Sac History Happenings

News and developments in Sacramento and California history

April 18, 2011
Sacramentans and the Great Quake of 1906

Fontaine.JPGOn this 105th anniversary of the massive earthquake that devastated San Francisco, it's appropriate to ponder the role Sacramento played in the tragedy.

Though there was no damage locally, the 5:12 a.m. tremors were widely felt in the capital. After news of the destruction hit town, Sacramentans responded quickly to the emergency by forming a relief committee, sending money, food and supplies, and taking care of the several thousand refugees who fled the Bay Area.

A 2006 Bee story recalled three Sacramento-based U.S. Geological Survey employees who left us detailed accounts of their experiences with the earthquake.

And speaking of the Bee, on the day of the quake the newspaper quickly dispatched a team of journalists to San Francisco and published their initial impressions in the afternoon edition:

San Francisco was practically wrecked by an earthquake at 5:10 this morning. The shock lasted three minutes. Thousands of buildings were damaged or destroyed. The loss of life is reported to be great.

There is no water and fire rages all over the city. All wires with the exception of one are gone. The City Hall, costing $7,000,000, is in ruins. Modern buildings suffered less than brick and frame.

The terror and excitement are indescribable. Most of the people were asleep, and were suddenly aroused and rushed into the streets, undressed. Buildings swayed and crashed, burying occupants. ... People flocked to the telegraph offices to send messages to friends and were frantic because there were no wires. ...

The greatest damage to buildings was done south of Market Street, where there are mostly frame houses and tenement houses. Fire broke out in nearly every block of the district.

PHOTO CREDIT: USGS stenographer Adelena M. Fontaine in the Pacific Region Topographic Mapping office in Sacramento. Following the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, she assisted refugees who arrived in Sacramento by train. Courtesy the George R. Davis family.

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About Sac History Happenings

California and Sacramento have a long, rich, vibrant history. And our region is blessed with an abundance of historical resources maintained by museums, libraries, archives and societies. This blog aims to alert readers to the latest developments in local/state historical education and research.

Send tips concerning upcoming exhibits, tours, lectures and meetings, as well as new books, magazine articles and online collections to the blog's contributors.

The Contributors:

Michael Dolgushkin

Michael Dolgushkin is Manuscript Librarian at the California State Library History Section. He is co-author of San Francisco's California Street Cable Cars and is a frequent contributor to the California State Library Foundation Bulletin. Contact him at

Amanda Graham

Amanda Graham is a Certified Archivist working in the Sacramento Room of the Sacramento Public Library. She earned a BS in History from Southern Oregon University and a MS in Information Studies with an emphasis in archives from The University of Texas at Austin. Contact her at

Pete basofin

Pete Basofin is Director of Editorial Research at The Sacramento Bee. He previously worked at The St. Petersburg Times and Columbia (Mo.) Daily Tribune. Contact him at

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