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Past and Present of Livingston County
Volume 1. History
by Major A. J. Roof. 1913
Livingston county is located near the central part of that section of Missouri which lies north of the Missouri river. Its altitude above the level of the sea varies from about six hundred and seventy-five feet in the river bottom to the southeast, to about nine hundred and seventy-five feet toward the northwest corner. At Chillicothe it is about eight hundred feet; at Mooresville, Springhill, and in the Mound country to the south it is about nine hundred and twenty feet. The upland to the north rises to eight hundred and fifty feet or more. At Wheeling it is seven hundred and thirty-six feet, but rises northward to about eight hundred feet. The stratified rocks of Coal Measure Age are covered by a mantle of clay, sand, gravel and bowlders, mostly clay, deposited during the Glacial and Champlain epochs. The thickness of these deposits varies from a few feet on the higher places to one hundred and fifty feet or more where deep channels have been eroded or scoured out by glaciers and filled with glacial debris. Small areas of Coal Measure Strata are exposed however in places.
These drift clays form the basis of the rich black loamy soil which justifies the claim that the northern Central States supply the world's granaries; and Livingston county is not inferior to any portion of this rich domain. Being located near the southern margin of this rich drift area in latitude thirty-nine degrees forty minutes to thirty-nine degrees fiftyeight minutes and longitude ninety-three degrees twenty-eight minutes to ninety-three degrees fifty minutes the comparatively mild climate is such as to favor the production of a great variety of grains and fruits.
The Coal Measure deposits underlying the drift vary about three hundred feet to six hundred feet or possibly in thickness owing to difference in surface elevation at different places, and the uneven and much eroded Mississippi stone bed rocks. Coal mining at this time is limited to working of shallow beds, eighteen to twenty-four inches thick in a small way for local consumption, but well drillers’ reports indicate the existence of thick beds of coal in the county. For convenience in description, the later writers on the Missouri and Iowa coal fields have divided the deposits into the upper or Missouri series, and the lower, or Des Moines series. Over large areas in the eastern section of the county, the upper series and part of the lower series have been removed by erosion and glacial scouring; but part of the upper series yet remains, over large areas in the western and northwestern sections of the county. In the lower part of the upper series there are several heavy beds of limestone belonging to the so-called, Bethany Falls System of limestones. These limestones crop out at Mooresville where the Kirtley quarries are located and at Breckenridge, and furnish an inexhaustible supply of stone for building purposes. These rocks also crop out at Springhill, and thence along Indian creek to the northwest for five or six miles.
In that locality these rocks dip to the southeast from about the northwest corner of the county to Springhill where they seem to be abruptly cut off - hence the fine springs at that place. These rocks are found again at Gallatin and Pattonsburg more than a hundred feet lower than at the head of Indian creek. This indicates an anticlinal fold or deep-seated upward flexure of the earth's crust in the northwest part of county since Coal Measure time. If oil and gas exist in commercial quantities in northwest Missouri this is a very favorable locality in which to prospect.
These Bethany Falls limestones have recently been reported as cropping out five miles northeast of Chillicothe along the Medicine creek hills at an elevation still about a hundred feet lower than at Springhill, and dipping rapidly eastward into Medicine creek valley where a synclinal fold appears to exist. At the old Gillespie mill site on east Grand river nine miles north of Chillicothe, on the recently proposed route of the Cainesville & Chillicothe Railroad there is a sand rock bluff where an inexhaustible supply of stone of excellent quality for building purposes is easily accessible. The sand bars along east and west Grand river and on the main river below the junction furnish sand and gravel in abundance. The smaller streams doubtless furnish sand in places. A layer of sand in the drift deposits, which crops out along the river bottoms just south of Chillicothe furnishes moulding sand of superior quality for all kinds of moulding, and the upper part of this bed at one place is a good plasterer's sand.
The county is watered by the east and west forks, and by main Grand river, Medicine, Honey, Shoal, Mound and Indian creeks and other small streams which furnish an abundance of water. At from three hundred to five hundred feet from the surface an abundant supply of stock water is found. This probably applies to the whole county. The water at these depths is slightly saline, but farmers who are using it say there is not more salt in it than their stock should have. It rises in the wells to about seven hundred to seven hundred and twenty-five feet above sea level, so that in the lowland it flows from the surface.
In the deep channels filled with drift clay, etc., thick beds of boulders, gravel and sand are found at the bottom, which furnish abundant supplies of good fresh water. Chillicothe is located over such a channel on a drift terrace bordering on the Grand river flood plain on the south; and the water horizon is from thirty to forty feet lower than the bed of Grand river in the southern section of the city. As the bed rocks seem to dip southward it is probable that the gravel beds thicken in that direction. The gravel and sand in a well at the Municipal Light Plant is fourteen feet thick and the water rises to sixty-five feet below the surface, or a little higher than the low water gage in Grand river. There are doubtless other deep channels in the county filled with drift clays, with gravel and water at the bottom.
There are reasons to believe that gas and oil exist in commercial quantities in the county. Deep drill holes show an oil and gas horizon at about nine hundred or one thousand feet in granular limestone or sand rock; but the exact localities where nature has concentrated them into "pools" have not yet been found. However a drill hole about three miles southeast of Chillicothe developed considerable gas at about nine hundred feet but the flow was not thought to be sufficiently free to warrant the expenditure of money in its further development. There appeared to be a small local "uplift" at that point, but the stratified rocks were so obscured by drift clays that it was difficult to locate its axis. Deep drill holes at Kansas City and at other points seem to indicate that the earth's stratified crust overlying the igneous granitic rocks in this locality is about two thousand five hundred feet thick. Drill holes to a depth of one thousand two hundred feet here show the rocks below the Coal Measures to consist of the Mississippian limestones and other older rocks, mostly limestone and sand stone, but the limits of each formation and its correlation with the rocks in other parts of the state have not been determined. During the Coal Measure Age the surface in this coal field was near the sea level, sometimes a little above and sometimes below, while westward an extension of the Gulf of Mexico covered western Kansas and eastern Colorado and reached to an unknown distance northward. Following this age a long period of time elapsed in which thousands of feet of sedimentary rocks were deposited in the marginal sea to the west. These deposits belong to the Permian, Jurassic, Triassic, Cretaceous and Tertiary subdivisions of the earth's crust and are entirely absent here.
In conclusion it may be of interest to say that the Coal Measure rocks of the county are rich in minerals, -- especially lead and zinc in a widely disseminated condition. Some of the well drillers say, however, that they have penetrated deposits of lead and zinc in a sufficiently concentrated condition to justify mining especially in Jackson township.
Prof. H. A. Buchler, state geologist, has kindly furnished proof sheets covering the coal resources of the county as determined by a recent survey of the coal field of north Missouri. The forthcoming reports of this survey, soon to be published, will contain some very interesting facts concerning the geological features of the county. These reports are too voluminous for this article, but an extract is hereto appended. In this extract the general section of the Coal Measure strata of the county is given with local names of the smaller subdivisions as now adopted for descriptive purposes.
For the information of the general reader, attention is called to the changes in the names adopted in the more recent surveys. The Bethany Falls system of limestones is called the general section of the Kansas City limestones. The Cherokee shale in the lower part takes its name from the formature in Kansas and Oklahoma which yields the oil and gas in these regions. The strata of the general section are not all found at any one place but are taken from outcrops at different places; and each strata is identified by its character, and the overlying and underlying rocks. The extract follows: