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Geologic History of Kansas

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Appendices, continued

Appendix E--Earthquakes in Kansas

The following list of earthquakes is chronological and includes the location of the epicenter, wherever possible, by latitude and longitude. Intensities are based on the Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale of 1931, the scale used by the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey. If the intensity was given in another scale, the value has been converted to Mercalli units of I to XII; if no value was given in a reference, one is estimated. The sources of information are listed at the end of this appendix and are cited in the descriptions by number. An asterisk indicates that the epicenter was in Kansas.

1811, December 16--(36.6° N, 89.6° W; X.) The epicenter was near New Madrid, Missouri, and the earthquake affected at least 2,000,000 square miles. This was the first of three severe shocks and numerous minor ones in the area. The three earthquakes were probably the most catastrophic ever recorded in the central region of the United States. (4, 7)

1812, January 23--Same as December 16, 1811. (4, 7)

1812, February 7--Same as December 16, 1811, and January 23, 1812. (4, 7)

*1867, April 24--(39.5° N, 96.7° W; VIII.) The epicenter was located near Manhattan, Kansas. It was felt over an area of 300,000 square miles in Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, and possibly Ohio. Several persons were injured, though not seriously. People rushed into the streets; buildings swayed; clocks stopped; animals were alarmed in the fields; a heavy wave about 2 feet high was observed in Kansas River at Manhattan; stones from buildings were loosened; the walls of many buildings cracked; windows and glassware were shaken; objects were thrown from shelves; a train stopped and the engineer and fireman got out, thinking the boiler was going to blow up. A low rumbling sound accompanied the vibrations. At different places there seemed to be either one or two ground waves. The shock, which occurred at about 2:45 P.M., lasted 10 to 30 seconds. Topeka, Manhattan, Lawrence, Junction City, Atchison, and Solomon, in Kansas; Omaha, Nebraska; St. Louis, Missouri, reported effects of the earthquake; and it may have been felt in Carthage, Ohio. (4, 7, 8, 18, 19, 20, 21, 31, 32)

*1875, November 8--(39.3° N, 95.5° W; V.) The epicenter was near Valley Falls, Kansas, and the earthquake was felt over an area of about 8,000 square miles. Dishes rattled; windows shook; people were awakened; some buildings rocked or quivered; the shock was felt in the Capitol at Topeka. Two shocks, which lasted about one minute each, were felt in Lawrence, Kansas, between 4:30 and 5:00 a.m. The earthquake was also felt in Leavenworth, Manhattan, and Burlingame, Kansas, and in western Missouri. (4, 7, 21, 23)

1877, November 15--(41° N, 97° W; VII.) The epicenter was in eastern Nebraska but the shock was also felt in Iowa, Kansas, the Dakotas, and northwestern Missouri; the total area affected was about 140,000 square miles. There were two shocks, one at 11:45 a.m. and the other at 12:30 p.m., causing buildings to sway and people to run into the streets at Atchison Kansas. The earthquake was also felt in the Kansas communities of Lawrence, Topeka, and Kansas City. (4, 7, 21, 31; Topeka Journal, July 6, 1927; Arkansas City Traveler, May 1, 1925)

1878, November 18--(36.7° N, 90.4° W; VII.) The epicenter was located in southeast Missouri and the disturbance was felt over an area of 150,000 square miles. At 11:15 p.m. a slight shock was felt at Leavenworth, Kansas. (4, 9)

*1881, May 19--(I or II.) A slight shock was felt at Lawrence, Kansas, about 9:00 a.m. (24)

1882, October 22--(35° N, 94° W; VII-VIII.) The epicenter was in Arkansas but the earthquake was felt over an area of 135,000 square miles, including eastern Kansas, at about 4:15 p.m. (4, 7)

