Geological Survey of Ohio.

Preliminary report upon petroleum and inflamable gas online

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The larger part of the Niagara series belongs to the next
division, viz : the Guelph or Cedarville division, an interesting and
valuable formation on many accounts. It is a wonderfully pure
dolomitic or magnesian limestone over large areas, furnishing the
best limes of this group that are possible. It is a great storehouse
of most interesting fossils, almost all of which occur as internal
casts. It has a maximum thickness in outcrop of 150 to 200 feet.
It occupies all of the surface of northern Ohio that is assigned to
the Niagara. It is generally light-colored, drab or cream in tint, but
IS sometimes blue.

A mass of clean, sharp sand, thirty feet in thickness, that

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occurs in the Niagara series in southern Ohio, is known as the
Hillsboro sandstone, and does not need further description here.

At some points in the State the Niagara is highly bituminous,
the asphaltic matter being distributed throughout the substance of
the limestone.


This is an element of small value at most in the Ohio scale.
There is a question whether any distinct boundaries can be assigned
to beds of this age. The last named group may have been formed
in part in the Salina epoch.


The great sheet of thin and even-bedded light brown or drab,
or sometimes blue magnesian limestones, poor in fossils, but rich
in bituminous compounds as petroleum and asphalt, that is found
directly overlying the Niagara series, and that constitutes the sur-
face rock for not less than 4,000 square miles of the State, is known
in geology by the ill-chosen and misleading designation, the water-
lime. Part of the series, no doubt, belongs to the lower Helder-
berg, which by some geologists is made distinct from the waterlime,
and by some is made to include it. This formation is seen in its
best development at Greenfield, Highland county, but at Put-in-
Bay, at Lima, at Bluffton, at Carey, at Urbana, and at scores of
other points, important sections of it are found. It has a maxi-
mum thickness of 300 feet, as is shown by the record of the new
Columbus well. In sections along its outcrop it ranges from 20 to
100 feet, but the maximum is much nearer the average than the
last named figures.

The Niagara limestone and the waterlime together occupy a
large area in northern Ohio, but it is misleading to represent their
areas by distinct colors or other symbols on a map. They are
sometimes, as at Genoa, both worked in adjoining quarries. The
same farm frequently contains several patches of waterlime in a thin
cover over the Niagara, and thus throughout the district. More than
this, in these drift-covered regions, it is impossible to give a valid
judgment as to which rock will be found, in many instances. The
separation of them when worked in quarries is very easily and defi-
nitely made. The bedding, the color, the bituminous products

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and the fossils are distinguishing marks. In composition they are
often identical.


This is an uncertain element in the Ohio scale. A bed or beds
of sharp, pure sand, intercalated in the Corniferous limestones,
have been designated the Oriskany. There are comparatively few
points where this sandstone occurs. Its place in the scale is cer-
tainly open to question.


This is the last of the great series of limestone formations of
which the western half of the State is composed. It has two main
areas, a belt leading down from Kelly's Island to Pickaway county,
and another belt extending across Paulding, Henry and Lucas
counties, in north-western Ohio. A third area occurs in Logan
county, underlying the highest land of the State.

In composition it ranges from 65 per cent, of carbonate of lime
to 95 per cent. The carbonate of magnesia ranges from nothing
to 35 per cent. It is, on the whole, the purest carbonate of lime
that we find on the large scale in the State. It contains many flint
nodules, distributed often in regular courses through the rock.
The thickest section of it reported in Ohio is 164 feet, at Sylvania,
Lucas county. It seems, under cover, to hold about the same
measure, but an anomalous section from the Cleveland well may
require this measure to be nearly doubled. In its southern out-
crops it is not found more than 100 feet thick.

