William G. Cutler's History of the State of Kansas


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The fossils of the upper part of the deposit are mostly corals and marine mollusks common to the Permian system, of greater interest to the scientist than to the general reader. In a few instances, poor specimens of land vegetation appear, and occasionally fossils resembling sea-weed (Fucoid are found. To the unscientific observer this period is chiefly interesting for the scarcity of its fossils evincing animal or vegetable life, as compared with those which precede or followed it, suggesting changes as occurring, destructive of pre-existing forms of life, at its beginning, and others at its close, resulting in conditions favorable to a profuse renascency and growth.


This area covers about 9,000 square miles in the southeastern part of the State, and embraces the counties of Cherokee, Labette, Montgomery, and Chautauqua, Elk, Wilson, Neosho, Crawford, Bourbon, Allen, Woodson, Coffey, Anderson, Linn, Osage, and parts of Franklin and Miami along the northern line of demarkation; also the eastern part of Greenwood and Lyon Counties. All these counties are in some degree supplied with coal. Whether the whole area is underlaid with coal or not cannot be definitely ascertained till a thorough geological survey has been made. The general structure of the rock it that of the productive coal measures elsewhere found, and the the experimental borings have been sufficiently numerous, and attended with such favorable results as to warrant the belief that the deposit exists in paying quantities in most parts of the area above described.

The material of the deposits is similar to those of the Upper Carboniferous, consisting of shale, sandstone and limestone; the latter being very persistent over large areas. The other strata are quite variable, as are the immediate layers of coal. The Coal Measures of Kansas are a part of an immense coal field which covers, as stated by Prof. Swallow, a large part of the Indian Territory south, all Eastern Kansas, the northwestern half of Missouri, Southern Iowa, and Southeastern Nebraska. The Kansas bed is in the western part of the field above described, and shows the thickest, purest and most valuable and accessible layers in the counties above named, the veins near the surface in the country farther north and west being thin, not persistent, and of little practical value. Apparent exceptions are where the thick beds of the southwest have been reached by deep boring through the superincumbent Permian and Upper Carboniferous rocks. The rich beds of the Coal Measures doubtless exist under a large part of the Upper Carboniferous; in some regions at such great depths as to be virtually inaccessible or valueless, since the cost of mining would exceed its extrinsic worth when obtained. Exceptions to this statement have already been established by the successful working of the lower coal measures outside the limits, and they will doubtless multiply, as increased experimental borings through the upper Carboniferous are made. The Leavenworth coal is taken from the strata of the lower group, after penetrating through the Upper Carboniferous to the moderate depth of 700 feet. The only uncertainty attending the success of coal mining in the coal measure area, is in the variableness of the deposit. Where the veins are struck the ore found is of most excellent quality, exceptionally free from impurities, and of sufficient thickness to be profitably worked. The report of Prof. Swallow states the situation quite clearly. Treating it as a part of the great coal field before described, he says:

These coal beds are also thicker toward the south and east, though there are exceptions. But the most important irregularity observed is the want of persistence or continuity in these beds. Along the eastern border of this vast coal field, the coal beds are much more persistent. As a general rule, the southeastern portion of a coal bed is more persistent than the northwestern, and the lower beds more so than the upper ones This is one of the reasons why the coal is so abundant, and can be mined with so much certainty along the eastern outcrop of the lower beds, extending from Fort Gibson to Forts Smith and Scott, and thence across the Osage, through Bates, Johnson and Saline Counties, in Missouri, and through Boone, Howard, Randolph, and up the Chariton Valley into Iowa. Everywhere along this line shafts may be sunk upon the lower coal beds with an almost absolute certainty of success. But farther west and along the outcrop of the upper beds, mining operations for coal will be much more precarious. The geologist can tell with certainty where the rocks containing each coal bed can be found, and at about what depth, but this irregularity or want of persistence renders it somewhat uncertain whether the coal will be found in its usual place.

The variable structure and persistency of the shales and coal deposits is illustrated in the variableness of results obtained from the borings at points so near each other as to lead to the expectation of similarity. In one shaft sunk at Pleasanton, Linn County, a vein of coal of workable thickness was found at a depth of less than eighty feet from the surface; another sunk only 200 yards distant, struck no coal with a depth of 260 feet. At this point the strata are nearly horizontal. Near Wyandotte a shaft sunk 570 feet struck no coal, while at Rosendale, four miles distant, two seams three feet thick, were found at a depth of 300 feet from the surface. The same variableness obtains, though to a less degree, in the lower and more marked area of the eastern and southeastern counties. Only by a systematic and thorough survey, which has not yet been undertaken by the State, can the full extent or value of the coal fields of Kansas be ascertained. Private enterprise has, however, already demonstrated that the seams are frequent, and of sufficient thickness to be successfully worked at many localities. On the lack of continuity in the coal seams, Prof. Mudge says:

Such variance has been very strongly shown in the borings made in the lowest portions of this group in Crawford and Cherokee Counties. The facts are not yet all known, but point to two causes of the irregularities in the different deposits. The first is the varying conditions of land and water during the period of the deposition of the various materials: the other is the disturbances which are seen in the lead region of the adjoining counties of Missouri, which brought up the lead and zinc.

As an instance showing the first cause, let me cite this fact: There are at least thirty different strata in the Coal Measures in which are remains of land plants in shale or coal, and between each are strata containing well-preserved remains of shells, corals and other oceanic animals. This shows conclusively that this part of Kansas was under the ocean, and again raised to dry land, at least thirty times during the period of the Coal Measures. Other indications lead me to believe that this oscillation, under and above the sea, took place more than twice that number of times.

Such things make it exceedingly difficult to form an estimate of the proportion of the Coal Measures, which have underlying coal beds of sufficient thickness for mining. Borings, in various townships, where coal might reasonably be expected to exist, have found none. This reduces the area of the productive portion of the coal deposits. The Coal Measures which we have usually reckoned as productive, cover (underlie) the surface over nine thousand square miles of our State, but not more than half, possibly not more than one-third, of that number of miles, will afford us profitable veins of marketable coal. A careful examination of this area is earnestly required by the best interests of the State, in showing just where our mines of this article, consumed by all ranks of society, can be found.


The Coal Measures, as their various strata show, were alternately beneath and above the salt sea, the changes occurring many times during the period of their formation. This ancient rising and sinking of the bosom of the sleeping earth, has left its unquestionable record in its fossils, which embrace the marine fossils in the limestone and other sea formations, while the intermediate deposits and the coal seams abound in vegetable and animal remains of terrestrial life.

The marine fossils, mostly found in the limestone, are abundant, but generally poorly preserved. They consist in fragments of crinoids, sometimes known to the unscientific observer as stone lilies. They are radiates, but grow attached to the rock by a slender trunk or stem, which gives them, when perfect, a similarity to a vegetable growth. In the Kansas rocks they are seldom found whole, the heads being generally broken from the stems, and the stems being broken into button-like sections. A few trilobites, mostly fragmentary specimens, have been seen. Fish are not abundantly represented, but Prof. Mudge remarks that those found were all of new species. Among them was discovered, near the roofing of the coal seam at Osage City, the jaw of a hitherto unknown species of the shark family. It contained upward of twenty-five hundred teeth, differing so widely in their dental characteristics, in different parts of the jaw, that three different known species were described by scientists, for the size and variations of the teeth taken separately. Prof. O. St. John, therefore, erected on this head a new genus called Aggassizodus. The jaw was nearly twenty-eight inches in length, indicating the total length of the fish as between fifteen and twenty feet.

Interesting fossil indications of reptilian life are found in foot-prints of saurians, some appearing as the true track, others as casts of the foot. Where the layer on which the animal walked was a clay that did not change to stone, but easily crumbled on removal, and the layer above of fine sandstone and lime, hardened into flags, the cast appears on the lower side of the stone; when the conditions were reversed, and the animal walked over a substance, which subsequently hardened into stone, and was overlaid with a stratum of clay or other friable material, the tracks appeared indented on the upper side of the rock.

These footprints were first discovered on the flaggings of the streets of Topeka, and were thence traced to the Osage quarries, where they had been taken out. They very in form and size, showing that the species living at that period were various. Prof. Mudge describes those most commonly represented as large saurian-like tracks, having toes of nearly equal length, five inches, and the heel four inches, making the total length of the foot nine inches. The width of the heel was five inches. The length of stride measured from twenty to twenty-two inches, and the trackway, from center to center of the footprint, from four to six inches. The tracks of this species vary so much in size that Prof. Mudge was at first inclined to consider them as different species, but on reflection concluded they were the same, differing only in size. On one slab were three rows of tracks, the smaller being but half the size of the larger, which, he says, it will be no stretch of the imagination to suppose were the footprints of the mother followed by her offspring. He classes the animal as a true reptile, and not amphibian.

