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Geology of Ness and Hodgeman Counties

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Economic Geology

Oil and Gas

Ness County has the westernmost oil well in the state. This is the Continental Oil Company well on the Aldrich farm, in the NE SE, sec. 7, T. 18 S., R. 25 W. The well is shut down at present but had an initial production of 210 barrels. It had a settled production test of 170 barrels of 37° Bé. oil December 15, 1929 (Oil and Gas Journal, Dec. 15, 1929). The well is producing from a depth of 4,430 feet in dolomitic limestone of Mississippian (?) age just below the unconformity at the base of the Pennsylvanian series. Although the well is less than four miles from the Scott City branch of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe railroad, it has never been put on commercial production, as there has been a general curtailment of oil production since the well was drilled in. Some oil from the well has been sold locally as fuel for other drilling operations in Trego and Ness counties. The well is located on a prominent structural nose on the Beeler anticline. Judging from the size of the structure it is possible that a large field may be developed here.

The Gypsy Oil Company drilled a well on the Coleman farm northeast of the Aldrich well, in the center of the SW NE, sec. 25, T. 17 S., R. 25 W. It had a show of oil at a depth of 4,375 feet, which is approximately at the same horizon as the production in the Aldrich well. The well was drilled deeper to test lower beds, but did not encounter any more oil and was abandoned. As it is located at the northeast end of the structural nose, it apparently was beyond the limit of commercial production on this part of the structure. No wells have been drilled on the structure south of the Aldrich well.

The Plateau Oil Corporation drilled a well on the Stucker farm, in sec. 27, T. 15 S., R. 26 W., to a depth of 3,820 feet. The bottom of the well is in marine Permian strata. The location of the well is lower, structurally, than the Aldrich or Coleman wells, and no shows of oil or gas were reported.

The Barnsdall Oil Company drilled a well southeast of Bazine on the Lank farm, in the center of the SW14, sec. 35, T. 18 S., R. 21 W. This well had a 20-barrel show of oil at a depth of 4,182 feet in the basal conglomerate of the Pennsylvanian series. Considerable water accompanied the oil. The well was deepened to 4,225 feet, where another good showing of oil was encountered, but this, also, occurred with water, and the well was not deemed to be of commercial value so was drilled deeper and finally abandoned at a depth of 4,755 feet. This well was drilled on the northeast flank of a prominent structural nose on the Bazine anticline. It was not located in the most favorable place, structurally, and another test should be put down to the southwest, as shows of oil in the Lank well possibly indicate an oil pool higher on the anticline.

Three wells have been drilled on the Bazine anticline in Hodgeman County. Only one of these, the Frizell well in sec. 19, T. 21 S., R. 22 W. (the northernmost of the three wells), obtained any shows, and they were small shows of gas. The Frizell well was drilled to a depth of 4,391 feet and had shows of gas at depths of 3,080 and 3,930 feet. The well was stopped in the lower part of the Pennsylvanian series, not reaching the horizon of the oil shows in the Lank well. The Phillips Petroleum Company drilled a well on the Hausman farm, in sec. 30, T. 22 S., R. 23 W., to a depth of 5,120 feet. The well went through the Pennsylvanian series and was abandoned in rocks of Cambrian or Ordovician age. No shows of oil or gas were reported. The Shouse Oil Company drilled a well on the Whiteside farm, in sec. 2, T. 24 S., R. 23 W., to a depth of 4,080 feet. The well was abandoned above the "Oswald lime," so did not test the producing horizons of other areas of western Kansas.

To date there have been no encouraging results of drilling in Hodgeman County, but only one well, the Phillips-Hausman, has made a thorough test of the buried rocks. Neither of the other wells were drilled deep enough to test the unconformity at the base of the Pennsylvanian series or the beds of Ordovician and Cambrian age which are the most prolific oil-producing rocks in the Mid-Continent oil province. It is hoped that more prospects will be drilled in Hodgeman County. Three dry holes do not condemn an entire county.

