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Kansas State Board of Agriculture
First Biennial Report


Economical Geology — Lead & Zinc




In Kansas, as in most other regions of the Valley of the Mississippi, these ores are always, more or less, closely associated. It is only in the southeastern portion of the State that they have been discovered, except in very small quantities. Even where the geological features, along the borders of the rich Missouri lead region, are most favorable, no locality, excepting a small area east of Spring river hereafter to be described, has yet paid expenses.

At various points mining, or rather prospecting, has been prosecuted with energy. At Potosi, Linn county, are vestiges of old works, whose history is unknown. These have sometimes been attributed to the Indians; but no one, knowing their habits of labor, and ignorance of the reduction of ores, will credit this report. The mining was undoubtedly the work of the early settlers of Missouri. The indications show that they were no more successful than our own citizens in the same county. No indications of any attempt to reduce the ores are found in that vicinity.

Within the past fifteen years, various attempts, on the Coal Measures, have been made to obtain lead and zinc ores, but always at a loss. From three to five years ago, about thirty shafts were sunk near Pleasanton, a few miles from the old Potosi diggings, and about twenty tons of lead ore were raised. We found one shaft down two hundred and sixty feet, but the result was not favorable.

At Baxter Springs, about five years ago, lead was discovered in digging a well, directly under the town site. The Morris Brothers and others opened several shafts, and prosecuted the work energetically, but every pound of lead cost ten times its market value.

At the Standley mines, five miles east of Baxter Springs, and two miles from the State line of Missouri, much labor has been expended. As this place is within twelve miles of the Joplin (Missouri) mines, and the geological formation is similar, being the "Keokuk," more success has been expected. But thus far the mining has been at a loss. There are not far from one hundred openings, from four to forty-five feet deep. The first discoveries at this point were made in March, 1872, and prosecuted continuously for three years. No record was kept of the amount of ore produced, but, after comparing various estimates of parties engaged on the spot, I find the highest do not fix the sum total above twenty tons of lead and twelve of zinc. This quantity, at the mouth of the mine, was worth about $1,500, and cost not less than ten times that sum. The diggings were then deserted until the recent discoveries on Short creek, two or three miles north, and are now being renewed.

The ores here are not as pure as at Joplin and Short creek, yielding, about thirty-five per cent. of metal to the crude ore. Contrary to the usual character of such metallic ores, the vein or bed at the Standley diggings extends horizontally, and is about six to eight feet in thickness, the lead, however, being only a few inches thick. In the main ravine it lies just below the surface, and is only as much below the surface at other places as the hills rise above that level. Shafts have been sunk below this bed, but no ore was obtained beneath it. I obtained some fine cabinet specimens of the ores, particularly crystals of zinc. Many were of a bright amber color and nearly transparent, and were of greater beauty than is often seen in more profitable mines. These are sulphide of zinc. Silicate and carbonate of zinc were associated, but as poorer specimens.

The only lead and zinc mines in Kansas that have proved profitable, are those known as the


They are in the Keokuk group of the Sub-Carboniferous, and confined to the northeast quarter of Township 34, Range 25 east; and cover an area of about three miles square, on the easterly side of Spring river. Short creek is a small stream from Missouri, flowing into Spring river. These mines were discovered in April, 1877, and proved so protitable and unexpectedly rich, that before the close of the year, two towns, Galena and Empire City, sprang up, embracing a population of 3,000 inhabitants. Hundreds of shafts were soon opened, and two smelting furnaces for reducing the galena were erected.

The lead ore Ð galena Ð is found deposited in three conditions: as float mineral in the loose soil near the surface; in the chert conglomerate; and in the cavities, either lining the sides, or imbedded in the soft clay. The first owes its situation to the disappearance, during long geological ages, of the original bed rock, and is so uncertain and unimportant, that it is seldom sought. That in the conglomerate is obtained by blasting the hard rock, whether found in ledges or loose masses. The lead is not deposited in the primitive, solid chert, but only where it has been broken by former agencies, and again cemented by cherty material. In such cases the ore occurs intermingled with the primitive fragments, and must have been deposited between the period of the breaking up of the chert beds and the reformation of the fragments into the conglomerate. The zinc ore is found under the same circumstances as the lead, but is at Short creek not nearly so abundant. Some of the chert has become changed into a light, soft, porous variety, which seldom affords ore. The miners consider the compact or "live" chert as one of the signs of mineral. In drifting, frequently, a wall of chert is struck, from two to four feet thick. These walls usually run in an easterly and westerly direction, though this rule is not entirely uniform. If this chert has not been changed to a conglomerate, no lead is found in it.

Cavities sometimes occur, from a few feet to fifty in extent, usually filled with a soft, unctuous, "tallow" clay, containing fragments of rock (called by the miners bowlders), and pure mineral. At the Nevada shaft we entered several thirty by fifty feet, and nearly as high, which were found entirely filled with such material. Some of the small cavities were still lined by cubic crystals of galena measuring two and three inches on the side.

