Gravesite of the 1872 Lone Pine Earthquake Victims (No. 507 California Historical Landmark)
California Historical Landmarks Program
Historical Landmarks are sites, buildings, features, or events that are of statewide significance and have anthropological, cultural, military, political, architectural, economic, scientific or technical, religious, experimental, or other value. Historical Landmarks are eligible for registration if they meet at least one of the following criteria:
1) Is the first, last, only, or most significant of its type in the state or within a large geographic region
2) Is associated with an individual or group having a profound influence on the history of California
3) Is a prototype of, or an outstanding example of, a period, style, architectural movement or construction or is one of the more notable works or the best surviving work in a region of a pioneer architect, designer or master builder.
California’s Landmark Program began in the late 1800s with the formation of the Landmarks Club and the California Historical Landmarks League. In 1931, the program became official when legislation charged the Department of Natural Resources—and later the California State Chamber of Commerce—with registering and marking buildings of historical interest or landmarks. The Chamber of Commerce then created a committee of prestigious historians, including DeWitt Hutchings and Lawrence Hill, to evaluate potential landmark sites.
In 1948, Governor Earl Warren created the California Historical Landmarks Advisory Committee to increase the integrity and credibility of the program. Finally, this committee was changed to the California Historical Resources Commission in 1974. Information about registered landmarks numbered 770 onward is kept in the California Register of Historical Resources authoritative guide. Landmarks numbered 669 and below were registered prior to establishing specific standards, and may be added to the California Register when criteria for evaluating the properties are adopted.
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Interred within a fenced enclosure are 16 people killed when one of the largest earthquakes ever to hit California rocked Lone Pine at 2:35 am on March 26, 1872. It awakened residents hundreds of miles away in all directions. Damage was so widespread, adobe buildings in Red Bluff collapsed, 400 miles north of the quake. John Muir who was living in Yosemite at the time was awakened and took the opportunity to study the changes in the land and rock formations within the valley immediately afterwards. It was also reported at the time that people in Sacramento, 300 miles away, felt the impact of the earthquake and ran in panic to the streets. Residents of San Diego also reported an earth shaking experience.
Although there were no official recording devices at the time, the quake was estimated to be 7.6 to 8.0 magnitude on the Richter Scale. The quake was thought to be similar in size to the San Francisco quake of 1906. Two faults moved simultaneously. The vertical fault moved roughly 15-20 feet, while the right lateral fault moved roughly 35-40 feet. The twin faults run along the base of the Sierra Nevada and Inyo Mountains, according to USGS and Wikipedia.
Most buildings in Lone Pine were made from adobe brick and crumbled to the ground. Twenty-seven of the approximately 250-300 residents of Lone Pine were killed, according to several different sources. The adobe buildings located on Camp Independence also fell and the Camp was subsequently closed.
The historical marker is located 200 feet west of Highway 395 (P.M. 58.7) about a mile north of the current city of Lone Pine.
Inyo means “dwelling place of great spirit” in Paiute Native American language. Inyo County has many “greats.” Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the continental United States and Death Valley, the lowest spot in the Western Hemisphere, are both within Inyo’s boundaries. Great earthquakes have left their mark in recent history, changing the course of the Owens River and exposing ancient sedimentary rock.
Time Period Represented