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"Sixteenth Annual Report of the United States Geological Survey,
Part IV.-Mineral Resources of the United States, 1894, Nonmetallic Products


Excerpts from the chapter on "Stone," by William C. Day.
(Click here if you wish to read the entire chapter on "Stone.")

Excerpts from the Chapter on "Stone" Regarding the State of Iowa Stone Industry in the Mid-1890s.

The Iowa Sandstone Industry in the Mid-1890s

Iowa. - Sandstone production has been at quite a low ebb in 1894, although it has never been of much importance to the State.  Marion and Hardin counties have been the most important, though small amounts have been quarried in Cerro Gordo, Clayton, Lee, Jasper, Washington, and Scott counties.

The Iowa Limestone Industry in the Mid-1890s

Iowa. - The total value of the limestone output in 1894 was $616,630.  As is evident from the following list of productive counties the stone is widely distributed.  There are as yet few large operators, but a large number of firms producing in each case upon a comparatively limited scale.  The counties yielding the product are Jackson, Dubuque, Cedar, Marshall, Jones, Scott, Lee, Clinton, and smaller amounts from Des Moines, Madison, Decatur, Cerro Gordo, Dallas, Wapello, Linn, Muscatine, Blackhawk, Mahaska, Washington, Benton, Clayton, Pocahontas, Montgomery, Tama, Floyd, Adams, Mitchell, Humboldt, Johnson, Jefferson, Clarke, Van Buren Howard, Taylor, Keokuk, Pottawattamie, Louisa, Webster, Allamakee, Story, and Buchanan.

The following notes on Iowa building stones, by Mr. H. Foster Bain, of the Iowa State Geological Survey, are of much interest, particularly as indicating future possibilities in the stone industry of the State.  Although these notes are not entirely confined to the consideration of limestone, so much of the matter relates to it that it has been thought best to insert them in the space devoted to Iowa limestone rather than in any other connection.

Notes of Iowa Building Stones.

By H. Foster Bain.

The work of the present Geological Survey of Iowa has not as yet extended over the main stone-producing counties of the State, so that only very fragmentary notes on the stone industry are at present possible.  The stone marketed from this State is almost exclusively limestone.  The Sioux quartzite, occurring in Lyon County, has never been worked, except to furnish a few display and test blocks.  Excellent quarry sites, however, occur over a number of square miles, and there is an ample supply of quartzite within the State for the support of a large industry.  The sandstones occurring are in the main too incoherent to be of much value.  Important exceptions, however, occur, among which may be mentioned the Red Rock sandstone of the coal measures occurring in Marion County.  The quarries here have been idle for a few years, but it is expected that work of development will begin this spring.

Within the year considerable attention has been attracted to the "marble" beds along the Cedar and Iowa rivers.  Extensive exposures near Iowa Falls are reported, and arrangements are being made to open them up.  The Charles City beds, which are the only ones at present supplying stone to the market, belong to the Devonian, and represent the portion which has usually been called the Hamilton.  The rock is a coraline limestone, and occurs in layers 8 to 30 inches thick, with a total thickness, so far as known, of about 20 feet.  It is a trifle hardier than Italian marble, and is reasonably free from the checks and seams so common in colored marbles.  There is a great variety of colors displayed, the groundwork being mostly buff, gray, blue, or drab.  Inlaid in this are masses of coral, from 1 to 20 inches in diameter, exhibiting very delicate coloring and tracing.  A mantel made of this material received honorable mention at the Columbian Exposition.  The stone has been on the market for several years.  The quarries and mills have recently passed into other hands, and the business will be enlarged.  Samples of the stone found near Iowa Falls show it to be similar to that at Charles City.

Linn County. - The chief quarries in this county are in the Upper Silurian limestones near Stone City, Waukee, and Mount Vernon.  The stone is exceedingly uniform and is in color a warm-gray or pleasing cream tint.  It is so homogeneous as to be readily carved and easily worked, being quite soft when first taken from the quarry.  The bedding planes are so constant, smooth, and parallel as to require very little dressing.  It is dolomitic, and contains very little impurity.  These facts, together with the fineness and evenness of grain, presenting uneven expansion, make it one of the most durable of the limestones.  In the Mount Vernon Cemetery, tombstones bearing dates as early as 1845 show little decay, though various marbles in the same cemetery show the usual loss of polish, checking, and cracks, indicating the progress of disintegration.

In the Crescent Quarry near Stone City there is a total face of 60 feet of available stone, the courses running from 1 to 8 feet 4 inches in thickness, and including layers available for dimension, bridge, and rubble work.  At Mount Vernon a switch has recently been built to the quarries and an expensive quarry plant, including steel derricks, channelers, and planers, has been put in.  Borings here show a thickness of at least 50 feet of available stone below the base of the present quarry.

In addition to the larger quarries operated in the Mount Vernon beds, which are the western continuation of the well-known Anamosa limestone, there are a number of smaller openings in the various other formations exposed in the county.  The Devonian does not in this county afford such good stone as elsewhere, and can hardly compete as a building stone with the Silurian stone just described.  The Otis beds, however, yield abundant supplies of macadam, and are quarried for that purpose at Cedar Rapids, the Coggan beds (of the Silurian) have been used with good results in bridge work.

Van Buren County. - The rocks exposed in this county belong entirely to the Carboniferous, both the Coal Measures and the Mississippian being present.  The quarry rock is taken from the latter.  Both limestone and sandstone are obtained; the former from both the Keokuk and St. Louis stages, and the latter from the lower portion of the St. Louis.  About 8 years ago a considerable quantity of stone was quarried from the Keokuk beds near Bentonsport and used for bridge work and riprap.  In the winter of 1893 and 1894 about 1,000 yards were taken out and used to protect the piers of the bridge at that point.  Magnesian limestone from the St. Louis has been quarried and used for dam work along the Des Moines River, and was used to some extent at the time the State capitol was built.  There are, however, no quarries which support more than a local trade.  In the upper divisions of the St. Louis, white limestone of good quality, running in courses of 12 to 15 inches in thickness, is obtained at a number of points.  The "Chequest marble," a compact, dove-colored fossiliferous limestone, susceptible of a good degree of polish, and which has been used to some extent for ornamental work, is found near Keosauqua.  A block of this stone may be seen in the Washington Monument at Washington.

Mahaska County. - The quarry industry of this county is not great, a fact due in part to the poor quality of the stone exposed, and in part to the great amount of capital absorbed by the coal interests, together with the active competition of the clay interests.  At present only a few quarries are open, they being worked for local trade.  The limestone of the St. Louis stage is exposed along the major streams, and is opened up near New Sharon, Union Mills, Fremont, Peoria, Given, and on Spring Creek, northeast of Oskaloosa.  It yields a fine-grained, ash-gray to buff stone, breaking with a sharp conchoidal fracture and running in courses of from 6 to 24 inches.  This stone is used for foundations, well curbing, and similar purposes, bringing from $2 to $3 per perch.  Only about 900 to 1,000 perch are quarried each year.  The Coal Measures contain several heavy standstones (sic) which are not as yet used.  At Raven Cliff, on the Des Moines river, there is an excellent face of this stone extending along an old arm of this river nearly 2 miles.  The bed is over 90 feet thick, and shows single precipitous faces of more than 50 feet.  The stone is clear and homogeneous, of pleasing color, and apparently of good strength.  There is a railway within about two miles.

Keokuk County. - All the formations exposed within this county yield more or less quarry rock.  By far the greater portion, however, comes from the St. Louis limestone.  The Coal Measures here, as in the neighboring regions, contain more or less sandstone, but with the exception of the heavy beds south of Delta, which have been used a little for the construction of a dam and as foundation stone, this formation is not productive.  The St. Louis contains the usual thin-bedded, fine-grained, ash-gray limestones, and has been quarried for local purposes at a number of points near What Cheer, Delta, Sigourney, Hedrick, and Richland.  Near Atwood the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railway operated a quarry for some time, mainly for ballast.  The greater portions of the rock is too irregular to admit of quarrying on a large scale.  The lower magnesian portion of the St. Louis occurs, and yields some stone of good quality.  By far the best rock in the county occurs below the St. Louis in the Augusta beds.  This is a coarse, subcrystalline stone, in buff, blue, and white ledges.  It is encrinital, and takes a fair degree of polish.  It is readily accessible along Rock Creek near Ollie, where a switch from the Iowa Central Railway leads to the quarries.  The stone is not now shipped, but arrangements are being made to reopen the property.

Washington County. - This county yields stone from all three of the major members of the Mississippian series.  The principal quarries are located near Brighton, and supply stone from the St. Louis.  The ledges quarried belong to the upper beds of this stage and run in courses from 8 inches to 7 feet.  The heavier and lower ledges are not now taken out, as they are badly water-coursed.  The stone marketed is used for bridges and rubble stone, as well as paving flags.  It is of excellent quality, but the number of ledges which are suitable for quarrying is limited.  Northwest of Washington is a small group of quarries on Crooked Creek.  The stone belongs to the Augusta formation.  It is a coarse encrinital limestone, of great durability and of very pleasing tints.  Quite an important local trade is sustained.  Stone from equivalent ledges is quarried a little in the northern part of the county, near Dayton and south of Riverside.  An impure magnesian limestone belonging to the Kinderhook occurs along English River and its branches, and is quarried locally.  It is apparently very soft and worthless, but is really much more durable than might be supposed from its appearance.

