Newspaper Clippings Encountered During an Investigation of Historical Texas Seismicity

[see Davis, S. D., W. D. Pennington and S. M. Carlson (1989), A compendium of earthquake activity in Texas: University of Texas at Austin Bureau of Economic Geology, Geological Circular, vol. 89-3, 27 p. (printed), 219 p. (microfiche appendices).]

To order Texas Earthquakes by Cliff Frohlich and Scott D. Davis, please visit the UT Press page for this book.

The Headlines!

The Excitement!

"Brakemen paled, timid women became frightened, and children were paralyzed with fear. Out of the buildings they rushed pellmell into the streets as the ominous words, 'an earthquake', passed around... Business was suspended for the time and self-preservation, the first law of nature, asserted itself. Men forgot their avocations and stood awestruck and bewildered in the presence of the unseen, uncommon, and mighty force starting from whence and going where no one could know. Uneasiness as to the return of other shocks prevailed. Nothing else is talked about." - Dallas Morning News, 05-04-1887.

"I heard a little rattle in the headboard. I sat up and it rattled again. I thought 'ummm beats me' and went back to sleep." - Amarillo Daily News, 06-17-78.

Valiant Attempts to Calm the Panic-Stricken Public!

"Big Spring police dispatcher George Ward said, 'we got about three or four calls from people asking what to do about the earthquake. There really wasn't much I could tell them. What could we do, put a big seatbelt around the world?' " - Amarillo Daily News, 06-17-78.

Cold War Intrigue!

"Maybe, suggests Mrs. T. G. Wilson of Matador, we are talking too much about that shock wave that rattled the countryside last Tuesday afternoon. 'It might be Russia testing to hear where her practice missile exploded so that she can know where to aim the next one, or maybe the real one... As it is, because of our news broadcasts... Russia now knows the first one exploded near Amarillo, the second one in Arizona, and the third one will land near or on some California target.' " - Amarillo Daily News, 02-14-59.

Amazing Stories!

"After the quake, it was found that everybody had fled from the courtroom with one interesting exception. The exception was the prisoner. He alone stayed put, although he could have escaped and been gone forever. I forget the man's name. He was an American. Anyway, someone recited: 'The boy stood on the burning deck / Whence all but him had fled.' And they voted for aquittal. The defendent was freed by the earthquake and by his own inertia. But he was acquitted by an incomplete jury. Q.W. Mills, brother of Gen. Anson Mills, was one of the jurors. When the earthquake came he dashed out of the building, and all away across the river. He didn't return to the trial." - El Paso Times, 08-17-31.

"[Residents of the town of Orange] were still trying to figure out whether there was any connection between a house shaking earth tremor... and a mysterious glowing object, trailing luminous smoke, which circled the Orange-Lake Charles area for several hours early today... [Police Sergeant T.O. Tinsley] said the object was first sighted by Captain E.G. Sparks about 3:30 a.m. At that time, he said, Sparks reported it to be very high in the sky and glowing bright red with a luminous trail... Shortly after he [Sgt. Tinsley] went on duty at the Police Station at 6 a.m., Tinsley went on, the Lake Charles Police Department radioed and said, 'For your information, there is a meteor coming down in the northeast.' Tinsley said he went outside, spotted the object, and watched while it 'shaked' through the sky. He said it 'went in all directions, sometimes at unbelievable speeds, and then appeared stationary at times.' It was no meteor, he declared, because they always fall straight down. The police officer said he telephoned his wife and she, too, watched the object which at that time had turned to a bright blue in the daylight and appeared to be trailing a plume of grey smoke... He said it finally disappeared from his view behind trees which obstructed his vision. He said it might finally have fallen, resulting in the occurrence [a small earthquake] reported later that morning [at 9:48 a.m.]." - Orange Leader, 10-17-52.

Unusual Noises!

"A reliable man of this town... stated to the Chronicle correspondent that it seemed to him that the noise was not like that of an earthquake, but could be heard up in the air at a height of six or eight feet." - Houston Chronicle, 05-12-10.

"... a sound as of rubber balls falling on the roof." - Sellards (1933).

"... residents reported a noise 'like snow falling off the roof.' " - Amarillo Daily News, 06-21-51.

The Coverup!

"... so far as is known, this is the first shock ever felt in this section of the state." - Randall County News, 07-30-25.

"... although news reporters located the fallen chimney and verified the report that it fell at the same time the earthquake quaked, the statement... should be taken with the proverbial grain of salt." - Wichita Falls News, from Udden (1926).

"Earthquakes in California, Wyoming, and Montana have been doing great damage, and it is presumed that the tremors felt here [in Texas] came from that section of the country." - Texas Spur, 07-31-25.

"I've lived here all my life and can tell you for sure it shook things up like nothing has ever happened before... I didn't think we even had that sort of thing in Oklahoma." - Tulsa Daily News, 02-14-74.

"We've never had anything like this in the Panhandle before." - Woodward Daily Press, 02-15-74.

"The only other quake in Panhandle history occurred on March 27, 1917, at Panhandle." - Amarillo Daily News, 02-16-74.

The Consistency of the Press!
[Note: both articles refer to the same event]

"Queer weather prevailed during the shaker's visit. There was no noise, but just a shaking." - Austin Daily Tribune, 05-18-02.