The lead ore is nearly all in the form of sulphuret or galena, though some carbonate and oxides are found. It occurs in cubic crystals or crystalline masses, sometimes of several tons weight. More frequently it is found disseminated through the conglomerate in small fragments. This rocky mixture must then be broken, and washed, to separate the heavy mineral. Pyrites, or bisulphuret of iron, called by the miners mundic, also occurs with the lead, and we were shown crystals of galena covered and inclosed with beautiful crystalline pyrites, of a rich golden luster. The faces of the crystals were curved and unique. Carbonate of lead, of a light gray and greenish white color, often covers the surface of the galena. It does not occur in large quantities, and is the "dry bone" of the miners.

Galena, when pure, yields eighty-six per cent. of pure metallic lead, but, as the ore is brought to the furnace, always falls below that standard. At the Standley diggings, some years ago, we found it as low as thirty-five per cent. At Short creek it is called poor when it gives only sixty-five per cent.

Zinc ore, with the exception of a little carbonate (Smithsonite), occurs as sulphuret, or blende, and silicate or calamine. The blende, or black jack of the miners, is the most abundant. It occurs in dark, nearly black, and amber-colored crystals, but more frequently in resinous-colored, compact masses, having a distinct, lustrous cleavage. This is found associated with galena in nearly all the shafts, though often in small quantities. Sometimes it is the prevailing ore, and the miner finds it quite profitable. But few shafts are worked for the zinc ore only. It is said not to be as clean ore, or as abundant as at the Joplin mines. Calamine, or silicate of zinc, is also common, and is a good ore. Its color is nearly white, with a delicate bluish or greenish shade, and frequently occurs in fine crystals; it is light and porous, but hard. The two ores, when ground to the size of coarse sand, are mixed before smelting.

Calcite, or carbonate of lime, the "glass tiff" of the miners, is sometimes found with the lead and zinc ores, and has been considered an indication of the presence of those metals. There is, however, no relation between it and the mineral deposits. There is much less of it at Short creek than in the other mines, and in some of the most productive shafts at that place it is not found. It gives fine cabinet specimens.

Lead and zinc mining, even in the richest regions, has always been uncertain, and is much in the nature of a lottery. To this rule Short creek is no exception. Of the shafts sunk there not one-third have produced any ore, and not one in ten has been profitable. A few have been rich, yielding a valuable return to the possessor. Two shafts within two hundred yards of each other may pay well, and one directly between them may be worthless.

No shaft has been sunk over one hundred and fifteen feet, so that the profitableness of the lowest deposits is not known. So far ore has been found at all portions of that depth, but most has been taken out between twenty and sixty feet. No degree of regularity is observed, even in two adjoining shafts, Horizontal drifts are made where indications attract the miner, with varied results. In drifting, very frequently a wall of chert is struck, from two to three feet in thickness. These walls most usually have an easterly and westerly direction, though the rule is not entirely uniform When this chert has not been changed to a conglomerate, it affords no ore. We give a section (Fig. IX), which applies to several shafts, and will give a general idea of the manner in which the ores are deposited.

The land on which the lead and zinc are found is owned by a few companies, who have surveyed it into lots two hundred feet square. These are let to the miners at a royalty, which varies somewhat, but usually amounts to one-half of the ores taken out. The owners of the land, as a whole, make it profitable, but most of the miners either earn nothing, or quite low wages.

The quantity of lead ore produced by the Short Creek mines, has been large. As near as we could obtain the figures, the amount raised in eighteen months, from April, 1877, was not far from 6,000,000 lbs.

This is distributed as follows:

Illinois Lead & Zinc Co. 195,000 pounds
Baker 200,000 "
Bonanza 1,900,000 "
West Joplin Lead & Zinc Co. 2,472,000 "

The remainder of the 6,000,000 pounds is distributed to four other companies. We could not obtain the amount of zinc raised, but it is only small compared to the lead.

FIG. IX. DIAGRAM showing a Vertical Section of Zinc Shaft on Short creek.
A Shaft.
FIG. IX. DIAGRAM showing a Vertical Section of Zinc Shaft on Short creek.
(By Prof. B. F. Mudge.)


The smelting of zinc ores is a comparatively new business in America. We are informed there are but sixteen zinc furnaces in the United States, two of which are in the State of Kansas. One, the Chicago Zinc & Mining Company, is located near Cherokee; the other is operated by J. Lyford, at New Pittsburg, in Crawford county.

As it requires about two and a half tons of coal to smelt one ton of crude ore, it is readily seen that it is more economical to transport the mineral to the coal beds. This is still more advisable when it is known that the ores are not all mined at one locality, and the different kinds of ores melt more easily when they are mingled. Both of the establishments are located directly over the best coal deposits, so that the fuel can be mined on the lands of the company. At New Pittsburg the coal costs at the furnace only one dollar and twenty cents per ton, and the screenings, which are equally valuable for smelting, cost only seventy-five cents per ton.

The ores are brought in part from Short creek, and in part from the adjoining counties of Missouri, viz: Barton, Dade and Jasper. The first named company consumes ten tons of ore daily, producing four tons of metallic zinc. It employs on the premises, including the coal miners, about one hundred men, while about as many more are indirectly employed in mining and teaming the ores.

The establishment at New Pittsburg has been in operation but a few months, and is not yet doing quite as much. The furnaces and machinery of both are of the most improved description. The fires are kept constantly burning, as long as the internal lining of the furnace endures, which is usually ten or twelve months.