Historic Earthquakes

Near Charleston, Mississippi County, Missouri
1895 10 31 11:08 UTC
Magnitude 6.6
Intensity VIII

This is the largest earthquake to occur in the central Mississippi River valley since the 1811-1812 series in the area of New Madrid, Missouri. Structural damage and liquefaction phenomena were reported along a line from Bertrand, Missouri, in the west to Cairo, Illinois, in the east. Many sand blows were observed in an area southwest of Charleston, Missouri, and south of Bertrand, Missouri. Isolated occurrences of sand blows also were reported north and south of Charleston.

The most severe damage occurred in Charleston, Puxico, and Taylor, Missouri; Alton, and Cairo, Illinois; Princeton, Indiana; and Paducah, Kentucky. The earthquake caused extensive damage (including downed chimneys, cracked walls, shattered windows, and broken plaster) to school buildings, churches, private houses, and to almost all the buildings in the commercial section of Charleston.

East of Charleston, at Cairo, Illinois, few buildings escaped at least the loss of a chimney or a broken window. The courthouse, library, and a church at Cairo sustained extensive damage, and the brick walls of many buildings in the downtown section were cracked badly. Other damage include a cracked pier on the Illinois Central Railroad bridge over the Ohio River and downed chimneys at Gadsden, Alabama; Evansville and New Waverly, Indiana; Covington, Spottsville Depot, and Uniontown, Kentucky; St. Louis, Missouri; and Memphis, Tennessee. Minor damage to property occurred throughout the region.

Abridged from Seismicity of the United States, 1568-1989 (Revised), by Carl W. Stover and Jerry L. Coffman, U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1527, United States Government Printing Office, Washington: 1993.