Samuel Washington McCallie.

A preliminary report on a part of the phosphates and marls of Georgia online

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a massive granular or crystalline form; also as crystals, some of which
have been found, weighing several hundred pounds. The color of the
best varieties is usually some shade of green; but yellow and red, white
and black are also common.


In 1837, Prof. F. S. Holmes, then a young, enthusiastic student in
geology, became interested in the geological formations in the vicinity
of Charleston. By diligent work, and frequent excursions into the
surrounding country, he was able, in a very short time, to make quite
a collection of fossils and rock specimens, from a number of localities.
It appears to have been on one of these excursions, that his attention
was first directed to the numerous water-worn nodules scattered over
an old rice field, on the west bank of Ashley river, in St. Andrew's
parish, near Charleston. The nodules, supposed to be composed
mainly of lime carbonate, were found to contain many shell-casts and
fossil remains. These curiosities, for the time being, seemed to have
absorbed the entire attention of the collector; and no attempt was
made to ascertain their true chemical composition. Mr. Ruffin, who
was appointed to make an agricultural and geological survey of South
Carolina, at the suggestion of Prof. Holmes, visited, in 1844, the old
rice-fields, with a view of locating marl deposits. His report 001 the
outcropping of marl, on the river-bank, near by, was quite favorable ;
but the nodules were thought not to have sufficient lime, to be of any
value as a fertilizer. About the same time, while a pros-
pecting-pit was being put down, for marl, on an adjoining rice-field,.


a stratum of nodules, twelve inches in thickness, was struck, only a
short distance from the surface. This material was compared with
that, scattered over the surface of the field, and was found to be al-
most identical, which was supposed to be sufficient evidence, to con-
demn it, as worthless for agricultural purposes.

Prof. Tuomey, Mr. Ruffin's successor, published his complete geo-
logical report of South Carolina, in 1846; but it contains nothing of
inrptort'ance, concerning the Ashley river nodules. It is said that
Prof. Tuomey, during the survey, had some analyses made of nodules,
collected in the vicinity of Charleston, which ran as high as 16 per
cent, of calcium phosphate. These analyses, however, for some
reason, seem never to have been published in the official report. In
1867, Dr. N. A. Pratt, who has since become so well identified
with the phosphate industry of the United States, was handed
a specimen of a nodule by Dr. St. Julien Ravenel, from Goose
creek, with a request, that an analysis of it be made. It was
found to contain nearly 35 per cent, of calcium phosphate. This
result was unexpected; but, nevertheless, it was of unusual inter-
est to Dr. Pratt, as he had already contemplated the erection
of a plant at Charleston, for the manufacture of commercial fer-
tilizer; and, if this material could be found in large quantities, he
saw, at once, that it would greatly aid him in carrying out his plans.
A short time afterwards, Dr. Pratt called on Prof. Holmes, who was
well acquainted with the geological formations of the State, especially
in the vicinity of Charleston, and showed him a fragment of the nod-
ule, which he had secured from Dr. Ravenel. Prof. Holmes ex-
amined the specimen, and stated, that he was quite familiar with the
material, and had known of an extensive deposit of it on the Ashley
river, for a number of years. Specimens from this locality were se-
cured from Prof. Holmes's private collection, and being analyzed,


they showed about 60 per cent, of calcium phosphate. Two days
afterwards, Dr. Pratt visited the deposit, and was greatly delighted,
to find it more extensive, than he had anticipated. He at once real-
ized the value of the discovery, and immediately wont to work, assisted
by Prof. Holmes, to organize a company for the purpose of mining
and manufacturing the material into artificial fertilizer. But little
encouragement was given to this new enterprise, by the people of
Charleston; and it was generally looked upon, as a visionary scheme.
Fortunately, at this time, Dr. Ansted's book on practical geology
fell into the hands of the projectors of the so called visionary phosphate
scheme. The description of the Cambridgeshire phosphate deposits
of England, herein given, were found to correspond almost exactly
with the description of the Ashley river deposits. This was a strong
argument, in favor of the importance of the discovery; and it had its
influence on James T. Welsman of Charleston, who furnished Dr.
Pratt and Prof. Holmes with the necessary means to make a trip to
Philadelphia, for the purpose of organizing a company. Their trip
was quite successful, and resulted in the organization of the Charles-
ton, South Carolina, Mining and Manufacturing Company. The com-
pany, in a short time, began mining operations on the Ashley river;
and in 1868, the first shipment of phosphate was made, to Philadel-

