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Geological Survey of Kansas (1896)

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Chapter VII--A Geologic Section from Coffeyville to Lawrence

by Erasmus Haworth

Coffeyville The Lane Shales
Cherryvale The Garnett Limestone
The Thayer Shales The Lawrence Shales
The Iola Limestone The Oread Limestone
The Carlyle Limestone Evidence of Deep Wells

The particular value to be derived from a description of this section depends upon a comparison of the conditions along this line with those of a parallel line nearly 50 miles to the east. As the outcropping of all the formations in this part of the state trend northeast and southwest this section should correspond closely with the Baxter Springs-Kansas City section in a general way with reference to everything excepting the lower systems which this one does not touch. Even here we have the various deep wells which throw much light on the underground conditions. The wells at Coffeyville, Cherryvale, Thayer, Chanute and Iola give us about, as detailed information regarding the conditions below the surface as an areal examination can furnish for the surface, while the Lawrence well serves a similar purpose for a depth of a few hundred feet at the north end of the section. It is greatly to be regretted that records of the wells drilled years ago at Ottawa were not preserved. With them we would have had the section about as complete as one could desire, so far as deep borings could make it. It is reported that one or more wells have also been drilled at Garnett, but this Survey has been unable to obtain any definite information on the subject.


At the south line of the state near Coffeyville the surface is beginning to assume the features characteristic of the great sandstone area farther west. Correlation of limestones in the Coffeyville well with those of the Cherryvale well is difficult and of little value. It seems that as the sandstone area is approached the limestone systems become irregular; some disappear, some change in thickness and general properties, and in many ways become altered so that it is difficult to recognize them. We will therefore have to take the underground section at Coffeyville for what it is worth, and recognize that it is located on the border of a great sandstone formation several hundred feet thick, and which corresponds in position, and possibly in time of formation, with limestone and shale formations to the north and east, and one about which this Survey does not at present possess sufficient data to make it possible to give much of a classification. The correlations indicated in plate VII should not be regarded of any particular value, yet they may be correct. Neither can the surface rocks be correlated with those to the north in an entirely satisfactory manner. It is quite evident that the rocks on top of the Cherryvale mounds dip to the south. If one will pass along the valley between the mounds and Drum creek on the west one can readily perceive this dipping. It is probable that the Mound Valley limestone or surface limestone at Cherryvale also dips to the south in a similar manner, and should be correlated with the Liberty limestone, and the lower one of the surface limestones at Coffeyville. In some way, and for some cause, the mounds and hills which are so characteristic of the vicinity of Cherryvale gradually diminish southward and practically disappear before the south line of the state is reached. For the details of the section at Coffeyville a reference to plate VII is all that is necessary.


At Cherryvale two different limestone systems are visible, the one capping the mounds and hills, and the other near the surface in the valley. They are separated by a shale bed which is 100 feet thick, as learned by measurement at the mounds south of town. The upper limestone is thin, having been worn so by erosion, is well filled with fossils, dips to the west, thickens into 40 feet at Independence, and has been named the Independence limestone by Adams in chapter I. It also dips gently to the north, appearing again three miles south of Morehead at an elevation of 25 feet lower than the top of the Cherryvale mounds, giving a dip of 5 feet to the mile. Cherryvale is therefore situated on the summit of a gentle anticlinal ridge, the axis of which trends about north 70 degrees west and which dips rapidly to the west.

The lower limestone at Cherryvale is the first one shown in the drill record, and passes underground to the north and is seen no more in this section, excepting in the drill records. The conditions beneath the surface at Cherryvale have already been so fully described by Mr. Adams in chapter I that nothing need be added here.

The shales between these two limestones are unusually fragile and easily disintegrated. This accounts largely for the existence of so many mounds with steep sides around Cherryvale. In the process of weathering the shales yield rapidly, the superimposed limestones protect the surface; and the steep walls are the necessary results. The decay of the shales is so rapid that frequently vegetation cannot get a footing on the hillsides, and portions of the sides of different hills are therefore almost bare.

This shale bed corresponds to the thin bed at Uniontown lying between the middle and upper members of the Erie limestone system. The Independence rock near Morehead is quite prominent about three miles south of town. It is 10 or 12 feet thick here, and is quarried considerably by the Santa Fe road for ballast. It passes underground northward near Morehead and is seen no more.

The Thayer Shales

Above the Independence limestone is a heavy shale bed nearly 200 feet thick, which may be named the Thayer shales. In places it carries much sandstone and good seams of coal. It constitutes the high ground on which Thayer is built, and the high plateau reaching westward towards Neodesha. The Thayer and Neodesha sandstone occur in it, as does also the Thayer coal, and the coal found in many places westward and southward towards Neodesha. This is the lowest coal in the Upper Coal Measures occurring in sufficient quantity to be of any considerable commercial importance. The thickness of the seam varies, sometimes reaching nearly 30 inches. The Thayer mines are located in the upper portion of the Thayer shales, but some of the other banks nearer Neodesha seem to occupy lower positions.