1895, October 31--(37° N, 89.4° W; VIII-IX.) Charleston, Missouri, was in the epicentral area of an earthquake that affected about 1,000,000 square miles and was felt in 23 states. People were awakened and houses shook in Topeka, Kansas. It was also felt in the Kansas communities of Pittsburg, Emporia, Florence, Clay Center, Lawrence, Wamego, Manhattan, Holton, Fort Scott, Leavenworth, Hiawatha, and Kansas City. Dishes and windows rattled; buildings rocked and trembled; and water spilled from vessels. There were three shocks, accompanied by rumbling, at about 5:15 a.m. (4, 7, 21; Arkansas City Traveler, May 1, 1925)

*1897, December 2--(III.) Windows, doors, and dishes rattled in Kansas City, Missouri, at 1:10 p.m. The earthquake was most noticeable in Westport, Missouri. (7)

1902, January 24---(38.6° N, 90.3o W; VI-VII.) The epicenter was in Missouri. The earthquake, which affected about 40,000 square miles, was felt at about 4:48 a.m. at Leavenworth, Kansas, at Beverly, Missouri, and in the Kansas City area. (4, 7)

*1904, October 27--(37.7° N, 100° W; V.) The earthquake was felt over 2,700 square miles. Three shocks awakened sleeping persons and rattled dishes at Meade and Dodge City, in Kansas. (4)

*1906, January 7--(39.3° N, 96.6° W; VII-VIII.) The epicenter was at Manhattan, Kansas, and the shock affected about 10,000 square miles. At about 6:20 p.m. the earthquake, accompanied by a roaring sound, shook Topeka, Kansas. Houses and buildings vibrated; dishes and windows rattled; water in glasses showed motion. Two shocks occurred at Wamego, Oskaloosa, and Herington, in Kansas; three shocks were felt at the Union Pacific Hotel in Topeka. Auburn and Dover were also affected. Ground motion was observed at Manhattan, where chimneys toppled, people fled their houses, and plaster cracked; Abilene and Marysville rocked; a slight shock was felt at Wichita, Emporia, Junction City, Alma, Beloit, and Kansas City. Other areas affected included Nebraska and western Missouri. The shock lasted about 23 seconds. (4, 7, 21; Topeka Journal [?]; Arkansas City Traveler, May 1, 1925)

*1906, January 23--(II-III.) A slight shock occurred at Manhattan, Kansas, at about 8:00 a.m. This was one of a series of small aftershocks of the January 7 earthquake. (7)

1909, September 27--(39° N, 87.7° W; VIII.) The earthquake's epicenter was in Indiana but it was felt in Kansas City, Missouri, and possibly a little farther west, in Kansas. (4)

1917, April 9--(38.1° N, 90.6° W; VI.) The epicentral area was in eastern Missouri, but the earthquake affected more than 200,000 square miles, including eastern Kansas; it occurred at about 2:52 p.m. One shock was felt in Lawrence, Kansas, where it was recorded on the seismograph as having an intensity of II. (4, 7, 10)

*1919, May 26--(IV.) A shock that lasted for 4 seconds was felt in Wichita, Kansas, at 9:06 p.m. (7; Arkansas City Traveler, May 1, 1925)

*1919, July 26--(37.7° N, 97.3° W; III.) At Wichita one shock was felt at 5:00 a.m. and another at 7:55 a.m. The second was stronger and was preceded by a loud rumbling. (7, 11; Arkansas City Traveler, May 1, 1925)

1925, July 30--(35.4* N, 101.3° W; VI.) Southwestern Kansas was affected by an earthquake, the epicenter of which was in the Panhandle of Texas. There was a tremor for 3 minutes at Pratt, Kansas, at 6:15 a.m.; at Liberal, Kansas, bells on locomotives rang and heavy furniture moved slightly; at Medicine Lodge, Kansas, windows shook for 15 minutes. It was also felt at Wichita, Elkhart, and Leavenworth, in Kansas, and was recorded on the seismograph at Lawrence, Kansas. (4, 7, 25; Kansas City Star, July 30, 1925)

*1927, January 7--(IV.) The epicenter seemingly was at McPherson, Kansas, where a shock was felt at about 3:30 a.m. Some sleepers were awakened; dishes rattled; and the keystone in the frame of a bank window fell out. There were deep rumbling sounds. (7)