Other companies were soon organized; and, in a comparatively
short time, the deposits of phosphate in the vicinity of Charleston
were pretty thoroughly explored; and the phosphate industry quickly
became one of the most important industries in the State.

The workable phosphate deposits of South -Carolina occur, in three
separate localities, which may be designated as the Charleston, Jack-
sonboro and Beaufort deposits. The Charleston deposit is located a
few miles northwest of the city, where it has been found to underlie


an area of about 200 square miles of lowland, drained by the Cooper
and Ashley rivers. It contains the most valuable land deposits, and
has been extensively worked. The Jacksonboro deposit occupies
both sides of Edisto river immediately west of Jacksonboro. It is
supposed to cover an area of nearly 100 square miles; but, owing to
the thinning out of the beds in some places, 'and the "thickness of the
overburden in others, only a small portion of the total area will prob-
ably pay for working. The Beaufort deposit occurs in the beds of
the streams, and underlying the islands and swamps, in the neigh-
borhood of Beaufort. It covers an area 'of about 75 square miles, and
is noted for its valuable river deposits.

The phosphate is found on the land, beneath a thin overbur-
den of clays and sands, where it forms a well-defined layer or
stratum, from a few inches to two feet in thickness. It also
occurs in streams, forming beds of variable thickness. The former,
called land phosphates, is composed of innumerable, irregular nodules,,
usually of a dark- or light-brown color, and varying in size, from a
mustard seed to pieces weighing several pounds. Associated with
these nodules, there also occur sharks' teeth and fragments of bones of
both living and extinct animals. The latter deposit, called river phos-
phate, has been derived from the land by washing, and differs from
the land phosphate only in being usually of a darker color and more
water-worn. Both varieties run from 50 to 70 per cent, of calcium
phosphate, and cost, on board of vessels, dried, and ready for ship-
ment, from $2.00 to $4.00 a ton. The market value varies greatly.
The first cargo sold in Philadelphia at $14.50 per ton; but, since then,
it has been known to sell, as low as $3.00 a ton.

The following table shows the total production of South Carolina
phosphate, from 1867 to 1893 inclusive:


Years Ending

Land Companies
(Long tons)

River Companies
(Long tons)


(Long tons)

May, 1867





I 2,262





<J , y J



O ' :? j w






























1 12,622






199,365 -

























Dec. 31, 1885'




I886 2




I887 2 '




I888 2




I889 2




i890 2


1 10,241


i89i 2




i892 2








1 From June ist to Dec. 3ist.

Calendar year.


The total output for 1893, 502,564 tons, was valued at $4,136,-
070, giving an average value of nearly $8.25 per ton. At present, a
large per cent, of the entire production is exported and sold, mainly
in the English and German markets.

The future of the phosphate industry of South Carolina, although
not now so encouraging, as it was, before the discovery of other ex-
tensive deposits in the United States, nevertheless, has been estab-
lished on a solid scientific and financial basis, and will evidently con-
tinue, for many years, to be one of the most important industries in
the State.


Capt. J. F. LeBaron of the United States Army, while employed,
in 1881, by the Government, in making a preliminary survey for a
canal, uniting the headwaters of the St. John's river and Charlotte
harbor, was attracted by the numerous water-worn pebbles and frag-
ments of bone, in the bed of Peace river. It is said, that a number of
barrels of the material were collected by him, and sent to the Smith-
sonian Institution, where it was examined, under the direction of Prof.
Baird, who became much interested in the collection, and at once
made efforts to have a complete geological survey made of the river
.and the adjacent country. His plans, however, for some reason, were
never earned out. The importance of the discovery seemed to have
been fully realized by Capt. Le Baron; but, having been called away
OK other duties, he was unable to make further investigation.

Returning in 1886, after an absence of five years, he made a more
ex tensive examination of the river-bed, and reported the result of his


investigations to a party of northern capitalists, whom he wished ta-
in terest in the deposits. His plans for purchasing a large tract on the-
Peace river, for the purpose of mining phosphate, did not meet the-
approval of the capitalists, and his project was finally abandoned.
About this time, Col. G. "W. Scott, of Atlanta, who was interested in
the manufacture of commercial fertilizers, hearing of these phosphate-
beds, at once had the deposits investigated; and, as a result, he pur-
chased a large area of land along the Peace river. Shortly after this,
Mr. T. S. Morehead, of Pennsylvania, made a similar purchase on the
river, in the vicinity of Arcadia, and began mining-operations, during
the following spring. In .May, 1888, the first shipment of Florida
phosphate was made from these works, consigned to the G-. W. Scott
Manufacturing Company, of Atlanta, Ga. Other shipments soon fol-
lowed; new companies were quickly organized; mining machinery
was purchased; and, in a comparatively short time, Peace river be-
came the seat of very active mining operations.

About the first of May, 1888, Mr. Albertus Yoght, while having a
well put down at Dunnellon, in Marion county, discovered a peculiar
rock, which he submitted to Dr. R. R. Snowden, of Ocala, for exami-
nation. A chemical analysis of the specimen showed, that it con-
tained over 76 per cent, calcium phosphate. This led to further ex-
amination of the rocks, in the vicinity of Dunnellon, resulting in the
discovery of an extensive deposit of phosphate. Prospecting now be-
came general, and almost the entire western coast of Florida, from
Tallahassee to Charlotte harbor, was soon found to have rich beds of

The Florida phosphates occur in the form of pebbles and
water-worn grains, or as hard or soft rock. The former are found in
the beds of streams; also on land, where they form beds, from a few
inches to a number of feet in thickness. They are of a light-gray or
very dark color, and vary in size, up to three inches in diameter. As-


sociated with them, are numerous bones of the elephant, the mastodon,
the shark, the alligator etc., all united by a sandy or clay matrix into
a more or less compact stratum. The land pebbles have nearly always
an overburden of sand or clay, of various thicknesses, the removal
of which, frequently adds greatly to the cost of mining, and is one of
the most important points, to take into consideration, in estimating the
value of a deposit. The pebble-phosphates are confined principally
to Polk, De Soto, Hillsborough and Manatee counties, where they are
known to underlie a large tract of country; but only a small part of
the total area can probably be worked with profit, on account of the
thickness of the bed, and the great depth of the overburden. The
percentage of calcium phosphate is always high, usually running from
GO to 80 per cent.

The hard :and soft rock-phosphates, which differ from each other,
principally in their physical conditions, are frequently found as-
sociated together, in the same deposit, and have evidently had
a common origin. They appear to reach their greatest devel-
opment in the neighborhood of Dunnellon, although valuable
deposits, which are now being extensively worked, occur in the coun-
ties, both north and south of this point. The physical structure of
the hard rock-phosphate is variable. It may be either laminated,
concretionary, or compact; and it frequently resembles, very closely,
limestone, or some of the varieties of flint, which are associated with
it. The prevailing color is white or light-gray; but a close approxi-
mation to black, and other colors, besides white and light-gray, are to
be seen. It occurs in pockets or beds, of limited extent, either as small
nodules or large bowlders, embedded in a clay or sandy matrix. These
deposits sometimes extend to the depth of 50 to 60 feet, where they
come in contact with 'the eroded surface of the Eocene limestone,
which underlies much, if not all, of the phosphate region.



The age, to which the phosphates themselves belong, has not yet
been fully decided. However, it probably belongs to the early
Miocene, or late Eocene.

