Arkansas Survey

1857 - 1858

( Greene County )

Transcribed by : Tina Easley





Office Of The Arkansas Survey, New Harmony, Indiana, October 15th, 1858

David Dale Owen, M. D.

Dear Sir: I herewith submit my Report of a Geological Reconnoissance, made in the State of Arkansas, daring the fall of 1857, and summer of 1858; prosecuted in accordance with instructions received from you, at different times, while progressing with the survey.

Allow me, also, to acknowledge here, the many obligations I owe to you for valuable counsel and aid, while carrying forward the survey, under your direction.

Most respectfully yours,

E. T. COX.



The following are instructions received, on different occasions, from Dr. D. D. Owen, Principal Geologist of the State of Arkansas:

Instructions, dated October, 1857.

" After separating from corps No. 1, you will proceed by the most feasible route between Cache and Black rivers, through the north and north-west part of Greene, south-east part of Randolph, the eastern part of Lawrence, and the north part of Jackson county, and make a general geological reconnoissance of those portions of the State of Arkansas.

You will keep your camp on some main route, and make lateral excursions to any points of interest between Black river and the eastern branch of Cache river.

Along the line of your route, you will endeavor to see the gentlemen whose names are in the list herewith furnished, under the head of the counties through which you pass, for the purpose of obtaining information in regard to localities considered of special interest, and make a geological exploration of those which may be considered important.

You will, also, make inquiries in regard to sections of rocks exposed on Black and Cache rivers, and examine the same, in order to obtain a clue to the formations of that part of Arkansas.

I would particularly call your attention to a locality in Randolph county, on Mr. McLaires' land, supposed to contain iron; also, to a locality near Pocahontas, in the same county, which is, perhaps, an extension of the same bed; also, to deposits of black oxide of manganese, supposed to exist in some of the northern counties.

In your descent of the valleys of Black and Cache rivers, you will extend your observations as far south as Jacksonport. If you arrive at this place before corps No. 1, you will encamp at some convenient point, in the vicinity, and wait for further instructions; you will, however, occupy the time, while awaiting my arrival, in making explorations in the vicinity of Jacksonport."

Instructions received at Jacksonport, Jackson county, Ark., Nov. 17th, 1857.

" After crossing Black river, you will proceed to the zinc mines, situated on Reed's creek, in the southern part of Lawrence county, and make a reconnoissance of that part of the country lying between Strawberry and Black rivers, as far north as township 17. You will proceed thence to make a reconnoissance of the country lying between Strawberry and Spring rivers, taking a north-west course towards Salem, in Fulton county, as far north as township 19 or 20. You will then explore Fulton county south of that line, and continue west, through the ranges of township 19; cross White river, and encamp at some suitable point near Yellville, where you will await my arrival and further instructions."

Instructions, dated December 4th, 1857.

" After examining the salt-peter cave, situated in the Horseshoe bend of White river, in Marion county, and collecting samples of the earth for chemical analysis, you will recross White river, and examine that portion of Fulton county south of your previous route, and pass through Crossplains. Thence you will proceed by ' Evening Shade,' in the south-west corner of Lawrence county, to Cury creek, in Independence county, and examine the prospect for lead ore in that county. After completing your observations in the northern and eastern part of Independence county, you will cross Black river and meet me at Jacksonport."

Instructions, dated May 12th, 1858.

" During the time I shall be absent in Pulaski and Hot Spring counties, you will examine the north-western tier of townships, not previously explored, in Randolph county, and visit Rice's spring on the waters of Muddy creek, take its temperature, and make a qualitative chemical examination of it at the fountain head; you will investigate, also, whatever may be of interest in that vicinity.

From Randolph county, you will proceed through Lawrence county to Batesville, in Independence county, and examine the geological formation on the north side of White river, between that place and the warehouse below the mouth of Laferty creek; and especially ascertain whether there is any evidence of the existence of an outburst of basalt, or other igneous rocks, amongst the subcarboniferous group in that vicinity. You will examine, also, the fossiliferous shale below the town of Batesville.

The manganese locality, a short distance above the mouth of Lafferty creek, was already examined, last season, by corps No. 1; but, as it is desirable to obtain a greater variety of the ores than was then collected, you will either obtain an additional supply from Dr. Smith, former superintendent of the mines, who lives somewhere in the neighborhood, or at the mines. Endeavor, especially, to ascertain whether any of the softer and blacker varieties of this ore occur, and have been taken out; such as are known to mineralogists under the name of " pyrolusite," and " manganite," which are more valuable than the hard, compact " psilomelane " ore, which was found most abundant in the rubbish of the mine last year.

You will write to me from Batesville, and let me know when you will be in Van Buren county, and at what place it will be most convenient for us to meet, either in that county or White county.

From Independence county, you will cross over White river, into White county, and explore the northern townships in that county, as far south as Searcy.

In the counties south of White river, you will especially investigate for coal, as the south-west dip of the rocks from the Oil-trough ridge and Shields' bluff, lead to the inference that coal may soon come in south of these localities."

