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Earthquake rattled Del Norte County in 1873

By Cornelia de Bruin

Triplicate staff writer

The fact that Del Norte County's history includes earthquakes should surprise no one. After all, it's this area that seems to be the West Coast's magnet for tsunamis

A.J. Bledsoe was living in Crescent City when a magnitude 6.7 quake rattled early settlers' homes and stores.

In his self-published "History, Del Norte County, California, with a Business Directory and Traveler's Guide" Bledsoe states that the quake rumbled through "a few minutes before nine o'clock on the evening of the 22nd of November, 1873."

Bledsoe's facts are close, but Lori Dengler, Ph.D. and chair of Humboldt State University Department of Geology chronicles the quake as occurring Nov. 23, 1873.

Dengler's department Website, www.humboldt.edu/~geology, lists all of the earthquakes that have occurred from Oct. 23, 1853 through Jan. 13, 2001. The record is kept in a "Historic Northcoast Earthquakes" file accessible through the Web address.

"The people of Del Norte county experienced the heaviest shock of earthquake that had ever occurred within their recollection," Bledsoe states.

He wrote that residents described the shaking as lasting nearly 30 seconds and rolling from South to North.

"It caused the fire bell and City Hotel bell to ring, and houses bounced around as though they were mere jumping jacks," Bledsoe wrote.

Rattled residents who could move "rushed into the streets in the wildest state of mind," expecting their homes to break apart and that a tidal wave would "sweep them into eternity."

Damage was estimated at $3,000 (in 1873 values).

The quake knocked half of Crescent City's chimneys off building roofs. Nearly all of Smith River's chimneys were toppled, and cracks six to eight inches wide split that area's "sand hills."

In Happy Camp, tin pails hanging in Camp & Co.'s store swung back and forth at about a 45 degree angle.

The HSU geology department Web page lists 84 additional earthquakes from that of Bledsoe's time through Jan. 13, 2001.

Since then, several more strong earthquakes have rattled the Northcoast area.

Most recently a 5.2 magnitude quake and several fore- and aftershocks rolled through Humboldt County May 9.

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