The sandstones are quarried to a considerable extent, particularly around Neodesha. In places they produce fair building stone, as is shown by many different buildings in both Thayer and Neodesha, the materials for which came from the Thayer shales.

To the northeast the Thayer shales gradually grow thinner until they almost disappear in the vicinity of Boicourt and La Cygne. At Moran they are about 100 feet thick, at La Cygne they are not over 25. To the southwest they maintain their thickness, and possibly increase it. They constitute the main bulk of the high hills west and north of Neodesha from Benedict to the state line south. In places the hills are 200 feet above the valley, particularly Table Mound, the body of which is composed of the Thayer shales, at which place, according to Adams, they are 250 feet thick. These shale beds, as well as many others, illustrate how many of the deposits thicken to the southwest and thin to the northeast.

Northward the Thayer shales more nearly maintain their normal thickness. They constitute the shale beds in and around Chaunte. The coal mined north of Chanute is on about the same level geologically with the Thayer coal, but as the two are not connected directly we cannot well correlate them. Each of them is in the upper portion of the Thayer shales.

The Iola Limestone

The first limestone system of any special importance above the Thayer shales is the Iola limestone. It appears on the high hills southwest of Chanute, from which place its outcropping extends across the Verdigris river and along the eastern border of the high hills west of Neodesha and Independence to the state line. To the northeast its outcropping passes near Moran, Mapleton, Mound City, Boicourt, etc., as has already been described, and as is also marked on the accompanying state map. Where not reduced by surface erosion the thickness of this system is about 40 feel along this line, but to the southwest, as Adams has shown in chapter I, its thickness is greatly increased.

In many respects this is a most remarkable limestone. Its lateral extent is great, reaching from the south line of the state to Kansas City, and probably much farther. The persistence of its characteristics throughout this whole distance is even more remarkable. It has few fossils, is unusually crystalline for a Coal Measure limestone, and is much freer from both vertical and horizontal fissures than any other limestone known below the Cottonwood Falls rock. This causes it to break into unusually large blocks. Some of the masses which are slowly working their way down the hillsides measure from 40 to 50 feet across. Then the general effect which the rock makes on one's mind by the ensemblence of all the properties cannot be easily forgotten, so that it is the most easily recognized limestone at sight occurring below the Cottonwood Falls system. The quarries at Iola have made the rock noted. The point of greatest interest in connection with the quarries is the almost total absence of any kind of fissures in the rock, which is here 39 feet thick. With proper mechanical appliances any kind of a block of any size or shape desired can be obtained; probably even to hundreds of feet in length. The rock is further noted for its high crystalline character. Strangely enough this Coal Measure limestone, in a country totally void of any approach to ordinary metamorphism, has from a half to two-thirds of its mass completely crystallized into calcite. This makes the rock capable of taking a high polish, hence the local name "marble."

The Carlyle Limestone

Above the Iola limestone is a shale bed 40 feet thick which has no special marks or characteristics. On top of these shales a limestone is first seen on the hills near Humboldt. It is only 5 or 6 feet thick here, but gradually thickens to the north until at Carlyle it is claimed by well-drillers to be 25 feet thick. It caps the little mound just south of Iola, and the hills to the northeast. It dips gradually toward the north and passes out of sight a short distance north of Carlyle. Kirk has mentioned it in chapter III as extending from Iola up the river to beyond Neosho Falls. On account of its heavy development around Carlyle, it, has been named the Carlyle limestone. Its northern extension is only partially known. It appears to reach a point opposite La Cygne and to cap the hills forming the first escarpment west of Cadmus and is the only one between the La Cygne hills and the Garnett limestone, but what becomes of it farther to the northeast has not been determined. Probably it disappears entirely, or approaches so close to the other limestones it is not recognizable. However, at points along the Kansas river a limestone is prominent which may be this one, as it occupies the same relative position.

The Lane Shales

Above the Carlyle limestone we have a heavy and important shale bed which has already, in chapter III, been named the Lane shales. They are important because they have been instrumental in producing an interesting and characteristic topography, and because in places they carry so much sandstone. Along the line of our section it will be seen that the surface rises rapidly from Carlyle to Colony, which is practically located on the summit of the Lane shales, although the capping limestone does not appear for a few miles to the north. To the southwest in the vicinity of the Neosho river and beyond the shales are largely changed into sandstone. Yet the irregularity of the surface, the alternating hills and valleys show how irregularly this change has been produced, Had the sandstone areas been extensive laterally we should have had broad plateaus rather than alternating hills and valleys, as Kirk has described for that country. To the northeast the sandy or arenaceous character of the shales is not so marked. The great frequency of rugged, flat-topped hills characterize the country. The overlying limestone has been broken through along every stream, and bluffs with precipitous fronts have been produced: Isolated mounds are numerous also, standing as the last remnants of vast portions of the country almost entirely carried away. The Pottawatomie river flows almost parallel with the zone of country possessing the above-mentioned topography, passing the towns of Garnett, Greeley, Lane and Osawatomie. Farther to the northeast, as was described in chapter II, the shales gradually become thinner, the Iola limestone gradually approaches the Garnett limestone above, and the whole aspect of the country is changed to correspond.

