Samuel Washington McCallie.

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

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amined. These exposures usually occur on the gradually sloping hill-
side, close to the stream, or in the lime-sinks, near by. No high banks
or bluffs were seen, where a geological section could be made out.


One of the most extensive rock exposures, observed on the creek,
appears on W. D. Lane's property, lot 234, 27th district, four miles
north of Brinson. The exposure, here, extends over a number of
acres in the piney woods, near the creek, and consists of numerous
flint boulders, many weighing several tons, and all well filled with
fossil oysters, pectens, sea-urchins and small gastropods.


Similar outcroppings were also observed, on C. R. Ash's property,
one mile west of Brinson, and at a number of other points along
Spring creek, as far south as its junction with the Flint river. Speci-
mens of these rocks occasionally show traces of phosphate; but the
amount is too small to be of any economic value, as a fertilizer. Be-
sides this siliceous material, there also occurs, at a few places, lime-


stone, that has frequently been mistaken for phosphate. One of the
best exposures of the limestone appears in the woods, on the right
bank of Spring creek, just below the Savannah, Florida & Western
R. R. bridge, a few hundred yards west of Brinson. It is seen, here,
outcropping near the roadside, where it forms thin, compact layers,
which weather, with a comparatively smooth surface. Only a few
fragments of fossils were observed here; but a number of wells, sunk
in the neighborhood, show, that the upper beds of this limestone are
composed largely of comminuted shells.


Still further down the creek, near its mouth, while a well was being
dug, a short time ago, on property owned by J. L. Grayham, a soft,
light-colored, marly rock resembling certain varieties of phosphate,
was struck. Considerable local interest was manifested, at the time,
over the discovery; and the report became current, that a valuable de-
posit of phosphate had been located. An examination of the material
proved it to consist, almost entirely of carbonate of lime, with a slight
trace of phosphoric acid.

In the immediate vicinity of Grayham's property, on the bank of
Spring creek, is to be seen one of the most magnificent springs, prob-
ably the largest, in South Georgia. It compares favorably, in size
and the transparency of its waters, with the Silver Springs of Florida;
and it will well repay a visit, to any one, passing through this part
of the country. In some of its deepest parts, are exposures, of what
appear t-o Ke outcroppings of limestone; but they lie at such a great


depth below the surface of the water, that it was found impossible to
secure specimens for examination.


That portion of Decatur county, lying east of the Flint river, has a
more varied topography, than its western part. In the vicinity of
"Whigham, the surface becomes quite rolling and broken, many of the
hills reaching an elevation of nearly 300 feet above the sea-level.
The small streams in this locality are often rapid, and flow in deep
channels, cut in the clays and underlying limestone. The more level
areas, known as the piney woods, have their numerous lime-sinks and
slues, the abandoned beds of former streams, all exposing, to a greater
or less extent, the formations beneath the superficial clays and sands.


The Flint river, which traverses, in a southwestern direction, the
central portion of the county, exposes, at numerous points along its
course, high banks, where the different formations may be studied.
One of the most interesting of these exposures occurs on the right bank
of the river, about seven miles above Bainbridge, at what is known as
Eed Bluff. Just below this point, running parallel with the river, and
extending back from it, for some distance, is a terrace, fifteen or
twenty feet high. This natural embankment gradually approaches
the river, where it finally terminates, forming the upper part of the


bluff. At the base of the bluff, which, is, here, more than forty feet
high, and almost perpendicular, is to be seen, near the surface of the
water, a light brownish-colored limestone, whose weathered surfaces
exhibit many irregular cavities and angular projections, of fantastic

The limestone contains a considerable quantity of siliceous material,
frequently in the form of shell-casts. Fossil oysters, sea-urchins, or-
bitolites etc., are common; but they are usually imperfectly preserv-
ed, and difficult to remove from the calcareous matrix. Overlying
the limestone, are beds of reddish and grayish sands and clays. Some
of the lower beds are made up, mainly of coarse sand and water-worn
pebbles; but none of them contain either phosphate or marl.


Further down the river, especially south of Bainbridge, are num-
erous other bluffs, ranging in height from 10 to 30 feet. Many of
these have, outcropping at their base, huge masses of chert, made up
largely of the casts of fossils. Beneath the chert, and just above the
water's edge, was noticed, at a few points, a light-colored, compact,
partially crystalline limestone, that appears to be well suited for build-
ing purposes.