"Suddenly he and his workmen were startled by a deep rumbling, and accompanying it was a violent tremor of the earth... There was nothing unusual in the weather." - Austin Daily Tribune, 10-10-02.

The Sarcasm!

"North Texas has been visited by an earthquake, the shock being quite severe at several points. We confidently expect the Houston Post to say that this portends Wash. Jones' election." - Waco Examiner, 10-25-1882.

"Nothing less than a first-class city is entitled to an earthquake, in this region, where earthquakes are scarce. We wish it distinctly understood that one-horse towns like Clarksville set up no claims to this sort of eminence." - Clarksvsille Standard, 10-27-1882.

"Now that the earthquake shocks have been felt, some of the 'wise' ones are saying that there were tremors at midnight and also at 5 o'clock in the morning." - Amarillo Daily News, 07-31-25.

New Agricultural Breakthroughs!

"El Paso is putting on airs because it got the first of the western crop of volcanoes." - Taylor County News, 05-13-1887.

"Grand old Texas, determined to diversify her crops until criticism is silenced, is now producing earthquakes. Slight shocks of that character are reported to have occurred at LaGrange and other places a few nights ago." - Nacogdoches Daily Sentinel, 10-14-02.

The Scientists!

"... a young woman walked into the Avalanche-Journal news room at 8:40 o'clock Friday night and forecast earth shocks which were to follow approximately 45 minutes later in several West Texas towns... At the suggestion of Dr. George [head of the physics department at Texas Tech], she [Florence Robertson] had been entering on a record magnetometer and barograph readings since Oct. 1 and had been convinced the barometer as [sic] a means of forecasting meteorlogical conditions was only supplementary, possibly secondary, [to] instruments that measure the earth's magnetic field. She had drawn diurnal lines and studied comparative indications of approaching weather in barometer and magnetometer readings... Her search of files that morning was on eve of departure to read a paper to a scientific group in Arizona, a lecture involving projection of her graphs on a screen. She had averaged her findings and was impressed with likelihood that on a certain date, or a few hours earlier, there had been a major unheaval [sic] of the earth's surface a few hundred miles from Lubbock... Miss Robertson, a mathematics major who turned about face in graduate work at request of Dr. George, who had indicated there was basis in science for proving correlations of the earth's magnetic current and meteorlogical conditions, has with Dr. George set up predicate where others surmised but did not follow far enough toward conclusion in a revolutionary method of forecasting weather, some believe... 'I consider our findings of value in a supplementary sense,' said Dr. George Friday night. There has been no claim of the possibility of the barometric methods giving way before methods based on magnetometer readings. In a supplementary sense, however, some believe the difference in possibility found in the new method when compared with the old, is greater as [sic] the span of years which separated invention... in 1643 of the barometer and the realization by later scientists of the advantages of the magnetometer." - Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, 06-20-36.

"Oklahoma A&M geologists- men who know about such things as earthquakes- were more than surprised Wednesday by the tremor which rocked the southwest... In modern history, earthquakes have been known to occur almost exclusively in coastal regions, he [head of the A&M geology department] pointed out. However, as Wednesday's tremors proved, they have been known to occur in the interior of earthquakes, as many people regions." -Daily Oklahoman, 04-10-52.

Their Theories!

"The tierras motos, or earthquakes of limitless antiquity, have caused the inequalities in the earth's surface." - Austin Daily State Gazette, 04-30-1873.

"Yesterday morning at 11:20 a loud explosion occurred... Wonder if Halley's Comet is responsible for it." - Navasota Examiner-Review, 05-12-10.

" Many theories have been advanced as to the couse [sic] of the temblors. Some recalled that a similar quivvering of the earth was felt in 1917. Immediately thereofter [sic] oil scouts came to this country and began leasing land. This inaugerated the development of the Panhandle oil field. Another theory is that perhaps it was caused by slipping of a fault in the earth... ... many suggested that perhaps this was an indication there were internal volcanoes which were erupting, thus causing the earthquake here." - Amarillo Daily News, 07-31-25.

The Precision of Their Work!

"The 'twist' wave of the disturbance arrived two minutes after the 'push-and-pull' wave. Both always originate at the same time, but, as the latter travels horizontally and the other takes an indirect route, the 'twist' vibration lags behind, the gap in time increasing as the distance increases." - Amarillo Daily News, 08-19-31.

"Earthquakes are 'not very common but the're not that uncommon' in the Texas Panhandle, he said. 'They're not rare.' " - Norman Transcript, 06-10-80.

... and the Tragedy!

"The damage done [by refunding money] to the box office of the 4-H Club Girls Personality Show at Stinnett Friday night was more than that to all of the remainder of the region put together... After the half million dollar Hutchinson County Courthouse had been shaken by the quake, patrons made a mad rush from the building. They were later given their money back." - Amarillo Daily News, 06-21-36.

"Wednesday morning's temblor... ruined the day for Mrs. O. A. Sunderwirth... She'd just taken a birthday cake from the oven and put it on the table when - wham - the house shook and the cake split in four directions. It was for her brother's birthday. And worse, she'd used the last of her flour and didn't have time to make another." - Tulsa Daily World, 04-10-52.

Return to the Seismo-Zombie Home Page