Instructions dated 21st July, 1858.

" You will proceed to finish the geological reconnoissance of Crawford county, examining those localities in the south-east part not yet explored; especially the coal on Frog bayou, and the sulphur spring on the property of Mr. Herd.

From Crawford county pass into Franklin, and examine the state salt spring, on Mulberry creek, exploring, also, the geological formations on that stream; thence pass down towards Ozark, and take the most feasible route to examine the coal region, on the waters of Horsehead creek, in Johnson county, and the geological position of the rocks, in the northern part of that county.

As I, myself, shall have an opportunity of examining the Spadracoal, it will not be necessary for you to go to that locality in this county.

In your explorations of Pope county, I would especially direct your attention to a locality near the Dwight Old Mission, where the so-called " lapis lazuli" was said to have been found by Mr. Washburn. Your survey in the middle, northern, and eastern part of this county, will be best regulated after you have learnt more of the other localities of interest. When in Conway county, examine the state salt spring. There are also several other localities of interest in this county, on the Cadron, and, perhaps also, on Cedar creek, a branch of that stream, which may require your attention. When in the north-east part of this county, you will pass over a few miles into White county, and examine a locality of coal, of which I have previously given you a note and directions how to find it. The rest of this county has already been explored.

Ascertain where the coal measures of Conway county terminate, and the metamorphic slate formation of Pulaski county commences, in your easterly route into Pulaski. It is, probably, somewhere near Palarm bayou. Some gold ore is said to have been found somewhere near that stream.

One of the most important localities to be examined in Pulaski, is the Kellogg mine of argentiferous galena, some ten miles north of Little Rock, on Kellogg's creek.

As I have been over the road from Little Rock to Oakland Grove, in White county, it will not be necessary for you to pass over that ground again at present, unless you hear of something special that may require your attention.

I know of nothing particular at present to which I can direct your attention, while passing through Prairie county into Monroe, where your geological reconnoissance will terminate for this season; but you will take every opportunity to inquire, before you enter a county, what there may be in it of particular geological interest, and direct your course accordingly.

In each county which you pass through, you will collect sets of characteristic soils, upon the same plan as heretofore followed by the geological  corps of Arkansas.

D. D. OWEN, M. D.,

Geologist of Arkansas."



As you had examined, personally, the country adjacent to the Chalk bluff, before we separated on our respective routes, it will be unnecessary for me to make any report on that locality.

The northern part of Greene county, included within my instructions, belongs to the quaternary and alluvial period. The quaternary deposits observed, consist of sands, gravel and potter's clay; these occupy the highlands, extending from the Chalk bluff, on the St. Francis river, through the greater part of range seven. They are spread over an area of eight or ten miles in width; and their vertical thickness is from one hundred to one hundred and fifty feet.

The alluvium forms the bottom lands of the St. Francis, Cache, and Black rivers.

A locality in section 36?, township 21 north, range 7 east, one and a half miles from Mr. James W. Payne's, has been rendered notorious on account of a phenomenon, which induced Mr. Payne and others, to believe that gold or other precious metals might be found there. The account given is as follows: When Mr. Payne was out hunting about two years ago, he heard a slight noise at his feet, and on looking down saw the earth open to the width of three or four inches; being reminded of the memorable New Madrid earthquake, which sunk a large district of land in this county, this frightful phenomenon, of course, alarmed him, and he left, supposing the hill was about to be engulfed. After a few days, finding that no serious catastrophe had taken place, he returned to view the condition of things. On examining the ground, he became possessed of the idea that the opening of the earth was a revelation, to notify him of the existence of a vein of gold below. In this belief he was further strengthened by the fact of the tops of the trees, in the vicinity, being dead. Accordingly, with some of his neighbors, he went to work, and sunk three pits, one of which was thirty feet deep. Unfortunately, when I visitcd the place, these pits had become filled up with the rubbish and washings from the hill above.

After the examination of the material thrown Irom these pits, and aided by the memory of Mr. Payne, I was enabled to make out the following succession in the deposits:

(a) Slope above the shaft, composed of waterworn hornstone and chert gravel, and sand, which are sometimes formed into a ferruginous conglomerate of small extent 30 feet.

(b) Light colored plastic clay, with small, pure, transparent,  paticular crystals of selenite imbedded 10 to 15 "

(c) Variegated plastic clay, alternating with beds of clay, in all about? 15 "

Bottom of the shaft 0 "

The deposits passed through in this shaft, are not such as to afford any hope of finding gold, or other precious metals. The labors of Mr. Payne have disclosed, however, in the member marked (b), of the above section, a material which will undoubtedly prove to be a valuable fertilizer of land, from the large amount of selenite (a transparent variety of gypsum) which it contains. Judging from its external appearance, the selenite forms about one-third of the whole mass composing this member. An earth, so rich in this ingredient, and so easy of access, must be of great value to the farming community.

The lower bed reached, (c), is a good potter's clay, which, by a proper selection, and washing, will be applicable for the manufacture of the coarser kinds of porcelain.

