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Earthquake in Lincoln, 1877

Nebraskans have experienced no major earthquakes but have suffered occasional seismic shocks and tremors. The Nebraska State Journal of Lincoln on November 16, 1877, included a Journal staffer's report of a "toy earthquake" in Lincoln:

"From fifteen to twenty minutes before 12 o'clock, noon, yesterday, as we sat writing at a desk in the JOURNAL counting room, it suddenly occurred to us that the Commercial Block was slightly intoxicated. The desk, the chairs, the walls, the floor commenced to vibrate from east to west, as a frame house will rock before a mighty wind. Looking up to see what was the matter, we discovered considerable of a panic among the occupants of the next room. . . . [A]ll hands in all the rooms had suspended labor, and were apparently prepared for a rush out of the building for safety. 'Earthquake,' we said, and an earthquake it was, that extended over perhaps ten seconds, . . .

"To find out if the 'trouble' extended to other parts of the city, we started for the street, and met at our threshold a gentleman, who spoke first to know if we had felt the earthquake. We had. He was just from the state block, and said the inmates had rushed out to the pave[ment], under the impression that this solid pile of brick and mortar was coming down. Others corroborated the news a moment later, and the mystery was solved. The shock was almost universally felt in the upper and in many of the lower floors of our brick business houses. All agreed that the vibrations were east and west.

"At the capital, it was noticed by Judges [George B.] Lake and [Daniel] Gantt in the supreme court room and also in the offices of the first floor. At the high school the vibrations were quite severe, and a panic broke out among the children in one of the rooms, which was promptly checked by the teacher, though many of the little girls [were] frightened to tears." The Journal further reported that the tremors were felt at the university "where the shaking was felt, and a small quantity of plastering came down in the room of Professor Stadtler, the artist, who found it hard to keep his balance in the height of the upheavals. No damage, however, was done; no walls crushed, no buildings at all injured; and it was, so far as Lincoln, is concerned, a toy earthquake."


( July 2003 )



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