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REPORT

OF A

GEOLOGICAL EXPLORATION

OF PART OF

IOWA, WISKONSIN, AND ILLINOIS,

MADE UNDER INSTRUCTIONS FROM THE SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY OF THE UNITED STATES, IN THE

AUTUMN OF THE YEAR 1839,

BY DAVID DALE OWEN, M. D.,
Principal agent lo explore the mineral lands of the United States.

TABLE OF CONTENTS.

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Climate and meteorology, observations on -
Acknowledgments and concluding remarks

Report of E. Phillips, sub-agent.
Report on the timber, soil, and productiveness of the mineral district

159

No. I.
New HARMONY, INDIANA,

January 20, 1840. Sır: Your communication of the 31st of July last, covering my commission as principal agent to explore the mineral lands of the United States, and containing instructions what lands to survey, and how to conduct the examinations, reached me at this place on the 17th of August. ,

These instructions, prepared by direction of the Secretary of the Treasury, under a resolution of the House of Representatives of the 6th of February last, required me to proceed to Iowa, and undertake an exploration of “all the lands in the Mineral Point and the Galena districts, which are situated south of the Wiskonsin and north of the Rock river, and west of the line dividing ranges eight and nine east of the fourth principal meridian; together with all the surveyed lands in the Dubuque district;" comprehending, in all, upwards of three hundred townships of land. This exploration I was required to complete “before the approaching winter should set in.”

In regard to the nature of the exploration to be made throughout this district of territory, I was informed that "it had been decided by the Secretary of the Treasury that the investigation should embrace every description of mineral deposite, calculated to impart so much value to the land as would justify the expense;" and I was instructed to “note carefully the result of the examinations of the mineral appearances of each tract of land, its situation in the section, how occupied, and such facts as will serve to convey some idea of its value and productiveness.”

I was further informed that it was “the anxious desire of the Secretary that all the lands in the Dubuque district found not to contain appearances of lead mineral or salines, and not otherwise reserved by law, should be brought into market next (now last) fall, at the earliest day practicable;" and I was, accordingly, instructed to “report to the General Land Office, and to the register, lists of all such lands, from time to time, as fast as I should have completed the examinations of (say) from ten to fifteen town. ships sufficiently to enable me to certify the fact that they do not contain appearances of lead mineral or salines, in order that the same may be proclaimed for sale, successively, as the lists shall be received ;" which special reports, however, I was informed, were to “form no part of my general report,” which I was instructed to make after completing the examinations of the entire district to be explored, and which report I was required to accompany with a “general list of all the lands found to contain appearances of mineral or salines, as far as situated in the surveyed lands, with appropriate remarks opposite to each tract, to be likewise accompa-, nied by connected diagrams showing the precise locations.”

I was also instructed to " select specimens of all the minerals of much value, accompanying each with the designation of the quarter section, township, and range, from whence the same shall have been taken," and to forward these to Washington city; as such a collection was deemed important to illustrate my official report, and enable the department to judge better of the value of the lands, and also interesting as forming a nucleus for a national cabinet.

In regard to the force which I was permitted to employ, I was informed that, “ with a view of completing the examinations before the approach. ing winter," the Secretary had assented to my “employing as many subagents and assistants as I might deem requisite for the purpose.”

After duly weighing the nature of iny instructions, estimating the extent of country to be examined, considering the wild unsettled character of a portion of it, and the scanty accommodations it could afford to a numerous party, (which rendered necessary a carefully-calculated system of purveyance,) and ascertaining that the winter, in that northern region, commonly sets in with severity from the 10th to the middle of November, my first impression was, that the duty required of me was impracticable of completion within the given time, even with the liberal permission in regard to force accorded to me in my instructions. But, on a more careful review of the means thus placed at my disposal, I finally arrived at the conclusion, that, by using diligent exertion, assuming much responsibility, and incurring an expense which I was aware the department might pos. sibly not have anticipated, I might, in strict accordance with my instructions, if favored by the weather and in other respects, succeed in completing the exploration in the required time.

