Summerville history shakes out

  • Monday, August 25, 2014

Jim Tatum/Journal Scene Dr. Pradeep Talwani, left, and Dr. Ed West chat about the Sawmill Branch Fault even as an artist is working on a mural depicting the Sawmill Branch Valley, which was created by the fault.

Just how did Summerville’s history shake out the way it did?

Dr. Pradeep Talwani, Professor Emeritus of Geology from the University of South Carolina will shed light on that and other questions during a special presentation Aug. 30 at Colonial Dorchester State Park. The program, sponsored by the Summerville Dorchester Museum in cooperation with Colonial Dorchester State Park, will be a fascinating mix of field trip and lecture, Dr. Ed West, Chairman of the Summerville Dorchester Museum said.

On Aug. 31, 1886, an earthquake of great magnitude – estimated at between 6.6 and 7.3 on the Richter scale – struck this area. As it hit around 10 p.m., the surprise and panic must have been overwhelming, West said. In fact, it shook the Lowcountry so hard, many people refused to go back into their houses for days afterward, he said.

“The destruction was incredible,” he said. “It was a huge event – there were casualties – and in fact it did more damage to the city of Charleston and surrounding areas than did the Civil War and all of the hurricanes and fires of our 300 year history combined.”

In Summerville, it bent railroad tracks, damaged property, and destroyed at least one building, the old White Meeting House.

A second major aftershock hit some two months later, West said. Some believe that the tremors that shake Summerville to this day may be related to that 1886 quake, he said.

The people repaired and rebuilt and life went on. In fact, two years later, Summerville would be declared “The Healthiest Place in the World” during the Paris Expo of 1888.

Interestingly enough, that declaration is oddly related to the 1886 earthquake and more. The fact is, Summerville has been a hotbed of earthquake activity for thousands of years; the 1886 earthquake is the first time anyone ever knew that a fault existed here.

Talwani has studied this area for many years, finding much evidence of ancient earthquake activity in this area.

Talwani will take guests on a guided tour around Colonial Dorchester to examine evidence of the 1886 earthquake as well as discuss his extensive research of the area, particularly the Sawmill Branch Fault.

West will talk about the relationship of the Sawmill Branch Fault to the development of the pine barrens which first brought settlers here and how this area’s reputation as a healthy place is related to the fault.

Reservations are required for the program and space is limited. Tickets are $12.50 each. For more information call 875-9666 or go to www.summervilledorchestermuseum.org.

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