A Lady Book Agent – 7

Only a few months after the Likins family arrived in San Francisco they experienced a violent earthquake. The earthquake had a magnitude between 6.3 and 6.7, and took place on the Hayward Fault on October 21, 1868. It was called the Great San Francisco Earthquake until the quake of 1906 came along.

Aftershocks continued for a few weeks. Amy Likins resumed her book-selling and was in Santa Clara when another strong shock hit.


I now concluded to go to Santa Clara and canvass that town, before delivering my pictures in San José. Eight o’clock in the evening found me seated in the ladies’ parlor at the hotel, conversing with the landlord concerning the severe shock of earthquake we had two weeks previous.

I thought, if the Lord spared me, I would not stay another night in a brick house. I had partially undressed when the house commenced shaking. Frightened all but to death, I scarcely knew what to do; but found myself in the door-way with the candle in my hand, thinking I must not go into the street in this condition. There came a second shock. I blew out the light, threw it on the floor, and rushed into the street, not caring how I appeared. It was full of people. Some of them looked at me curiously; but I drew my shawl close about me and stood my ground, nor could I be persuaded to return to my room. The clerk brought me my shoes and baggage, and took me where he knew I could obtain lodgings, to a lady’s, a few doors away. She gladly offered me shelter, as her husband was away from home, and she was very lonely. 

There were several light shocks after I had been there. Next morning, many joked me about my appearance the evening previous, especially Mr. W., who said he never would forget how comical and frightened I looked.

What a welcome to California!


About nancyleek

Nancy is a retired librarian who lives in Chico, California. She is the author of John Bidwell: The Adventurous Life of a California Pioneer.
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1 Response to A Lady Book Agent – 7

  1. Jeannette says:

    I leave a pile of the day’s clothes where they might be accessible if a middle of the night occasion forced me into the streets. Ultimately I assume that a strong jolt to the earth will leave us unconcerned about our degree of undress, but preparedness and awareness are good habits to cultivate and if one had an extra piece of clothing to spare, the neighbors might need it themselves.

    What a plucky example Amy Likins proves to be…she stood her ground; I think she was wise not to re-enter a brick building. And kudos to the clerk who was kind enough to both retrieve her belongings and help her find accommodations that felt less vulnerable.

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