Between Bainbridge and the state-line, several smiall streams, enter-
ing the river, from the more elevated region to the east, have eroded
deep channels, that expose the different formations, to the depth of
many feet. The most interesting of these natural sections is the one,
formed by a stream, which takes its rise near Faceville, the most ele-
vated point in the county. In its course to the river, which does not


exceed three miles in total length, it has a fall of nearly one hundred
and fifty feet. Within this distance, are to be seen, at places, a
number of rapids, where the stream has cut a deep channel, only a few
feet wide, into the underlying limestone. At other points, the

Fig. i

Section through the Gorge along Faceville Branch, i. Sandy Clays. 2. Partially De-
composed Limestone. 3. Compact, Quick-bedded Limestone.

stream flows underground, giving rise to lime-sinks, by carrying away,
in solution, the overlying calcareous rocks. Near the source of the
stream, which is in the head of a deep hollow, within a few rods of the
Savannah, Florida & Western R. R., are numerous exposures of lime-
stone, both in the bed of the stream and along the adjacent hillside.
The limestone is compact and of a light color^ with many small cavi-
ties, filled with calcite. It contains numerous fossil shells, besides
fragments of bones in great abundance. The bones are usually small,
only a few being more than an inch and a half in diameter. Analyses
of specimens of the rock show an average of nearly 4 per cent, of cal-
cium phosphate. In the bed of the stream, near by, were found some
small pieces of a rock phosphate, which resembles very closely, in gen-
eral appearance, the laminated variety of phosphate, found in Flor-
ida. The original source of the rock phosphate, occurring here, could
not be definitely located. However, it seems quite likely, that it ap-
pears in the limestone, where it has been deposited, in thin layers.
Half a mile or more down the stream, the limestone becomes semi-
crystalline; and it has been quarried to a limited extent, for building


purposes. It contains, here, but few fossils. Still further down the
stream, near where it enters the river, is a section, where a calcareous
clay or marl, containing oyster shells, overlies the semi-crystalline lime-
stone. 1

About six miles southwest of Faceville, the same argillaceous, rot-
ten limestone, or marl, again appears in a lime-sink, located close to
the railroad, <a few hudred yards west of Kecovery station. It, here,
carries a small percentage of phosphoric acid; and it might be used,
with profit, as a fertilizer on sandy soils. Overlying these calcareous
deposits, are reddish- and orange-colored clays and sands, which
frequently show cross-bedding. Only a few fragments of fossils were
noticed here; and these were confined entirely to the calcareous beds.


At several places, along the small stream between Faceville and
Recovery, were observed exposures of limestone and flint. In some
of the mpre highly cultivated fields, near the river, boulders of these
rocks are so abundant, that they interfere with the cultivation of the
soil, and have to be heaped together in piles. Large pieces of silici-
fied coral, weighing 50 pounds or more, are often seen in these heaps,
besides fossil oysters, sea-urchins etc. A chemical test, made on
specimens, taken from several of these exposures, showed 'only a trace
of phosphoric acid. Nevertheless, many of the siliceous nodules re-
semble very closely, in appearance, certain types of hard-rock phos-

1 See Fig 1.



In going east from Recovery, no exposure of any importance was
seen, until the Freeman plantation, which is on Big Attapulgus creek,
was reached. This stream, which, in places, has considerable fall, has
carved out 'of the overlying sandy and clayey formations a wide val-
ley, that is now frequently covered with water, forming a swamp,
through which the stream meanders. On either side of these swamps,
the surface is often quite rolling; but it soon becomes comparatively
level, and forms the typical "piney woods." In making an excava-
tion for a mill-site, a few years ago, on the above plantation, a layer
of marl, containing fossil bones and casts of shells, was struck, near
the surface, and penetrated, to the depth of about eight feet. The
discovery, at the time, attracted some local interest, merely as a cu-
riosity, but it was soon forgotten. At the time of our visit, the stream
was swollen by the recent rains; and only a very imperfect examina-
tion was made of the deposit. However, a sufficient amount of it was
exposed to give a general idea of its character. It consists of a sandy
calcareous clay, or marl, of light color, containing fragments of bones
and many shell-casts. These bones, which were examined, were all
small, appearing to be the vertebrae of fishes. Besides these, there is
said to occur here, also, largo bones of mammals, probably remains of
the mastodon. Analysis of a specimen of the marl, taken from the
excavation, showed 6.80 per cent, of calcium phosphate. There ap-
pears to be no reason, why the farmers in the immediate vicinity,
might not use it with profit, on their growing crops, as a natural ma-
nure. Such a test could be easily made, with but little expense; and
it will evidently prove of great value to the adjacent country. At any


