Geological Survey of Arkansas.

First report of a geological reconnoissance of the northern counties of Arkansas, made during the years 1857 and 1858 online

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Online LibraryGeological Survey of ArkansasFirst report of a geological reconnoissance of the northern counties of Arkansas, made during the years 1857 and 1858 → online text (page 1 of 22)
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"WILLIAM ELDERHORST, Chemical Assistant;
EDWARD T. COX, Assistant Geologist.






To His Excellency, E. N. Conway,

Governor of Arkansas:
Sir— In conformity to an act approved 15th January, 1857, entitled "an
act to provide for a geological survey of the State of Arkansas," I had
the honor of being appointed by you State Geologist of the State of
Arkansas, which office I accepted with the proviso that I was to commence
the geological survey of the state as early as my engagements in Ken-
tucky permitted, say about the 1st of October, or as soon thereafter as
possible, it being, however, expressly understood that my salary as Geolo-
gist of the State of Arkansas, was not to commence until I entered upon
the duties of that office, as will appear from the following letter of your
Excellency, addressed to me on the 20th April, 1857:

Executive Ofeice,

Little Rock. Arks.,

Dr. D. D. Owen —

Sir: I have- appointed you State Geologist of the State of Arkansas,
under the act of the 15th January, 1857, as shown by the enclosed com-
mission, which will take effect from and after the 1st day of October, 1857;
and your salary is to commence upon your qualification, on or before the'
15th October, 1857, that is, as soon as you shall enter upon your duties as
State Geologist of Arkansas, under said law, and not before then. I hope
by the first day of October, you will have completed your present engage-
ments in the State of Kentucky, and that you will accept the commission
which I send you upon the terms stated in it.

As a measure of economy, as far as this state is concerned, I was pleased


to learn that the chemical work could all be done in your laboratory at
New Harmony, and would be pleased to learn what annual expense this
state will incur under such an arrangement, and for all instruments which
I presume you have and can use in the prosecution of the work, including
office-rent and fuel, whilst doing the office-work at New Harmony.

As you know best the kind of wagons and camp equipage you will
require to suit you, I presume it would be better for you to procure and
ship them to Jacksonport, Arkansas, than to obtain them in this state.
The horses and mules which you would require, could, perhaps, be
obtained in Arkansas, as well as common laborers.

We shall have to be confined to the amount of appropriation by the
law, and that is so small for such an important work, we will have to use
economy to accomplish much good, and I shall depend greatly on your
experience and good management in the whole matter.

When you qualify before an officer of this state, you will have to take
and subscribe and have authenticated and filed with the governor of
Arkansas, a duplicate of the official oath which will be indorsed on your


Most respectfully, your ob't serv't,

In conformity with the above appointment and instructions, I com-
menced on the 1st October, 1857, making preparations for carrying out
the provisions of said act, by procuring the necessary instruments, outfit,
wagons, and means of transportation, for executing the field-work with
as much dispatch as possible.

By organising two corps for field-duty, and continuing the work as late
in the season as the weather permitted, I have, with the limited appropria-
tion at my command, been enabled to accomplish nearly as much as I
could have clone with a single corps, during the summer and autumn
months; taking into consideration that the means at my disposal would
only have kept a single corps in the field during six or seven months in

the year.

On account of the low stage of the Ohio river in October, 1857, the
Mississippi and Ohio packets, plying along the coast of Arkansas, were
not running; I therefore found it would be more expeditious to proceed
by land to Arkansas, especially as by the most direct route, I would reach
the north-eastern confines of that state, which your instructions designated
as the portion of the state where I should commence the geological
survey, so that, as soon as I reached the borders of Arkansas, the work
could be immediately commenced.


The point where I first entered the State of Arkansas, and where I,
therefore, commenced the field-work, was Chalk Bluffs, in Greene county.

The following report begins, for this reason, with that county.

My geological observations through the northern counties have been of
a general character, with the view of gaining a knowledge of the leading
geological formations, rather than of entering into minute local details;
though I have made it a point, at the same time, to visit such localities as
gave promise of important discoveries, even though they were, some-
times, situated a considerable distance out of the direct line of travel
which would have suited the general objects I had proposed to myself.

This plan of commencing the geological survey of the state has been
adopted for several reasons.

The wording of section 2, of the act providing for the survey, states:
" It shall be the duty of the state geologist to make a reconnoissance of
the state." This implies a general survey in the beginning; and this, in
any case, I consider the proper course to pursue in conducting the survey
of a new state; because, unless the geologist acquires, as soon as possible,
a general knowledge of the areas and boundaries of the various forma-
tions, he cannot direct the operations of the corps to advantage.

