Monday, January 17, 2011


Post submitted by Karreen Busch

The famous San Francisco earthquake of 1906 is remembered as one of the worst natural disasters in United States history. Resulting in over 3,000 casualties, the earthquake's devastating effects to California included an economic impact that has been compared with the more recent Hurricane Katrina.

The earthquake was of such high magnitude (approximately 7.9 on the Richter scale), that shaking was felt from Oregon to Los Angeles, and as far inland as Nevada.

Charles I. Patton was a boy living on a homestead on the Butte Falls area of Jackson County when the earthquake occurred. In an oral history interview with Patton conducted in 1977 by the Southern Oregon Historical Society, Patton shared a fascinating account of the effects he witnessed due to the earthquake:

"This happened in 1906. One morning I went out to the side of the yard and I heard a sizzling noise. I couldn't understand what it was or where it was coming from for a while. We had a dug well that was 32 feet was hand dug.... so I found out the noise was coming from the well. I went over there and there was quite an odor coming from the well.

I went in and told my dad... He came out and there was gas coming out of the well. So he told me to stay away from it. Didn't know what it was but stay away from it and not breathe that. So, anyway, this lasted for a good long while. It kept getting less and less, until finally it quit. But he put a bucket down in the well - we'd always have plenty of water in the well - put the bucket down in there and there was no water. No water in that well. Never was again.

So we had to get our water from the creek then. And then, when we saw the Parkers - they lived about 10 miles from our place - they had a nice spring came right out of the rock, solid rock there and it was all...white. The water real white. They couldn't drink it, wouldn't drink it. They didn't know why it had turned stayed that way for about two weeks. They had to haul their water from the creek...but that Spring eventually cleared up and was all right again.

Then, in about three weeks, we got a paper from the post office because nobody went to the post office very was too far. Unless somebody went by and brought the mail to use, we didn't get it unless we went after it, which you either walked or rode a horse about 15 miles to the post office..

Then we read that San Francisco had had a terrible earthquake and that happened the same time that the well and the spring had trouble. Then we knew it was the earthquake that had caused it. We never did have any water in that well again... that was really, really something. We felt no earthquake. No one in that whole country did, but it did do something."

Charles I. PATTON was born in Jackson County, Oregon, on November 12, 1894. He was raised in the Butte Falls area and worked in lumber mills for the U.S. Forest Service, and as a timber cruiser.

The Southern Oregon Historical Society has over 1000 oral histories in its archives. To learn more, contact the Research Library at (541) 773-6536

1 comment:

  1. My grandmother, Eva Carson Crofoot, was age 21 in 1906 and was living in San Francisco when the earthquake happened. She stayed at Golden Gate Park following the quake and fires. She told me that one night she needed to use the latrine, and as she left her tent to go there, she was told by an armed sentry that if she proceeded to leave her tent, he would have to shoot her. After an argument about her needs, she finally returned to her tent.