I therefore immediately commenced engaging sub-agents and assistants, and proceeded to St. Louis ; there (at my own expense, to be repaid to me out of the per diem of the men employed) I laid in about three thousand dollars worth of provisions and camp furniture, including tents, which I caused to be made for the accommodation of the whole expedition; and in one month from the day on which I received my commission and instructions in Indiana, (to wit, on the 17th of September,) I had reached the mouth of Rock river; engaged one hundred and thirty-nine sub-agents and assist. ants; instructed my sub-agents in such elementary principles of geology as were necessary to the performance of the duties required of them ; sup. plied them with simple mineralogical tests, with the application of which they were made acquainted ; organized twenty-four working corps, furnished each with skeleton maps of the townships assigned to them for examination, and placed the whole at the points where their labors commenced, all along the southern line of the western half of the territory to be examined. Thence the expedition proceeded northward, each corps being required, on the average, to overrun and examine thirty quarter sections daily, and to report to myself on fixed days at regularly appointed stations: to receive which reports, and to examine the country in person, I crossed the district under examination, in an oblique direction, eleven times in the course of the survey. Where appearances of particular interest presented themselves, I either diverged from my route, in order to bestow upon these a more mi. nute and thorough examination; or, when time did not permit this, I instruct. ed Dr. John Locke, of Cincinnati, (formerly of the geological corps of Ohio, and at present professor of chemistry in the medical college of Ohio,) whose valuable services I had been fortunate enough to engage on this expedition, to inspect these in my stead.

By the 24th of October, the exploration of the Dubuque district was completed, and the special reports of all the townships therein were despatched to your office, and to the office of the register at Dubuque. On the 14th of Noveinber, the survey of the Mineral Point district was in a similar manner brought to a close ; and by the 24th of November, our labors finally terminated at Stephenson, in Illinois; the examinations of all the lands comprehended in my instructions having been completed in two months and six days from the date of our actual commencement in the field. Also several thousand specimens, some of rare beauty and interest, were collected, arranged, and labelled.

The weather was favorable, and the winter did not set in with severity until about a fortnight later than is usual in that latitude ; yet, the same day on which the survey was completed, a severe snow-storm occurred, a gale blew up from the northwest, the thermometer fell to 12 or 14 degrees below zero, and the expedition could not have continued its operations in the field a single day longer.

The details of this exploration, exhibiting results of an interest and importance far beyond my anticipations, and equally, perhaps, beyond those which the department may have formed, are submitted in the following

GENERAL REPORT.

SITUATION AND EXTENT OF THE COUNTRY EXPLORED.

The district of territory which has been explored lies nearly in equal portions on both sides of the Mississippi river, between latitude 41 and 43 degrees; commencing at the mouth of Rock river, and extending thence north, upwards of 100 miles, to the Wiskonsin river, which discharges itself into the Mississippi immediately below Prairie du Chien.

The average width of this body of land exceeds 100 miles. It comprehends about 11,000 square miles, equalling in extent the State of Maryland.

ITS GEOLOGICAL CHARACTER.

To a correct understanding of the geological formations of this district, without which its probable value as a mineral region cannot be correctly appreciated, a few words of general explanation may be required.

· A casual observer may imagine that the various rocks which compose the crust of our globe are thrown together in indiscriminate confusion; but those who have given even a superficial attention to the science of geology know that the order of superposition among these rocks is con- . stant. The various geological strata overlie each other in a succession . which is invariable, with the exception of trifling alternations sometimes occurring at the junction of two formations.

Beneath, at the greatest depths, are found granite and other crystalline rocks of a similar character.

Lying above these, are the primary fossilliferous rocks, such as occur throughout America, immediately beneath, and in connexion with, an. thracite coal.

Above these lie the secondary rocks, including the mountain limestone, the bituminous coal-measures, the salt-producing rocks of Europe, and the chalk.

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