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Report of the State Geologist in relation to the improvement of State Salt Springs.
OFFICE of STATE GEologist,
To the Honorable Legislature of Michigan:
In compliance with your instructions contained in the act approved March 24, 1838, entitled “An act for the improvement of the state salt springs,” the undersigned respectfully submits the following report. Immediately after the passage of the act, in order to avail myself of the most recent improvements upon the method of conducting this important work, as well as with a view to adopt such a course as would lead, in the most economical manner, to the results desired, I visited the principal salt wells of Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia, and although I had carefully examined many of them before, the numerous improvements which have been made, more particularly at Kanawha, in Virginia, rendered the examination, in a high degree, interesting and profitable. Another object which influenced me in these examinations was the desire of comparing carefully, while the subject was still fresh in my mind, the precise condition of our own springs, with those similarly situated in the neighboring states. . . . The close analogy in situation, existing between the springs in the states enumerated and those in our own state, as set forth in a former report, will be borne in mind, together with the necessity for adopting a similar method of improvement. The salt springs of New York, it was there stated, are so very differently situated, that a satisfactory comparison with them can scarcely [Sen. Doc.] ! o
be instituted at this time, and any attempt to improve the water of our own springs upon the plan there pursued, would, most assuredly, prove valueless; but when water of sufficient strength and purity, and in sufficient quantity, has been obtained, the policy of management adopted by the state of New York may readily be applied to our own state, and will undoubtedly be preferable to any other which could be devised. The brine springs of our state, like those of Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia, emanate from a rock which lies deep, being covered with a mass of rock and earthy matter, which, (in order to procure salt water that can be economically used,) it is necessary to penetrate. In this respect they differ most essentially from those of New York, for in that state a simple earth excavation has proved amply sufficient to ensure an abundant supply of water of a superior quality. In the other states to which reference has been made, I am not aware that any spring has furnished water in quantity or strength sufficient for economical purposes, by a simple earth excavation, nor has the water been very materially improved by any work of that kind. In those portions of the states last mentioned, where the geological arrangement of the rocks is such as to admit of obtaining salt water, the salt rock lies at a considerable depth, and is overlayed by strata of sandstone, limestone, slate, &c., and through fissures in these overlaying rocks the salt water, much diluted by the influx of fresh water, originally rose to the surface. In order to procure water of sufficient strength and purity, it has been found indispensable to penetrate the overlaying rocks, as well as a portion of the rock from which the salt water flows. The denth to which it has been found necessary to sink, varies from three hundred and fifty to one thousand feet, the deep borings for the most part, furnishing water of a strength superior to the more superficial ones. This variation in the depth to which it is necessary to carry the borings, depends, chiefly, upon the inclination of the salt rock, and by keeping in view the general inclination of that rock, together with the elevation of the country, can be determined with nearly as much certainty before operations have been commenced, as after they have been completed. The appearance of a salt spring at the surface, is, of itself, very far from being evidence of the existence of water of value in the rock below ; it is only a single link in the chain of facts, for in very many instances water of considerable strength appears at the surface where no permanent supply of sufficient strength and purity to be of any practical value could be obtained by the most complete borings, and some of the most valuable springs have been brought to light by improvements, where, originally, no salt water appeared upon the surface. A complete elucidation of this subject does not properly come within the scope of the present
report, and allusion is made to the facts as they exist, simply with a view of rendering the character of the improvements proposed more intelligible than they would otherwise be. Having called your attention to the close similarity which exists between the salines of our own and the states last mentioned, you will be prepared to appreciate the necessity of adopting a similar method of improvement. Your attention is more particularly called to this subject from the fact that many of our citizens having been familiar with the condition of the salt springs of New York, and erroneously looking upon our own as similarly situated, are unprepared to realize the different character of improvements required. At the Onondaga springs a simple shaft has been found sufficient to furnish an ample supply of water highly charged with saline matter; but improvements of this character, simply, would be of no value at any of the springs I have examined in Michigan, and I can safely say that no point will ever be found in this state, where improvements of that character will, alone, lead to any practical results. In commencing the improvements directed, it was deemed desirable to select two points or operations, where, all circumstances combined, rendered it most certain they would lead to a successful termination. Two places were selected rather than one, from the slightly different circumstances under which the salt springs occur; a difference which would still leave the subject in doubt should the experiment result unfavorably at a single point. As a matter of economy, it was considered desirable to pursue both these works at the same time, from the fact that the two improvements can be proportionably much more economically conducted in concert than either of them alone. Feeling the importance of settling the question fairly, these points were selected with much care, and it is believed they are quite equai, if not superior, to any which could have been chosen in the state. The principal facts connected with this subject were laid