Ground Water

Ground water is obtained from the alluvium of the larger streams, from the Ogallala formation, and from the Dakota sandstone in Ness and Hodgeman counties. The Codell sandstone bed at the top of the Blue Hill shale produces water in other areas but is not an important aquifer in this area. Some of the water used in Ness and Hodgeman counties comes from springs, but most of it comes from wells.


The only springs of importance occur at the base of the Ogallala formation. Water falling on the Ogallala surface (high plains) in these counties and areas farther west percolates through the porous beds of the formation until it reaches the eastward sloping, impervious surface of the underlying Cretaceous strata. Then it flows slowly eastward and issues forth in springs at the eastern margin of the Ogallala formation. The heads of all the perennial streams in the area are at the base of this formation. The valleys continue on up onto the formation but carry water only at times of heavy precipitation. In many of the valleys the base of the Ogallala is marked by a small grove of trees. Many of the farm houses are located here.

Small springs and seeps occur at the base of the Fort Hays limestone, the water coming from the Codell sandstone bed. The water probably enters the bed near the outcrop through joints in the Fort Hays limestone. Springs in the Dakota sandstone are unimportant in this area, as the beds in the upper part of the formation are not persistent enough to be good aquifers.


Practically all of the water used for domestic purposes in Ness and Hodgeman counties, and most of the stock water, is derived from wells. The depth to water and the character of the water-producing horizon varies with the location.

In all of the larger valleys water is obtained in the alluvium at depths up to 50 feet. The amount of water available depends upon the thickness of the alluvium and the character of the rocks and size of the drainage basin. The municipal water supply for Jetmore comes from the stream alluvium of Buckner Creek ("underflow" water). The wells are drilled adjacent to the creek and are about 50 feet deep. The water supplies of Hanston, Beeler and Bazine are from individual wells, in the stream alluvium, which are pumped by windmills.

The Ogallala is drilled for water more extensively than any other formation in the two counties. On all of the Ogallala-capped uplands "sheet water" is obtained at depths not exceeding 100 feet. This water comes from the base of the formation where it overlies impervious Cretaceous strata, as it does in all the area except, possibly, in the southeast corner of Hodgeman County. Only rarely do wells in the Ogallala fail to produce water, except near the margin of the formation where the water has been drained by streams cutting back into the upland. The Ogallala formation fails to produce water in a few places. This is probably due to low porosity of the beds locally. In such cases it is necessary to drill to the Dakota sandstone, which may be found at depths ranging up to 800 feet.

Ransom has a municipal water supply from the Ogallala formation from wells 100 feet deep. The water comes from a gravel bed resting on the Smoky Hill chalk. Arnold and Brownell both obtain water from this horizon, at depths of 80 and 30 feet, but the towns do not have a municipal supply, and the water comes from individual wells operated by windmills.

Utica has a municipal water supply from an 800 foot well in the Dakota sandstone. Some water is also obtained here at a depth of 80 feet from the Ogallala. Ness City recently put in a municipal water supply, obtaining water from the Dakota sandstone. The water comes from two wells 444 and 455 feet deep. The producing stratum lies about 300 feet below the top of the formation. Two higher water horizons were found in the Dakota, but these did not produce enough water to supply the town.

There are some flowing wells from the Dakota sandstone in secs. 13, 14, 23 and 24, T. 24 S., R. 23 W. The wells start near the top of the Dakota and obtain the artesian water at a depth of about 200 feet. These are the only flowing wells in the area. Wells obtaining water in the Dakota sandstone are common in southeastern Ness County and northeastern Hodgeman County on the uplands covered by the Carlile and Greenhorn formations (which do not carry water). Unless water is available from small alluvial deposits it is necessary to drill to the Dakota sandstone.

Character of the Water

The table below shows the salt content and hardness of typical waters of Ness and Hodgeman counties. The acid and base radicals are given in parts per million present in the water. The analyses were obtained from the State Board of Health, Lawrence, Kan.

City Ca Mg Na CO3 HCO3 SO4 Cl F NO3 Hardness
Utica 10.4 3.4 370. 19.2 326.3 160. 266.   4.4 40.
Ransom 60. 9.6 38. 0. 261. 28. 17.   6.7 189.
Jetmore 111.2 18.3 23. 0. 327. 100. 34. 0.5 2. 372.
Ness City 100.8 17.1 28. 0. 313. 86. 25.5 1.0 0. 322.