It is generally light colored, often nearly white. It is even
in its bedding and sometimes massive, and yields valuable building
stone and lime of high character. Like the waterlime, it carries a
small amount of free petroleum, as is shown by the odor of fresh

The fossils of the formatian are exceedingly interesting and


This is a formation of rather uncertain character, and quite
local in its development. But few feet would be assigned to it in
any series. It is generally blue, somewhat calcareous shale, in

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some places highly fossiliferous, and at other points almost or en-
tirely destitute of fossils. It is probably the Olentangy shale of


The great shale formation that we next reach in ascending the
geological column of Ohio, is of universal importance in connec-
tion with the subjects of petroleum and natural gas. It is un-
doubtedly the ultimate source of the supply of these substances
for almost all of eastern Ohio and Pennsylvania, and New York as
well. The direct source is found in the sandstones that cover or
are imbec'ded in this shale formation.

This formation consists of black shales and blue or gray shales,
interstratified without any definite order. There are patches of
black shale, for example, found at one locality, that do not occur
in another section. Some of the bands are quite persistent, it is
true, but no section can be furnished tliat will give even an approxi-
mation to the order that will be revealed in a new locality in the
central part of the field. The old order that was laid down, of
black shales at the top of the column (Cleveland), blue shales in
the middle (Erie), and black shales again at the bottom of the series
(Huron), is not close enough to the facts as they are now known
to be of any service. It is misleading rather than helpful. There
are points where just such a section is found, but there is a vastly
greater number of localities where no such order prevails. Near
the bottom of the shales, black beds, however, always occur.
Greenish-blue shales are always found interbedded with darker
seams in the middle of the section. On the western outcrop the
top and bottom as well are always black. In fact, there is very
little but black shale in the section here. Sometimes, however,
there is a great uniformity for hundreds of feet.

The thickness of the series depends upon where it is measured.
At one point in Highland county, the entire interval between the
waterlime and the Berea grit is but 250 feet. Along the western
margin or outcrop of the main formation, there are generally 300
feet or more. In the interior, on certain lines, there is a very rapid
increase. At Cleveland the system is about 1,300 feet thick. At
Canal Dover the drill went down through 1,800 feet without ex-
hausting the series.

There are but few sandy seams scattered through this great

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series in Ohio. It is fairly homogeneous in character aside from
the organic matter which it contains. It is in this formation to the
eastward that the great oil sands of Pennsylvania and New York
are buried, but these are wanting for the most part in Ohio. In
the extreme southern border of the State, one or more small beds
have been recently found that, perhaps, belong at the same general
level with the Venango oil sands.

The darkest portions of the series are quite rich in bituminous
products as petroleum and gas, and also in organic matter. The
latter sometimes rises to ten per cent, of the rock. It can be ex-
pelled by burning the shales, or it can be distilled into kerosene
and gas. The petroleum that exists as such in the rock is in com-
paratively small amount, but its aggregate is large. In some of
these black beds more than one-fifth of one per cent, has recently
been found of heavy oil. The bituminous compounds are not,
however, confined to the black bands of shale. The lighter bands
often contain a notable proportion.

Along the outcrops of the formation from Pennsylvania,
through Ohio and Kentucky into Tennessee, gas and oil are con-
stantly escaping. Wells drilled into the shale almost always secure
at least a small flow of gas, at least where there are several
hundred feet of shale.


This important group occupies about 7,000 miles of the surface
of the State. It is more complex in structure than any of the
series that have thus far been passed in review. In it the first per-
sistent sandstones of the Ohio scale occur. These sandstones are
of great account in the accumulation of oil and gas, which ascend
into them from the shale formation which they cover. The
Waverly series embrace the following elements, which were mainly
first distinctly recognized and named by Newberry:
/ Shale.

Logan Series. / Sandstone.

Cuyahoga shale.
Berea shale.
Berea grit.
Bedford shale.

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In eastern Ohio the section is shortest, the entire thickness
being sometimes reduced to 300 feet. In central Ohio, a maxi-
mum of 800 feet is attained.

The elements are, on the whole, wonderfully persistent and
uniform in character. Not even the limestones of our scale can be
followed as far with so little change of mineral constitution as the
shales and sandstones of the Waverly.