Prof. Mudge also notes the footprints of a smaller animal, with five toes, counting the lateral spur, having a somewhat clumsy gait, and combining some of the traits of both frog and salamander. Several other species thus left their footprints on the sands of time. Several slabs containing these casts and tracks are now in the geological collections of the Kansas State Agricultural College: also in the Yale College collections. They are considered of rare scientific value. Few specimens nave been found west of the Alleghany Mountains.

The fossil flora is that of the rank and profuse vegetation from which the coal beds are formed, and embraces all the varieties usually found. Ferns, tree rushes (Calamites), the underground roots or branches of the Sigillaria (know as Stigmaria) and most other growths of the jungles and forests of the coal period are represented.


This, the lowest formation in the Kansas strata, appears only in a small triangular area lying east and south of the irregular line of Spring River, in the southeast corner of Cherokee County. The course of the river is controlled by the ledges of this group along its eastern bank. The whole area does not exceed fifty square miles. The thickness of this formation is 150 feet. it differs radically in appearance from the adjoining coal strata. It consists of chert and cherty conglomerate at the top, and coarse, gray limestones and horn stones below. It is very much broken, and the beds of limestone and chert are so intermingled that in some places the original stratification is entirely obliterated, while it is nowhere easily discernible. The chert in some places forms irregular beds, and in others appears in loose masses of many tons weight. The area is chiefly interesting as being similar to that which yields so richly of lead and zinc in the adjoining counties of Missouri, and in which a few paying mines in Kansas have been found.

In Lowell Township, on Short Creek, where lead and zinc have been found in paying quantities, the limestone has been destroyed or metamorphosed, the chert also much changed, the lead and zinc ores appearing in the mingled rocks. Prof. Mudge was of the opinion that the underlying strata of limestone had washed away, and the upper beds of chert and clay had fallen into the cavities. He discovered no signs of volcanic action, and thought the disturbances must have taken place gradually.*

The fossils found are only important as aiding the geologist to fix the geological age of the formation.
* Here, as elsewhere in his report, Prof. Mudge reiterates positively his belief that there are to be found nowhere in Kansas any marks of internal fire or metamorphic action in any deposits. Mr. Robert Hay, in an article published in the Topeka Capital, March 26, 1882, states his belief that metamorphic rock exists in at least one locality in the southeast corner of Woodson County, in situ. He examined the formations in company with Prof. Mudge. Extracts from the article, given below, show the grounds on which Mr. Hay bases his opinion, and also how far these later discoveries modified those previously entertained by Prof. Mudge:

"About a year and a half ago, Mr. Savage and Prof. Patrick called the writer's attention to certain specimens which had been sent to Lawrence for examination from Woodson County, and which were different from any known stratified rock in Kansas. The suggestion was that they were igneous rocks, and that possibly there was glacial drift farther south than had hitherto been suspected. I was to visit the region and report on its geology. As I returned home in the southeast part of the State, I called on Mr. J. W. Risley, of Humboldt, and examined specimens in his possession, but was unable to visit the exact locality. I was, however, convinced a geologic investigation would reveal something of interest to science. Three months later, I found an opportunity to make the journey, and this time I had the privilege of going in company with Prof. Mudge. We spent the greater part of two days examining a district not exceeding three hundred acres in area. Some weeks after that, I had the opportunity to talk over the matter again with our late beloved friend, and in June last, just twelve months after my first visit, I went over the ground again, accompanied by Prof. Middaugh, of Humboldt. The second visit scarcely revealed any new fact, but largely verified former notes, and I reproduce here a portion of an article from the Chetopa Advance, in which I gave an account of our first visit:

"The section corner where come together Sections 28, 29, 32 and 33 of Township 26, Range 15 east, is very near the eastern extremity of a strip about a quarter of a mile wide and very nearly a mile long, extending mostly eastward from the corner stone and mostly on the south side of the section line running between 29 and 32. A very little of the region is in Section 33. This may be called the southern terminus of a ridge of high prairie, having spurs southward and a lower level at both its eastern and western ends.

