ANN MAJOR produced this selection.
William G. Cutler's History of the State of Kansas
was first published in 1883 by A. T. Andreas, Chicago, IL.




A VERTICAL section of the soil and underlying strata of Kansas, had it rested undisturbed during the ages of its formation, and to this time, would have presented the order and approximate thickness of the various formations, as follows:

1. Post Tertiary formation-Alluvium, loess (Bluff), drift-150 feet.
2. Tertiary-Sandstone (Pliocene)-1,500 feet.
3. Cretaceous (chalky)-Limestone and shale (Niobrara, 200 feet; Fort Benton,
260 feet); sandstone (Dakota, 500 feet)-960 feet.
4. Upper Carboniferous-Limestone and shale-2,000 feet.
5. Coal measure-Coal in limestone and shale-600 feet.
6. Subcarboniferous-Limestone-150 feet.
The present succession of the strata, from the highest elevation in the northwestern portion of the State to the lowest in the southwest, shows the order of formation as above stated to be unbroken. By the gradual upheaval of some portions of the area or the sinking or unequal changes in others, the strata no longer rest horizontally one above the other, but dip downward to the northwest, so that the edges of the several formations, even to the lowest, the Coal Measures are brought to or near the surface of the soil, in some sections of the State. In the foregoing order of formation which is as given by Prof. Mudge, he notes the "striking fact" that the oldest rocks are not seen, and the deposits of important ages and parts of ages of more recent date are also missing.+ He says: "Thus, the Triassic and Jurassic ages were either never deposited within the bounds of Kansas and the adjoining territory, or, in the grand operations of nature, all those deposits have been eroded and swept away, leaving no trace of their existence. This allows the Dakota (cretaceous sandstone) to rest directly on the top of the carboniferous, and nearly, if not quite, in conformity, the geological level of the two being apparently identical." He further notes the absence of four groups in succession, usually found between the Pliocene rock of the tertiary age, and the middle formations of the Cretaceous, "allowing the Phocene of the latter age to rest directly on the Niobrara or middle of the Cretaceous."

There are nowhere in the State any evidences of violent disturbance of the strata or metamorphic indications in any of the formations. Of the gradual uplifting of the land above the awful waste of waters, Prof. Mudge says: The uplifting of the State and the adjoining country from the level of the ocean must have been slow, uniform, and in a perpendicular direction, which has left all the strata nearly in a horizontal position.++
* A complete geological survey of Kansas has not yet been made. By an act of the Legislature in 1864, and appropriation of $3,500 was made, and the work begun under the supervision of Prof. B. F. Mudge, then appointed State Geologist. In 1865 $7,500 was appropriated, and Prof. G. W. Swallow appointed to continue the survey. No further appropriations have been since made, and the important work is yet uncompleted. During 1864 and 1865, the geologists above mentioned made a general survey of the eastern half of the State, and by exploration and inquiry gained sufficient surface information concerning the western half to describe with a degree of accuracy its general geological outlines and structure. The reports made by them and their assistants are deemed reliable, although incomplete. From them, and such individual information as could be obtained from competent and trustworthy sources, the geological sketch is compiled, it is hoped with sufficient elaborations to satisfy the requirements of the general reader.

+ Prof. G. C. Swallow, who succeeded Prof. Mudge in the State geological survey, and whose loyalty to the truth of science is equally beyond question, is less positive in his belief that remains of the Triassic period are wanting. He gives it a place in his report, but leaves it in doubt. He says: The sandstones, limestones, shales, marls, and gypsum of Nos. 2-11, were referred to the Triassic with a ?) in 1858. The only evidence we then had of the age of their beds was their lithological characters, and a single fossil which could not be distinguished from Nacula speciosa Munster, from the Muschelkalk of Bindloch. Subsequent examinations have strengthened the demonstration, and the true relations of these rocks must remain in doubt, till other discoveries determine the matter. Prof. Mudge speaks, subsequent to that time, and doubtless after a considerate knowledge of Prof. Swallows investigations, as quite certain that those periods are unrepresented in the Kansas formations.