rate, the deposit seems to be of sufficient promise to warrant a thor-
ough, practical test of its fertilizing properties.


About seven miles southwest of Attapulgus post-office, near the
state-line, a similar deposit occurs on J. R. McCall's property. It is
exposed, here, along a small stream, at a number of places, where it
has frequently been mistaken for phosphate. Analysis shows, that it
contains a considerable amount of phosphoric acid, but not in sufficient
quantity, to be of value, in the manufacture of commercial fertilizers.
Certain layers of the deposits are compact, and form an impure lime-
stone; while others are comparatively soft, and can be easily excavated,
with the shovel or pick. Fossil shells are found in all the different
layers, being especially abundant in some of the softer beds. In dig-
ging a mill-race on the property, a few years ago, there is said to have
been discovered, near the surface, the remains of a large animal, whose
vertebrae measured several inches in diameter. The exact geological
position, occupied by these remains, could not be definitely deter-
mined. However, it is more than likely, that they were embedded in
the clays, overlying the marl-beds. There can be little doubt, but
that these calcareous deposits or marl-beds, which, probably, belong to
the Miocene formation, underly the greater part of the southern por-
tion of the county; and they are likely to be found, outcropping along
the numerous streams, that have removed, by erosion, the overlying
formations. Should the deposit prove to be of economic value as a
fertilizer, the supply, which is practically inexhaustible, may become
of very great importance to that part of the county, in restoring the
now exhausted lands to their original fertility.



In the southern portion of the county, in the vicinity of Whi^ham,
several days were spent, in examining the various localities, where
phosphate was reported to occur. Under the guidance of Hon. R. A.
Connell, who has done much, toward advertising the natural resources
of this part of the county, I visited many exposures and outcroppings
of the various formations, for several miles around. While my in-
vestigation, here, did not reveal what the more sanguine had expected;
nevertheless, it showed, that some of the reports, at least, of the oc-
currence of phosphate in that region, were founded on fact.

One of the most interesting natural exposures, in this part of the
county, is to be seen, at what is locally known as Forest Falls, seven
miles north of "Wliigham. There occurs, here a magnificent water-
fall, eighty feet in height, formed by a small stream flowing into a
lime-sink. A view of the falls, 1 from the side of the sink, forms a
picture of remarkable beauty. Especially is this true, at noonday,
when the falling column of water is lighted up, by the sun's rays, from
top to bottom, and the rainbow, with its many colors, is to be seen on
the rising mist. The attractiveness of the picture is strengthened,
by a background, formed by a primitive forest of pines, that has
given to the falls their appropriate name.

There is exposed, here, an excellent geological section, more than
ninety feet in thickness. The upper part of the section consists of sand
and motley-red clays, twenty feet thick, belonging to the Lafayette
formation. Beneath this, occur beds of limestone, which extend to the
bottom of the sink. The upper portion of the calcareous formation
consists of a bed of soft argillaceous limestone, of a grayish or green-

1 fee Plate III.



ish color. It contains fossil shells, and, also, a few fragments of bones,
some of which appear to be portions of ribs, which frequently meas-
ure more than an inch in diameter. These osseous remains always
run high in phosphoric acid; but the calcareous deposit itself usually
runs quite low. The remaining beds differ somewhat in their general
appearance and structure. Some are compact, weather slowly, and
form projecting shelves. Others are soft, of a porous nature, and
weather more rapidly. Nearly all the different beds contain a few fos-
sils, the most abundant being barnacles, spines of sea-urchins, and
casts of pectens. Almost the entire formation has a peculiar, concre-
tionary structure, due, apparently, to the natural -tendency of the cal-
careous material to collect about a center, during the time of its depo-
sition. It is questionable, whether any of these different beds contain
anything more, than a mere trace of phosphoric acid. Nevertheless,
the soft, upper layers might be used to an advantage, as a fertilizer, on
sandy soils, deficient in lime. The report of the occurrence, here, of
high-grade phosphate seems, to have originated, from the chemical
analysis of fragments, consisting largely of bone.

