The Charlevoix earthquake of October 20, 1870

The description that follows is taken verbatim from:

Smith, W E T, 1962. Earthquakes of eastern Canada and Adjacent areas 1534-1927, Publications of the Dominion Observatory vol. 26, no. 5.

1870 OCTOBER 20. 11:30 a.m. IX. 47.4N, 70.5W.

(b) Centred near Baie-St-Paul, Que., where the greatest damage occurred. Felt throughout eastern Canada and in the United States westward to Iowa and southward to Virginia, a total area of over 1,000,000 square miles. A8, B4, B5, D4, H1, H9, H10, H11, K1, L1, M3, M7

"Quebec:- . . . Buildings shook and bells rang; several chimneys were knocked down in Desfosses Street, and two persons nearly killed." D4 quoting a news account.


"A hasty note to let you know the disasters that were suddenly caused, here and in the vicinity, by the strangest earthquake in the memory of man. Approximately half an hour before noon a thunderbolt - this is the only word I can use for what happened - an enormous detonation threw everyone in a state of shock and the earth started not to shake but to boil in a manner to cause dizziness not only to the people in houses but also to the ones in the open air. All the dwellings seemed to be on a volcano and the earth, forming fissures in five or six places, was throwing up columns of water to six, eight and perhaps fifteen feet in the air carrying with it a quantity of sand which spread on the ground. Almost every chimney was thrown down and I believe there were not more than six left in the whole village. Walls of houses were thrown down; here and there stoves, furniture and other objects were overturned carrying with them utensils, china, etc...... The church suffered very much; a part of the portico fell down and part of the ceiling and the remaining walls are so cracked that it is doubtful if they can be repaired ... Some people arrived from various concessions so that we have reports from about twelve miles around and nowhere has a house remained intact. Everywhere the shock was as violent as here . . ." D4


  • A8 ANONYMOUS, 1925. Le dernier tremblement de terre: Soc. Géog. Qué. Bull., v. 19, 110-113.
  • B4 BRIGHAM, W. T., 1871. Historical notes on the earthquakes of New England 1638-1869: Reprinted from Boston Soc. Natural Hist. Mem., v. 2.
  • B5 BROOKS, J. E., S.J., 1960. A study in seismicity and structural geology. Part II-Earthquakes of northeastern United States and eastern Canada: Obs. Géophys. Collège Jean-de-Brébeuf, Bull.Géophys., No. 7, 12-40.
  • D4 DAWSON, Sir J. W., 1870. The earthquake of October 20th 1870: Can. Natural Geol., new ser., v. 5, 282-289.
  • H1HECK, N. H., and EPPLEY, R. A., 1958. Earthquake history of the United States. Part I-Continental United States and Alaska (exclusive of California and Western Nevada): U.S. Coast Geod. Surv. Pub., No. 41-1, rev. (1956) ed.
  • H9 HODGSON, E. A., 1937. Earthquakes in eastern Canada and adjacent areas: Roy. Can. Inst. Proc., ser. 3A, v. 2, 30-35.
  • H10 HODGSON, E. A.,, 1945. Industrial earthquake hazards in eastern Canada: Seismol. Soc. Am. Bull., v. 35, No. 4, 151-174. This paper contains a brief account of a number of the larger shocks in eastern Canada.
  • H11 HODGSON, E. A., 1950. The Saint Lawrence earthquake, March 1,1925: Dom. Obs. Pub., Ottawa, v. 7, No. 10, 361-436. This is the final account of the earthquake of February 28, 1925. It occurred on March 1 by Universal time and February 28 by Eastern Standard time. An appendix discusses the previous seismic record of the St.Lawrence Valley.
  • K1 KAIN, S. W., 1898. List of recorded earthquakes in New Brunswick: Natural Hist. Soc. N.B. Bull., No. 16, art. 2, 16-22.
  • L1 LAFLAMME, Msgr. J.-C. K., 1907. Les tremblements de terre de la région de Québec- Soc. Roy. Can. Mém. sec. 4, 157-183.
  • M3 MATHER, K. F., and GODFREY, H., assisted by HAMPSON, Katherine,1927. The record of earthquakes felt by man in New England: Copy of the manuscript of a paper presented to the Eastern Section of the Seismological Society of America in May, 1927.
  • M7 MILNE, J., 1913. A catalogue of destructive earthquakes A.D. 7 to A.D. 1899: Brit. Assoc. Advance. Sci. Rep., Portsmouth meeting, 1911.
  • Lamontagne, M; Burke, K B S; Perret, D., 2019. Felt reports for the 1870 magnitude 6.5 earthquake, Charlevoix, Quebec; Geological Survey of Canada, Open File 8588, 2019, 26 pages, (Open Access)
Date modified: