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Eastern Shawnee County

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Economic Geology

Oil and Gas

Eighteen wells have been drilled for oil or gas in eastern Shawnee County and vicinity, but no shows of oil or gas have been reported (Jewett, 1954, p. 336). The well locations are shown on the geologic map (pl. 1). Oil in adjacent Wabaunsee County, which is also in the Forest City basin, has been found primarily on small anticlinal structures (Smith and Anders, 1951; Hilpman, 1958; Goebel and others, 1962); the oil is mainly from porous zones in carbonate rocks of the Viola Limestone (Middle and Upper Ordovician) and the Hunton Formation (Silurian and Devonian). In a few wells oil has been obtained from sandstone in the Simpson Group (Middle Ordovician) and from limestone in the Kansas City Group (Upper Pennsylvanian). In the abandoned McLouth gas and oil field in Jefferson County, about 18 miles east of the mapped area, gas and oil were obtained from sandstone in the Cherokee Group (Middle Pennsylvanian) and from limestone and dolomite of Mississippian age (Lee and Payne, 1944).

The rocks that yield oil or gas in various fields adjacent to Shawnee County are in the subsurface of the mapped area. Zones of pinhole porosity are present in both the Viola Limestone and the Hunton rocks in the Murchison Federal Land Bank 1 well in the SE cor. sec. 28, T. 10 S., R. 15 E., and in the J. J. Lynn Warner 1 well in the center of the SE NW sec. 5, T. 13 S., R. 17 E., (pI. 2). Very slight oil stains occur in the upper few feet of the Hunton and in Simpson rocks in the J. J. Lynn Warner 1 well and in Simpson rocks in the Murchison Federal Land Bank 1 well.

Several small anticlinal folds with less than 20 feet of closure are reflected by the structure contours drawn at an interval of 20 feet on the base of the Topeka Limestone, but no detailed information is available about the relation of these folds to the structure of older rocks at depth. Zones of porosity and oil staining in the Viola Limestone and in rocks of the Hunton and Simpson suggest the possibility that stratigraphic traps may be present in these rocks.


Thin beds of coal occur locally in rocks of the Shawnee and Wabaunsee Groups in eastern Shawnee County and vicinity, but only the Nodaway coal bed, at the base of the Howard Limestone, is of sufficient thickness to have been mined for domestic and commercial uses. Schoewe (1946) described the coal resources of the Wabaunsee Group in detail; most data presented herein are from that publication. Previously, Whitla (1940) had described the coal resources of all post-Cherokee rocks in Kansas.

The Nodaway coal bed in the mapped area ranges in thickness from 0.2 to 1.5 feet and is bituminous in rank, banded, shiny, brittle, and moderately hard. Analyses of coal from 10 mines in adjacent Osage County and nearby parts of Jefferson County show an average of 10.2 percent moisture, 35.7 percent volatile matter, 43.5 percent fixed carbon, 10 percent ash, 7.6 percent sulfur, 11,093 Btu per pound as received, and 13,843 Btu per pound on a moisture-matter-free basis (Schoewe, 1946, table 3).

The Nodaway was mined at 25 known mines in Shawnee County; 3 were strip mines, 5 were shaft mines, and the rest were small drift mines (Schoewe, 1946, p. 129). Coal was mined at Topeka by the early settlers; but by 1908 most mining in the county had ceased, and no mining activity was reported after 1927. The mines were located in four areas: west of Meriden, along Muddy Creek near State Route 4; north of Topeka, along a tributary of Halfday Creek in secs. 2 and 12, T. 11 S., R. 15 E.; on the west edge of Topeka, near Gage Park and the State Hospital; and in the southwestern part of Topeka, along Shunganunga Creek in the S2 sec. 10, in the SW sec. 13, and along South Branch Shunganunga Creek in the NE sec. 26, T. 12 S., R. 15 E.

Schoewe (1946, p. 133) reported that the total amount of coal produced in Shawnee County probably exceeded 80,000 tons, most of which was from the Nodaway. He estimated that the proved reserves of coal in the Nodaway are approximately 10,290,000 tons. The Nodaway is of little economic value now because of the thinness of the coal, the amount of overburden, and the position of the bed under part of the city of Topeka.


Limestone quarried in the eastern part of Shawnee County and adjacent parts of Jefferson County is used primarily as concrete aggregate and road metal, although in 1959 some was quarried for riprap material for the new channel of Soldier Creek around North Topeka.

The Ervine Creek Limestone Member of the Deer Creek Limestone and the Burlingame and Wakarusa Limestone Members of the Bern Limestone are the principal beds quarried in the mapped area. Rock from the Hartford and Curzon Limestone Members of the Topeka Limestone is quarried immediately east of Forbes Air Force Base. Quarrying of the Bern Limestone centers around the town of Elmont. The Burlingame Limestone Member is the principal source in these quarries, but the Wakarusa is also taken where it is not deeply weathered. Quarries in the Ervine Creek Limestone Member are located east of Topeka along Tecumseh and Stinson Creeks, in the Wakarusa River valley about 2 miles east of Wakarusa, and about 2 miles northeast of Grantville. Where quarried, the Ervine Creek is 14-18 feet thick, the Hartford and Curzon Limestone Members of the Topeka are 6.2 and 10.4 feet thick, respectively, and the Burlingame is 5-10 feet thick. Chemical analyses of rock from these and from two other limestone members are given in table 2.