*1927, March 19--(40° N, 95.3° W;V.) The shock was centered at White Cloud, Kansas, where people ran out of houses that rocked. The shock was felt over approximately 300 square miles, at about 11:25 a.m. (4)

*1928, November 8--(39.5* N, 98.1° W; I or II?) At Beloit, Kansas, dishes and windows rattled at the Industrial School. The earthquake was not reported elsewhere. (5)

*1929, September 23--(39° N, 96.6° W; V.) The epicenter was in the vicinity of Manhattan, Kansas; there were two shocks, the second of which was the stronger. Over an area of 3,500 square miles houses shook and windows and dishes rattled. The trembling was felt in an area of 15,000 square miles, including Wakefield, Wheaton, Eskridge, Concordia, and LeRoy, in Kansas. The shocks occurred at about 4:00 and 5:00 a.m. (4, 6, 7, 26)

*1929, October 21--(39.2° N, 96.5° W; V.) The epicenter was near Junction City, Kansas. There was no damage, but windows and cooking utensils rattled, to an accompaniment of sounds like thunder. The earthquake was felt about 3:30 p.m., over an area of about 8,000 square miles, including Manhattan, McFarland, Council Grove, Concordia, Chapman, Clay Center, Emmett, Wamego, and St. George, in Kansas. It was also recorded by the seismograph at Lawrence, Kansas. (4, 6, 7, 27)

*1929, October 23--(39° N, 96.8° W; II or III?) A slight tremor was felt at Junction City, Kansas. (6, 7)

*1929, November 26--(37.2° N, 99.7° W; IV or V.) A shock was felt at Ashland, Kansas, about 10:20 p.m. (6, 7)

*1929, December 7--(39.2° N, 96.5° W; V.) The earthquake was felt in the central area of the October 21 shock, over about 1,000 square miles. At Manhattan, Kansas, windows rattled and buildings shook; many people were awakened, but there was no damage. Elsewhere in Kansas it was felt at Council Grove, Wamego, McFarland, Junction City, and it was recorded at Florissant at 2:02 a.m. (4, 6, 7)

*1931, August 9--(IV?) Three shocks occurred in Kansas City, Missouri; the epicenter was probably near Turner, Kansas. The shocks were at 12:18 a.m., 1:07 a.m., and 1:15 a.m. At Kansas City dishes rattled and pictures swung. The earthquake was also felt at Overland Park, Merriam, and Bonner Springs, in Kansas, and at Leeds, Missouri. (7, 14, 28)

*1932, January 28--(III?) An earthquake shook Ellis and Trego counties in Kansas at 6:15 p.m. Windows were shattered in farmhouses 15 miles north of Ellis, Kansas. (Topeka Capital, January 29, 1932)

*1933, February 20--(39.8° N, 99.8° W; V.) A shock was felt over about 6,000 square miles in Norton and Decatur counties, in Kansas, and Furnas and Harlan counties, in Nebraska, at about 11:00 a.m. Buildings and houses swayed; dishes and windows rattled; people ran out of their houses; no damage was reported. The earthquake was also felt at Oronoque and Norcatur, in Kansas. (4, 15)

1935, March 1--(40.3° N, 96.2° W; VI to VII.) There were two shocks about 4 minutes apart at 5:00 a.m., the first strong and the second weak. They were felt in Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, and Missouri, in an area of about 50,000 square miles. The epicenter was near Tecumseh, Nebraska, where some windows were broken; chimneys cracked and some toppled; plaster and stone walls cracked. (4, 7, 16)

1936, June 19--(35.8° N, 101.3° W; VI.) The earthquake was felt at about 9:24 p.m. over an area of about 40,000 square miles and was centered northeast of Amarillo, in the Texas Panhandle. In Elkhart, Kansas, objects were displaced and there was slight damage to buildings. It was also felt in Liberal, Sublette, and Ulysses, in Kansas. (4, 17)