++ As is shown by Prof. Mudge's stratigraphical map, the strata have a slight dip to the northwest, which would lead to the belief, that, although there was no violent action sufficient to occasion faults in the strata, the upheaval was more rapid, or continued longer in the eastern portions than in the territory farther west.
This may have been as slow as that now going on in Florida, or a rise of five feet in a century. From our knowledge of the geology of the West, this undoubtedly took place after the rise of the Rocky Mountains, and probably did not come to a close until the drift period. The origin of our rivers, therefore, may date back as far, at least, as the beginning of this uprising. As the channels (valleys) cut by them are large, and often through heavy beds of limestone, the earlier processes may date still farther back in geological history.

The rock formations do not crop out to any great extent, but are generally hidden by the post tertiary deposits, alluvium, loess, and drift. The two former, which have already been noticed, are of more recent formation than the drift, which underlies them, resting on the tertiary sandstone below. It consists of quartz, gravel, pebbles and sand, differing very little from the same deposits found in other parts of the country, and having a like origin, viz., the glacial or ice period. It is intermixed with large metamorphic stones and bowlders (sic) of stratified quartz, greenstone and other rocks not among the formations of this State. The nearest permanent formations similar are found hundred of miles north and east. The deposit of fine drift material seldom exceeds five feet in depth. Concerning the drift, surface bowlders and evidences of glacial action in the State, Mr. Mudge writes as follows:

We have not found the true bowlder clay in any part of the State. The large bowlders are scattered as far south as 38° (degrees) and 50, or ten miles south of the Kansas River, while the smaller pebbles and gravel are seen as low as 38° (degrees) of latitude.

The large bowlders are quite numerous on the Pottawatomie Reserve, on both sides of the Kansas. They lie on the tops of the bluffs and high prairies more frequently than on the lower lands. We observed one on a hill near Mill Creek, Wabaunsee County, 200 feet above the valley of the Kansas River, 1,100 feet above the sea, weighing fully eight tons. Some larger, including one of greenstone, are to be found near Oskaloosa.

Bowlders lie scattered in small numbers in detached areas north of the Kansas River, from the Missouri nearly to the Republican, but west of the latter none are noticed. The drift gravel extends a little farther. The origin of our drift, like all other in the Northern Hemisphere, must be sought in regions far to the north. No original ledges of quartzite or other metamorphic or igneous rock are found within three hundred miles of the northern State line, and it is only in the western portions of Minnesota that these deposits are represented. No other material of our drift is found so near. Therefore, much of our drift must have traveled 500 miles during the ice age, and some of the granitic fragments from still farther north, nearer the line of the British Possessions, or a journey of 800 miles.

In Western Kansas are beds of gravel which, on casual examination, resemble the drift, but a closer acquaintance shows that it is not. It has no quartzite or other bowlders, and much of the other materials are different and less water-worn. The ingredients are the same as the coarser portions of the Pliocene, which cover about nine thousand miles of the northwestern part of the State, and which undoubtedly at one time covered more than twice its present area. The gravel contains small fragments of petrified wood and other fossils similar to those found in the Pliocene. It is not improbable that the drift in small quantities may be found in the State farther west than I have noticed it. But, if so, the difference in its appearance from the Pliocene will readily be detected. This deposit is seldom more than a few feet in thickness and covers but a limited portion of the surface. It is not sufficient to affect the fertility of the soil, except in a few small areas.

No marks of grooving, striae or other glacial action have been noticed on any ledge in this State. Perhaps the limestone is too soft to have preserved them, if such marks ever existed. In one instance only have we noticed a bowlder with striae upon it, and those were made before it left its northern home. In some specimens of fine quartz a good polish is seen.

In a general sense, it may be said that the post tertiary formation in some form-alluvium, loess, drift or mixtures of the same-cover, as with a blanket, all the lower rocky strata in whatever order they may come to the surface. As has been stated, the surface rock is not the same throughout the State, but shows within different areas and well-defined limits such different rock formation from the highest to the lowest.


