When readers of The News and Observer opened their papers on the morning of September 1, 1886, they read about "A GREAT SHOCK."
The earthquake reported under the headline "The whole country in the grasp of an earthquake" had its center in Charleston, but was felt throughout North Carolina and beyond. By the next morning, the entire four pages of The News and Observer was devoted to earthquake coverage, including a dispatch from many NC towns, including this one from Chapel Hill:
The motion or motions of the earth caused great commotion hereabouts last night. The disturbance -- some counted six distinct shocks, between 9 50 and 10 45 -- seemed to come from the northwest. But observations on such occurrences, made by those not familiar with them, may be discordant. I am happy to say that "The Old South" still stands erect, and the wall of the well was not thrown down. But the boys emptied their rooms, and then made more fuss than was made for them; throughout the town women cried, neighbors ran to each other's houses, folks in bed were shaken up, looking glasses quivered, crockery rattled and philosophers were confounded. This morning some say they remember such a time years ago, others never felt so before and hope never to feel so again. -- The News & Observer 9/2/1886
The city of Charleston saw a great deal of damage, including 60 deaths and and estimated $5-$6 million in property damage.
An earthquake, such as has never before been known in the history of this city, swept over Charleston last night shortly after 10 o'clock, causing more loss of life than the cyclone of the year before. The city is wrecked, the streets are encumbered with masses of fallen brick and tangled telegraph and telephone wires. Up to an early hour it was almost impossible to pass from one part of the city to another. The first shock was by far the most severe. Most of the people, with their families, passed the night in the streets, which even this morning are crowded with people afraid to reenter their homes. -- The News & Observer 9/2/1886
Aid and concern poured in from all quarters, including a cable expressing sympathy from Queen Victoria.