before you in a former report, from which you will be enabled to draw con lusions as to the probability of eventual success, but since the date of that report, many facts have been elicited which would serve to increase our considence on that subject. The water of these springs is quite equal in strength and purity to that of any of the springs of the western states before noticed, as they originally existed; the geological situation of the country is such as to lead to favorable conclusions, and should there be a soilure of eventual success, it may safely be said it will depend upon causes which could not possibly have been calculated. The state salt lands on the Tittabawassa river, in Midland county, are peculiarly eligibly situated, being a few miles below the head of navigation of that stream, and embracing the mouth of Salt river. A re-examination of this saline district, show ' it to be more extensive than had been supposed, and it was in consequence of this, in connexion with the strength and purity of its numerous springs, deemed a strong point for commencing operations. The time occupied in making these preliminary examinations prevented the commencement of active operations at the point selected until near the middle of June; and seperated as it is from settlements, it became necessary, first, to make arrangements for rendering those comfortable who should be engaged in the work. A house was first erected and sufficient ground cleared from timber to prevent annoyance from mosquitoes, since which a shaft has been commenced at a point about half a mile below the mouth of Salt river on the direct bank of the Tittabawassee river. Much difficulty was at first encountered in sinking the shaft, from the presence of quicksand, but this was at length surmounted, since which the work has progressed with as much rapidity as could have been anticipated. As this shaft is commenced directly upon the bank of the river, it was deemed advisable, in order to secure the works more persectly, as well as for other purposes, to erect a wharf, which was accordingly done. It is proposed to sink this shaft, already commenced, to the rock, which may be estimated to lie at a depth of something over one hundred feet, and to secure it carefully from the influx of fresh water. Having accomplished this, the salt rock, which will probably be found, at this point, to lie at a depth of between five and seven hundred feet, will be reached in the usual manner, and until this be fully accomplished, we cannot hope to arrive at any satisfactory conclusion upon the subject. During a portion of the months of August, September and October, this work was partially suspended, in consequence of the sickness of those employed in carrying it forward. Circumstances connected with my other state duties prevented a re-examination of the state salines on Grand river until about the middle of July, soon after which operations were commenced at the point selected, three miles below the village of Grand Rapids and upon the direct bank of the river:—But in consequence of the excessive heat of the season and the exposed condition of the men employed, nearly all those engaged upon the work became unfit for duty by sickness, and more than two months elapsed before, I was enabled to renew the work successfully, although other hands had been employed and sent on in the mean time. They also became unfit for duty from a similar cause. A neat and commodious house has been erected at this place, a portion of the timber for a dock, to secure the works, prepared, and I have men now busily engaged in clearing grounds and taking all the necessary preliminary steps for commencing a shaft. A steam engine has been procured and some of the machinery prepared for commencing work upon the shaft, and this work would have been already commenced had the condition of the appropriation warranted such a step. The distance to the rock being, at this point, comparatively short, the expense of sinking the shaft will not be great, but the amount of rock boring re. quired will not vary very much from that at the Tittabawassa salines. I should also add that a conditional contract has been made with a man of great practical experience in rock boring, at the Kanawha salines, in Virginia, to take charge of that portion of the work in this state, and had the appropriation been sufficient he would have commenced work before this time. In regar to the imporance of this point for the commencement of these improvements, it will probably be sufficient to reser you to my report of last year, on this subject, barely adding that the examinations of this year have added confidence to my hopes of success, if the operations be continued to a final result, Other points might have been selected where little doubt can be entertained but salt water could be procured, and where operations could be conducted at a less expense, but at this stage it was deemed of the utmost importance to select such springs only as bid most fair, and such as would, in the event of a failure to realize our expectations, render it forever unnecessary to make further attempts. Should the works already commenced prove of value, it will, no doubt, be found for the interest of the state to make similar improvements at other points, but, for the present, those commenced are annply sufficient. It would hardly have been expected, from the small amount appropriated for the improvement of our springs, that very much, except to take the preparatory steps, could have been accomplished, yet under ordinary circumstances, no more than this amount would have been required. The sickness of the past season has been such as to embarrass our operations very much, and this embarrassment was increased in consequence of the difficulty of supplying with fresh hands, the places of those who became unfit for duty in consequence of sickness. Compelled to live, for a time, until buildings could be erected, more exposed than usual, much annoyed by mosquitoes, in connexion with the extremely hot weather, the men employed sickened and were nearly all, for a length of time, unfitted for labor. Their places were supplied with fresh hands as soon as circumstances would permit, and the work pressed forward with all possible despatch. There has been expended at the works on Grand river, including the expense of erecting a house and the purchase of a steam engine, the sum of one thousand seven hundred and sixty-seven dollars, fisty-two cents; and at the works on the Tittabawassa river the sum of two thousand one hundred and eighteen dollars, sixty-seven cents, amounting in total to three thousand eight hun