Historic Earthquakes

Probably St. Lawrence Valley region
1638 06 11 UTC

This violent shock was felt near Three Rivers (Trois-Rivières), Quebec, and throughout all of the English plantations. Many persons were frightened. At Plymouth, Massachusetts, people had to hold on to objects to keep from falling. Tops of chimneys were thrown down in the Plymouth, Salem, and Lynn areas. Ships near the coast were shaken. It was also felt in Connecticut, and at Narragansett, Rhode Island. Smaller shocks continued for 20 days.

Abridged from Earthquake History of the United States, Publication 41-1, Revised Edition (Through 1970), Reprinted 1982 with Supplement (1971-80). Published jointly by: U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and U.S. Department of the Interior, Geological Survey.


The following description of the 1638 earthquake is contained in Governor William Bradford's History of the Plymouth Plantation. The difference in the date of the earthquake is the result of the conversion from Julian to Gregorian calendars.

This year, aboute the 1. or 2. of June, was a great and fearfull earthquake; it was in this place heard before it was felte. It came with a rumbling noyse, or low murmure, like unto remoate thunder; it came from the norward, and pased southward. As the noyse aproched nerer, they earth begane to shake, and came at length with that violence as caused platters, dishes, and such like things as stoode upon shelves, to clatter and fall downe; yea, persons were afraid of the houses themselves. It so fell oute that at the same time diverse of the cheefe of this towne were mett together at one house, conferring with some of their freinds that were upon their removall from the place, (as if the Lord would herby shew the signes of his displeasure, in their shaking a peetes and re movalls one from an other.) How ever it was very terrible for the time, and as the men were set talking in the house, some women and others were without the Bores, and the earth shooke with that violence as they could not stand without catching hould of the posts and pails that stood next them; but the violence lasted not long. And about halfe an hower, or less, came an other noyse and shaking, but nether so loud nor strong as the former, but quickly passed over; and so it ceased. It was not only on the sea coast, but the Indeans felt it within land; and some ships that were upon the coast were shaken by it.