Again, by this method, every county can receive the benefits of such a
survey, in a period of time, comparatively short to that required to carry
a special, detailed survey over the state — unless, indeed, very large
appropriations are made, to put numerous corps in the field at the same

Following the instructions contained in your letter, dated the 16th
September, 1857, with regard to the part of the state where you desired
the survey to commence, I have devoted the first season's operations to a
reconnoissance of the northern counties adjacent to the Missouri line, and
those counties lying between the St. Francis and White rivers, as far
south as the northern boundary of the tier of townships 10 north. I found
it, however, impossible, before the close of the season, to extend the
survey to the western boundary of Arkansas. The extreme limits of my
western obervations of last December, only reached the confines of
Carroll county.



The citizens of Arkansas, so far as I have had an opportunity of
ascertaining by intercourse with them, are so well aware of the impor-
tance and utility of a geological survey of their state, that it is hardly
necessary for me to enlarge upon the subject. But a few remarks of
paramount interest suggest themselves.

It has been justly inferred, from the history of nations, that the people
who have reached the highest state of civilization and intelligence, and
who possess the greatest wealth and influence, are those who enjoy the
most extensive facilities of commercial interchange, who possess within
themselves the largest means of producing the staple articles of food, and
who manufacture the substantial fabrics supplying wearing apparel, the
implements of husbandry, and all kinds of useful machinery.

To accomplish these vast objects to the greatest advantage, the country
itself should not only be possessed of those natural resources in soil and
mineral productions, which supply the raw material for all kind of staples,
but must be sufficiently populous to supply the labor necessary for carry-
ing on those manufactures, without too great a drain upon the agricultural
community. These two classes of society, under a liberal and enlightened
form of government, become mutually dependent on each other, the
one producing the necessaries of life, the other fashioning the implements
which enable the cultivator of the soil to afford his means of subsistence
at a cheap rate, and supplying, not only to the artizan but to the whole
community such articles of comfort and convenience as give to life its
zest, and to our home their charms.

Hence, to be in the most flourishing condition, a country should not only
possess, at least, a fair average soil, but those mineral resources which


contribute most essentially to the attainment of a high state of perfection
in the mechanic arts.

Foremost in the list of utility, stand coal and iron ores; then platinum,
gold and silver, copper, lead, tin, zinc: all producing metals for which
there is a regular and constant demand in every land of active industry;
ores of antimony, manganese, cobalt, nickel, cadmium, aluminum, arsenic,
bismuth, sodium, yielding metals which, though in use to only a limited
extent, are, many of them, very essential in the arts, and generally com-
mand hi^h prices, on account either of their partial diffusion within the
reach of the miner, or the expense of reduction.

Every commercial 'and civilized nation also demands a supply of a
variety of saline substances and earthy minerals, found either on the
surface of the earth or interstratified in its geological formations; such as
common salt, alum, nitre, carbonates of soda and potash, sal-ammoniac,
gypsum, potter's and other clays, ochres, and other paints; also, an abun-
dant supply of limestone, and all the various rocks, useful as building
materials and for all kinds of ornamental work, hydraulic cements, mate-
rials suitable for the manufacture of glass, fluxes for the metallurgist,
are some of the most useful materials that may be enumerated as required
to supply the wants of a progressive, commercial, manufacturing people:
while the agriculturist, in his vocation, derives many valuable mineral
manures from the strata constituting the earth's crust, such as marls, bone-
earth, argillaceous and ferruginous earths, and saline deposits and
efflorescences, which often form the most accessible, the cheapest and
most available materials for the renovation of his land.

Such being universally recognized facts in the history of mankind from
the earliest period up to the present time, is it not incumbent on every
country and every state of this Union, to adopt measures calculated, first to
develop their resources in the various raw materials necessary for their
welfare and progress, and having done so, to direct public attention to
their stores of mineral wealth; so that the capitalist, seeking profitable
investments, and the skillful artizan business and employment, may take
cognizance of their peculiar advantages? and, at the same time, proclaim
before the immigrant farmer their agricultural resources.

What better method can a state adopt for this purpose, than to institute
and support with liberality a well-conducted and judiciously managed
geological survey of her territory and publish the results to the world in
reliable, creditable and attractive geological reports, emanating from
eources in which the public generally have full confidence.

This is forcibly brought home to us by a recent communication from our
enlightened Minister to Prussia, writing to his friend Judge Law of Indiana,


which is so pertinent to the subject that I here extract a few paragraphs
bearing on the question:

" Berlin, February 6th, 1858."

" Sir: I have often made the remark to you and to oar people,
that there is less known, both at home and abroad, of Indiana, her capa-
bilities and resources, than of any state of the Union. Of the truth of this
fact, I am more and more convinced. I am daily brought in contact with
men of intelligence who feel a great interest in obtaining information
about our country, especially how money may be invested there, so as to
bring the largest return. They wish to learn, what are the most desirable
portions for manufactures and trade.