The Utica water comes from the Dakota formation and that at Ransom from the Ogallala formation. The Jetmore and Ness City supplies are derived from the stream alluvium. The above analyses indicate that there is a marked chemical distinction between the waters from the different formations. The alluviul and Ogallala waters are quite hard while the Dakota water is relatively soft.

The hardness of the former is mostly due to the large amount of calcium present. The calcium is derived from the calcium carbonate present in the Ogallala formation as a cementing material and from tile calcium carbonate of the chalky beds of the Cretaceous strata. The softness of the water from the Dakota sandstone is probably due to the absence of this compound in the sands from which the water is derived.

Sand and Gravel

Many deposits of sand and gravel occur in Ness and Hodgeman counties. The best deposits are of Pleistocene (?) age (discussed under Quaternary), but the most extensively utilized deposits are of Recent age and occur in the stream alluvium. The chief use of sand and gravel is in road surfacing. Smaller amounts are used in concrete aggregate for paving, buildings, road culverts and bridges.

Most of the sand and gravel used in Ness County is obtained from the stream bed of the north fork of Walnut Creek, west of Ness City. Pits in secs. 21 and 22, T. 18 S., R. 24 W. have yielded considerable quantities. Pits a few miles north of Ness City, in secs. 19 and 29, T. 17 S., R. 23 W., have produced some sand and gravel. A quantity of sand has been taken from the stream bed of Pawnee River south of Ness City. This has been used for buildings and road culverts.

Most of the sand and gravel used in Hodgeman County is taken from the alluvium of Buckner Creek. The following pit locations were tested and passed on by the State Highway Department for road metal. Each of these deposits was estimated to contain several thousand cubic yards of sand and gravel.

Locations of sand and gravel pits:

NW cor, sec. 17, T. 23 S., R. 26 W.
Cen. N2 sec. 11, T. 22 5., R. 26 W.
Cen. E side sec. 30, T. 22 S., R. 26 W.
NE sec. 10, T. 23 S., R. 24
SW sec. 3, T. 23 S., R. 23 W.
SE sec. 31, T. 22 S., R. 23 W.

The Pleistocene deposits along the south side of Pawnee River are the cleanest and largest in the area, but they are too far from places of use to have been extensively exploited.

Building Stone

The most commonly used stone in this area is the "Fencepost" limestone. It is used chiefly for fence posts, but has been used, also, for buildings of all kinds and for other structural work, such as road culverts and bridges. The uniform thickness of this limestone bed and the softness when quarried makes it an excellent building stone. The thickness varies from seven to nine inches. It case-hardens on exposure. As there is practically no timber in Ness or Hodgeman counties, locally obtained fence posts have to be of stone. But tile stone posts now cost about one dollar each, so most new posts in the area are of wood and have been shipped in. Only two active quarries were noted in Ness and Hodgeman counties.

Stone fence posts are used in over 3,000 miles of fence in Ness and Hodgeman counties. A very small part of these are posts taken from the "shell rock" at the top of the Jetmore chalk. The value of stone fence posts in use in the two counties is estimated to be about three-quarters of a million dollars. The value of stone used in building would probably bring the total up to over a million dollars. In the areas where the "Fencepost" limestone crops out are many residences and farm building made of the stone. It is sometimes hauled ten miles or more from the outcrop. Many residences and business buildings in Bazine, Hanston, Jetmore and Ness City are built of the same rock. Some buildings are also built of stone taken from the chalky limestones in the lower Fairport chalky shale.

Many structures have been built of Fort Hays limestone and some Smoky Hill chalk in Ransom, Brownell, Arnold and Utica. Also a large percentage of the older buildings on farms near outcrops of these limestones are similarly constructed. The chalk is usually sawed into blocks.

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Kansas Geological Survey, Ness and Hodgeman Geology
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Web version May 2004. Original publication date Dec. 1, 1932.