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Kansas State Board of Agriculture
First Biennial Report


Economical Geology — Coal




The Tertiary deposits, and the Niobrara Benton groups of the Cretaceous, contain no beds of coal, not even an inferior article.

In the Dakota group there are a few veins of brown lignite, which in Kansas is always an inferior article of coal. The most important seam I have traced one hundred and seventy miles; it extends somewhat irregularly, and with some omission, from the State line, in Washington and Republic counties, southwesterly into the Arkansas Valley. I am informed that it is also seen in Clark and Meade counties, on the southern line of the State. It varies in thickness from ten to forty inches, but usually a portion of this thickness includes layers of black clay shale. This lignite contains a large percentage of ashes, but a more objectionable feature is its tendency to crumble on exposure to rain or frost. This alone renders it almost worthless as a marketable coal. At some localities it has much iron pyrites, with sulphur so free as to cover the banks with a yellow coating. This coal sometimes takes fire by spontaneous combustion.

Notwithstanding these defects, it becomes of value in some sparsely timbered counties, by furnishing to settlers a cheap fuel, the only cost being the time and labor necessary to convey it to the farm. It is usually mined at the surface by "stripping" or removing the few feet of soil or shale that overlies it. It is found in Washington, Republic, Cloud, Mitchell, Lincoln, Ottawa, Saline, Ellsworth, McPherson, Rice, Barton, and perhaps some adjoining counties.

The Permian has no coal seams. The Upper Carboniferous may be called the barren measures, as the strata inclose no paying seams of coal. The seams are seldom over twelve inches in thickness, and the coal not of the first quality. They have, however, been worked in Jefferson, Brown, Doniphan, Atchison, Jackson, Leavenworth, Shawnee, and perhaps a few other counties. It has never been mined in quantities for market.

These deposits of the Upper Carboniferous, must not be confounded with the Leavenworth shaft coal, which is obtained by penetrating over seven hundred feet through the Upper Carboniferous beds, and obtaining a first-class coal from the group below.

STATEMENT, in round numbers, of Coal mined at Leavenworth, from 1871 to 1878, inclusive, the entire production of the mine since it was opened, by Dr. T. Sinks.

1871 534,000 bushels     |     1875 694,000 bushels
1872 467,000 "     |     1876 785,000 "
1873 614,000 "     |     1877 1,269,000 "
1874 517,000 "     |     1878 about 1,500,000 "

The month of December, 1878, has been estimated. Dr. Sinks adds: "The yearly consumption of coal in Leavenworth is between four and five hundred thousand bushels; the rest is shipped abroad."

The coal beds of the Coal Measures or middle Carboniferous, yield bituminous coal which compares favorably with others of the West, or even Western Pennsylvania. It will be recollected that no anthracite is found between the Alleghany Mountains and Southern Colorado. There is considerable variation of the coal from different veins of our Coal Measures, and even in the same vein at different localities, but it is always a fair article, and must usually stand above other coals in the markets out of the State. There are three principal seams which are extensively worked - Osage, Cherokee and Fort Scott. Most of the Osage vein lies in Osage county, though it extends into Franklin. It is about thirty miles in length, north and south, and about half as wide, but its outlines have never been carefully traced. It is from fifteen to thirty inches in thickness. It is mined at the surface and also in shafts from twenty to thirty feet deep. At Osage City, Scranton, Burlingame and Carbondale, along the railroad line, it is mined and delivered directly into the cars. The bed usually lies nearly horizontal, but at the northerly part of Osage county, it rises, in less than two miles, one hundred feet. This coal has a little less than the average of impurities, and like the others from our Coal Measures, is a good gas coal and cokes well.

Fort Scott coal appears at and near the surface in various places in Bourbon and Linn counties. It lies in a very irregular manner, appearing and disappearing in a very erratic style. Its outline is consequently traced with difficulty. This feature is owing, in some instances, to the erosions of the ravines and valleys, but much more frequently to the irregularity of the outlines of the old carboniferous swamps, in which the peculiar vegetaion grew, which afterward became the coal. Portions of the old swamp containing dry islands, or ponds of water, would have prevented the growth of vegetable matter to form the coal. Boring made in one part of a quarter section of land will sometimes strike it, while another will show that it is missing. This makes it impossible always to predict its presence, even when the limestones are known to be continuous. The dip of all the strata is slightly to the northwest, and this vein may hereafter be found under the counties in that direction; but this irregularity is unfavorable to such a result. The thickness of this seam is seldom over two feet. It is a good gas coal, giving from 8,000 to 9,000 cubic feet to the ton, but requires more than average care in purification. It cokes well. Some of the mines yield a brown coal, the color of which is owing to the presence of a very small quantity of oxide of iron. This, however, is too small to affect the value of the coal. The black variety produces the most gas.

The thickest and best seam of coal in Kansas, is the Cherokee bed, found in Cherokee, Crawford and Labette counties. It extends from the Indian Territory, entering the State near Chetopa, and runs across the southeast part of Labette county, the west and north parts of Cherokee and southeast part of Crawford, and enters Mis-souri. It then passes northeast and appears to be the same seam affording so much coal in the vicinity of Boonville. Like other strata it dips to the northwest; but how far it extends in that direction is unknown, as the same peculiar irregularities in the deposits have been noticed, which we have described as existing in the Fort Scott seam. The thickness of the coal is from fifteen to fifty-four inches. The latter measurement was made by the writer at an opening (drift) in the northern part of Cherokee county, about three miles from Cherokee. It is more free from pyrites and other impurities than any other coal in Kansas, and there is seldom any black clay shale between its layers. It cokes well, and is a good gas coal. It is used at the Joplin mines for smelting. At both zinc furnaces, at New Pittsburg and near Cherokee, are many persons who have used the celebrated "block coal" of Illinois, and they considered this the best for smelting the zinc ores.

At my request Mr. W. A. Fritts, the engineer of the Girard Mills, of Girard, made experiments on four different days, to ascertain the amount of ashes in this coal. The result was a fraction under seven per cent. As this was the market article, the result must be considered favorable, as we have known trials made in Massachusetts on the Pennsylvania anthracite which showed a much larger per cent. of ashes.

If other parties, running steam engines, would occasionally weigh their coal, and the ashes made from it, we could thus obtain a practical standard for the relative value of coal from the different mines, as well as the strata in various parts of the Coal Measures

STATEMENT showing No. Cars of Coal Shipped from points on Missouri River, Fort Scott & Gulf Railroad, for six years ending December 31, 1877.

STATIONS. 1872. 1873. 1874. 1875. 1876. 1877. TOTAL.

Rosedale       8 83   91
Olathe 2     1   7 10
Hillsdale         1   1
Paola 3     1   1 5
Fontana 1     1     2
LesCygnes   1 2 5     8
Barnard   4 8 38 40 77 167
Pleasanton 270 130 82 64 21 7 574
Prescott 292 242 170 156 49 20 929
Crawford Switch     64 2     66
Osaga   18 29 28 29 1 105
Marmaton Switch   146 104 61 11   322
Ft. Scott 504 1,025 286 309 688 808 3,620
Bovard Switch   1,139 816       1,955
Black Switch   121 595 47     763
Coal Switch     2,272 1,380 931 374 4,957
Godfrey 5,074 4,607 2,848 2,028 1,360 1,186 17,103
Pawnee 1,824 1,955 1,491 752 437 306 6,765
Johnston Switch 77 72 217 156 27   549
Drywood 21 48 175 208 210 199 861
Girard 2 40 30 31 824 2,585 3,512
Beulah 195 249 29 73 219 12 777
Cherokee 216 248 208 177 276 322 1,447
Decatur 231 112 37 43 330 30 783
Stilson           1,358 1,358
Coalfield 1,273 860 520 424 967   4,044
Columbus 3   1 1     5
Ft. S., S. E. & Ry     592 5,293 3,768 1,729 11,382

      Total 9,988 11,017 10,576 11,287 10,271 9,022 62,161

STATEMENT showing the No. of Cars of Coal Shipped from points on Leavenworth, Lawrence & Galveston Railroad for four years ending December 31, 1877.

STATIONS. 1874 1875 1876 1877 TOTAL.
Leavenworth       2 2
Lawrence 3 1     4
*Olathe 358 374 245 278 1,255
**Ottawa 4 2 150 162 318
Humboldt 1       1
Chanute 1   3 9 13
Thayer 529 88 70 139 826
Cherryvale 4 4

     Total 896 465 472 590 2,423

* Came from line of Missouri River, Fort Scott, & Gulf Railroad. ** Came from line of Kansas City, Burlington & Santa Fe Railway.