The Garnett Limestone

Above the Lane shales lie the two systems of the Garnett limestones. They are first observed at Welda, but from the surface contours there can be little doubt regarding their former existence as far south as Colony. Possibly they yet exist that far south near Colony to the east or west. They cover the surface all the way from Welda to Ottawa, Olathe and Eudora, and are found by drilling about 100 feet below the surface at Lawrence. They are plainly visible in section at many places along the Santa Fe line where it crosses the different tributaries of the Pottawatomie river on either side, of Garnett. In such places there are two systems, separated by from 10 to 12 feet of shale. The limestones themselves in most places are from 8 to 10 feet thick, but in extreme cases they thicken up to 30 feet or more. Such an instance was noted a few miles southeast of Greeley. Here by the roadside a bluff of solid limestone rises fully 30 feet, due to a local thickening of the upper system. From just beneath the limestone gushes a large spring of most excellent cold and pure water. The good farmer living here has placed a large watering trough below the spring and keeps other conveniences at hand, so that the passer-by, either man or beast, can slake his thirst. In this way the exact locality is known for miles around, so that anyone desiring to examine the place can easily locate it.

In places along the southeastern border of the Garnett limestone it seems that there is but one system, but this is probably due to the upper one having been eroded a little farther back than the lower. As the intervening shale bed is so thin no topographic mark could be noticed to show the exact limit of the upper system, and hence it would easily be overlooked. The intervening shale in places becomes exceedingly bituminous, so much so that it strongly resembles coal in general appearance, but this is a variable quality.

In addition to the good exposures of these rocks already mentioned we should add those near Princeton and at Ottawa. Just east of Princeton the two systems are exposed along the creek and its small tributaries for miles. At Ottawa the lower system is in the bottom of the river, and the upper one forms the main part of the north bank. Here they are about 12 feet apart, being separated by a bed of light colored shale. Most excellent views, of these limestones can also be had all, the way down the Pottawatomie from Garnett to within four or five miles of Osawatomie. In the vicinity of Lane both systems become greatly thickened, but particularly the upper. In it are located the quarries of the Lane "marble," or limestone. The quarries are on the high hilltops about two and it half miles southwest of the village. The rock differs from the Iola "marble" principally in being darker in color. It possesses about as high a grade of crystallization as the latter, takes almost as fine a polish as the best of marble, and has a wide use for pedestals of tombstones, and other purposes.

From Ottawa to Lawrence we are largely in doubt regarding the exact position of the Garnett limestone, as it cannot be seen at any place throughout the whole distance. In a former article it was assumed that the limestone at the south end of the dam at Lawrence was its equivalent [Haworth: Kansas Univ. Quar. vol. 2. p. 121]. More recently, however, records of two wells have been obtained which correspond sufficiently well within themselves, and with known conditions around Lawrence to give considerable evidence of their correctness. [This remark is made because the records as obtained were not guaranteed by anyone. They had been passed about through several hands so that no one has been seen who, knew how they were obtained. Ordinarily such records are useless.] Admitting their evidence we must conclude that the Eudora limestone, as shown by Bennett in chapter VI and plate VI, is nearly 100 feet below the thin limestone at the dam, and therefore that the Garnett limestone is also; for we have satisfactory evidence that the two are the same. Plate VII represents this condition.

The Lawrence Shales

First above the Garnett limestone lie the Lawrence shales. They are important as being in places the heaviest shales in the whole Coal Measures above the Cherokee shales, and therefore the heaviest in the upper Coal Measures. They contain here and there thin limestone beds, the most important one of which occurs about 100 feet below their summit. It has a thickness of 5 feet or more on the east side of Blue Mound, eight miles southeast of Lawrence, and almost an equal thickness across the Kansas river to the northeast. In each vicinity it occupies considerable prominence in the landscape, due partially to the sandstone beds immediately under it. But strangely it thins to an edge westward, northward andsouthward, so that no place has been found where it enters the high bluffs so prominent in the locality, It is therefore of but little importance stratigraphically, and should not be looked upon as dividing the Lawrence shales. The limestone at the south end of the dam at Lawrence is also somewhat difficult to place. Mr. MacFarland, who is conducting a brick-yard just above the city reports that he passed through 15 feet of limestone in a well located in the valley near the brick-yard. This would indicate that the river limestone is thickening westward. No trace of it, or anything that can at all be compared to it, can be found east, north, or south, so that we shall have to treat it at present as though it were an unimportant system, as one which never extended much beyond Lawrence eastward, recognizing the possibility of being in error. In this way we shall have to consider the Lawrence shales nearly 300 feet thick at Lawrence, which is 100 feet more than they had formerly been called.

