James Richmond's
California Story


August 25, 1860 The most severe earthquake ever experienced in California occurred while I was in Oakland. I was standing in front of the barn, looked up and saw the barn shaking and quaking. I felt as if I was seasick. I was rooted to the spot, I couldnít move away from where I stood.

The ground seemed to be rising up to meet me. I have experienced the shock of earthquakes three times before since I have been on the Pacific Coast, but nothing like this. As I stood between the cabin and barn I could hear the timbers crack in both buildings. I expected either of them to go down.

It gives one a queer feeling to feel what you suppose is solid ground, shaking under your boots. The owner of the ranch had just driven up to the barn. The horse took freight and ran into the adjoining field. Blair was so dazed he didnít even try to pick up the reins but let the horse go raring until it was all over. There were cracks in the ground two feet across and fifty feet deep. Buildings in town were fearfully shaken and some settled a good many feet into the ground. Much of the ground is what they call "Made Ground". San Francisco was built on sand hills. These were leveled and dumped into the Bay. Many large blocks were built on this "Made Ground" and they seemed to be shaken the worst. It was a wonder there were not more people killed.

Tall chimneys fell, there were bricks flying in all directions. Horses were running, some with drivers and others with nine. Wagons were upset, people were standing paralyzed with fear or making frantic attempts to escape from they knew not what. There were people who threw themselves from the windows of tall buildings. I suppose there have been worse quakes as there are tales of whole cities being distroyed. However, I do not care for anymore experiences along that line.