« PreviousContinue »
the only good building material for thirty to fifty miles north, south, and west, and from ten to twenty miles east, of the place. The rusty, rather soft
, friable sandstones of the Dakota group are used, to some extent, for dwelling-houses. It presents an exceedingly sombre and unpleasant appearance to the eye, and possesses no elements of durability. It can be relied on only in the absence of other building material. About twelve miles below these quarries, near the salt basins, Lincoln, the capital of the State, is located. Pretty good water is obtained here by digging, but there is a liability even then to strike brackish water, on account of the proximity to the salt lands.
From a point five miles above Lincoln to a point five miles above the mouth of Salt creek, there is a scant supply of building material, of timber, and of fresh water; so that it can be seen at a glance that this valley is not as desirable as many other portions of the State.
Near Miss Warner's, about ten miles above Lincoln, a well was dug on the high hills, bordering the valley, to the depth of sixty feet, without striking rock. At Yankee Hill, two miles above Lincoln, a well was dug sixty-six feet, without reaching the basis rocks.
These facts show the great thickness of the superficial alluvial deposits of this region, and also the skeleton form of the surface prior to the deposition of these deposits. I shall treat more fully on this subject at a future time.
The sandstones of the Dakota group are quite largely developed in this region, and exbibit their usual variability of texture and color. The prevailing color is a deep drab rusty brown, sometimes yellow, or nearly white. Some layers contain many impressions of dicotyledonous leaves. I was unable to find as large and perfect impressions as I have collected at many other localities.
So far as the surface of the country is concerned, in Lancaster county it may be regarded as remarkable for its beauty.
It is always gently rolling, well drained, and from elevations the views are very fine, forming most excellent building sites. When the soil is not influenced by salt
springs, it is equal to any in the State, but in an agricultural point of view there is no doubt that Salt: creek, with the numerous salt springs that issue forth near it, is a disadvantage to the valley.
That portion about two miles above Lancaster does not seem affected by the salt. The farm of Mr. S. B. Mills, of over one thousand acres, about ten miles above the county seat, is one of the most fertile and valuable in the State. Although the salt springs in this county may eventually be of some value to the State in the production of salt, yet I am convinced that if there was not a salt spring of any kind in the county, the difference in the value of the lands for agricultural and grazing purposes would much more than balance all income that will ever arise from the salt springs.
In that case Salt creek, instead of being almost useless, or rather an impediment, would be a fine fresh water stream, making it one of the finest stock counties in the State.
The surface of the uplands lies very beautifully, is very attractive to the eye, but there is scarcely any timber in the county.
The soil is excellent, and forest trees may be planted with success whenever settlers choose to do so, though very little has been done as yet.
Cass county is the best settled county in the State. It is covered with fine farms and many of them begin to show their capacity not only in the production of the grains, as wheat, oats, and corn, but also of fruits, forest trees, hedges, &c. Along the Platte valley as well as the Missouri the surface is rough, the hills being sometimes very steep and the ravines deep and numerous ; but the soil is of inexhaustible fertility and well watered with streams and multitudes of springs of the purest water.
In all that pertains to successful agriculture and the raising of all kinds of stock, I could not conceive of a more desirable district.
There are rock quarries enough in Cass county to supply all that portion of the State south of the Platte if it could be equally distributed.
On the Platte, near the northwest corner of the county, a yellow magnesian limestone is obtained, which is regarded with great favor as a building stone. It is very durable, with a tenacious texture, but so soft that it can be cut with a knife or plane, thus rendering it easily worked for caps or sills, &c.
I have not observed this bed of rock in any other portion of the State. The geological formations in this county are the upper carboniferous beds, capped along the west and southwest portions with the sandstones of the Dakota group. The coal measure rocks appear near the edge of the water at the mouth of Salt creek near Ashland, the county seat of Saunders county. East of this point for twenty to twenty-five miles the red sandstones occupy the hills along the Platte, but the limestone continues to rise higher and higher and assume more importance.
The sandstones disappear entirely about ten to fifteen miles west of Plattsmouth.
In both the sandstones and limestones extensive quarries have been opened ; the sandstone is used for all ordinary purposes, while the limestones are made into the walls of buildings and for ornamental purposes. Some fine dwelling houses have been made of these limestones.
The quarries of sandstones have been wrought to considerable extent, and the stone is used for cellar walls, wells, and some other purposes where nice work is not required.
The cretaceous rocks of Cass county are composed of the same beds of clays, sands, and sandstones before observed in formations of the same age in the val. ley of the Little Blue river.
About twenty-five miles west of Plattsmouth a bed of fine argillaceous grit is exposed, which was regarded by the settlers as gypsum. It may become of some economical value at some future time as fine clay for mingling with other earths in the manufacture of bricks. On the Weeping Water, an important stream near the central portion of Cass county, are some heavy beds of limestones, which are of great economical value for building purposes.
The limestone is readily burned into lime, and numerous dwelling houses, mills, &c., are constructed of this rock.
