MISS SUE MILES ACCOUNT OF THE EARTHQUAKE
Mrs. T. A. de Liesseline, Jr. (Sarah Miles), niece of Miss Sue Miles, shares her aunt's story of how the 1886 earthquake affected her family in Summerville.  Miss Sue Miles (1875 ?1968) was born in Summerville.  She was well-known there-rightfully so, because she taught for over 50 years.  Miss Sue was, in fact, the first public school teacher employed by the Summerville school System.  As a beginning teacher, she was the lone instructor in a one-room schoolhouse.
Miss Sue referred to the quake as a "strange and mysterious power over which we had no control."
The summer had been very hot and very dry.  Wells throughout the area were going dry.
In her house lived her mother, father, grandmother, five brothers, a sister, and a nurse.  Sue slept in a single bed in her grandmother's room. 
"We had a pointer dog named Shot who was devoted to my grandmother.  He never let her go across the road unless he was at her side.  She and her daughter would sit on the piazza and Shot would lie down at the bottom of the step until she was ready to return.  When Grandma started to come home, my aunt walked on one side and Shot on the other.  When Grandma reached the steps my aunt returned to her children.  This evening, however, Shot came up the steps with Grandma and would not let her enter the piazza.  My mother and aunt in the living room heard her saying, 'Move Shot; let me come in.' He was standing in front of her pressing her back.  My aunt rushed out and took Grandma by the hands and pulled her into the room. 
"Then the fearful earthquake.  The world seemed to be coming apart.  Something indescribable had happened.  The lamps were thrown down and put out.  We were in total darkness.  It seemed that this was the end of the world.  The situation was beyond understanding or description.  My mother knew that she must reach her little children without delay.  She always kept a box of matches on a table by her door.  She picked them up, struck a match to enter her room.  To her horror she could not get into the room, the chimney had fallen in and her room was filled with the fallen brick.  She struck another match to find a way to climb over the bricks.  She needed both hands so she put the matches between her teeth.  She and her five little children climbed over the fallen chimney and reached the family in the living room in pitch darkness.
"The family decided to get out of the house before another chimney came down.  They knew not what to expect.  Holding on to each other, we reached the yard, meeting our aunt and her five children and nurse.  We gathered together at what seemed a safe distance from the house.  Then my aunt said. 'Let us pray.' We fell on our knees and she led us in the familiar prayers asking God to help us.
"We then heard my father's voice calling to know if we were safe.  The men of the town were having a political meeting; the men rushed to get to their families.
"My father said as he raced his horse along what is now called Central and Carolina Avenues that he could hear water splashing around the horses legs.  Geysers breaking through the earth. My father's voice brought a feeling of security.  He was alive.  He called to know if the neighbors were safe.  The children finally fell asleep while the elders discussed the impending dangers.
"The greatest tragedy would be a tidal wave sweeping up the Ashley River.  The animals could stampede.  None of this happened.
"The morning after, the sun rose on a changed world.  One chimney was still standing; and, as we looked, a mockingbird flew up to the top and burst into a song.  My aunt said, 'Look!  What an omen.'
"My father and mother were able to get into the kitchen.  The wood-burning stove could be used with iron pots and pans.  All the crockery was smashed.  I don't know how the old people had a cup of coffee.
"I don't know how they got food; the stores were wrecked, too.  As soon as possible my father had to locate my mother's sister, a recent widow with five children.  He found her; Mrs. T. Henry Smith and children, with the neighbors, gathered together in the corner of the streets where the original Town Hall once stood next to the Jennys Perry and Welch homes.  The same story all over town; people trying keep soul and body together.
"At the earliest date, my father secured a large tent, furnished by the army.  This was to put up in a corner of the Miles property.  My aunt and her family moved into it.  These tents were put up all over town where needed.
"My grandmother, her two daughters, five children and a black maid lived in an old building, the kitchen of the plantation times.  My father, mother, and their children lived in an old store room.  Living on our lot at this time were 16 children, 6 adults, and a black maid.  Of course everybody helped.  Our faithful cook 'Mom Patty' came regularly.  My mother's maid of plantation days spent all of her last years in a little cottage which my father had built for her in the back part of our yard."

 
Source: Low Country Quake Tales by Joyce B. Bagwell

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