1865 Memphis earthquake

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
1865 Memphis earthquake
1865 Memphis earthquake is located in Tennessee
1865 Memphis earthquake
Date August 17, 1865 (1865-08-17)
Origin time 15:00 UTC
Epicenter 36°00′N 89°30′W / 36.0°N 89.5°W / 36.0; -89.5Coordinates: 36°00′N 89°30′W / 36.0°N 89.5°W / 36.0; -89.5 [1]
Areas affected Tennessee
United States
Max. intensity VII (Very Strong) [1]

The 1865 Memphis earthquake struck southwest Tennessee on August 17. Soon after the magnitude 5.0 earthquake hit, the earth appeared to undulate and waves formed in nearby rivers. The force of the earthquake felled and cracked chimneys in Memphis and New Madrid. Shaking of the earthquake spread as far as St. Louis, Jackson, and Illinois.[2]

Apart from the 1811–12 New Madrid earthquakes, only three major events have struck the state of Tennessee: those in 1843, 1865, and 1895. Several minor events have taken place as well.


The skyline of Memphis today.

The earliest earthquakes known to have stricken Tennessee did so in 1811 and 1812, when the New Madrid Earthquakes rocked the Midwestern United States. Damage consisted of fallen chimneys and major geologic changes, including sand volcanoes, fissures, and even sinking of land. Thereafter, three major events (in 1843, 1865, and 1895) occurred within the state. The 1843 event registered Mercalli intensities of VIII (Severe) cracking walls, shattering windows, and toppling chimneys. Felt over an area of 1,000,000 square kilometers (386,102 sq mi), it caused more alarm than damage in Western Tennessee.[3]


Shaking felled chimneys in Memphis, and the earth "appeared to undulate", creating small waves on rivers nearby. The earthquake was felt from Illinois to Mississippi; according to the United States Geological Survey, it had a Mercalli scale intensity of VII and a Richter scale magnitude of 5.0.[2]

Nevertheless, in another report on Tennessee earthquakes, "Tennessee Earthquake History",[3] the USGS fails to mention the 1865 earthquake and assigns to the 1843 temblor a greater Mercalli scale intensity of VIII.


  1. ^ a b Stover, C.W.; Coffman, J.L. (1993). Seismicity of the United States, 1568-1989 (Revised). U.S. Geological Survey professional paper 1527. United States Government Printing Office. p. 358. 
  2. ^ a b "Historic Earthquakes: Near Memphis, Tennessee". United States Geological Survey. October 21, 2009. Retrieved June 6, 2010. 
  3. ^ a b "Tennessee Earthquake History". United States Geological Survey. October 26, 2009. Retrieved June 7, 2010.