About four miles northwest of Forest Falls, in the 16th district, is
located, what is known, as the "Water Falls." It is formed, by a
small, evanescent stream falling, about thirty-five feet, into a circular
lime-sink, twenty feet in diameter. There extends back from the
falls, for more than a hundred yards, a narrow sinuous gorge, twenty-
five feet deep, through which the stream flows. Both sides of the
gorge are nearly vertical ; and they give a good exposure of the super-
ficial clays and sands, as well as a few feet of the upper bed of the un-
derlying calcareous formation. The sands and the clays have the
usual characteristics of the Lafayette formation, as seen elsewhere in
the county, while the calcareous beds differ slightly, from any hith-
erto described. The upper portion of the calcareous formation con-


sists of very soft, clayey limestone, in which occurs a layer of very
compact semi-crystalline limestone, well suited for building material.
The soft layers contain a small amount of phosphoric acid, and could
probably be used, with profit, as a fertilizer. Some of the beds are
fossiliferous. The most common fossils are pectens, sea-urchins, or-
bitolites and gasttrop ; ods. The last mentioned are frequently quite
large, measuring, sometimes, four or five inches in diameter. There
was, also, found in the gorge, projecting from the upper layers of the
rotten limestone, a piece of a rib of some animal, fifteen inches long
and one and a half inches in diameter. Analysis of the bone gave the
following results:

Sand and insoluble matter 0.50

Loss on ignition 10.00

A1 2 3 , Fe 2 3 0.26

CaO : 52.12

P 2 5 33.24

Undetermined 3.88

33.24, P 2 O 5 corresponds to 72.46, Ca 2 (POJ 2 .

It seems quite probable, that much of the phosphoric acid, found in
these calcareous deposits, has been derived from the osseous material,
which they contain.


About three quarters of a mile from the "Water Falls," on an ad-
joining farm, owned by Mr. F. A. Burrows, is another lime-sink,


known as the Blowing Cave. It is so named, on account of an alter-
nate current of air, passing in and out of an opening, in the bottom of
the sink. There are other lime-sinks on the property, all showing
practically the same formations, as those, which occur at the "Water
Falls. 7 ' Natural exposure of limestone are, also, to be seen on the
property. These outcroppings usually occur on hillsides, and consist
of a compact, more or less f ossilif erous limestone, which has been used,
to a limited extent, for building purposes. In the cultivated fields,
and along the roadsides, in the vicinity of the Blowing Cave, were
noticed many fragments of silicified corals, some of which weighed
several pounds.


Some eight or ten miles northwest of Whigham, in the 16th dis-
trict, are a number of interesting ponds, lakes and lime-sinks. The
most noted of these are the Rock and Camp ponds, Open View and
Black lakes, and the Sink of the Levels. All are surrounded, by out-
croppings of rocks, that have been mistaken for phosphate, from time
to time. These rocks were found to consist of chert or flint and lime-
stone. The former usually occurs as immense boulders; and in places
they are made up, largely, of the oasts of shells, the most common
being pectens and oysters. The chert has evidently originated from
the silicification of highly f ossiliferous limestone. It appears to form
no continuous bed; but, on the contrary, it is made up, of large, irreg-
ular masses, distributed promiscuously throughout the superficial
sands and clays. Many of the boulders, when freshly broken, resem-


ble, very closely, certain varieties of rock phosphate. Chemical tests,
however, show them to contain only a trace of phosphoric acid. The
limestone is usually quite fossiliferous, and frequently phosphoric.
The following section, made from a well, recently dug on Mr. A. Mc-
Chester's property, near Open Vine lake, gives a good idea of the
geological formations, in a descending order, occurring in this part of
the county:

Light-colored, Sandy Clays 10 feet

Motley-red Clays 12 "

Dark-blue Clays 10 "

Shelly Limestone, or Marl 3 "

Soft Limestone, with Sea-urchins 10 "

Hard, Compact Limestone , 8 *'

Both the shelly and the soft limestone contain phosphoric acid; and
they could doubtless be used, with profit, as a fertilizer.

