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Franklin County Geology

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Economic Geology

Because the livelihood of the area's population is dependent upon it, soil is the resource of greatest importance in Franklin County (Dunmire and others, 1946). Ground water, oil and gas, limestone, sand and gravel, coal, and shale are other mineral resources exploited.

Ground Water

In the eastern and especially the southeastern part of the county, good quality ground water for domestic and livestock use is difficult to obtain. Wells that obtain ground water from porous surficial deposits and fissured near-surface bedrock furnish limited supplies. Large quantities of ground water for municipal use are generally not available. Small municipal supplies are obtained from wells in the alluvium of the larger streams and from artificial lakes such as the one at Richmond.

Sandstone beds in the Douglas Group are the principal aquifers in the western part of the county. Sandstone in the Lawrence Shale is the main source of ground water in northwestern Franklin County; in southwestern Franklin County, Stranger sandstone is the main aquifer. Farmers of western Franklin County generally have little trouble in obtaining suitable water supplies.

Oil and Gas

Oil and gas have been produced commercially in Franklin County since 1904 (Jewett, 1954, p. 208). Most oil and gas production has been from that part of the Paola-Rantoul field in T. 16 and 17 S., R. 21 E. All production reported from Franklin County has been from rocks of Pennsylvanian age. In 1961, 379,674 barrels of oil were produced in Franklin County (Goebel and others, 1962, p. 16-17). No gas was reported produced from Franklin County during 1961.

Limestone, Sandstone, and Gravel

Near the turn of the century and for some 30 years following, many tons of limestone were delivered by team and wagon to Ottawa and surrounding towns for use as building stone. In the early years much stone was given away to inspire trade (Bert Ross, 1957, personal communication). The use of trucks and the increasing demand for limestone caused quarrying to flourish. Because of increased rigidity of specifications and decrease in the demand for limestone in road construction and as local building stone, growth in the early l920s was followed by a steady decline in the business until about 1940. In the 1950s, however, the industry expanded. In 1958, 8 active and 20 inactive quarries were noted in the county. Strata quarried extensively are the Argentine, Spring Hill, Captain Creek, Stoner, and Plattsmouth Limestones. Chemical analyses of these ledges in Franklin and adjacent counties were given by Runnels and Schleicher (1956). The limestone of the area has been utilized as agricultural limestone, crushed rock and riprap, concrete aggregate, building stone, and in cement manufacture.

Sandstone has been quarried in sec. 14, T. 16 S., R. 19 E., for use as subgrade material for paving projects in Ottawa. Pits in terrace chert gravels have supplied gravel for many of the all-weather county roads.


The Ransomville shaft mine (Haworth, 1898, p. 187) was the first of many mines in the Williamsburg mining district. In the 1890s and the early 1900s this mine, located mid-way between Williamsburg and Homewood on U.S. Highway 50, was operated with a horse hoister and supplied fuel for trains which ran between Ottawa and Burlingame. The Ransomville mine produced from the upper Williamsburg coal of the Lawrence Shale.

According to Bowsher and Jewett (1943, p. 72) the Williamsburg mining district is the best proved reserve of coal in rocks of the Douglas Group. They estimated reserves of more than 800,000 tons in sec. 8, T. 18 S., R. 18 E., where the greatest known coal deposits of the county are located. Numerous other coal beds and stringers are found in the Lawrence Shale and Stranger Formation. Very small, long-abandoned strip pits indicate that these thin discontinuous coals have been used locally. Although substantial coal reserves are known in Franklin County, the coal is not being mined commercially.


The Weston Shale is used for the manufacture of lightweight concrete aggregate (pit located in NW sec. 23, T. 17 S., R. 19 E.). Potential Weston Shale quarry sites located near rail and highway transportation are in the NW SW sec. 34, T. 15 S., R. 20 E., and near the center west line SW sec. 30, T. 15 S., R. 21 E. Thicknesses of Weston Shale approximating 75 feet are available at these localities, and quarrying would not result in appreciable loss of farm land.

Runnels (1949, p. 39) has mentioned the Eudora Shale, one of several phosphatic shales, as a possible source material for the production of phosphate fertilizers. Crushed Eudora Shale has been used with good results as fertilizer for fields and small garden tracts in and around Ottawa.

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Kansas Geological Survey, Geology of Franklin County
Web version July 2002. Original publication date Jun. 1963.
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