These alternate beds of limestones, sands, and clays give to the surface of the country bordering on the Weeping Water an unusually rugged character. The bottoms of the little streams are narrow, the soil is good, water excellent, and the valley is well settled and prosperous.
Near the mouth of Stone creek, section 12, range 10, township 10, indications of coal were observed, and Mr. E. L. Reed, residing at Weeping Water, sunk a shaft through the following bede :
9. Sandstones which form the bed of the creek, 10 feet.
The coal above, although so thin a seam as to render it unprofitable for working, is of good quality, and is useful to the blacksmiths in the vicinity.
We must therefore conclude that neither in Lancaster nor Cass counties will
there ever be found any thick beds of coal, but in the valleys of all the streams and in numerous other localities there are low, boggy places which seem to promise peat, especially on the broad, low bottoms of the Platte.
I am continually more and more impressed with the importance of this material as an article of fuel for the people of Nebraska, and I am confident that before many years it will become an object of earnest pursuit and of great profit.
The red sandstones of the Dakota group contain a considerable quantity of iron ore, but the absence of fuel renders it unavailable, so that exclusive of the common building materials these counties may be said to have no mineral resources. Their wealth lies in their inexhaustible soil, which is this year producing most luxuriant crops.
Wheat yields thirty to thirty-five bushels per acre; oats forty to fifty, and corn sixty to seventy-five bushels per acre; and in this respect it is easy to predict for Nebraska a remarkable destiny in the future.
ADDITIONAL NOTES ON SARPY AND DOUGLAS COUNTIES.
Sarpy county borders on the Platte river and the Missouri, and thus has a large share of bottom land as well as the rather rugged or hilly portions along those streams. It has superior advantages over the more northern counties in its numerous quarries of limestone, which are destined to prove of great valae.
Already do the quarries along the Platte and the Papillion furnish the greater portion of the lime and building stone used at Omaha, but most of the rock needed for the contemplated railroad bridge across the Missouri must of necessity be obtained there.
The basis rock which underlies the surface of the greater portion of Sarpy and Douglas counties is carboniferous limestone. These limestones are evidently of the age of the upper coal measures, as their fossil remains indicate.
The western portions of the counties are occupied by the rusty variegated sandstones of the Dakota group. The soil is of great fertility, seeming to be composed of a mingling of the eroded materials of the sandstones and limestones with the yellow marl of the loess deposit, which covers the surface of the country here to a greater or less depth.
The result is a surface soil eminently adapted for the growth of all the cereals, as wheat, oats, and corn. The scenery is beautiful indeed ; the rolling or undulating character of the country, while it relieves the monotony, does not obstruct the vision, so that objects may be seen with distinctness ten to twenty miles on every side.
The river bottoms, especially through Missouri and the Platte, are of inexhaustible fertility. With a soil not unfrequently ten to thirty feet in depth, they sustain a most luxuriant vegetation, while during the greater portion of the year the broad upland prairies are clothed with grass and flowers of great variety and beauty.
The yellow silicious marl covers the greater part of Douglas county, so that the limestones are exposed only in a few localities.
Near Omaha City a few beds are revealed at the water's edge, perhaps ten to fifteen feet, and over these layers is a deposit of gravel and marl one hundred to one hundred and fifty feet in thickness.
At Florence, about five miles above Omaha, these limestones are again seen at very low water in the bottom of the Missouri
, but as a rule the rocks of the country are concealed from view by this great deposit of marl. In consequence of this fact the limestone quarries along the Platte assume a far greater importance and value.
There is a quarry of limestone at Bellevue Landing, near Sarpy's old trading post, which has been wrought for many years ; but the most valuable layers of
the rock are not visible in time of high water. Watson's quarry, on the Papillion, three miles west of Bellevue, has been worked for many years, and contains several layers of valuable rock for building purposes. This quarry is a source of considerable revenue to the owners, and the materials are taken to Bellevue and Omaha in great quantities.
The following is a section of the beds, in descending order: 6. Vegetable soil, two to four feet thick, with a few stray water-worn rocks.
5. A bed like No. 3, with fragments of fossils capped with loose layers of limestone, eighteen inches to two feet thick.
4. Three inches of light yellow clay-a hard layer.
2. Several layers of hard limestone, very compact with Crinoids, Corals, Chonctes mucronala, Athyris subtilita, Productus, fc.; six feet.
1. Greenish-yellow clay, underneath the most valuable and massive bed of limestone, as shown in the illustration; twenty inches thick. Below this there is a layer of yellow limestone eighteen inches thick.
Bed 2 in the section is the one that produces the valuable rock for building purposes. The organic remains determine at once the geological position of the rocks.