The hard and soft rock-phosphates run from 60 to 80 per cent,
of calcium phosphate, and cost on board of cars, ready for shipment,
from $2.00 to $4.00 per ton. The total area, covered by these de-
posits, is known to aggregate, at present, several hundred square miles,
which is gradually being increased, from year to year, by new dis-

The following table shows the amount and value of the production
of Florida phosphates, for 1893 and 1894:





(Long tons)


(Long tons)


Hard rock .


$1,1 1 7,732


$ 079,383

Soft rock

i 3 6? z

64 626

Land pebble ....
River pebble ....

x j>^/ j





Total .






The Tennessee phosphate is a comparatively recent discovery.
However, sufficient is already known about it, to demonstrate, that

Since this report was written, Dr. C. W- Hayes, of the U. S. Geological Survey, has published
a valuable paper on the Tennessee Phosphates. See Sixteenth Annual Report of the Director of
the U. S. Geological Survey, Part IV., p. 610.


it is one of the most important deposits known. It reaches its greatest
development in Hickman and Lewis counties, where it forms two
well-defined beds, 'one above, and the other below, the Devonian
Black Shale. The upper layer is formed of a layer of kidney-shaped
concretions of phosphate, usually too thin to be worked with profit,
while the lower consists of a compact dark-colored oolitic and fossilif-
erous layer of high-grade phosphate, from 1 to 4 feet in thickness. In
places, the intervening Black Shale is said to thin out, so that the two
beds can be worked together. Dr. J. M. Safford, State Geologist of
Tennessee, who has examined the deposit with considerable care, and
who is thoroughly conversant with the Geology of the State, esti-
mates the amount of workable phosphate in Hickman and Lewis coun-
ties, at 123,000,000 tons. Several companies are, at present, in active
operation, with a daily output of about 300 tons, which runs from 50
to 70 per cent, of calcium phosphate.

The phosphate industry of Tennessee seems, at present, to have a
very bright future; and it is thought to be only a question of time,
when these phosphates will control the entire interior trade.



Deposits of calcium phosphate are found in all the geological forma-
tions, from the earliest to the most recent. They exist in the form of
the mineral, apatite, filling veins and fissures, in the old crystalline
rocks, which are, probably, much altered portions of the original mol-
ten crust of the earth; they are, also, found in the salt marshes along
our seacoast, where they are, at present, being deposited. Deposits,
which have thus been accumulating, for long ages, must have been
brought about, at various times, by the action of different agencies;
and, as a consequence, no one theory, alone, can satisfactorily explain
the origin of all these deposits. In the earliest geological times, while
the earth's crust was still in a highly heated condition, and the ele-
ments were arranging themselves into various chemical combinations,
calcium phosphate, mainly in the form of apatite, seems to have
crystallized out of the molten magma, or to have condensed from the
cooling phosphatic vapors. This is, at least, a probable explanation of
the origin of the mineral apatite, found in crystalline form, sparingly
scattered through the primitive granites, mica-schists, gneisses, horn-
b]ende rocks etc. From these crystalline forms, which have, since,
undergone many modifications, brought about by chemical, physical
and organic agencies, have originated the extensive beds and deposits
of phosphate, that are now known to occur, in the various geological

The Canadian phosphates are considered, by the late Dr. T. Sterry
Hunt, to be segregations, which have been collected from the sur-



rounding rocks by means of hot water, and deposited in fissures, in
the same manner as quartz and other vein-forming minerals. This
theory is supported by the occurrence of apatite crystals, with rounded
angles, drusy cavities in the veins, and masses of calcite within apatite
crystals. Sir William Dawson supposed, that they were of animal
origin; and he points out the great abundance of graphite, iron ore
and the remains of the Eozoon Canadense, found in the associated
rocks, as an argument in favor of his belief.

