1944 Cornwall–Massena earthquake

The 1944 Cornwall–Massena earthquake occurred on September 5 at 12:38:45 am EDT in Massena, New York. It registered 5.8 on the moment magnitude scale and had a maximum Mercalli intensity of VIII (Severe).[2] This area is part of the Saint Lawrence River Valley and the seismically active zone known as the Saint Lawrence rift system. The earthquake is the largest known in New York's recorded history and was felt over great distances.[3]

1944 Cornwall–Massena earthquake
1944 Cornwall–Massena earthquake is located in New York
1944 Cornwall–Massena earthquake
UTC time1944-09-05 04:38:45
ISC eventn/a
Local dateSeptember 5, 1944 (1944-09-05)
Local time12:38:45 am EDT
Magnitude5.8 Mw
Depth20 km[1]
Epicenter44°57′22″N 74°49′59″W / 44.956°N 74.833°W / 44.956; -74.833
TypeOblique thrust
Areas affectedUnited States
Total damage$2 million
Max. intensityMMI VIII (Severe) [2]
Isoseismal map for the earthquake



The earthquake was felt as far away as New York City, Quebec City, Toronto, and Boston. It caused property damage of $2 million (equivalent to $35 million in 2023). Several large aftershocks were felt in the general area, described as a low rumble followed by a loud bang.

In the village of Massena, New York, approximately 90 percent of its chimneys were destroyed or damaged, along with heavy damage to masonry structures. It was also reported that cracks appeared in the ground around the town of Hogansburg, located 10 miles (16 km) east of Massena. There were also reports of wells that dried up, and a crack in a deep alluvium north of Massena Center oozed water and sand.

Damage to the city of Cornwall, Ontario, was heavier due to a denser population and its geological location; many structures' foundations were built on sand. Cornwall Collegiate and Vocational School received heavy damage from masonry work falling through the roof of the gymnasium.



The epicenter was located in the vicinity of Massena Center, a small hamlet located 3.5 miles (6 km) east of the village of Massena. The research was taken from inspecting the local graveyards which had seen the damage done in the form of headstones rotating on their foundations.

In the city of Cornwall, the French Cemetery, Saint Columban's Cemetery, and Woodlawn Cemetery were inspected and found that the headstones had turned counter-clockwise. In the town of Massena, Calvary Cemetery and Massena Center Cemetery were inspected and found the headstones had turned clockwise. Its epicenter was determined to have been located in the hamlet of Massena Center due to the greater damage of the hamlet itself and the severe rotation found in the cemetery. All chimneys received severe damage along with several reports of foundation damage.

See also



  1. ^ Natural Resources Canada (2016-02-12). "The 1944 Magnitude 5.8 Cornwall-Massena earthquake". Earthquakes Canada. Retrieved 1 August 2018.
  2. ^ a b Stover & Coffman 1993, p. 314.
  3. ^ New York State Geological Survey. "New York's largest earthquake". New York State Education Department. Archived from the original on 2011-07-10. Retrieved 18 April 2012.

Further reading