About six miles above the mouth of the Platte I observed a large number of boulders or erratic rocks scattered over the hills, composed of granite and red quartzite. These were undoubtedly transported hither by glacial action; and the rocks themselves come from the north and northwest-from Dakota, Minnesota, and perhaps from the region of Lake Superior, where the rocks abound. Near this point, also, a ledge of rusty sandstone of cretaceous age was seen capping the hills. Its character has been described before, as a dark, ferrugi. nous, coarse-grained, micaceous sandstone, but sometimes becoming a tough, closegrained, compact, silicious rock, or quartzite. It is very difficult to find rocks of this group resting directly upon the beds below, from the fact that in almost all cases a grassy slope intervenes, and it became a matter of much importance to find the junction of the two great formations, or ascertain what beds come between.
In 1857, while making an exploration of this region, I was so fortunate as to discover this apposition of the two formations, and the results were published in a memoir in the Transactions of the American Philosophical Society in 1862. The section taken at that time was observed near the old Otoe village, about eight miles above the mouth of the Platte river.
The cretaceous rock set directly upon the limestone, although we know what a vast thickness of beds of various ages are absent. This illustrates what Professor Rogers has denominated, in his Geology of the State of Pennsylvania, an unconformable sequence of beds; that is, the eye will observe no apparent want of conformity, the lowest bed of one formation reposing upon the highest of the other, as if no interval bad occurred during the deposition. The section, in descending order, is as follows:
1. Gray, compact, silicious rock, passing down into a coarse conglomerate, an aggregation of water-worn pebbles, cemented with angular grains of quartz; then a coarse-grained micaceous sandstone-twenty-five feet.
2. Yellow and light gray limestone of the coal measures, containing numerous fossils—Spirifer cameratus, Athyris subtilita, Fusulina cylindrica, with abundant fragments of coral and crinoid remains twenty to fifty feet. A, quartz rock; B, conglomerate; C, coarse micaceous sandstone; D, carboniferous limestone.
This conjunction of the two great formations at this point is quite instructive. We see the tremendous effects of erosion prior to the deposition of the sandstones, in the fact that hundreds of feet of limestones must have been swept away.
In Kansas, near Fort Riley, there are several hundred feet of permian and
permo-carboniferous rocks, not a trace of which can be seen in this valley. Even in the Salt Creek valley, above Lancaster, there is one hundred feet or more of rocks that do not appear here ; and yet I can see no good reason for not supposing that all these rocks were deposited here in the great oceans of the coal period, but have been worn away and ground up into materials for rocks of more recent date by the waters of subsequent oceans.
Then, again, between the coal measures and the cretaceous rocks, as shown in the illustrative section, the two great ages, triassic and jurassic, are not represented at all.
We have reason to believe that rocks belonging to these eras were even deposited here, and yet every trace of them has been washed away.
In Kansas, on the Smoky Hill fork, there are a series of variegated beds of clays and sands interposed between the permian and cretaceous, which we believe belong to the triassic or jurassic period, or both. Along the eastern slope of the Laramie, Big Horn, Wind River mountains, and the Black Hills of Dakota, the red beds of the triassic and the marls and marly limestone of the jurassic eras are developed to a thickness of several hundred feet, while on the Platte not a trace of them is to be seen.
The evidence seems to me to be clear that beds of greater or less thickness, belonging to all these periods, once existed in this region, and that they have been swept away by the erosive action of water.
This subject, which is one of the most interesting as well as important in the geology of the west, will be discussed more fully in the final report.
Like all other portions of the State, the interest in the discovery of workable beds of coal in this region is very great. Along the Platte a seam of carboniferous shale crops out, occasionally twelve to eighteen inches in thickness, and wherever it occurs it is regarded by the settlers as a sure indication of coal. I have examined all the indications with care, and I see no evidence of any coal at a reasonable depth. I hold the same opinion now that I expressed in a scientific paper in 1858, that I was “inclined to the belief that it was a geological impossibility for a workable bed of coal to be found within the limits of the Territory of Nebraska. A bed of coal, to be really valuable for economical purposes, should be at least three feet in thickness; and even then it would not prove profitable, if a large amount of labor were required in opening the mine.”
The several beds of limestone have been open for twenty-five or thirty miles along the Platte, and the greatest abundance of the best building material can be procured. Duclos's quarry, on the farm of Mr. J. I. Paynter, township 13, range 13, section 27, there is the following section:
6. Yellow marl, a superficial recent deposit.
4. Three or four layers of limestone, excellent for building purposes, varying from ten to fifteen inches in thickness each; five feet. This bed is most extensively quarried; the rock is a great favorite with masons. Its upper surface has been smoothed by glacial action.
3. Slope; doubtless intercalations of clay and thin beds of rocks; thirty feet.
2. Heavy layers of limestone, yellowish white, full of organic remains, as, S. cameratus, Productus, Athyris, Fusulina, fc.; ten to fifteen feet.
Although this rock is not quite as good as that in bed four, yet it is much used for lime and for building purposes.
1. Slope; probably same as bed 3, twenty-five feet above the bed of the Platte. The surface of bed 4 exhibits some very remarkable phenomena, which I have observed in very few localities in the west, and nowhere except in this region. It has been so thoroughly smoothed by glacial action, that the upper layer can be quarried out and used for caps and sills, without any further finish to them, and the process seems to have been carried on with wonderful