Earthquake History

An earthquake on June 18, 1875, caused damage in western Ohio, and affected a total area estimated at 104,000 square kilometers. Walls were cracked and chimneys thrown down (intensity VII) at Sidney and Urbana. The shock was felt sharply at Jeffersonville, Indiana; the affected area included parts of Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, and Missouri.

Slight damage (intensity VI) was reported at Lima from a September 19, 1884, earthquake. At Columbus, chandeliers kept swinging for several minutes after the tremor. The shock was felt at Washington, D.C., by workmen on top of the then unfinished Washington Monument, about 500 feet above the ground. This earthquake was felt throughout a broad area, from Pennsylvania to Kentucky and West Virginia to Michigan (about 324,000 square kilometers).

Several towns in southeastern Ohio experienced moderate damage on November 5, 1926. Chimneys toppled at Keno and Pomeroy (intensity VI to VII); in addition, a stove was overturned at Pomeroy. The earthquake was also felt at Letart, West Virginia.

A brief but strong shock was felt over a wide area in western Ohio on September 30, 1930. The strongest intensity at Anna knocked down a chimney on the school and caused plaster to crack and fall (intensity VII). The tremor was accompanied by a rumbling noise. Less than one year later (September 20, 1931), another damaging earthquake occurred in the same area. At Anna, Houston, and Sidney cornices were thrown down from church buildings, several chimneys were toppled, and plaster fell from some walls (intensity VII). Intensity V to VI was experienced over an area of approximately 100,000 square kilometers, including most of western Ohio and parts of Indiana and Kentucky.

On March 2, 1937, much additional damage occurred at Anna. Plaster fell and walls cracked in a school house (intensity VII), which was later declared unsafe. Many chimneys were thrown down and other minor damage was inflicted at Anna, Sidney, and Wapokoneta; in Bellefontaine and Lima, alarm was general but damage was minor. Two to five shocks were felt in many places. The total felt area included approximately 181,000 square kilometers in Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan; felt reports were also received from a few places in Illinois, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Wisconsin, and one place in Canada.

The next day, March 3, at 3:50 a.m., a moderate earthquake (intensity V) shook the same area. It awakened many persons, rattled windows, and shook some bricks from chimneys.

The strongest tremor of this series occurred at 11:45 p.m., March 8, 1937. At Anna, chimneys repaired after the March 2 earthquake were again thrown down, with scarcely a chimney undamaged (intensity VII to VIII). Organ pipes were twisted in one church and other church and school buildings were badly cracked. A few chimneys also fell at Sidney and there was damage to plaster. The affected area was much larger than that of the previous earthquake. The 388,000 square kilometer area covered all of Ohio and Indiana, parts of Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, and a few places in Missouri, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Ontario, Canada.

Outstanding phenomena common to both the March 2 and March 8 earthquakes were the rotation of tombstones and subsurface changes revealed by the activities of wells. Marked changes in the behavior of wells were reported from Botkins, Huntsville, and New Knoxville.

On March 9, 1943, an earthquake centered east of Cleveland, was felt over a 100,000 square kilometer area, but only caused minor damage at points nearest the epicenter. Reports of cracked plaster and broken windows and dishes (intensity V) were received after the shock. It was noted over a large part of Ohio and in parts of Michigan, New York, and Pennsylvania, and Ontario, Canada.

On June 20, 1952, an early morning (3:38 a.m.) tremor awoke most of the people in the Zanesville area. An old chimney was toppled (intensity VI), doors were thrown open, pictures shook, and dished rattled. The earthquake was felt over about 26,000 square kilometers in southeastern Ohio.

Abridged from Earthquake Information Bulletin, Volume 8, Number 1, January - February 1976, by Carl A. von Hake.

For a list of earthquakes that have occurred since this article was written, use the Earthquake Search.