1939, November 23--(38.2° N, 90.1° W; V.) The epicenter was near Griggs, Illinois, but the earthquake was felt about 9:15 a.m., over an area of 150,000 square miles, including Chanute, Fort Riley, Junction City, Ottawa, and Pittsburg, in Kansas. (1, 4)

*1942, September 10--(III?) A slight tremor was felt about 4:00 a.m. at Hays, Stockton, and Plainville, in Kansas. It was strong enough to awaken some sleepers in Hays. (2, 29)

1948, March 11--(36° N, 102.5° W; VI.) An earthquake centered northwest of Amarillo, Texas, was felt over about 50,000 square miles in Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Texas. It was felt in Kansas at Elkhart and Larned (intensity V), and also, but with less intensity, in Satanta, Syracuse, Johnson, and Rolla. (13)

*1948, April 2--(III.) Six tremors were felt in the Beechwood area about 5 miles east of Wichita, Kansas, between 9:00 and 10:00 p.m. There were ripples of water in goldfish bowls, and walls in a housing project trembled. (13)

1952, April 9--(35.4° N, 97.8° W; VII.) The epicenter was about 5 miles southwest of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The earthquake was felt over an area of 140,000 square miles. At Kansas City and Medicine Lodge, in Kansas, the intensity was V; it was also strongly felt at Concordia, Hutchinson, Iola, Junction City, Lawrence, Lindsborg, McPherson, Topeka, Wichita, and Winfield, in Kansas; most of eastern Kansas was affected. (12)

*1956, January 6--(37.15° N, 98.45° W; V.) The epicenter was in Barber County near Coats, Kansas. It occurred a few minutes before 6:00 a.m. and was felt over an area of about 18,500 square miles. Its estimated duration was about 9 seconds; a noise was reported by most people to be accompanying the quake. Several walls were damaged in Coats, and desks rattled violently. Windows and dishes shook in Pratt, Kansas, and people were awakened. The tremor was also reported in Coldwater, Hardtner, and Kiowa, in Kansas, and in Alva, Oklahoma. (3, 30)

*1961, April 13--(northwest of Norton; III or IV.) The mild quake occurred at 3:15 p.m. It was felt over an area about 35 miles in diameter--including Norton, Norcatur, and Almena, in Kansas, and Arapahoe and Beaver City, in Nebraska. Eleven miles north of Norton it was felt at the Dry Creek School. A rumbling noise was reported with the shock; windows and buildings shook, and desks rattled, but no damage was reported. The depth to hypocenter was estimated to be 20 to 50 miles. (22)

1961, December 25--(approximately 39.3° N, 94.2° W; IV; and 39.1° N, 94.6° W, and 39.4° N, 94.2° W; V.) Two shocks, at 6:20 a.m. and 7:00 a.m., were felt in northwestern Missouri and northeastern Kansas in an area with a radius of about 70 miles. The first shock was perceptible over approximately 8,300 square miles and strongest in Ray and Clay counties, Missouri. The second shock was felt over an area of about 9,745 square miles; there were two small areas of maximum intensity, one centered around Kansas City and the other around Lawson, Missouri. Noises were associated with the earthquakes and were described as jets crashing the sound barrier, explosions, roars, thunder, blasting, etc. People were awakened in Lawson, Liberty, Kearney, Excelsior Springs, and Kansas City, in Missouri, as well as in Kansas City, Kansas. There were reports that plaster cracked, dishes and windows rattled, Christmas tree ornaments shook, furniture vibrated, and a 4-inch water main broke. Depth of focus was 20 to 30 km; no relation to a major geologic structure was established. (Information from Dellwig and Gerhard, 1962.)

References to Appendix E

1. Bodle, R. R., 1941, United States earthquakes, 1939: U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, Set. 637, p. 9.

2. Bodle, R. R., 1944, United States earthquakes, 1942: U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, Ser. 662, p. 6.

3. Dellwig, L. F., 1956, The Barber County earthquake of January 6, 1956: Kansas Geol. Survey, Bull. 119, pt. 5, p. 175-185.