The Pliocene group of the Tertiary system, the first in vertical order, is seen only in the northwestern portion of the State, which has the highest altitude. The territory covered by this formation extends along the north line of the State eastward as far as the middle of Jewell County. The eastern and southern line of demarkation runs south and west, embracing the northwest quarter of Jewell and north half of Smith and Philips Counties; thence southwesterly nearly to the southwest corner of Norton County; thence east through Graham and into Rooks County, where, with a return bend of some eight or ten miles, it turns to the west through Graham County to the south line of Sheridan County; thence along and near the south line of Sheridan. Thomas and Sherman Counties to the western line of the State some eight miles south of the latter county. Another detached spur covers all of Greeley and the north quarter of Hamilton County, extending east over the south half of Wichita and Scott Counties into the southwest quarter of Lane County. Prof. Mudge, treating of this formation in his report published in the First Biennial Report of the Kansas State Board of Agriculture, says:


The strata composing this deposit are very irregular, and cannot be traced to any great distance from any given point. This makes it very difficult to calculate its thickness after the lower portions have disappeared under the streams. Every examination has, however, induced me to add to my previous estimates of its thickness, and my present impression is that in the extreme northwestern part of the State its thickness cannot be less than 1,500 feet. It dips slightly to the northwest, and its lowest beds disappear gradually underneath the streams. This gives a good opportunity to study the dividing line between the Cretaceous and Tertiary formations. On the North Fork of the Solomon, for a distance of twenty miles, the hilltops and higher grounds are covered with the sandstone of the Pliocene, while the streams are cutting their beds in the limestones of the Niobrara.

Even the best known portions of this geological area have been but little examined, and consequently our knowledge of its local features is quite limited. Profs. Cope and Marsh have, in their visits to the Cretaceous, made some casual notices of the southern portion without spending time in searching for fossils. During the summers of 1874, 75 and 76, we spent much time along the line of its union with the Niobrara, and made some excursions across it, thus becoming acquainted with its outlines and a few of its fossils. The line of demarkation at most points between it and the Cretaceous is clear and well defined. In numerous places we have found the fossils of the mammalia of the Pliocene within ten vertical feet of the marine shells and vertebrates of the Cretaceous, and in slides we frequently found them intermingled. The contrast is remarkable, as hardly a single type is common to both, the one being marine and reptilian, the other land fossils, and the bones those of mammals.

The material of the Pliocene deposits consists of sandstone of various shades of gray and brown, occasionally whitened by a small admixture of lime. The lower strata are usually composed of finer sand than the upper, and are looser and more friable in their texture. The overlying beds are of coarser ingredients, consisting of water-worn pebbles of metamorphic rocks-quartz, greenstone, granite, syenite and sometimes fragments of fossil wood from an older formation. The polishing action of water is not so thorough as in the drift. These portions of the deposits, when crumbled and the finer parts washed away, have much the appearance of drift, and have been mistaken for it. This formation, down to a recent period, must have covered the whole of the Cretaceous, as we find the coarser pebbles scattered to a greater or less extent over the western half of the State. It appears to have been subjected to later movements of water currents, as it assumes the form of altered drift, and sometimes includes the remains of the mastodon, elephant and horse of the later Quaternary age.

The sandstone is usually friable, crumbling on exposure to the atmosphere. When more compact, its mechanical construction is so irregular as to render it almost unfit for a building material. When firmly consolidated, it forms the hilltops of the table-like eminences along the boundary line of the Pliocene and Cretaceous formations. At Breadbowl Mound, Phillips County, it is about two hundred feet above Deer Creek, and at Sugarloaf Mound, in the western part of Rooks County, it is about three hundred feet above the Solomon River. In these hills, as in many others, the upper strata belong to the Pliocene, while the bases belong to the Niobrara. Farther west it forms the whole of the visible outcrop, and the mounds are not so prominent.

