Historic Earthquakes

The Earthquake of 1663

Chapter III
Historic Storms of New England
by Sidney Perley

The summer of 1662 was very dry, and the following winter was moderate, there being no frost in the ground until December 20, even as far north as Hampton.

On the evening of Monday, January 26, 1662-3, the people of New England were quietly sitting in the light of their hearth fires, telling stories, perhaps recurring to the earthquake of a quarter of a century before, which the older members of the families remembered so vividly, when suddenly outside the doors was heard a peculiar roaring sound, which grew louder and louder, until the fire places trembled and the flames from the burning sticks crinkled as they ascended the chimney. The trembling increased until the houses shook and rocked, and the tenons of the timbers moved in and out of their mortises. Many chimneys were broken, and others were thrown down. Lids of warming pans were flung up, and pewter dishes fell off the shelves. Persons who were standing when the shock came were compelled to either sit or fall down.

Boston was the only locality mentioned where much damage was done. There it wrought injury in various ways. In fact, the towns on the shore of Massachusetts Bay seemed to feel the shock more than other portions of New England.

Although New England was more or less shaken, the country on either side of it suffered more. It extended as far north as Canada, and south to Mexico, probably being felt farther in both directions.

Three distinctly separate shocks were felt, shaking in all more than a quarter of an hour. It would appear from the records that this earthquake exceeded in severity that of 1638.

Two days later there was another shock, and February 5 another, which was repeated at dark the same evening. Two days afterward, at nine o'clock in the morning, there was another shock. The earth did not cease to quake until the following July.

The people were again agitated, and became more pious than they had been, being fearful that they might be called before the Lord, the Righteous Judge, without notice and without preparation. A correspondent of a Massachusetts newspaper wrote the following lines on the morning of an earthquake in 1786, which are applicable to this earthquake: "When we consider the dreadful scenes that have been caused in the world by earthquakes, nothing is more truly alarming than the convulsions of the earth under us, threatening an instantaneous destruction. But let us be prepared for eternal happiness:

" 'Then if the frame of nature round us break,
In hideous ruin and confusion hurled;
We unconcerned may bear the mighty shock,
And stand secure amidst the falling world.' "


N.B.: Although the earthquake occurred on 05 February 1663, this article lists the earthquake as having occurred on 26 January 1663. This time discrepancy is due to the change from the Julian to Gregorian calendar.