Genealogy Trails

Greene County, Indiana
Iron Ores Of Greene County


By Charles W. Shannon.

This chapter, with slight variations, is taken from the report of the state geologist, to whom the proper and customary acknowledgment is hereby tendered. This report, prepared by Mr. Shannon, could be added to, but it would require months of costly labor, and as it stands is fairly complete, and while the showing made in this line is at present not altogether what we should like to see, yet we predict great development in this county in the iron industry in the near future.

Greene county, ranking second in the state as to extent and value of its iron ore deposits, is situated as follows in reference to the other counties of the same ore area : On the north it is bounded by Clay and Owen ; on the east by Monroe and Lawrence ; on the south by Martin, Daviess and Knox counties, and on the west by Sullivan county.

The west fork of White river, which runs in a southwestern course through the county, dividing it into two almost equal parts, is the principal stream of water. The main tributaries of White river in the county are : Eel river, Lotta's creek and Black creek, on the west side; and Richland creek, Doan's creek and First creek on the east side. The southeastern portion of the county is drained by Indian creek, which empties into the east fork of White river.

The topography of the part of the county to the east of the river is more rugged than that to the west. Hills rise from one hundred feet to three hundred feet in height, whereas to the" west of the river, with the exception of a ridge running from Eel river on the north to White river on the south, in Fair Play township, and passing a short distance to the west of Worthington, the county is generally level, or slightly undulating, a considerable part of it being prairie. This western portion is the great coal producing area of the county, and it is also the chief agricultural district. The valuable resources of the eastern part are more limited. Thin bedded coals are found; the limestones and sandstones are of little economic importance except for local use. There are extensive beds of shale, which may prove of value for the making of cement and other products of shale. Most of the fire clays are rendered worthless by the large percentage of iron which they contain. The chief interest at the present time is in the iron ore deposits of this part of the county.


From 1840- 1 860 the iron ore deposits of the county were worked in a limited way and utilized in two blast furnaces built expressly for smelting these ores. Previous to the autumn of 1869, the time of the completion of the Indianapolis & Vincennes Railroad, this county was without a direct practicable means of communication with the distant centers of trade. Consequently up to that time there was no incentive or inducement offered to its citizens to attempt any development of its resources, and for the same reason any works that were put in operation soon came to a standstill. Geologists and prospectors had but little to guide their investigations beyond the obscure natural outcrops, of the strata, and a few imperfect openings of coal and iron mines—the former of which were only worked to supply the limited wants of the immediate neighborhood.

Various attempts have been made to revive an interest in the iron ores of the county, but it was not until 1902 that any real prospecting- began. In that year the promoters of the Indianapolis Southern Railroad secured options on several thousand acres, and, securing the services of an expert mineralogist and geologist, began prospecting for ore. The surface outcrops were investigated and excavations and cuts were made. Many prospect holes were put down with the core-drill, and although the company will give out no information, they claim to have found deposits of rich ore and pyrites apparently of great extent.

While there are considerable deposits of workable iron ore in Greene county, the actual extent of the deposits has at times been greatly exaggerated. In some cases large deposits of red shale have been classed as rich deposits of ore. Any one familiar with the geology of the region will not expect to find large and continuous deposits. Nevertheless the ores that are found show a fairly high percentage of iron as compared with other Indiana ores, and since some of the outcrops show a thickness of several feet, it is to be hoped that the core drill records will show the existence of other deposits and depth to the outcropping bodies of sufficient importance to justify greater developments at an early date.


The Richland furnace was built by Andrew Downey and went into the blast about 1841. It was located in section 25, township 7 north, range 4 west, near where Ore branch empties into Richland creek.

The furnace stack was about forty-five feet high and nine feet across the boshes. Charcoal was used as fuel and about nine tons of pig iron were produced daily. Some of the iron was made into hollow wares, stoves, machinery, etc., but most of the pig iron was marketed at Louisville. The iron had to be hauled to Mitchell and be shipped to Louisville, or else hauled all the way in wagons, the latter being more economical. Although the iron sold for twenty-six dollars per ton, about twenty dollars was used in the transportation. Hence the cause assigned for the blowing out of the old furnace was the want of a suitable and economical means of getting the pig iron to market. It went out of blast in 1858 or 1859.

The other furnace using the Greene county ores was the old Virginia furnace, located in the western edge of Monroe county, and was long maintained. The pig iron from this furnace was also hauled to Louisville. The furnace was poorly constructed and "the only wonder is that it made pig iron at all." There are to be found as relics in the homes of some of the citizens a few bars of the pig iron made from these bars. In appearance it was a very good quality of iron.

The following from the report of Professor E. T. Cox (1869) on the iron ores of Greene county is here copied for comparison of analysis, location of deposits, value and uses of the ore and the origin of the deposits:

"It is at the junction of the conglomerate with the sub-carboniferous limestone that we find the great repository of limonite ore in this county, and, in fact, it forms the common horizon of this variety of iron in most of the western states. The ore lies in pockets of various dimensions, and owes its origin in most cases to a metamorphism of the surrounding rocks, produced by the permeating of mineral waters that are strongly charged with protoxide of iron.