Questions are often put to me about the mineral resources of Indiana,
and the surprise expressed that a state, so rich in that respect, has not taken
pains to let its wealth be known to the world. A few have heard of the
partial survey, and the report thereon, made by Mr. Owen, some years
ago, but have not seen it — and I doubt whether you can find half a dozen
copies in the state, or even one in the state-library. I could distribute
hundreds of those reports, imperfect as they are, with great advantage to
our state.

I know the great interest you take, living as you do in the midst of the
coal and iron region of the western world, in the development of the min-
eral resources of Indiana, and I cannot forbear urging upon you renewed
exertions in this matter. Our statesmen, our literary men, our men of
wealth may come to Europe and talk of the resources of the country, her
mineral wealth, her capacities for improvement; but when the capitalist
and intelligent mechanic desire to know, where they shall use their capital
of money or mind, where they shall establish their manufactories or locate
their mining operations, they wish to see the survey and report of the man
of science, who can tell them where they may certainly find remuneration
for their labor, and what it shall be.

To develop the resources of a country, the combined action of capital
and labor is required. Capital and labor are annually coming to our
country from Europe; but much too large a proportion passes directly
through our state and finds its home and employment in Wisconsin, Illi-
nois, Iowa and Missouri. If our state were better known, if its capacities
were published abroad in a manner which could command the confidence
of the capitalist and the emigrant, this would not be so.

That we have mineral wealth, we know. Coal, iron, lead, zinc, building
stone and slate, are found in abundance, and clays useful in the arts are
extensively distributed. But in how great an abundance these may be


found, and how profitably the capitalist may invest his means for their
development, can only be determined and made known in a manner to
command the confidence of the public at home and abroad, by a careful
survey under the direction of the state.

The importance of these surveys is more highly appreciated on this con-
tinent than with us. Here the necessity of developing all the resources of
the country is felt, and attention is given to the subject. It is this develop-
ment and the wealth which necessarily comes from it, which enables many
of these countries to maintain their position and influence in the world.
Money judiciously expended in these investigations yields a sure return.

In Bavaria, with less territory than the state of Indiana, millions have
been expended in complete geological and topographical surveys of that
country, and for a few pennies every farmer or land-owner can obtain a
copy of the survey of his land, a chemical analysis of its soil, and a knowl-
edge of the minerals which enrich it.

In Belgium, they are excavating coal at a depth of 1,500 to 1,800 feet
below the surface, working veins only 18 inchs thick at an angle of 45 deg.,
and this coal, too, of an inferior quality, such as we would not use, and in
that country, notwithstanding the amount already expended, preparations
are being made for a still more thorough survey. Might not much capital
thus laboriously expended be attracted towards our rich coal fields, were
their existence and extent known and believed?

But it is not only in the discovery and location of the mineral resources
of the state, that such a survey would be advantageous. It would call
attention to the fact that all these minerals can be worked and made into
manufactured articles at home, instead of being sent abroad and returned
to us at an advanced price, as we know is now done, not only with our
pig iron, zinc and other metals, but even with our walnut and cherry.
Copper is shipped from Tennessee to England, and returned to us in the
manufactured state at an advance of more than 200 per cent. I believe
that zinc is not manufactured in any considerable quantities in the Mis-
sissippi valley, and yet it is well known among us, that it is found in great
abundance in the north-west, equal to any in the world. How profitably
to our people might the money be expended in manufacturing at home
the zinc used among us for painting, for roofing, telegraphing, and in the
daily employments of our mechanics. But this will not be until the atten-
tion of capital is drawn to our resources.

It may be mentioned as a striking fact, showing the extent to which we
look across the water for supplies, that in South Wales and Staffordshire,
England, alone, tin plates are manufactured to the amount of 900,000



boxes annually, to the value of over five millions of money, and that more
than two-thirds of these are exported to the United States.

Such a survey as ought to be made, would exhibit another thing which
may soon be of vital importance to the state; a thing which comes home
especially to the farmers. It is well known that the supply of water is
yearly becoming less abundant. Such a survey would show where arte-
sian wells could be sunk, from which a never-failing supply of water
could be obtained. This may be determined by the scientific man with
as much certainty as the character of the underlying soil. A few years
ago, in Paris, when water was very much needed, an artesian well was

sunk under the direction of scientific men, and water was found an

everlasting fountain— though it was after eight years of labor, and at a
depth of 1,900 feet.

It is said that the French in conquering Algiers, took with them men of
science, and as they progressed, they established villages and sunk arte-
sian wells, finding water even in the desert. The wandering Arabs
exclaimed, ■ what can we do with a people who make water rise out of the
ground wherever they please?' And they conquered, perhaps, as much by
the impressions made by their scientific knowledge, as by the force of
their arms." * * * *

Let us look now to a few of the results of the geological survey of
Kentucky, which has been in progress since 1855.