The Bedford shale is an excellent mark by reason of the red
color which it very often shows. Where not red shale, it is blue
or light-colored, and along its outcrops where it rests upon the
dark beds of the Ohio shale, the contrast is well marked. It is 50
to 75 feet in thickness. In northern Ohio, it holds locally some
beds of excellent flagging and building stone.

The Berea grit which we next reach, is one of the best known
and most valuable strata of the State. In its outcrops, it furnishes
our best building stones and grindstones. Under cover, it
becomes a reservoir of gas and oil on the large scale.

It ranges from 5 to 100 feet in thickness, but it seldom passes
the limit of 50 feet, while it falls below 20 feet for thousands of
square miles. The drill is revealing its persistency and continuity
to a surprising degree.

Its outcrop constitutes one of the best marked horizons of the
State. Being the first persistent sandstone in our scale, and being
roofed and underlain alike with shale, it stands out with terrace-
like distinctness through much of its western border.

The Berea shale which covers it is a mass of dark, generally
black shale, 20 to 40 feet in thickness, rich in petroleum and
organic matter, and abounding also in fossils of great intere.^,t.
Fish remains of unusual character occur in it abundantly in places.

The black Berea shale, making the roof of the Berea grit,
helps to mark and determine its place. Taken in conjunction
with the underlying Bedford, it forms a series of unique character.
A sandstone, the first to be found in ascertding, the last to be left
in descending the column of the State, this sandstone under cover
always a reservoir of salt water, oil and gas, one or all, with a per-
sistent coal-black roof, and underlain with a red or chocolate-
colored band for its floor, all this gives to the horizon a picturesque

One other surprising element must be added, whether to the


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Berea grit or to the Berea shale, may be a matter of question.
The last named element seems to have the best claim. In the
quarries at Berea, at the bottom of the highly fossiliferous Berea
shale and thus immediately overlying the quarry stone, a hard,
sulphurous layer occurs, black in color but sandy in composition.
It is, however, rich in fossils, containing some fish remains of
great size and of new types. This last fact, its fossiliferous charac-
ter, namely, allies it to the Berea shale rather than to the Berea
grit. This crust is but a few inches in thickness, and might well
be taken, by one who should study it at Berea, only as an alto-
gether local exhibition. But surprising as it may seem, it is co-
extensive with the Berea grit. The driller at Macksburg, or in
the Ohio valley is as familiar with this hard "cap," as is the
quarryman or collector of fossils at Berea. Immediately below
the cap in the oil-producing field, the great supplies of stored gas
and oil are found.

The Cuyahoga shale that follows, makes the cover of the oil
sand in the large way. It is a light colored, close-grained, com-
pact shale, quite impervious to water, and thus seals in the con-
tents of the sandstone securely. It is 200 to 500 feet in thickness.
It carries frequent layers of sandstone or freestone, some of which
are of great value as building stones. The famous City Ledge, of
Adams and Scioto counties, belongs near the base of the Cuyahoga.
The Portsmouth stone and the Waverly brown stone are some-
what higher in the series. The Warren flaggings, of Trumbull
county, belong also near the base of the Cuyahoga.

The Logan series is the most anomalous and perplexing of all
the divisions of the Waverly, by reason of its inconstancy. It was
omitted from the earlier sections, but it proves to be one of the
most conspicuous and important parts of the series. The most
noticeable element of the Logan group is the Waverly conglom-
erate, a mass of sandstone and pebble rock, with difficulty, if at all,
to be distinguished by physical characters from the coal measure
conglomerate. In fact, in all of the earliest reports on Ohio
geology, it was unhesitatingly taken for the last named stratum.

It has a maximum thickness of 200 feet, and holds steadily
under cover as a great sand rock, generally full of salt water and
therefore known in many oil fields as the salt water sand. It
sometimes contains high-pressure oil and gas.

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It is often overlain by a heavy mass of shales loo to 200 feet
in thickness, which are charged with Waverly fossils. At other
points it comes very close to the base of the coal measure rocks
and could easily be counted in with them.


