In 1886, Blacksburg, SC was still a developing community known as “Black’s”. The area was still a part of York County and Cherokee County had not been parceled out yet and didn’t exist. While authorities in “Black’s” asked for investment and incoming migration, an earthquake shook their yet-to-be developed lands.
Unlike the earlier quakes of 1874, this shock did not come from the mountains north and west of us. It came from the shoreline beside the port city of Charleston. In September that year, our forebears felt it in this area and others felt it as far away as Boston, Massachusetts, Arkansas, Mexico, and even California. We were very lucky as far as damages went. Locally, houses rocked, doorbells rang by themselves, animals wailed, and plaster fell from the walls. The rumbling kept up,off and on from 10:00PM-2:00AM that evening. Charleston, SC, Summerville, and Mt. Pleasant were not as lucky.
The coastal cities were nearly destroyed. After the quake, people were fighting fires and prying one another from wreckage all around the city. The telegraph services were down and those that remained in service was overburdened. The train depots were incapable of operating and people were living in the rough within public squares and parks for fear that their houses would fall in on them if they dared to return to them.
During the earthquake, it was reported that it rained fine sand as far away as the Upstate, and that it rained smooth pebbles like river rocks in parts of the coastal region. The water wells of Charleston shot water upwards and out like a fire hose, and where there wasn’t a well, the Earth broke open into holes and chasms that belched out hot water, blue mud, and sulphurous smells. Summerville gained a “geyser” that turned into a temporary tourist attraction for the throngs of people evacuating through the area towards the uplands.
The people were demoralized and desperate for help. Many reported headaches, dizziness, nausea long after the shaking was over. They also reported odd symptoms such as electrical sensations, pins and needles in their extremities, and miraculous cures of their rheumatism after the quake. The Upstate was happy to come to their aid with fundraising campaigns and public sympathy. York County sent them a good deal of money, as did the rest of the country and even England. The Southern Express Company did their part by sending the funds and provisions to the coast for free.
Things were quiet on the coast for about a month. This gave yet another professor by the name of McGee the chance to speculate that this quake was the result of landslides; the same theory given for the Stone Mountain quakes in NC a decade earlier. This one was blamed on an underwater landslide instead of falling mountain spurs, however.
Then, in late October, the coast shook again. More damage was done to Charleston and surrounding cities with new water spouts, colored sand from the bowels of the Earth, and kerosene smells. The second quake was felt from D.C. to Savannah, GA, and also in Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee. Thankfully, it was the last of that series of quakes. The coast was able to get to the hard work of rebuilding with the financial support of friendly neighbors and friends. This was a long term project for them. As late as 1888, buildings they hadn’t gotten around to repairing yet, were still falling down and causing horrible injury and loss of life.
“The Earthquake”,”Minor Items”, “Letter From Chester”, “Aid For Charleston”, “Letter From Rock Hill”. The Yorkville Enquirer. Sept.8,1886/Aug.13,2020 <www.newspaper.com>
“More Quaking”. The Yorkville Enquirer. Oct.27,1886/Aug.13,2020 <www.newspaper.com>
“Effect of Earthquake on Health”. The Yorkville Enquirer. Apr.27,1887/Aug.13,2020 <www.newspaper.com>
“Scraps and Facts” The Yorkville Enquirer. Feb.1,1888/Aug.13,2020 <www.newspapers.com>