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Kansas State Board of Agriculture
First Biennial Report


Economical Geology.




Gypsum, (or sulphate of lime,) is found in many places in Kansas. In the western portion of the State, in the upper valleys of the Saline and Smoky Hill rivers, particularly in Wallace county, it is found, in the clay shales, in most beautiful compound crystals. Frequently more than a thousand crystals unite in forming one leaf-like structure. They are superior in arrangement and beauty to those collected in any other locality in the United States. They are the result of crystallization of six star-like rays around a common point, though it is seldom that any two rays are united. They are usually transparent or nearly so. The small rhomboidal crystals sometimes unite in forming one large rhomboid crystal.

At the southern line of the State, near the Cimarron river, are beds of the Selenite varieties, in massive layers and of beautiful appearance.

Near the junction of the Big and Little Blue rivers, and extending northerly and easterly from four to ten miles, lies another heavy bed of Gypsum, varying from three to ten feet in thickness. The deposit is seen along the banks of both streams and has been struck in sinking wells at various points between the two rivers. It appears to underlie at least four townships. It is of uniform grain and purity, and resembles the same article from Nova Scotia, which is imported into the ports of New England. At the water-power Blue Rapids a manufactory is in successful operation. When only ground, it is used as "plaster" with excellent results. When ground and "boiled," expelling the sulfuric acid, it becomes Plaster-of-Paris. The latter is a fine, snow white article, equal to any found in the Eastern markets, and can be used for any of the various purposes to which that substance can be applied.

Another deposit of Gypsum we have traced from near Salina on the south side of the Smoky Hill river, in an easterly direction, twenty miles, and eight or ten miles in width. At the point first named, it consists of several thin strata, which grow thicker farther to the east. Some of the thin seams consist of beautiful fibrous Gypsum, varying from pink to white, and quite pure. At Gypsum creek the stratum grows massive, measuring sixteen feet in thickness, and, where undermined by the stream, falls down the banks in heavy blocks. In Fig. VIII. we give a view showing its appearance. We are informed that the same deposit is found at other points, within twenty miles, even thicker than at the places visited by us.

FIG. VIII. GYPSUM BED. (Saline County.)
(From a photograph by D. M. Armstrong.)

The great value which Gypsum will render to Kansas must be as plaster applied to the crops. While it is excellent for grasses and grains in various ways, it is particularly useful in its hygrometric quality or virtue in retaining moisture in a condition that renders it available to the roots of plants, in dry weather, and thus counteracting the drying and evaporating effect of sun and winds. It is one of the most valuable natural products of our State.