Traverse City Record-Eagle

Record-Eagle 150th Anniversary

October 19, 2009

Loraine Anderson: TC's 1925 earthquake

Earthquakes are rare in Michigan, but Traverse City residents definitely felt the earth move beneath their feet and watched electric ceiling lights sway overhead on Feb. 28, 1925.

"EARTHQUAKE HERE FIRST EVER FELT: Dishes Rattle, Chairs Rock, Smokers 'Swear Off' and People in High Places Come Down," Record-Eagle headlines shouted after tremors rattled the city at 8:27 p.m. that Saturday night.

For all the bold words, the paper quickly described the quake as "decidedly light" once readers moved on to the small print.

"In fact, had the tremor been less it would scarcely have been felt at all, but it was the biggest Michigan ever experienced and big enough to cause considerable fear," the paper reported.

People in the top floor of the five-story Wilhelm building, located at the southwest corner of Union and Front streets, rushed down to the street with tales of jiggling apartments, lights swinging east to west, and rocking chairs with rockers extended in those directions "rocking the most violently."

Neighbor rang up neighbor across the city. Early broadcasts alerted the relatively few people who owned radios about the "widespread vibration." Seven men playing cards at the Elks Club, located above a Front Street store, could hear hardware clatter on shelves below.

"Six of them were smoking," an observant reporter said of the card players. "As the building started to rock and the table became unsteady, every one of the six furtively tossed away his cigar, fully convinced he was smoking too much for his own welfare. When the swaying motion started, it first gave the impression of dizziness, and hundreds believed they were in the first throes of their last illness.

"At least 500 local people were sure they were going to have a stroke ... Many did not know for hours after what had actually happened, and many went to bed certain they had passed through a light stroke."

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