A violent shock near Trois-Rivieres, Quebec, Canada, was reported felt throughout New England, including the Narragansett Bay area of Rhode Island, on June 11, 1638. Other earthquakes were felt in 1658, 1727, 1732, 1755, 1783, 1791, 1848, and 1860; however, few details are available on effects in Rhode Island. On September 21, 1876, a shock was reported felt at Fairhaven and Woods Hole, Massachusetts, and Newport, Rhode Island. Another strong tremor originating in the St. Lawrence Valley on November 4, 1877, was felt slightly in Rhode Island.
A February 27, 1883, earthquake that probably was centered in Rhode Island was felt from New London, Connecticut, to Fall River, Massachusetts. Within the State, it was felt (intensity V) from Bristol to Block Island.
A large area, estimated at over 5,000,000 square kilometers, of Eastern Canada and the United States (south to Virginia and west to the Mississippi River) was affected by a magnitude 7 shock on February 28, 1925. The epicenter was in the St. Lawrence River region; minor damage was confined to a narrow belt on both sides of the river. Intensity V effects were felt on Block Island and at Providence; intensity IV, at Charlestown. The major submarine earthquake (magnitude 7.2) in the vicinity of the Grand Banks of Newfoundland on November 18, 1929, was felt throughout the New England States. Moderate vibrations were felt on Block Island and at Chepachet, Newport, Providence, and Westerly. Another widely felt earthquake occurred on November 1, 1935, near Timiskaming, Quebec, Canada. Measured at magnitude 6.25, the shock was felt (intensity IV) on Block Island and at Providence and Woonsocket. The total area affected was about 2,500,000 square kilometers of Canada and the United States.
The strong earthquakes centered near Lake Ossipee, New Hampshire, on December 20 and 24, 1940, caused some damage in the epicentral area and intensity V effects (pictures knocked from walls) at Newport, Rhode Island. Additional reports included intensity IV effects at Central Falls, Pascoag, Providence, and Woonsocket, and intensity I - III effects at Kingston, New Shoreham, and Wakefield. Minor intensities were also reported from a September 4, 1944, shock in the Massena, New York - Cornwall, Ontario, Canada, area. Kingston, Lansdale, Providence, Wakefield, and Woonsocket reported intensity I - III. A magnitude 4.5 earthquake on October 16, 1963, near the coast of Massachusetts caused some cracked plaster (intensity V) at Chepachet. Many people in the city reported rattling windows and dishes; rumbling earth sounds were also noted. Other places in the northern section of Rhode Island felt the tremor with less intensity.
Two small earthquakes about 14 months apart, were felt in the Narragansett Bay region. Windows and doors rattled and trees and bushes were shaken slightly (intensity V) at Warwick on December 7, 1965. The abrupt onset and rapid motion frightened many persons. Small objects and furnishings shifted at Bristol. The total felt area covered about 1,000 square kilometers of Rhode Island and Massachusetts. On February 2, 1967, the lower Bay area was shaken. The shock, measure at magnitude 2.4 caused intensity V effects at Middleton, Newport, and North Kingstown, but no damage was sustained; it was also felt at Adamsville and Jamestown.
A slight disturbance not reported by seismographs in the area shook houses and rattle windows throughout Rhode Island and eastern Massachusetts on February 3, 1973. Noises like an explosion or sonic boom were heard in many areas. A magnitude 5.2 earthquake in western Maine on June 14, 1973, caused some damage in the epicentral region and was reported felt over an area of 250,000 square kilometers of New England and Quebec Province, Canada. The intensities in Rhode Island were IV at Charlestown and I - III at Bristol, East Providence, Harmony, and Providence.
Abridged from Earthquake Information Bulletin, Volume 8, Number 5, September - October 1976, by Carl A. von Hake.
For a list of earthquakes that have occurred since this article was written, use the Earthquake Search.