Earthquakes are rare in Georgia, especially the ones which make our buildings and ourselves violently shake. Two hundred years ago, earthquakes emanating from New Madrid, Missouri shocked the heartland of America, reaching all parts of Georgia. A century ago, even more earthquakes, although not as severe as the 1812 quakes, shook people all over the world. In Georgia, the number of rattling quakes was at or near an all time yearly high.
It was a typical October day in Dublin. Those around the city were coming down from the grand times at the 12th District Fair, which had ended only some ten days prior. Several local people, who couldn't shake fair fever, traveled by train to attend the ever popular Georgia State Fair in Macon.
The Christians in the city had just held a mass meeting. There was trouble in River City. Crusades against vice were spreading throughout the country and it was on the third Monday of October, when a crowd of sinner stoppers crammed into the courthouse to hear speeches from J.E. Burch, C. Whitehurst and Rev. C.M. Crumbley on the evils of liquor and vice.
Judge Burch asked the congregation to speak out in favor of laws designed to punish the evil people. The judge complained out loud that the children of the community were allowed to roam the streets without supervision. Whitehurst and Rev. Crumbley railed against the proliferation of the illegal sale of alcohol which was rampant in the community.
It was a quiet, warm, rainy Tuesday night in Dublin, Georgia. Record rainfalls were still soaking into the dry October soils around the county. It seemed that C.C. Hooks, one of Dublin's finest young men from one of its finest family, had no cares in the world, nothing to torture his soul. The popular livery man went to his room, carefully removed the pillows from his bed, laid down diagonally, his feet hanging off the edge of the bed, put his pistol to his head and fired a single, fatal shot.
Forty five minutes later, the minute hand on the courthouse clock was touching the three, while the hour hand was pointing just to the left of the eight.
Then, all of a sudden and without a hint of any warning, the Earth began to tremble. The shaking then became a sharp, decided jolt. Throughout the city the report of a thunderous explosion, blasted everyone into a panic. The fireman of the Dublin Fire Department, sleeping in their bunks in the City Hall, then on the courthouse square, awoke in a sheer panic. They gathered their wits and then their gear before venturing outside, scanning the horizons in all directions to detect the presence of a plume of smoke arising into the misty evening.
Elsewhere in the City Hall, the Light and Water Committee of the City Council of Dublin was in session. H.A. Knight had just been granted the approval of committee members John Kelley, Vivian L. Stanley and Attys P. Hilton for a sewer line to his home on Maiden Lane when the government building began to shake, shudder and tremble. Kelley knew the building well. As the preeminent contractor in Dublin, Kelley renovated Hilton's former hotel, which according to the custom of the day, was named for its owner, possibly making it the first Hilton Hotel in America. With the council chamber moving in multiple directions, the council sprinted outside toward the open area of the courthouse square.
All around the city, those who were alive back in August 1886, realized what was happening. That's the day when a massive earthquake struck Charleston, South Carolina. The shock waves spread to Dublin, igniting rampant trepidation throughout the burgeoning city.
It seems that Dublin and Macon were at the epicenter of the quake. A writer for the Dublin Courier Dispatch, succinctly reported the event by stating, "One sharp quake was preceded by a sound similar to thunder. It lasted several seconds and there was a slight shaking and rattling of houses and buildings but no damage occurred."
In the Third Street home of Rev. T.F. Callaway in Macon, Minnie Hammock and Ray Stahle, had just said their wedding vows when the window panes of the Callaway home shuddered and shook. Cherished vases fell off the mantel, causing widespread panic among the less than amused wedding party, especially the frantic bride, who had to be revived.
In those days, there were few if any seismographs in use around the country, none in Georgia. The residents of Jeffersonville, somewhat equidistant between Dublin and Macon, reported no perceptible evidence of an earthquake. In Milledgeville, some 47 crow fly miles away, there was a noticeable jarring. The Spartans of Hancock County, reported only a faint reverberation.
Residents of Augusta and Savannah failed to feel even the slightest earthly vibrations that evening, and certainly nothing like the heavy shocks that the citizens of the two ancient Georgia capitals felt back on the 12th of June. That quake, or a series of quakes, shook the entire South, but were concentrated in eastern Georgia. Those people in Dublin felt some of the shaking, which peaked around 4:30 in the morning. It was the second one for the coastal capital, the first one coming on February 3, 1912.
Post quake analysts searched their memories to compare the October 22nd quake to others in the Middle Georgia area. Few remembered the 1884 Thursday and Saturday early morning quakes of March 20 and March 22, when a slight trembling of the Earth awoke the citizens of North Macon, Clinton and Dublin followed by a Sunday evening jolt. The quake of the 22nd, was reported as "very perceptible and the noise accompanying it was that of a fast departing train."
Minor quakes along the Fall Line in Middle Georgia were not rare, occurring on a somewhat regular basis, especially in the last quarter of the 19th Century.
But, no one forgot the 31st day of August, 1886, when the entire Southeast was shaken by a major earthquake centered on Charleston, South Carolina. That day is long gone from most of our minds now. But, let us all remember there are times, just when you least expect them, when the Earth will begin to shake, rattle and roll beneath our feet.