Lee County. - The limestone of the Lower Carboniferous and the sandstones of the Coal Measures are exposed throughout Lee County, and are quarried at many points.  The Burlington, Keokuk, and St. Louis beds yield the greater amount of stone.  The Coal Measures yield at several points a soft, more or less ferruginous, coarse-grained sandstone, which is used but little.  The Burlington beds are made up largely of a coarse encrinital limestone, varying in color from brown to white.  It is very durable, easily quarried, and readily dressed.  The Keokuk limestone is, as a rule, a compact, rather hard, often subcrystalline rock, of an ashen or bluish color.  Its fracture is even, approaching conchoidal.  The quarry rock of the upper part of the Keokuk, sometimes called the Warsaw, is chiefly a magnesian limestone containing some sand and pebbles.  It is quarried at Sonora on the east side of the Mississippi, and is known locally as the Sonora sandstone.  It occurs in a massive layer 6 to 12 feet in thickness, is bluish or brownish when first taken out, but after exposure turns to buff or light brown.  It has been quite extensively used at Keokuk, and has proven very durable.  The St. Louis limestone is a fine-grained, compact limestone, of blue to gray color, breaking with a marked conchoidal fracture, and resembling lithographic stone in appearance.

The principal quarry industry of the county is centered around Keokuk, where there are a number of large and well-worked openings, mainly in the Keokuk beds.  Quarries are found along the Mississippi, from Keokuk to Montrose, and along the Des Moines, from Croton to Sand Prairie.  A number of smaller openings are located on sugar Creek near Pilot Grove and Franklin.

Des Moines County. - This county affords quarry rock from the same beds as Lee County, and in addition a certain amount of stone is taken from the Kinderhook.  The latter contains a thin bed of oolite, which is readily accessible and easily worked.  It will not, however, stand well in exposed positions, and is of small value.  By far the larger number of quarries in the county draw their supply from the Upper Burlington beds.  These beds underlie about one-fourth of the county, and stretch out in a broad belt parallel to the Mississippi River.  The rock is massive and compact, and varies in color from pure white to shades of gray and buff.  It is of excellent quality. 

These quarries are located near Burlington, on Flint River and Knotty Creek, along the Mississippi, at Cascade and Patterson, and near Augusta, on Long Creek and Skunk River.  A considerable expansion in the quarry industry of the county may be expected.

Allamakee County. - This county is one of the few counties of Iowa which are not covered by heavy drift deposits.  There are accordingly a large number of exposures and excellent quarry sites, though the rough topography of the county has made railroad building expensive, and transportation facilities are accordingly limited.  The beds exposed represent the St. Croix stage of the Cambrian, and the Oneota St. Peter, Trenton, and Galena Stages of the Ordivican.  They all yield more or less good quarry stone.  The St. Croix beds are quarried a little at Lansing, at a level about 100 to 125 feet above the river.  The rock taken out here comes from immediately below the calcareous shale layers, which, in Minnesota, have been called the St. Lawrence limestone.  It is a sandstone in which the grains of silica are cemented with calcium carbonate.  The beds are exposed at numerous points along the Oneota Valley, but the St. Croix yields comparatively little stone.  The Oneota limestone yields quarry rock from several horizons.  At New Albin, Lansing, Harpers Ferry, and other points along the Mississippi, a fine-grained, even, and regularly bedded dolomite, in layers varying from 3 to 36 inches, is quarried.  The workable beds have an aggregate thickness of about 30 feet.  In the northwestern part of the county the beds are finer grained, more compact, and furnish a stone which for fine masonry is not excelled by any stone in the Mississippi Valley.  Smooth-surfaced slabs, 10 or 15 feet in length and almost equal width, may be seen at numerous points.  The stone stands weathering influences excellently.  The beds of the Oneota above this horizon, while yielding some good stone, rarely afford the opportunity for extensive development.

The St. Peter sandstone is usually a bed of unconsolidated sand.  At a few points only the particles have been cemented by siliceous or ferruginous cement, so as to be available for building stone.  The Trenton limestone, while in part of excellent character, is not in this county sufficiently regular in character to supply more than local demands.  A thick-bedded, yellowish limestone, resembling dolomite in appearance, and belonging to this formation, is quarried in the head of Paint Creek, near Waukon.  About 75 feet above the base of the beds a thin-bedded, fine-grained, dark-gray to slate-colored stone has been quarried in the same vicinity.  It does not, however, stand the weather so well as other stone in the county, and requires the handling of considerable rubbish.  The Galena limestone is not quarried in Allamakee County, though it supplies a good quality of stone in the neighboring portion of Clayton County.

Rock taking a high polish and affording suitable material for ornamental purposes is taken from the Trenton.  It is a compact limestone, made up of fragments of Brachiopods and Bryozoans, cemented with what was originally a fine calcareous mud.  All the pores and interstices of the original rock and of the fossils have become filled with calcite, and very good effects may be obtained by its use.

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