Little-Known but Big California Quake Is Remembered

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It's the California earthquake hardly anyone has heard of -- strong enough to rip 225 miles of the San Andreas Fault and make rivers run backward, but leaving nothing like the cultural scar inflicted by the San Francisco Quake of 1906.

Tuesday marks the 150th anniversary of the magnitude-7.9 Fort Tejon quake, which was blamed for just two deaths in what was then sparsely populated California.

No museum exhibits or musical tributes will mark the 1857 event, sometimes referred to as the forgotten quake. There will be no public gatherings or bells tolling to mark the moment the ground split open, as there were for the 1906 centennial of the San Francisco quake, a catastrophe that left 3,000 people dead and reduced much of the city to ash and rubble.

"It'll never have the same hold on the public's imagination as the 1906 earthquake," said Sean Malis, an interpreter at Fort Tejon State Historic Park, a 70-mile drive high into mountains north of Los Angeles. "It'll continue to be a footnote in history."

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