4. Heck, N. H., 1947, Earthquake history of the United States, Part 1, Continental United States (exclusive of California and western Nevada and Alaska): U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, Ser. 609, p. 1-83.

5. Heck , N. H., and Bodle, R. R., 1930, United States earthquakes, 1928: U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, Ser. 483, p. 10.

6. Heck , N. H., and Bodle, R. R., 1931, United States earthquakes, 1929: U.S. Coast and and Geodetic Survey, Ser. 511, p. 8-9.

7. Heinrich, R. R., 1941, A contribution to the seismic history of Missouri: Seismol. Soc. America Bull., v. 31, no. 3, p. 187-224.

8. Lykins, W. H. R., 1867, Earthquake in Kansas: Am. Jour. Sci., 2d ser., v. 44, no. 130, p. 132.

9. Monthly Weather Review, 1878, U.S. War Dept., Signal Office, November, p. 10.

10. Monthly Weather Review, 1917, v. 45, no. 4, Weather Bur. no. 634, December, p. 187-188.

11. Monthly Weather Review, 1919, v. 47, no. 7, Weather Bur. no. 702, December, p. 517.

12. Murphy, L. M., and Cloud, W. K., 1954, United States earthquakes, 1952: U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, Ser. 773, p. 6-9.

13. Murphy, L. M., and Ulrich, F. P., 1951, United States earthquakes, 1948: U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, Ser. 746, p. 7-9.

14. Neumann, Frank, 1932, United States earthquakes, 1931: U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, Ser. 553, p. 7.

15. Neumann, Frank, 1935, United States earthquakes, 1933: U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, Ser. 579, p. 7.

16. Neumann, Frank, 1937, United States earthquakes, 1935: U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, Ser. 600, p. 16-17.

17. Neumann, Frank, 1938, United States earthquakes, 1936: U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, Ser. 610, p. 8-10.

18. Parker, J. D., 1867, Memoranda of the earthquake of April 24, 1867: Scrapbook of manuscripts, notes, and mounted clippings: Kansas Univ. Library, Lawrence.

19. Parker, J. D., 1868, Earthquake in Kansas: Kansas Educational Jour., v. 4, no. 11, p. 243-244.

20. Parker, J. D., 1868, Earthquake in Kansas: Am. Jour. Sci., 2d ser., v. 45, no. 133, p. 129.

21. Parker, J. D., 1912, Earthquake in Kansas: Kansas State Historical Sec. Trans v. 12, p. 121-131.

22. Peoples, J. A., June 26, 1961, personal communication, Kansas Univ.; and The Norton Telegram, April 14, 1961.

23. Rockwood, C. G., Jr., 1876, Notices of recent American earthquakes--no. 6: Am. Jour. Sci., 3d ser., v. 12, no. 67, p. 29.

24. Rockwood, C. G., Jr., 1882, Notes on American earthquakes--no. 11: Am. Jour. Sci., 3d ser., v. 23, no. 136, p. 259.

25. Seismological Society of America, 1925, Seismological Notes: Seismol. Soc. America Bull., v. 15, no. 3, p. 242.

26. Seismological Society of America, 1929, Seismological Notes: Seismol. Soc. America Bull., v. 19, no. 3, p. 184.

27. Seismological Society of America, 1929, Seismological Notes: Seismol. Soc. America Bull., v. 19, no. 4, p. 237-238.

28. Seismological Society of America, 1931, Seismological Notes: Seismol. Sec. America Bull., v. 21, no. 3, p. 237.

29. Seismological Society of America, 1942, Seismological Notes: Seismol. Sec. America Bull., v. 32, no. 4, p. 336.

30. Seismological Society of America, 1956, Seismological Notes: Seismol. Soc. America Bull., v. 42, no. 2, p. 154.

31. Wilder, D. W., 1886, The annals of Kansas: Topeka, Kansas, new ed. 1541-1885, p. 456, 777.

32. Williams, W. G., 1867, Notice of the earthquake: Am. Jour. Sci., 2d ser., v. 44, no. 130, p. 132.


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Kansas Geological Survey, Geologic History of Kansas
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