In the southern portion of the Pliocene, in the vicinity of Fort Wallace and Sheridan, the hilltops are covered with a stratum of about eight feet in thickness, very hard and silicious. The material varies from coarse flint-quartz to chalcedony. The latter mineral shades from milk white to transparent, sometimes presenting a semi-opal appearance. The so-called moss-agate is found in the upper few inches of the stratum. This cap-rock is interesting to the mineralogist by showing the moss-agate in its various stages of formation. The lower portion of the eight feet indicates an imperfect chemical solution of the silica and black oxide of manganese; therefore, the crystallization of the latter is imperfect. As we examine the stratum from the bottom to the top, we find the chemical conditions more favorable and complete, so that the distinct quartz, chalcedony and manganese of the bottom, become more commingled toward the upper inch or half inch, where the silica must have been sufficiently fluid to allow the manganese* to assume the form of sprig crystals. This peculiar deposit is common on all the high hilltops of Wallace County, but the best locality is the cap-rock of the two buttes, two miles southwest of Sheridan, and half a mile from the line of the Kansas Pacific Railway. They form a notable land-mark to travelers. The total thickness of the Pliocene cannot be less than 1,500 feet. It may prove more.


The fossils of this formation, over a considerable part of the Pliocene area, are scarce, or entirely wanting. In some localities, particularly in Smith and Norton Counties, and in Ellis and Trego Counties, where small detached areas of the formation exist, they are quite numerous. They are of species common to the closing period of the Pliocene - "the bones of deer, beaver, a large animal of the ox kind, two species of the horse, one smaller than the small Indian ponies, a wolf, ivory of the elephant and mastodon, bones of the rhinoceros and camel and also remains of an undetermined character." Remains of a large, fresh-water turtle, five feet in length, and those of a smaller size have been found; also a few specimens of mollusks. The remains of the horse are quite common, having been found from Smith County to the vicinity of Ellis, in Ellis County, and prove that horses roamed the plains of Kansas ages before the herds descended from the escaped steeds of the Spanish cavaliers of the fifteenth century. Prof. Mudge writes that among the fossil remains of horses, he found one in the northern part of Ellis County, in 1875, of the celebrated three-toed species, having three hoofs coming to the ground, the feet with the three toes being in an excellent state of preservation. The bones were badly broken, and much of the skeleton missing, but sufficient to show it was of small size. The remains of the common horse, of about the same size as those now existing, and with the markings of the teeth quite similar, were found in the same geological horizon with the extinct three-toed species, showing that they had a contemporaneous existence. The ivory and bones in the Upper Pliocene are found firmly fossilized, and sometimes changed to a hard, compact silica. Prof. Mudge notes an interesting chemical transformation of ivory, as follows:

"In the process of petrifaction, the tusk must have been so softened as to admit the intermixture of black oxide of manganese in solution, which then crystallized in delicate sprigs. The ivory was next silicified into nearly pure quartz, with the usual hardness of that substance. The ivory was thus converted into the so-called moss agate."

CRETACEOUS AREA (1, Niobrara-11, Benton-111, Dakota).

Directly eastward of the Pliocene, and stretching entirely across the State in a northeasterly and southwesterly direction, is the Cretaceous, covering an area of nearly 40,000 square miles. It extends from the south west corner of the State, as far east as Clark County, 100 miles, and north nearly to the north line of Hamilton County, some seventy miles. Its western line of demarkation coincides with the eastern and southern Pliocene line before described. It extends east on the northern State line for a distance of eighty miles, from the middle of Jewell County into the northwest corner of Marshall County. Its eastern line from the north line of Marshall County runs south and southeast, taking in the western tier of towns in that county, and running diagonally across Clay County to its southwest corner; thence south and east through the southern part of Dickinson County to near the center of Morris county; thence, bending to the south and southwest, it returns through Marion County, and west along the line of McPherson and Rice Counties to the Arkansas River; thence, in a direct southwest course, through the northwest corner of Reno, Pratt, the northwest corner of Comanche and Clark Counties to the southern State line.

The Niobrara is the upper formation in the Cretaceous system, and in Kansas differs from the same deposits in Nebraska and on the Niobrara River, somewhat in its physical features, but more especially in its fossils, which, in Kansas yield a richer and more varied type of vertebrates, and of the Saurian genera. It covers a belt of country next adjoining the Pliocene, about thirty miles in width in the northern part of the State, widening southward to nearly sixty miles in the Smoky Hill Valley. Prof. Mudge says; It is well defined in the tributaries of Smoky Hill River, nearly to the high divide between it and the Arkansas Valley. It is poorly represented on Walnut and Pawnee Creeks, in Ness and Hodgeman Counties; and on the slopes toward the Arkansas River it is seldom seen, and then almost devoid of its characteristic fossils.