The yellow member of this bed, which is sometimes several feet thick, is a variety of yellow ochre that has commercial value as a cheap paint, used for the coarser kinds of work.

The evidence of the cracking of the earth, at this locality, is still very apparent; and it is probable that such cracks are not uncommon, and may have favored the formation of the selenite, by giving egress to pent up sulphurous acid or sulphuretted hydrogen gases, which, by oxidation, have been converted into sulphuric acid; this, combining with the lime present in some of the quaternary deposits, has formed the sulphate of lime, (selenite). These cracks may have originated, in part, from the shrinking of the underlying argillaceous strata; and in part, from the slumbering effects of former earthquake action.

The other mystery which aided in drawing attention to this locality, the decay of the tops of the trees, may be explained from the fact, that the soil has been washed away from their base into these cracks, and they are left rooted merely in gravel. Thus deprived of sufficient nourishment, the languid sap fails to reach the top, and the upper branches naturally decay first.

Where the hills are of sufficient height, a bed of waterworn hornstone and chert-gravel is super imposed on the quaternary sand and clay. The pebbles are from one to three inches in diameter; occasionally in some of these are found fragments of carboniferous fossils.

Beneath this gravel bed, a ferruginous conglomerate, or pudding stone, sometimes occurs in sheets of two or more inches in thickness. This is the only instance of finding a hard cemented rock in any portion of Greene county, within the scope of my observation.

In the stratum of potter's clay (c) at Mr. Payne's shaft, were found a few specimens of the leaves of oaks (qucrcus), and willow (salix), which belong undoubtedly to species now living. No other organic remains were observed; but I have no doubt that if good exposures of this bed were accessible, some associate land or fresh-water shells might be discovered.

Mineral and Agricultural Resources.

Though no metallic ores proper have yet been found in the northern part of Greene county, I consider the selenite bed  near Mr. Payne's of great importance, in an agricultural point of view; and it may hereafter be the source of no inconsiderable revenue to the county. It occurs in beautiful, small, transparent crystals, abundantly distributed through the clay, which itself contains soda, potash, and perhaps, phosphates and nitrates, forming a combination which will be applicable as a mineral fertilizer to a great variety of soils.

The underlying stratum (c) will afford a good, cheap, red, as well as yellow paint; for, by simple burning, the yellow ochre is converted into a red ochre; this latter can be used as a dyestuff for coarse cloth and yarn.

Potter's clay is in great abundance, and of excellent quality for common ware.

In the absence of more durable rocks, the ferruginous conglomerate may be used for the underpining of houses, building chimneys and walling up wells.

The alluvial bottoms, above overflow of the rivers and creeks, are very productive and easily cultivated. The elevated land between St. Francis and Cache rivers, known by the name of Crowley's ridge, is somewhat broken, but highly susceptible of cultivation, producing all kinds of grain; it is particularly noted for its adaptation to the growth of wheat. Mr. A. Muckelroy, who lives on section 19, township 21 north, range 8 east, informed me that he had raised six consecutive crops of wheat on his land without any apparent diminution of fertility; in fact, all the farmers with whom I conversed, spoke in great praise of its wheat growing properties; and when by continued cultivation it may require renovation, there lies close at hand, in the gypsifcrous clays, a supply of mineral manure that will keep it in good heart.

The settlers in this part of Greene county, are just beginning to turn their attention to agriculture; heretofore, the great abundance of game seduced them into a thriftless way of living; depending almost exclusively, for a livelihood, on the sale of furs and peltries, which constitute, at all times, a critical and uncertain means of support. As game is now becoming scarce, they are compelled to devote their time to agriculture, or move farther west, where wild animals are more numerous.

The projected railroad, from Fulton, in Texas, to Cairo, at the junction of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, runs through township 21, range 0, and if completed, will prove of incalculable advantage to a region of country rich in fertile lands; as the want of a ready market for the surplus produce of the country, is one of the greatest drawbacks to its progress.

A plank road from the Chalk bluff, to Point Pleasant, on the Mississippi river, twelve miles below New Madrid, is under construction and will soon be completed.

This road will prove highly beneficial to Greene county, and is the best route for emigrants coming from Kentucky, Tennessee, and.the Carolinas, who wish to locate in the northern part of Arkansas. The emigration to and through Greene county, during the fall and winter of 1857, was very great; and as the people of this and the adjoining county of Randolph, receive, from this emigration, no small amount of money, in exchange for produce, it is to their interest to improve the road from the Chalk bluff to Pocahontas, particularly the crossing of Cache river, which is in a wretchedly bad condition, and could be made passable at very little cost. In attempting to cross this river, our mules mired down and came very near being drowned in trying to extricate themselves from the deep mud. We were compelled to obtain assistance, and after disengaging the team had to get the wagon out by hand.

The principal growth of timber on the highland is large white, black, and red oaks, mockernut hickory, (commonly called black hickory.) and a few shell-bark hickories. On the alluvial lands of Cache river, are found, in addition to the above, large poplar, black and sweet gums, and in the sloughs, cypress.