A small hand specimen of hard-rock phosphate, secured from Mr.
J. H. Brown's property, lot 74, 16th (?) district, gave, upon chemical
analysis, the following results :

Sand and insoluble matter 8.16

Loss on ignition 3.31

A1 2 O 3 , Fe 2 O 3 1.98

CaO 48.79

P 2 O 3 35.19

Undetermined 2.57

Total 100.00

35.19, P 2 O 5 corresponds to 76.71, Ca 3 (POJ 2 ,

The occurrence of hard-rock phosphate on this property is quite
limited, and is not considered to be of any commercial importance.



About eight miles south, 'of Cairo, in the 19th district, on property,
belonging to Mr. Gr. "W. Ragan, occurs a peculiar sandstone formation,
observed at no other place in the county. It appears, here, as large
boulders and disconnected masses, covering an acre or more, in the
open piney woods. An attempt was made, a few years ago, to use it in
the manufacture of mill-stones; but it proved unsatisfactory, on ac-
count of its softness. It has since been used, to a limited extent, in
the neighborhood, in making foundations for houses, constructing
chimneys etc. Chemical analysis of hand specimens, chipped from
the boulders, shows a fraction over 2 per cent, of calcium phosphate.
The phosphatic material seems to form a part of the white-colored
cement, uniting the grains of sand.

In the extreme southwestern corner of the county, along the state-
line, are a number of exposures of marl-beds, that resemble, very
closely, those, found further west on the Freeman property. One of
the best exposures is to be seen on Ponto creek, just across the state-
line. The exposure, here, consists of a soft, marly limestone, several
feet in thickness. It contains many fossil oysters, pectens and frag-
ments of bones, all well preserved.



Much interest was manifested in this county, during 1889 and
1890, over the discovery, in the vicinity of Boston, of what was then
supposed, to be a valuable deposit of phosphate. The discovery was


first made by Mr. Dunwoody Jones of Atlanta, on Mr. T. S. Toy's
property, 3 miles west of Boston, near the Savannah, Florida & "West-
ern R. R. Shortly afterwards, a similar deposit was found on the
Eaton property, near by; and later, still, a like discovery was made on
L. C. Varnador's farm, 3J miles east of Thomasville. A company,
styled the Georgia Mining Company, was soon organized by Mr. Jones
and others, and mining operations were begun on the Toy property.
A phosphate plant, consisting of rock-crushers, driers, washers etc.,
was erected, and the necessary side-track was constructed, for the
shipment of phosphate. The work was carried on, irregularly, for
about two years, when it was finally shut down. During this time,
several large excavations were made on the property; but only one or
two car-loads of phosphate were shipped. The main cause, which led
to the abandonment of the work, seems to have been the limited quan-
tity of phosphate, together with the great thickness of the overburden,
that had to be removed by pick and shovel.

The works, on the Toy property, are situated on both sides of the
Thomasville & Boston road, a few hundred yards west of Aucilla
creek. The fields, where they occur, slope gradually towards the
creek; and, on either side of the road, they have been eroded into deep
gullies, exposing numerous irregular masses of flint, of various sizes.
The phosphate generally appears, in the form of nodules or concre-
tions, varying, from an inch or less to a foot or more, in diameter.
These nodules occur, scattered promiscuously throughout the motley-
reddish, sandy clays, which overlie 'an irregularly eroded surface of
limestone. Besides the nodules, or hard-rock phosphate, there also oc-
curs a limited quantity of soft phosphate, which resembles very closely
common chalk. The prevailing color of both varieties is white,
though they are often tinted, with yellow or green. A chemical <anal-


ysis, of what was supposed to be an average specimen of the hard-rock
variety, gave the following results :

Sand and insoluble matter 4.60

Loss on ignition 4.95

1 2 4 6 7

Online LibrarySamuel Washington McCallieA preliminary report on a part of the phosphates and marls of Georgia → online text (page 4 of 7)