred and tilted from side to side as to terrify the inmates, who rushed out of doors fearing the building would fall and crush them. The people were generally alarmed afraid to sleep in their own houses, and many thinking it safer, went down to the ships and steamers at the wharves to spend the remainder of the night on board.
Seattle, W.T
Several clocks were stopped, swinging lamps put in motion, doors jarred, restless people waked up, timid people kept awake, everybody set to talking, some to trembling, others to laughing and editors to writing. At Seattle, the shock is said to have been more severe than at any other point. Men, women and children rushed out of doors, and, for a time, the streets were black with the mass of human beings. Children were hurried from their beds by their terrified mothers, themselves, in many cases en dishabille, and into the streets were crowded to escape injury from buildings expected to fall. It was, doubtless, in the lower part of the town, where the foundation is a swamp covered with ten feet of saw dust, far more dangerous than on the hill in the rear of the town or than in Olympia. The sawdust is said to have opened in places, leaving narrow and deep cracks. We await with some anxiety news from California and elsewhere, hoping that they were so fortunate as we in escaping disaster...the shock was very severe and was accompanied by a slight tidal wave.
Clinton, W.T.
...the ground was cracked.
Skokomish, W.T.
...water was spilled from a barrel on his porch that was not full by six inches. Chickens were thrown from the roost, clocks stopped...
Puyallup Valley, W.T.
The late earthquake was very severe in Puyallup valley; shaking fowls from their perches, prostrating large trees and startling people generally. Mount Rainier was furiously smoking at sunset on the 10th inst., as seen from the Puyallup Valley.
Snoqualmie, W.T.
Mr. H. Eaves writes to the "Seattle Dispatch" for his place near the foot of the mountains under date of the 17th inst. as follows: This valley has been pretty well shook up during the past three days with earthquakes. The first was about 10 o'clock on Saturday night, lasting a minute and a half and was very heavy. We had 13 more shocks before daylight, but one as heavy as the first. Since then we have had ten. A very heavy smoke has risen in the mountains a little west of north, seen distinctly when not too cloudy. There appears to be two volumes of smoke. Mt. Baker is in the direction of the smoke seen from Snoqualmie, and it is not improbable that the earthquake shocks felt here were caused by an eruption of that volcanic mountain, as all accounts concur that it is most violent in that direction.
Yakima, W.T.
... the earthquake at that place was quite severe. There were three distinct shocks. The Indians on Rock Island say the mountain at that place rolled down and killed three persons.
Snoqualmie Pass, W.T.
...the shock was as bad as to shake a man off his feet.
Walla Walla, W.T.
...the rattling of windows and the swinging of picture frames, the whole concluding with a ground swell that can best be compared to the rolling of the waves in a rough sea. The whole lasted, probably, less than a minute...houses rocked, windows rattled, clocks... An earthquake that can shake British Columbia, Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana, is certainly extensive enough, although it has done no material damage in any place so far as we can hear.
Wenatchee, W. T.
...and were about donning their clothes, when they were thrown to the floor in rather a sudden manner... They made for the store on the river, some six miles distant, the ground undulating in a disorderly manner as they rode along. Arrived at the store they found everything in confusion. In the morning an examination was made, when it was discovered that in the store sacks of flour which had been piled in four feet deep were thrown around in confusion. The two upper logs of the cabin and the roof were misplaced, and the kitchen separated from the main building.... He also says that the peaks of several of the hills on the Kittitas and Columbia range of mountains were hurled over and broken. Trees were crushed to pieces and the river became very muddy, raising three feet inside of ten minutes. Great masses of earth, as if from a tremendous land- slide, rushed down the mountain side, mixed with stone and wood, and the gulches lost their identity by being filled with debris. The people thought that the entire Grand Tule country was sinking, and were making preparations to leave.
Victoria B.C.
..the front wall of a brick building on Ray street being cracked from cellar to garret. Plastered-ceilings were badly cracked in some houses.
Race Rocks B.C.
Mr. Argyle, the Light keeper reports that the tower and lantern at Race Rocks were severely shaken by the earthquake on Saturday night last. Things rattled away at a lively' rate for some seconds, but no damage was done.
Victoria, B.C.
...rocked houses violently and drove several families into the streets for safety. The movement was from east to west. In some instances door bells were rung, and crockery knocked from the shelves.
Barkersville, B.C.
No damage done except a general shaking of the inhabitants
New Westminster, B.C.
...the telegraph operator had to stop working the instrument.
Baker City, Oregon
For a minute or two the earth appeared to tremble, and the houses to vibrate in all directions, causing the doors to fly open, stoves and dishes, and other movable things to rattle, and then came the last shake up, by the earth appearing to roll from east of south to west of north, the last being the heaviest vibration.
Weston, Oregon
The late earthquake produced a warm spring where a spring was never known before.
Portland, OR
On last Saturday night the North Pacific Coast was visited by an earthquake, the first recorded since its discovery by white men. At Portland there were two slight shocks, the first at twenty-five minutes to ten o'clock the second at half-past two.

At the Clarendon Hotel, which is built upon piles and man made ground, the first-shock was severely felt, the walls cracked, in some of the rooms the plastering was shaken loose and the guests rushed pell-mell into the streets. On the solid ground the shocks were so little felt that some doubts were expressed as to whether it was an earthquake...

If Mount Hood and St. Helens should conclude to go into the volcano business again the results might be more interesting than pleasant.

At Portland, and up the Columbia, it was severe enough to stop clocks, scare birds from their roosts and people from their houses. On Sunday morning last, for the first time, the stone steps of the Portland courthouse were observed to be cracked. While many of our citizens did not perceive the shock at all, and others felt it so slightly as not to be able to distinguish it from the ordinary effect of the steamer's gun