"On Ore branch, section 22, township 7, range 4 west, on Mr. Heaton's land, the base of the conglomerate has been completely changed by this process into a siliceous ore that is rich in iron to the depth of ten or twelve feet. Similar ores are seen on sections 21 and 28 of the same township and range; also in the greatest abundance at Mr. Law's place, on sections 4 and 9, township 7, range 6, where it cannot be less than twenty-five or thirty feet in thickness, and great blocks lie scattered over the side of the ridge; it is in abundance also on section 12, of the N same township and range, and in the neighborhood of Owensboro in the southeast part of the county.

"The principal ore used at the Richland blast furnace, near Bloomfield, from Ore branch of Plummer's creek, forms a bench on each side of the ravine, and appears to lie between the massive ore and the subcarboniferous limestone which shows itself in the bottom near by. An excavation was made during' my stay in the county to show the thickness of the ore bed, which went to the depth of six feet, at which point the work was stopped without reaching the bottom of the deposit.

"Captain M. H. Shryer, of Bloomfield, who frequently saw this bed of ore at the time it was being worked for the blast furnace, assures me that the deposit is fully nine. feet in thickness. It lies in kidney-shaped masses in a matrix of ferruginous clay, and contains less silica than the massive ore. Characteristic samples of this kidney ore and of the massive siliceous block ore from the Richland furnace ore banks were analyzed and the following results were obtained :

'Kidney Ore' (limonite), specific gravity 2.583. Loss by ignition, water and organic matter, mostly water 1 1.50 Insoluble silicates 17.00 Sesquioxide of iron, with some protoxite and a trace of manganese 56.00 Alumina 2.00 Carbonate of lime 10.00 Magnesia 3.50 100.00

Giving 39.20 per cent, of iron. This ore contains a large amount of lime, and will make an excellent quality of metal, and when roasted the percentage of metal will be increased to 45.42 per cent. Specimens of pig iron made from this ore were found at the furnace and have every appearance of being the best quality of mill iron.

"An analysis of the siliceous 'block ore' gave the following result: Specific gravity, 2.585-2.694. Loss by ignition, water 7.50 Insoluble silicates 34.00 Sesquioxide of iron 54.73 Alumina 2.50 Manganese 1.14 Lime .12 Magnesia 03 100.02

Giving 38.31 per cent, of iron. It was tested for sulphur and phosphorus, but found no trace. Two hundred grains of this siliceous ore, mixed with fifty grains of limestone, were fused in a Hessian crucible, and a button of iron was obtained that weighed seventy-six grains, equal to thirty-eight per cent. ; very nearly the same result is obtained by the humid analysis. The button indicated a very good quality of iron, slightly malleable, and gave a semi-crystalline fracture. The roasted ore would yield fully forty per cent, of iron in the blast furnace, and on account of the manganese which it contains it is admirably adapted for the manufacture of steel, either by the Bessemer process or in the puddling' furnace. Iron made from these ores alone will possess cold-short properties, but by mixing them in the proper proportions, with the red-short specular and magnetic ores from Missouri and Lake Superior, a neutral iron may be made."


The ore map, which can be seen in the thirty-first annual geological report, shows the area over which the most careful investigation was made. It is not to be understood from the map that the entire area under the ore markings is covered by workable ore deposits. The area includes the chief deposits, which in most cases are noted on the map by special markings, and it also includes the area over which more or less iroivore is scattered, showing the possibility of a deposit hear by. The map then is more of a guide to lead to the finding of deposits than a real index of known deposits. The existence of deposits outside of the area mapped may have been found in the core-drilling. A few small deposits are known farther west and south along the river, and the surface in many places shows very good indications of iron and developments may show the presence of some workable deposits. The area mapped covers the chief iron bearing localities.


In Greene county the known workable deposits of iron ore are to be found chiefly along Ore branch, Richland creek, Plummer's creek and in the vicinity of Cincinnati. Some of these deposits will be described and the analysis appended.

Richland Furnace Ore Bank No. i.—This deposit lies along the slope of the ridge just south of the old furnace location, on Ore branch. The deposit is of kidney ore intermixed with much clay and broken sandstone. The total thickness is twenty to twenty-five feet, but the ore would aggregate but a few feet. This would now hardly be considered workable, although considerable ore from the bank was used in the Richland furnace. The samples analyzed show an average iron content of thirty-seven and sixty-five hundredths per cent. This of course does not include any of the impurities imbedded with the ore. In the table of analysis the sample marks are No. 6 and No. ii. The complete analyses are given in the table, and they would be a fair average for most of the kidney ores of the county.

Furnace Bank No. 2.
Located in the southwest quarter, section 25, township 7 north, range 5 west, about forty rods southwest of old furnace site. It is sixty-five feet above drainage. Elevation five hundred and sixtyfive feet. At the creek level is the outcrop of a thin bed of coal.