Table 2--Chemical analyses of selected limestones in eastern Shawnee County and adjacent parts of Douglas County, Kansas. [In percent by weight; Tr. = trace; Adapted from Runnels and Schleicher, 1956; CaCO3, MgCO3 and CaCO3
equivalent are all calculated; L.O.I. is net loss of weight on ignition from 105° to 1000° C; Al2O3 includes MnO, ZrO2, V2O5, and TiO2 when present; Total iron expressed as Fe2O3; S omitted from computing total because it is included in L.O.I.; Total does not include amounts shown for CaCO3, MgCO3 or CaCO3.]

Formation Member Sample locality Thickness
Lab. No. CaCO3 MgCO3 CaCO3
CaO MgO L.O.I. SiO2 Al2O3 Fe2O3 K2O Na2O SO3 S P2O5 Total
Section Township Range County
Bern Limestone Burlingame Limestone NE NW 26 10 S. 15 E. Shawnee 4.5 53210 87.86 1.86 90.34 49.29 0.89 39.75 4.71 1.47 2.91     Tr. 0.19 0.05 99.07
Topeka Limestone Curzon Limestone C 16 11 S. 16 E. Shawnee 4.0 49454 85.19 3.33 88.82 47.91 1.59 39.08 9.04 0.87 1.93     0   0.14 100.56
Topeka Limestone Curzon Limestone SE SW 11 12 S. 17 E. Douglas 3.0 54369 91.38 0.61 92.04 51.27 0.79 40.50 4.66 1.62 1.15     Tr.   0.06 100.05
Topeka Limestone Curzon and Hartford Limestones SW SW 4 13 S. 16 E. Shawnee 13.0 53211 76.44 7.32 85.86 43.03 3.50 37.78 10.12 2.06 2.64 0.25 0.12 0.11 0.07 0.10 99.71
Topeka Limestone Hartford Limestone C 16 11 S. 16 e. Shawnee 3.0 49445 83.60 4.58 88.61 47.05 2.19 38.99 5.40 1.51 5.53     0.14   0.08 100.89
Deer Creek Ervine Creek Limestone SE 14 11 S. 16 E. Shawnee 10.0 49455 93.56 1.07 93.93 52.53 0.51 41.33 4.08 0.87 1.37     0   0.08 100.77
Deer Creek Ervine Creek Limestone SE NW 4 12 S. 17 E. Shawnee 6.9 53213 92.83 1.36 93.25 52.05 0.65 41.03 3.54 0.87 1.65     0 Tr. 0.03 99.82
Deer Creek Ervine Creek Limestone SE SE 10 13 S. 16 E. Shawnee 8.8 53214 91.08 2.72 94.48 51.15 1.30 41.57 3.63 0.93 1.15     0.12 0.08 0.03 99.86
Deer Creek Ozawkie Limestone SE (?) 36 11 S. 17 E. Douglas   50554 95.07   95.18 53.27   41.88 2.11 0.71 0.89     0 0 Tr. 98.86
Lecompton Limestone Spring Branch Limestone NE NW 36 11 S. 17 E. Douglas 6.8 53216 73.94 12.41 90.91 41.63 5.93 40.00 6.29 1.55 4.22     0.1 0.01 0.08 99.80

No dimension stone is produced in this area, but several limestone members have been quarried along their outcrops for local use as building stone. Near Topeka, rock from the Hartford Limestone Member of the Topeka has been used in construction of houses, barns, and small bridges. This limestone is difficult to saw because of its hardness, but it can be hand dressed without difficulty (Riser, 1960, p. 110). Near Richland, rock from beds in the Lecompton Limestone is locally used for building stone. Small amounts of stone have also been quarried for local use from the Maple Hill and Tarkio Limestone Members of the Zeandale Limestone and from the Reading Limestone Member of the Emporia Limestone.

Sand and Gravel

All sand and gravel currently (1961) produced commercially in Shawnee County is from the alluvium along the Kansas River. Most of the sand is used for building, for paving, and as fill, although small amounts are used as engine and blast sand. The building industry utilizes most of the gravel, but some is used in paving and as fill.

Deposits of glacial sand and gravel of Kansan age have been quarried at several localities in the mapped area, especially south of the Kansas River. A fairly large amount of material was dug from a morainal deposit along the south side of Shunganunga Creek in the SW SW sec. 10, T. 12 S., R. 15 E.; also, a large pit was formerly operated in the SW SW sec. 24, T. 13 S., R. 16 E. Because these deposits are poorly sorted and contain cemented zones, the pits were probably difficult to operate. Material from both pits was probaibly used mainly as road metal. North of the Kansas River small deposits, mainly of chert gravel, were quarried in the SW NW sec. 7, T. 11 S., R. 16 E. and in the SW NE sec. 18, T. 11 S., R. 17 E. Small deposits of glacial sand and gravel, such as that in the creekbank in the W2 NW sec. 15, T. 10 S., R. 17 E., probably supplied the needs of local residents.


Claystone immediately beneath the Nodaway coal bed of the Howard Limestone was formerly dug from a pit on the west side of Topeka in the SE NE sec. 27, T. 11 S., R. 15 E., for the manufacture of brick. Digging operations ceased at this pit in the 1930's, and no clay or shale is currently being dug in Shawnee County for ceramic use. Claystone was dug from the Calhoun Shale along the east side of Deer Creek in the SW sec. 3, T. 12 S., R. 16 E., for several years (around 1950) and was blended with clay from the Dakota Formation (Lower Cretaceous) of central Kansas for the manufacture of small pottery objects.

A sample from near the middle of the Calhoun Shale in the center of the N2 SW sec. 15, T. 11 S., R. 16 E., produced a light weight aggregate with a density of 48.5 pounds per cubic foot (Plummer and Hladik, 1951, p. 60). If this sample was representative, the clayey parts of the Calhoun Shale probably are usable for the production of lightweight aggregate.

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Kansas Geological Survey, Geology
Placed on web October 2005; originally published 1967.
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