Still others are of the opinion, that apatite is of igneous orign, and
has been brought to the surface, by volcanic action. Prof. A. R. C,
<Selwyn, formerly Director of the Geological Survey of Canada, holds
this view, and thinks, that they had a similar origin to that of the
j^orwegian apatite, which has been investigated by Brogger and
Reusch. These latter deposits have a banded structure, the outside
material of the veins being fine-grained, while the inside is coarse-
grained. This peculiar structure of the vein is accounted for, by sup-
posing, that the material w ; as injected into open fissures in a molten
condition, where the difference in the rate of cooling, of the outer and
inner portions of the mass, produced the above effect. It has, fur-
thermore, been suggested by some, that heated phosphatic gases, es-
caping from the earth's interior, have been condensed, in open fis-
sures, where they gave rise to apatite veins. The deposits of phos-
phorite, in the Triassic limestone of Southwestern France, are thus
accounted for, by Combes. These different, theories are all based, on
well established, scientific fact; and they appear to explain the origin
of many, if not of 'all, of the deposits of mineral phosphate, or apatite,
found in the older geological formations.

The more recent phosphate deposits, however, seem to have a some-
what different origin. They have evidently been derived from the
-older deposits of phosphatic material, in the ancient crystalline rocks,


by a long continued process. The conditions 'and the manner, under
which these changes are supposed to have teen brought about, have
given rise to a number of interesting theories, as to their origin.

One of the first 'attempts, to speculate on the origin of rock-phos-
phate, was made, before they became of commercial value, and when
but little was known of their true nature. The theory thus advanced,,
which asserted that all phosphatic nodules are coprolites or the fossil-
ized excrements of animals, seems to have been based on <an imperfect
examination of the nodules of the Greensands of England. It was sup-
posed, by the advocates of this theory, that, during the deposition of
the English Greensand, the sea was teeming with innumerable fishes
and reptiles, the excrements of which gave rise to extensive beds of
phosphatic material. The theory, first applied, as an explanation of
the origin of the so-called Cambridge Coprolite deposits, was after-
wards thought to account, also, for similar deposits, in both Europe
and America. Recent investigation, however, into the structure and
composition of the nodules, has revealed the fact, that comparatively
few of them can be referred to coprolitic origin.

Prof. F. S. Holmes, who has made a study of the South Carolina
phosphates, came to the conclusion, that these deposits are all, either
directly or indirectly, of animal origin. He thinks, that the phos-
phatie nodules were formerly fragments of limestone from the Eocene
marl-beds, rounded by the 'action of the waves. These limestone nod-
ules, with the remains of sharks and other -animals, were then sup-
posed, by him, to be swept, by the action of currents and waves, into
depressions along the margin of the shallow sea, where they were
finally covered by a thin layer of mud or sand. The elevation of the
coast then followed, and the hollows, in which the nodules were laid
down, became lakes or lagoons of salt water. In process of time, the
water was gradually evaporated, leaving deposits of salt, which at-


tracted, from the surrounding country, groat numbers of animals,
whose fecal deposits and decaying carcasses added quantities of phos-
phatic material to the sands and clays, overlying the bed of limestone
nodules. The phosphate of these organic remains was now leached
out, by the action of rain-water, and carried below, where it replaced
the lime carbonate of the nodules. Such, in brief, is a condensed
statement of a rather ingenious theory, the weak point of which lies
in an insufficient proof of the existence of the great numbers of land
animals, that it supposed inhabited the marsh swamps, in the vicinity
of Charleston, during tihe Post-Pliocene age.

Dr. "N. A. Pratt, formerly chemist of the Geological Survey of
Georgia, holds a somewhat similar view. He is, however, of the
opinion, that the material was originally deposited fax inland, and that
it was afterwards, brought to its present position, by action of the
rivers, flowing from the more elevated region, lying to the west, He
contends, that both the chemical 'Composition and the physical ap-
pearance, as shown by the microscope, reveal the original organic
structure of the nodules. The writer's observation of the structure
of the nodules also confirms the above opinion, ias to their organic
structure; yet, it does not necessarily follow, that they have always
retained the same mineralogical composition. On the contrary, the
evidences seem to be almost conclusive, that a greater part of the ma-
terial was formerly deposited, as lime carbonate, which, afterwards,

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Online LibrarySamuel Washington McCallieA preliminary report on a part of the phosphates and marls of Georgia → online text (page 2 of 7)