This iron ore is very siliceous. It is in a massive deposit but is very porous. The excavation, which did not reach the bottom, shows five feet of ore ; it is probably six feet or more in thickness on the outcrop. The first drilling was made near the edge of the deposit, then two more were put down, one about fifteen rods to the southwest, the third about the same distance to the southeast, and the fourth was near the first and was drilled at an angle—i. e., the drill was set perpendicular to the slope of the hill. The order of succession of these borings would indicate that the deposit was of small dimensions and as it thinned out back in the ridge it raised with the slope of the ridge. The deposit probably does not have a backward extent of more than fifty feet of workable ore. This deposit would yield about eight thousand tons of ore. It shows an iron content of forty and thirty-six hundredths per cent. In the table of analysis the sample marks are No. 7 and No. 12.

No. 3.
Cincinnati Ore.—In the vicinity of the little town of Cincinnati, in the eastern part of the county, the ground in many places is profusely covered over with fragments of ore, even on the tops and slopes of the highest ridges. About two and a half miles northeast of the town is a U. S. G. S. B. M., marked eight hundred and fifty-three feet. The mark is in a steel plate imbedded in a large piece of sandstone at the top of the ridge. Ore is found at this level, but there are no workable deposits.

On the east side of Cincinnati the ore outcrops in the shale along the sides of the ridge, and these outcrops follow around the ridge to the south of the town and more or less ore is found fringing the hills to the west and also to the north. The elevation of the town is a little lower than the surrounding hills. The elevation marked on a telephone pole by the store at the turn of the road is eight hundred and twenty-five feet. Another U. S. B. M. at an elevation of eight hundred and eighty feet is marked on a steel post about half a mile south of Cincinnati at a fork in the roads.

On the Starling Hudson farm in the southwest quarter of section 28, south of Cincinnati, is to be found considerable ore intermixed with the shale. This deposit of concretionary ore covers about forty acres. It is to be found in a thickness of more than ten feet in some places, but in no compactness that would be considered a workable ore. It is, however, very interesting" geologically. At an elevation of seven hundred and seventy-five feet a thin bed of very fossiliferous limestone outcrops. Above this the ore is a constituent of the shales and sandstone; below the ledge of limestone the ore is concretionary and contains fossils or fragments of fossils, which have been replaced from the limestone fossils.

Deposit No. 4.
On Anthony Williams' land, northeast quarter southeast quarter, section 21, township 7 north, range 4 west, is a deposit with an average thickness of five feet, and has an exposed frontage of two hundred and fifty feet. This is a brown, highly siliceous ore, which owes its origin to the filling of the sandstone with iron from mineral charged waters. Three drill holes were put down on the low ridge above the deposit.

Across the road is another deposit of red hematite, which is in compact nodular masses imbedded in the clay. The excavation shows over five feet of this ore.

On the Miller farm, southwest of Williams's, ore similar to the above is also found.

In the table of analysis sample No. 1 was taken from the siliceous ore, and sample No. 3 was from the red hematite deposit, but does not include the clay, and sample marked No. 10 is from another outcrop of the siliceous deposit on the southeastern point of the hill about forty rods from the first deposit.

Deposit No. 5.
Southwest quarter of section 22, just east of the above deposit, is another opening from which ore was taken in the early days of the iron industry. It is a continuation of the deposit of red ore, but probably contains less . clay. The hills do not rise to great height above these ores, and both deposits would require on the average about fifteen feet of stripping. Samples Nos. 4 and 9 show the iron content.

Deposit No. 6.
On the John Bryan land, west side of section 9, township 7 north, range 4 west, is a deposit of red siliceous ore exposed to the south side of the ridge facing Richland creek.

The deposit is about forty feet above drainage and at an elevation of six hundred feet. The maximum thickness is about fifteen feet, and it has a frontage of more than five hundred feet, but the backward extent is small, as the ridge is narrow and but little trace of ore is to be found on the opposite side. The tonnage would probably amount to about twenty-five thousand tons. A vertical section of the ridge would be as follows: Sandstone and clay with glacial material 15 feet Sandstone 25 feet Iron ore 15 feet Sandstone 35 feet Limestone down to creek 10 feet

The analyses show an iron content of 42.01 per cent. The sample mark is No. 5.

Deposit No. 7.
Adius B. Hayes's land, section 16, township 7 north, range 4 west. Along the sides of the ravines are large accumulations of kidney ore, some pieces weighing hundreds of pounds. These shales are full of these ores. In the stream below the' shales is a ledge of siliceous ore due to the filling of the sandstone with iron. Only a short distance back in the ledge the iron content is to be found. These deposits might be worked out along with the larger dq^osits. Sample No. 8, selected specimens from a number of concretions from this deposit.

Deposit No. 8.
In the southeast quarter of section 4 and the northeast quarter of section 9, south of Solsberry, are found large blocks of siliceous iron ore, also some outcropping ledges. This ore has been greatly overestimated. It was recently estimated by a prospector as containing five hundred thousand tons of workable ore. The ore is due to" the filling and replacing of the sandstone, and it is doubtful if this line of deposit will prove to be of any practical value.

Biographical memoirs of Greene County, Ind. B.F. Bowen Co 1908
Source: FHL 1351156


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