In some of the counties, where the labors of the geologist have estab-
lished the existence of beds of good workable coal, the intrinsic value of
the land rose, in a single season, twenty-five per cent, all over the county;
while thf- value of the land, in many locations of the same county, offer-
ing peculiar advantages adjacent to navigable streams, rose, in the course
of the same period of time, from five to ten dollars per acre, up to fifty
and sixty dollars. And these prices have remained firm and permanent
up to the present time, showing that the valuation was real, intrinsic and

Where the simultaneous occurrence of both coal and abundant beds of
rich iron ore has been proved, the rise in the value of the property has
been proportionally greater. These are, indeed, direct and tangible
advantages, which all can appreciate and comprehend, and which come
home to the owners of property, and to the citizens of the state.

It will be apparent, that capital and labor must speedily flow towards
localities where such valuable mineral resources have been demonstrated
to exist.

Further: the elaborate, comparative chemical analyses of the soils col-


lected from various parts of the state, now numbering between two and
three hundred, have developed such important, interesting and practically
useful results, and thrown so much insight into the peculiar constitution of
the soils, derived from particular geological formations, and the individual
members of these formations, that all the well-informed and intelligent
part of the farming community, whose soils yet remain unexamined for
want of adequate time, is already calling loudly for an extension of the
same system of chemico-agricultural investigation over their portion of

the state.

Again the iron-master, for-want of a knowledge of the chemical con-
stitution of ores easily accessible and conveniently situated to his furnace,
has often been rejecting his richest and best ores, which, now that he has
become aware of their composition and productiveness, through the dis-
closures of the geological survey, he works with greater profit and advan-
tage than any of those ores previously employed.

Numerous instances have occurred in which deluded men, ignorant of
the nature of minerals, have expended their labor and means in mining
after ores, either comparatively of little value, or containing none of the
metal they confidently expected to extract from them, and have only been
persuaded to desist from their ruinous proceedings by the demonstrations
and counsel given them by the geologist.

The capitalist, miner and business man have had their attention called
to various parts of the state, and are either examining the various sections
of the state in person, or sending out their agents for the purpose of mak-
ing locations for future mining or manufacturing operations.

Moreover: it is incumbent on every state in the confederacy, to contri-
bute her utmost to prevent the enormous drain made on this country, at
the present time, for manufactured products imported into this country.
In the article of iron, alone, and that chiefly railroad iron, recent statistics
show that this country is importing upwards of 500,000 tons, at a cost of
over $3,000,000 annually. Such a drain on our moneyed resources— such
a serious balance of trade against us— should certainly be put an end to
as speedily as possible; and this is only to be accomplished by the imme-
diate increase in the manufacture of iron throughout the different states

of the Union.

It can be shown by the most reliable calculations, that iron can be pro-
duced in the western states, where facilities exist for its manufacture, by
the simultaneous occurrence of good iron ore and coal, suitable for its
reduction, convenient to navigation on our larger streams, not only as
cheaply as in England, but, in consequence of the duty on imported iron,
and the greater cost of carriage and commission, at a cheaper rate than


foreign iron can be delivered in this country, even at $15 to $20 less cost
per ton; and still leave the handsome profit of twenty-five percent, to the
manufacturer, notwithstanding the advantages which Great Britain pos-
sesses in her cheap labor and in her capital. If this is true — and any one
conversant with the business can satisfy himself of its correctness by
investigating the subject — is it not inevitable, not only that establishments
for the production of iron must rapidly spring up in the western country,
where, in a year or two, four-fifths of the great demand for iron will be,
and at those points that offer the greatest inducements in the required
mineral resources, but it is moreover true, that the businessman hardly be
overdone; since the increased production, for years to come, can hardly
keep even pace with the annually increased consumption in railroad iron.

So universally important is it to the interests of the United States, that
this branch of business should be cherished, that it has recently called
forth remarks from the executive.

The same is true, to a certain extent, in very many other branches of
metallurgy, and applies, indeed, more or less, to all manufactures.







In proceeding to record the geological observations of 1857, I shall
follow nearly my line of travel through the various counties from the
north-east corner of the state, towards the west, and give the results of
my observations under the heads of the different counties through which
the geological corps passed.


The so-called Chalk Bluffs form the extreme north-east boundary of
Crowley's ridge, where it abuts on the St. Francis river, a very short dis-

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Online LibraryGeological Survey of ArkansasFirst report of a geological reconnoissance of the northern counties of Arkansas, made during the years 1857 and 1858 → online text (page 1 of 22)