Historic Earthquakes

The Earthquake of 1744

Chapter XVI
Historic Storms of New England
by Sidney Perley

At a quarter past ten o'clock on Sunday morning, June 3, 1744, just after services at the churches had begun, there was a terrific earthquake, which reached about one hundred miles, being thought by some to have been nearly equal to that of 1727. During the preceding month there had been two slight shocks, both occurring in the morning. This shock was ushered by a loud rumbling noise, which put people in remembrance of the great earthquake of 1727, and great consternation was caused.

Many people, who were assembled in the churches at Boston for divine services, ran out into the streets, fearing the buildings would fall upon them. At Newbury, Mass., in that part of town which was afterward incorporated as Newburyport, the rector and many of the congregation ran out of the Episcopal church. At the parish in Ipswich, Mass., called the Hamlet, since incorporated as the town of Hamilton, the shock came while Rev. Mr. Wigglesworth, the pastor, was preaching, and the congregation was exceedingly alarmed; but he endeavored to calm them, remarking that, "There can be no better place for us to die than the house of God."

In Boston and other towns, large numbers of bricks were shaken from the tops of chimneys; and much stone wall in several places in the country was tumbled down by it. It was felt severely at Falmouth, in Maine.

At about five o'clock in the afternoon, another and lesser shock was felt at Salem, Mass., and adjacent towns, and the people, being surprised, screamed, and ran out of doors. Three or more smaller shocks were perceived that night and the next morning. On the twentieth of the month, another shock came, causing people to run out of meeting at Salem. Eight days later there was another. May, June and July were all dry months, but whether that fact had any connection with the earthquake, or not, we cannot tell.

During the two and three-fourths centuries of New England's history, there have been several hundred earthquakes, the great majority of them being but just noticeable, while a considerable number of them have resulted in damage. The people here have often expressed their satisfaction at living in a land free from the terrible convulsions that the warmer sections of the globe have experienced. But history shows us that we are not entirely exempt from the awful shakings and rumblings and dangers that are supposed to belong almost exclusively to other lands. Nearly every year the territory of New England is disturbed by these internal movements.

N.B.: Although the earthquake occurred on 14 June 1744, this article lists the earthquake as having occurred on 3 June 1744. This time discrepancy is due to the change from the Julian to Gregorian calendar.