"We began investigation at the west. On the surface were some quartz fragments as if they had been seams in clay. A shaft showed a limestone about two feet thick, underlaid for many feet deep with slaty shale containing some mica. The limestone had fossils. Going east the limestone changed to a dark, massive looking rock, not unlike some igneous rocks, but the traces of fossils were still plain. Instead of shale there was a loose earth under, with more mica, the rocks still horizontal. Farther east, a higher level is obtained, and the surface rocks are quartzose, green mostly and dipping at a considerable angle. The loose earth is now yellower, and farther east nearly black and is rich in mica. We call it micaceous dirt. We will retain that name. North and east of the limited region we are describing, the surface rocks of the high prairie are Coal Measure, sandstone, mostly reddish. Here they are all altered into quartzite, green and some dark, blackish olive, but many retaining their horizontal position and the stratification plain. Others are considerably titled (sic) up, showing violent force in a very narrow area. About the middle of the south edge of the area, and again at the eastern end there are masses of brecciated rock, the uniting material being quartz. Here then we have without doubt metamorphic rock in situ - quartzite and breccia. About the middle of the north edge of the area is a shaft twelve feet deep, six or eight feet long and five feet wide. It shows the metamorphosis beautifully. A mass of white quartzite, solid (but also in part greenish, with many pores and holes filled with crystals) and wedge shape downward, looks at first as if it were injected material lying in a fissure of the rocks, but on looking carefully we find it is a metamorphism of the immediately adjoining sandstone, which at first is barely crystalline, but which can be traced through several stages distinctly to the massive white quartzite. In places, this shows contortion. We judge, then that the metamorphic agency (heat) has been applied here from above and under great pressure and up to the point of fusion. This shaft yields, among other quartzose crystals, beautiful amethysts, and some that may possibly be beryl.

"The deepest shaft is that of Mr. Van Meter, which we will call No. 1. It is seventy feet deep. It has thirty-five feet of water in it. We descended to the surface of the water. The rocks near the surface are the altered sandstones and limestones. Below is the micaceous dirt (dark colored). This is crossed in all directions by seams of dark blue (or purplish) stone of great hardness, from an inch to twelve inches, and below the dirt is now solid and has thin quartzose bands in it. These quartzose bands, imbedded in very fine red clay, are further developed in Shaft No. 2, about two rods to the north. This blue rock and these quartz bands (only half an inch thick) are what the miners expect will yield silver or gold. We don't. In the Pucket Shaft, farther east, the shale of the west end reappears with laminae of green carbonate of copper, and near the surface is brecciated rock.

"We regard the dark blue rock as the expression of the igneous agency. We think it is true igneous rock. We think long before other rocks were removed from the surface this was pushed up from below into cracks and fissures, probably finding here there was no outlet, in mass, but it may have ascended in places higher than the present surface, and spreading in small caverns altered patches of rock below it, and where there was room causing a stream of half melted material, which inclosed the fragments which now make the breccias. Again the action of the heated material would be likely long to have effect on the waters, and the thin veins of quartz and the crystal are probably due to infiltration in the cracks that were made as the mass cooled, while the micaceous dirt is perhaps altered shale.

"We have not here stated every fact, nor attempted to indicate all their bearing, but we have given enough to show that we have here a geological fact in Kansas, not before recognized by our scientific men, metamorphic and igneous rock in situ, and that the time of the metamorphic eruption (which had no real outlet) was after the laying down of these carboniferous strata, and before the denudation of superincumbent strata. Further, possibly other traces of igneous action may be found in regions where the carboniferous strata are thinner, possibly also in cretaceous age and where the carboniferous rocks are thicker.

"My last interview with Prof. Mudge was when we were journeying together from Holton to Valley Falls, in July, 1879. We talked over the whole matter, and he differed from me in what I deem an important inference from the facts we both knew. Of course I was anxious that he should agree with me, and I restated the case to him as plainly as I could. He listened with his usual patience, and when we had to part he spoke words eminently characteristic, and which I shall ever remember: "Well, I don't yet see it as you do, but I may change. I shall look the whole matter over again, and I may change. Some men never change; a wise man must change sometimes."

While Prof. Mudge and I were at Humboldt, a gentleman told us there was a trap dyke in Linn County. I undertook to visit it as early as possible. Only a short time before his death, Prof. Mudge wrote, asking if I had been to Linn County. I had not then, but in December last I made the visit. There was no trap dyke.

"In conclusion, we would again call to mind the statement in the biennial report, that there is no metamorphic rock in Kansas, and ask your attention to the fact that the statement was scarcely published ere the author learned that there was, and followed up the discovery with zest."

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