Up until 1993, Oregon had escaped any extremely damaging earthquakes in the nearly 150 years since it had become one of the united states. Yet it, like the rest of the West Coast, has been in earthquake country throughout its history. This post gathers together a few brief accounts from the Oregonian of four quakes that made it into the paper from 1873 to 1976.
On February 4, 1892, a roughly 5.6 magnitude quake happened in Portland:
A very perceptible earthquake shock was felt in this city at 8:30 last evening. The course of the movement was about from northeast to southwest and it lasted about five seconds The room occupied by the OREGONIAN reporters, seemed to move horizontally two or three inches and back, without any trembling or upward movement. Those sitting at their desks felt and saw the movement but those who were moving about did not notice it and laughed at the idea of there having been an earthquake. The compositors in the basement did not notice any movement.
In a minute or so telephone messages began to arrive inquiring if the earthquake had been felt. . . . One young man said the motion made him very sick at the stomach. Another said the billiard balls had been rolled off the tables at the Metropolitan. . . .
The fact is that the shock was one of the most gentle imaginable, and neither scared nor hurt anyone, and was over before anyone fairly realized what it was.
At the United States weather bureau nothing official could be learned regarding the earthquake. A reporter was told that the bureau had no instrument capable of registering the duration of the shock or its direction.
On Portland Heights the shock was particularly severe. Buildings rock and wind and crockery rattled, and people rushed pell mell into the street. The shock appeared to be from northeast to southwest.
The quake was felt at least from Astoria to Salem, and from Forest Grove to Kalama.
On November 23, 1873, there had been another quake, in southern Oregon. It was about a 6.3, with an epicenter well off the coast. From the Oregonian:
Perturbation in Southern Oregon
Jacksonville—A very severe shock of earthquake was felt here last evening at 9:12 o’clock. The shock was quite violent, lasting about twenty seconds, and appearing to be nearly in a northerly and southerly direction. No damage was done, but much alarm was created as it was the first shock ever felt in this place. . . .
Roseburg—At 9 P.M. yesterday . . . buildings were observed to tremble simultaneously over all parts of the town, and that particular roaring was also heard which inevitable accompanies earthquakes. It lasted at least twenty seconds and came from the southwest. . . .
The weather is now clear and warm like summer.
On the evening of December 16, 1953, a medium-sized 5.6 quake hit the Portland area again, and yielded this item from the Associated Press:
Vancouver, Wash. (AP)–The Clark junior college choir was appearing in concert here Tuesday night when the earthquake shook the area.
It hastily vacated the bleacher-type platform on which it was standing. The group had just sung “The Cherry Tree Carol,” the last line of which goes: “When the stars in their element tremble with glee”
But even in the Oregonian this local quake was overshadowed because, as noted in an item above the AP report, “a series of small earthquakes was felt over sections of northern and central California Wednesday.”
Finally, on April 12, 1976, the Oregonian reported on another medium-sized quake near Maupin, between the Columbia and Bend:
“An [4.8] earthquake centered 35 miles south of The Dalles rattled dishes and windows throughout Central Oregon shortly before 5 p.m. Monday. . . . It carried a force strong enough to topple chimneys and throw objects from shelves. . . No injuries or major damage were reported.”