'This is not an important element in Ohio geology so far as its
outcrops are concerned. These are few and far between. They
occur in Scioto county sparingly, in connection with the flint fire-
clay deposits, in Jackson county as the Hamilton township lime-
stone, in Perry county as the Maxville limestone, and in Muskin-
gum county as the Newtonville limestone. But the formation is
acquiring new importance under cover. Drillings at many points
in the Ohio valley show it to have a thickness of 50 or 60 feet, and
by its occurrence it helps to determine the order of the strata that
are penetrated.


The base of the coal measures is marked by a great accumu-
lation of coarse sand rock and pebble rock at many points. There
are three widespread and fairly persistent conglomerate strata,
known as the Sharon conglomerate, the Massillon sandstone, and
the Homewood sandstone. In the intervals between these heavy
ledges, coal seams, coal measure limestones and thin seams of iron
ore sometimes lie embedded. In Ohio, this series of coals has
considerable importance, but elsewhere the great sandstones for
the most part monopolize the scale and are there known by a single
name, viz: the conglomerate. In Ohio, also, two or more of
these strata are often welded together into one mass. The inter-
val between this conglomerate and the Waverly conglomerate is
uncertain, except where the last described element, viz: subcar-
boniferous limestone, is interposed, but generally a mass of shales
of greater or less thickness occupies the space. Sometimes,
however, the two masses are probably found so close together
that they are taken by the driller for one.

Shales occuc throughout the coal measures in such amount that
they furnish suitable cover to most of the great sandstones, making
them petroleum reservoirs when other conditions are favorable.

The conglomerate sandstones above named, one or more,

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frequently become sources of salt water, oil and gas, though no
large stocks of the latter substances are derived from this horizon
in Ohio.


The strata of this series have an average thickness of about 500
feet, and include several considerable sandstones, the most prom-
inent of which are the Freeport, lower and upper, and the Kittan-
ning. The Upper Freeport sandstone is thought to become
petroliferous at a few points, as in the Macksburg field, but the
determination is not certain.


In this series, two very important sandstones occur, viz: the
Upper and Lower Mahoning. The Upper is called by the Penn-
sylvania geologists the Buffalo sandstone. It has a conspicuous
place in the Ohio coal measure scale, lying, as it does, between
the two main landmarks and guides of the barren measures. Viz :
the Cambridge and the Ames limestones. The upper of these
sandstones is the source of the shallow oil of Morgan and Athens
counties. It is also found productive in Washington county, in
the Cow Run field and elsewhere.


These groups require no description at this point. They occupy
comparatively small areas in south-eastern Ohio. They have a
combined thickness of about 500 feet, but they are not known to
furnish any important stocks of oil or gas.



The drift beds of Ohio cover three-fourths of its surface with
deposits that rise as high as 445 feet in thickness, in exceptional
instances. This extraordinary measure has recently been attained
in the drilling for gas at St. Paris. Champaign county. These
drift-deposits are uncertain in composition, from point to point,
and nothing approximating a general section can be given. The
fact that beds of a certain character were found at one locality
gives no warrant for expecting a like series at another, a half mile
away. These drift beds are a great Source of risk and often of loss

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to the contrjsLCtor. He may be obliged to spend weeks or months
in getting through 50 or 100 feet of quicksand or bowlder clay.
Sometimes a bowlder is struck when 100 or 200 feet of drive pipe
are already in the well and the work may then be necessarily aban-
doned. It is the part of common prudence in sinking a trial well,
for both the company and the contractor to locate as near to out-
cropping rock as possible. The sooner the drill has passed the
danger of quicksand and bowlders, the better.

