1897 Earthquake

The Truth at Last

Our Special Representative’s Account of the Earthquake at Pearisburg

Many Ridiculous Rumors Afloat

But the Shock was Much More Severe There Than Elsewhere

The Shocks Still Continue

A special representative of the Daily Telegraph visited Pearisburg Sunday and returned yesterday. The following account of the seismic disturbance is a true and reliable statement of the state of affairs in that locality. The article was written on the scene and while in the course of composition shocks were felt by him. It is as follows:

Our representative having arrived at the little village of Pearisburg, concerning which there has been so much said and written since it became famous as the centre of the recent earthquake shocks which have been felt, on driving into the village for the first time was very much impressed with its surroundings, being beautifully located in a broad and fertile valley, hemmed in by picturesque mountain scenery on every side; but is more interested in the many evidences of the recent earthquake pointed out to him as he is driven along, principally in the shape of broken chimneys. More than a dozen of these can be seen with from six inches to one foot torn and shaken from their tops, leaving them in a very dilapidated condition. Aside from this one would not imagine the quiet village disturbed in the least from any great internal commotions or volcanic symptoms, but on arriving at the Hotel I found all in a mild state of excitement and the earthquake the sole topic of conversation.

There have been a great many ridiculous rumors afloat concerning the real conditions existing at this point, and newspaper correspondents, eager to gather sensational matter, have departed from the truth and have given out unjust reports to the public. The writer will endeavor to relate the real facts just as they exist, so far as he can learn, and will give conservative statements gathered from among her leading citizens, among whom might be mentioned Judge Williams, Rev. Shuler and the editor of the Pearisburg Virginian.

The earthquake on Monday occurred about 1.50 p.m. and lasted about 20 seconds, during which time [the] earth vibrated, accompanied by a deep rumbling sound, which caused the buildings to tremble from their foundations, and many bricks were shaken from the chimneys, and [pullquote]nearly all the inhabitants rushed into the streets, terror stricken[/pullquote], as they did at many other places; but the shock seems to have been much more severe there than elsewhere, which is evidenced by the fact that buildings were injured, and also, from the fact that many of the springs ran muddy water for many hours and some of them for more than a day, while the springs of J. B. Croy, near there, which is large enough to run a mile, stopped running for one day, and others stopped running for a number of hours. These are facts substantiated by the best citizens of Pearisburg, and the fallen bricks are standing evidences of the damage to the chimneys and buildings. The Court House in this respect seems to have fared the worst, and it said that for once Judge Jackson and the lawyers agreed and beat a hasty retreat. The residence of Judge Williams and Samuel Crockett, south of the city, were considerably damaged, and there were large portions of the cliffs that was shaken from the mountain and crushed everything in their pathway as they swept down the mountain side. There is no truth, however, in the rumors that a great fissure opened in the earth for miles and no one is able to locate its author; and Mountain lake still spreads here serene bosom to the blue sky, and will continue to thrill and charm the admirer of the beautiful in the coming years as she has in the past.

So much for the shock that has occurred a week ago, which was general throughout a number of states; but the most serious side of this question to these people is the continuance of these shocks every day and night which are not felt outside of a very small area, with Pearisburg a centre.

It is claimed that there have been over 50 clear and distinct shocks felt in the last 30 days; and this can not be any idle fancy or the imagination of the frightened and superstitious, for all the best and most trustworthy citizens testify most positively to its truthfulness, and the great alarm felt here is proof that it is no idle dream. I am told that two or three were felt there today – one just a few minutes before my arrival, which was very perceptible and heard by nearly every one, including Prof. M. R. Campbell, U.S. Geological Survey, of Washington, who has arrived to investigate the peculiar phenomena. I had the pleasure of meeting him and having a good long talk on this subject, for it seems there was no other subject to be discussed at this time and place, and of course it was the one of the most important to me. The Professor made a geological survey of this section some years ago and does not think there is any danger of volcanic disturbance, as there is no evidence of anything of that nature in the formations of the country, nor anything to indicate volcanic activity in the past, yet we think these repeated shocks are a very peculiar phenomena. Just at this instant as I am writing this manuscript a clear and distinct shock is felt, it being 10:15 p.m. and I can hear the shouts on the street. “Did you feel the shock?” “Did you feel the earth quake?”

The sound was very much like distant thunder except that is seemed to be under the buildings. Some of the people who live in brick houses here are afraid to sleep in them at night, for fear they might collapse; and I am reliably informed, sleep in the smaller frame buildings on the premises, and in some instances go to their neighbors to sleep. Judge Williams told me that he left his brick house last night, after the shock just mentioned, and slept with his family in a smaller building.

The above are all facts, so far as they can be gotten from the very best citizens of the town, and whatever may be the cause of these disturbances, there is some foundations for the grave apprehension that exists here, and one need not be surprised that the more nervous and excitable, such as women and children, should be much frightened at this peculiar phenomena, when it is known that similar disturbances have always occurred in volcanic regions previous to eruptions; and while there need be no great alarm, and in fact is not, except with a few, yet you can easily see there is ample foundation for a reasonable degree of apprehension; but let us hope the serene little village will have no serious trouble and that her excitement will soon abate.

Bluefield Daily Telegraph, 8 June 1897

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