John Vonderlin: 1868 Earth Shakes & the Bubbling Gas

Story from John Vonderlin

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Hi June,
  I’ve only seen a few casual references to  lit gas coming from the ground after the Loma Prieta Earthquake. I don’t think the phenomena lasted more then a few days. It seems to be a recurrent phenomena based on the following excerpts.
   Here’s a reference to the October 21, 1868 Earthquake. This quake, centered on the Hayward Fault was the “Great Quake,” until the 1906 one came along. It was only about a 7.0, but was the greatest ever recorded on that fault. 
A gentleman who was in the mountains near Pescadero, yesterday morning, during the earthquake shock, describes the scene as fearfully grand. Huge redwood trees swayed like fishing-rods, and immense dead limbs detached by the violence of the motion, fell to the earth. Large pieces of rock were wrestled from the mass of the mountain, and in some instances rendered the road impassable. The waters of Pescadero Creek became muddy in a moment, and the surface was covered with large bubbles. These, when a match was applied to them, burst with a slight report and a small flame, showing that they were filled with an inflammable gas, that must have come from the bowels of the earth.
   This site had these two excerpts about gas coming  from the ground in the 1906 Quake.
Catholic church almost a total wreck 
Methodist church injured slightly 
School house unsafe, will have to be rebuilt. 
New bridge over Pescadero creek, bulkhead cracked 
Small buildings damaged more or less 
William’s store more severely 
Light house at Pigeon Point did not suffer much damage 
In several places the ground opened and 
 ____ issued in large quantities.
PESCADERO, May 9. – Pescadero and vicinity, was fortunate in having no very serious damage done by the earthquake.  Williamson’s store and stock were damaged about $300.  McCormick & Winkie’s suffered about the same amount. The Catholic church is off its foundation and pretty badly wrecked.  The school house will need extensive repairs, possibly $2,000 or more before it is safe again.  The pupils are now being accommodated in the M.E. church and Odd Fellows hall.  The Methodist church had most of its plaster shaken off.  The feedmill was wrecked in the rear by a large water tank and windmill falling on the roof.  Nearly all brick chimneys were down and several residences needed underpinning repaired.  Slides of earth and rock are noticed on places along the road, the most serious being on the Thos. Enos place.  The first one occurred about 24 hours after the quake, when the road sank near the Cunha house for a distance of about 75 yards, to a depth of fifteen feet.  Another slide a week later occurred before daylight, right beside Mr. Enos’ house and caused the family to move to Pescadero at 4:30 a.m.  The slide smashed one of Mr. Enos’ chicken houses, burying it completely and killing nearly all the chickens in it.  A large stream of water gushed out at both side of slide and threatened to do damage to the dwelling house and barn until it was diverted by spouts in another direction.  The Enos’ family have since reoccupied their home.  One of the strangest and most interesting phenomena in consequence of the earthquake was the gas wells in D.S. Jackson’s field, just across the road from his house.  Soon after the quake a bubbling was heard and on investigation, water was seen coming up in several places.  It was of cool temperature; but appeared to be boiling.  Willis Jackson applied a lighted match to several places and flames immediately shot up to a height of from four or five feet, producing an intense heat.  At present writing the gas seems to have about all disappeared.  What is the more remarkable about the case is that no trace of either oil or gas or anything like it had ever been seen here before.  This matter is worth investigating by some scientific expert.
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