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The Last Big One:  Accounts from 1857

    Original Sources

Most 19th century California newspapers which are preserved today can be tracked down using the following web databases:

The sources of the non-newspaper historic accounts on this website are as follows:

  • Reminiscence by Mr. Bell, ca. 1905 (as retold by geologist Harry R. Johnson, in a letter to H.O. Wood, May 22, 1944):
      H.O. Wood (1955), The 1857 earthquake in California, Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, Vol. 45, p. 63.

  • Reminiscence by John Barker:
      California Federated Women's Clubs, History and Landmarks Section (1913), Historic Facts and Fancies, San Francisco.

  • Diary of Caroline Barnes Crosby, daily entry for January 9, 1857:
      Original held in Vault Ms. B-89, Utah State Historical Society, Salt Lake City;  transcript also held in the California Room at the San Bernardino Public Library.

  • Reminiscence by Augusta J. Crocheron, 1885:
      A.J. Crocheron (1885), California memories, The Contributor, Vol. 6, pp. 371-372.

A more complete collection of historic accounts from the 1857 earthquake can be found in:

    D.C. Agnew and K.E. Sieh (1978), A documentary study of the felt effects of the great California earthquake of 1857, Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, Vol. 68, pp.1717-1729.  (See appendix on microfiche.)

A few additional sources can be found in:

    A.J. Meltzner and D.J. Wald (1998), Foreshocks and aftershocks of the great 1857 California earthquake, U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 98-465, 115 pp.

Click on a location below to view first-hand accounts of the 1857 earthquake.

Carrizo Plain
near Fort Tejon
Southern San Joaquin Valley
Santa Barbara
Los Angeles
San Bernardino

Several maps show the above locations.