The geological scale of the State has now been briefly
reviewed. With the aid of the geological map appended, the
distribution and areas of these several formations (the separate
divisions 6f the coal measures excepted), can be made out. No
attempt is made* in this map to distinguish the waterlime from the
Niagara and Clinton limestones. The latter is found only on the
southern margin of the Upper Silurian. In northern Ohio, it' is
impossible to indicate with any approach to accuracy the relative
areas of the waterlime and Niagara' limestone, as has been already



A few words are needed at this point upon the structure of
the State. Under this head is included an account of the dip of
the strata, of all axes, arches, folds or anticlinals that occur in its
rock formations, and also of all faults or interruptions in continuity
of its various elements.


The dominant feature in the earlier history of Ohio is a low
fold, so-called, that entered the State in its south-western corner,
from Kentucky, and that gradually advanced across it to Lake
Erie and the Michigan border.

It'fs carHcd an axis or anticlinal, but there is nothing in it that
answers to the common idea of such a structure. It is not a sharp
ridge, or in fact any kind of a ridge, but as far as can now be seen,
it consists of a flat tract, 30 or more miles in breadth, with very
little dip, if any, in an east and west direction, but descending to

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the northward at the rate of 3 to 5 feet to the mile, with great
steadiness and uniformity. When it tomes within 20 or 30 miles
of Lake Erie, it makes a sharper descent, falling at the rate of 15
or 20 feet to the mile, for that distance. On the eastern side of
this tract or axis, the strata begin a uniform descent at the rate of
15 to 25 feet to the mile, in a direction always south of east. The
usual direction lies between S. 60 E., and S. 75 E. This rate and
this direction hold far within the coal field, giving way to a more
southerly direction and being sometimes transformed into a simple
southward dip in north-eastern Ohio.

The limit of the western slope has not been traced throughout.
Probably there is no definite and continuous boundary, but within
the area of the original uplift, there are many inequalities in the
level of the Trenton Limestone. A line of sharp descent to the
westward passes through the town of Findlay, and is connected
with the great production of gas at that point. Another such line
passes through Putnam and Wood counties, but on the other hand,
the surface of the Trenton limestone is approximately at the same
level at Van Wert, Lima and Upper Sandusky — or along an east
and west line 60 to 70 miles in length. Facts are rapidly accumu-
lating which will give a sufficient basis for generalization upon this

There seems no reason to believe, at the present time, that
there is within this entire area any facts of structure corresponding
to the general idea of an axis, viz: a tract of narrow breadth, a
mile or two at most, extending for many miles or scores of miles,
with rapid descents on either side.

It appears that the elevated tract now under consideration
received its present structural features at an early day. The Tren-
ton limestone must have been affected by the movements which
have disposed it in its present conditions before the great mass of
soft rocks by which it is now covered, were deposited upon it.
At all events, there is a smaller measure for these shales by 200
feet in the central region, than there is immediately to the east-
ward. In other words, there is an arch in the underlying Trenton,
revealed by the drillers, of which no hint whatever could be ob-
tained by the surface exposures.

It is only on these elevated portions of the Trenton limestone
that oil and gas have so far been found. In Findlay (upper level),

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and in Bowling Green, its upper surface has been found to be 300
to 400 feet below sea level. In the lower level at Findlay, it falls
as low as 480 feet below sea level. At Lima it is about 400 feet
below. At Carey, where small gas wells have been struck in the
Trenton, its surface is 510 feet below sea level. Nothing of real
value has thus far been found in it where the top of the Trenton
descends below these figures. Of course, good wells may be
found at any time, which will overthrow the value of this deduc-
tion, but to the present date all the facts brought in have con-
firmed it.


In eastern Ohio there are a few low anticlinals that traverse
the rocks, affecting them equally from the top to the bottom of
the scale. Some of them come in from western Pennsylvania, and
gradually die out here. Others originate in Ohio and run their
whole course, never a long or marked one, in the State.

East Liverpool and its neighborhood are traversed by one of
these folds. Steubenville and the region below it on the river also
show similar disturbance. In both cases the disturbance is slight
and ineffectual as a means of accumulating gas or oil on the large
scale. The fatal salt water dropsy attacks and destroys the wells
that are drilled here. There is a slight fold near Salisbury, on

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