The Lawrence shales are also noted for carrying coal, which in places is of considerable commercial importance, as has been shown by Hall in chapter V, and for containing so much sandstone that bears such strong evidence of having been deposited in shallow water. The sandstone is abundant about Lawrence. It occurs in a row of low hills southeast of the city, along the south bank of the Wakarusa, across the Kansas river to the northeast, and in many other places. Nowhere is it cemented into a good sandstone, nor are its layers well marked or continuous, so that it has no value as building stone. In the neighborhood of Hesper, where it is sometimes reached in well-digging, a layer of it is perfectly loose sand which caves so badly that the well has to be cribbed in digging. Almost everywhere the stone has ripple marks in great abundance, and not infrequently rain-drop impressions are seen.

Oread Limestone

Above the Lawrence shales the Oread limestone appears in two separate systems, each of which in places is from 15 to 18 feet thick, but which near Lawrence is only from 10 to 15 feet thick. They have been so fully described by Mr. Bennett, in chapter VI, that nothing need be added here. The hills which they cap are first seen along this section to the west of Princeton, or possibly farther south. In their northeast-southwest trend they approach to within about three miles of Ottawa, and across the Santa Fe track between Norwood and Baldwin. Their southeastern outcropping passes around Baldwin to the east but swings back across the railroad westward near Vinland, from there to Lawrence and to the northeast near, Tonganoxie, and crosses the Missouri river near Leavenworth, at which place they cap the high hills.

Evidence of Deep Wells

We have now given a hurried description of the surface features along the Santa Fe railroad from Coffeyville to Lawrence. Plate VII also gives considerable information regarding the underground conditions. At Cherryvale and Chanute wells start from the upper Coal Measures and pass into the Mississippian. They thus give us the thickness of the different formations in the lower Coal Measures over fifty miles back from the outcroppings of the Mississippian series. It will be seen that the Cherokee shales have maintained their thickness remarkably well. At Coffeyville they are not less than 400 feet, but the well did not pass through them. At Cherryvale they are nearly 425 feet, and at Chanute they are 410 feet, while to the west, at Neodesha, they are fully 425 feet, and at Fredonia 350 feet. It will also be seen that probably the upper surface of the Mississippian is wavy, or has general irregularities not due entirely to pre Coal Measure erosion, although having but three points located leaves one liable to err. The general features, therefore, of the Mississippian and the Cherokee shales are remarkably similar to those shown along the Baxter Springs-Kansas City section, plate II. The conditions above the Cherokee shales are not quite so pronounced, but on the whole correspond with the surface features to the east very well. Here we have the additional evidence of the wells at Thayer, Humboldt, and Iola. At no place from Coffeyville to Iola is there a space greater than 18 miles without a well record, which places matters safely beyond the realms of conjecture. It will be noticed that all the wells show that first above the Cherokee shales is an area occupied principally by limestone, the Oswego and the Pawnee, with thin shale beds between. The details to the extent of exact feet and inches are difficult to obtain from deep wells, but there is a general agreement among all of them. Next above this limestone area is a heavy shale and sandstone area, the Pleasanton shales, at the top of which we have placed the division of the Coal Measures, dividing them into the Upper and Lower, with the Lower division along the line of this section, 700 feet thick at Coffeyville, 700 feet at Cherryvale, 850 feet at Thayer, and 800 feet at Chanute, with no indication of its thinning toward the north. Above the Pleasanton shales we have the Erie limestone system, which is plainly marked at Iola, Humboldt, and Chanute. Above these limestones we have another shale deposit about 100 feet thick, above which lies the Iola limestone. In a general way, therefore, the underground conditions here, as shown by the well records, have a remarkable agreement with the surface conditions fifty miles to the east.

Plate VII--A Geologic Section from Coffeyville to Lawrence along the line of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe railway.

By Erasmus Haworth; to accompany Chapter VII.
Scale: Vertical, 1 inch equals 500 feet; horizontal, 1 inch equals 5 miles.
The limestones are represented by conventional masonry. The shales and sandstones are left bare.
The contours are those of the railroad track.
Available as an Acrobat PDF, 2.1 MB.

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Kansas Geological Survey, Geology
Placed on web June 1, 2017; originally published 1896.
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