It is composed of chalk and chalky shales. The chalky rock varies in color from buff to pure white, and is generally too soft for building material. The pure white specimens consist of pure carbonate of lime, and cannot be distinguished from the best quality of foreign chalk. It is stated on the authority of Prof. James D. Dana, that the soft, fine-grained white stone known in commerce as chalk is found nowhere in North America except in Western Kansas. It differs from the chalk of Europe, in the absence of rhizopod shells which comprise generally a large part of its material. Regarding the Kansas chalk, Prof. G. E. Patrick, of the Kansas State University, states: "Examined under the microscope, it appears perfectly amorphous - a simple aggregation of shapeless particles. The rhizopod shells which almost universally occur in the chalk of the old world, sometimes comprising nearly its entire substance, seem to be quite wanting in our Kansas chalk. With a good microscope and a high power, I have been unable to detect a trace of them." This deposit in its purity is found in Trego county, where it appears in seams varying from a foot to eight feet in thickness. It is manufactured quite extensively into whiting, which exceeds in excellence of quality the best manufactured from foreign chalk, as, unlike that, it never contains flint nodules. Prof. Mudge describes the chalky deposits as follows:

The higher strata are the most impure, being intermingled with sand and other coarse ingredients. Sometimes we found thin layers of flint, from half an inch to two inches in thickness. Occasionally these layers were covered, in part, with a thin coating of chalcedony. The latter strata have been deposited not far from a shore line subject to currents. Sometimes may be seen marked oblique deposits, but very limited in extent, either vertically or horizontally. These were always varied in color and material. Layers of white chalk, with impure ones of various shades of buff, extended a thickness of six to ten feet, and gave a neat ribboned appearance. These layers were usually from one-fourth to one-half an inch in thickness, but frequently much thinner. In one instance, I counted thirty-five in a thickness of a little less than two inches, the white lines being nearly pure chalk, and the buff containing fine sand. The fineness of the material and the distinctness of each line indicate a slow deposit at a distance from the shores of the old cretaceous lands. The shales of this division contain lime mingled with clay and sand in varying proportions. They are harder than the chalk, requiring the pick in extricating the fossils. They are of all shades of slate-color, sometimes bleaching on exposure to the weather. Near Fort Wallace, some strata are so much like the "Benton," in Nebraska, that Prof. Hayden, on a hasty inspection, mistook them for a portion of that group.

Seams of pure calc-spar, usually in flat crystals, from one to six inches in thickness, are quite common in the shales, and occasionally appear in the chalk strata. In the darker shales are sometimes found nodules of pyrites, lenticular in form; occasionally, they appear in fine crystals of various shades of brown. The thickness of the Niobrara formation varies. In Trego and Ellis Counties, it has an average thickness of 75 feet; in Rooks County, it is 200 feet thick. Along the courses of the streams and ravines, owing to the soft nature of the rock, canons occur similar to those in Dakota and Nebraska, though on a smaller scale; and in some localities remains of the formations, in detached masses, worn by the flow of ancient waters, stand high above the surrounding plain, fantastic monuments of the period when they were created. Fine specimens of these forms of natures sculpture are the Monument Rocks, in the Smoky Hill Valley in Gove County, and the Castle Rocks, of Ellis County. These very in height from forty to seventy feet, and are many of them so small at the base as to be but a single shafts or columns, standing on the level plain in startling imitation of the artificial structures of men. Castle Rock, the highest of the Ellis County group, is overlaid with ten feet of Pliocene, thence, downward, the Niobrara chalk, with a base of firm, blue shale. The devout student of nature is filled with awe as he is here brought to view the successive processes of the great Architect, as layer upon layer, through the silent and eternal ages of the past, He formed the foundations of the earth.

[TOC] [part 2] [part 1] [Cutler's History]