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Building Materials in Missouri circa 1866

Excerpts from

Physical Geography of Missouri in First Annual Report on The Commissioner of Statistics,
To The General Assembly of Missouri For The Year 1866

By Professor C. G. Swallow

pp. 105-108

Missouri Statistics - Building Material.

“The possession of materials for the construction of habitations is one of the first necessities of the human race; and as the race advances in civilization and wealth,...demand for the more beautiful and durable qualities constantly increases, and it becomes a matter of no small importance to determine whether we are prepared to supply the demand which our advancement will create for dwellings, warehouses, and public edifices.

“Our examinations in Missouri prove the existence of such materials in nearly every formation in the State.  Limestones, suitable for building purposes, are abundant in the upper and middle coal series, in the St. Louis Limestone, the Archimedes limestone, the Encrinital limestone, the Chouteau limestone, the Onandaga limestones, the Cape Girardeau limestone, the Trenton limestone, and the second, third, and fourth Magnesian limestones.

“All these formations are more or less employed in the places where they are exposed.  Numbers one and six of the upper coal series furnish the rock used in the Presbyterian church, and the public house erected by Mr. Park, at Parkville, and in the public buildings at Fort Leavenworth, all of which indicate their durability and beauty; and the ease with which it is wrought into any desirable form renders it a very economical building material.  Number forty-one of middle coal series is a light gray semi-crystalline limestone, which is both durable and beautiful.  It is used at Lexington.

“The St. Louis limestone has many beds of excellent rock, which are extensively quarried and employed for various purposes in St. Louis county.  The Archimedes beds furnish a great amount of very durable limestone.  It is used for the customhouse in St. Louis.  The Encrinital strata are more extensively employed for economical purposes than any other limestone in the State.  The State-university and the court-house at Columbia furnish abundant proof of its adaptation to building purposes.  The upper beds of Trenton limestone, and the dark compact and the light magnesian strata in the lower part, are very desirable building stones, but the middle beds are not so durable; still they are sometimes used.  The court-house in St. Louis presents good examples of the Trenton limestone.

“The strata of cotton rock so abundant in the Magnesian limestones are much used.  The state-house, court-house, and many other buildings at Jefferson City, show the adaptation of this limestone to such purposes.  This is the same as the buff limestone imported into St. Louis from Illinois for houses.  This rock is equally good at many localities in our own State.  These formations also contain numerous beds of the silicious and the magnesian crystalline varieties, which are much stronger and more durable than the cotton rock.


“There are several beds of excellent marble in the State.

“The fourth division of Encrinital limestone is a white, coarse-grained, crystalline marble, of great durability.  It crops out in several places in Marion county.  One of the best localities is in the bluffs of the Mississippi, between McFarlin’s branch and the Fablus.  The Lithograph limestone would furnish a hard, fine-grained bluish-drab marble that would contrast finely with white varieties in tessellated pavements for halls and courts.

“The Cooper marble of the Onandaga limestone has numerous pellucid crystals of calcareous spar disseminated through a drab, or bluish-drab, fine, compact base.  It exists in great quantities on the LaMine, in Cooper, and on See’s creek, and in other places in Marion; and it is admirably adapted to many ornamental uses.

“McPherson’s marble, a bed of the Trenton limestone, situated in the vicinity of Rattlesnake creek, is a hard, light-colored, compact limestone, intersected with variegated surface.  When well polished, it appears to be strong and durable.  McPherson’s marble block, on Fourth street, St. Louis, is constructed of it.

“Cape Girardeau marble is also a part of the Trenton limestone, located near Cape Girardeau.  It is nearly white, strong and durable.  There are several beds of very excellent marble in the magnesian limestone series.  In sections thirty-four and thirty-five of township thirty-four, range three east, are several beds of semi-crystalline light-colored marbles, beautifully clouded with buff and flesh colors*....a fine polish, are durable and well fitted for many varieties of ornamental building purposes.  But one of the most desirable of the Missouri Marbles...third Magnesian limestone, on the Niangua.  It is a fine-grained, crystal...magnesian limestone, of a light-drab, slightly tinged with peach-blossom, beautifully clouded with the same hue or flesh-color.  It is twenty feet thick, and...in the bluffs of the Niangua.  This marble is rarely surpassed in the...which fit it for ornamental architecture.”

(* The rest of the sections on “Marble,” “Granite,” and “Cements” cannot be read.)

“...are, also, several other beds in this and the other magnesian limestones...excellent marbles.  Some are plain, while others are so clouded as to...the appearance of breccias.

“Beautiful Ozark marbles are well known.  Some of them have been used in...the capitol at Washington.


“Pilot Knob will furnish any mount of superior coarse granite, admirably well...to all structures where durability and strength are desirable.  Its introduction...use in St. Louis would add much to the architectural effects produced by public and private edifices.


“... limestone formations in the State, from the coal measures to the fourth..., have more or less strata of very nearly pure carbonate of lime, which will...make good quick-lime.  But few, if any, of the States have such an...and so general a distribution of this important article of domestic use.

Hydraulic Cement.

“All the limestones whose physical characters indicated hydraulic properties have been collected, and some of them subjected to analysis.  So far as can be judged from the results obtained, we have many beds possessing hydraulic properties.

“The middle beds of the vermicular sandstone and shales are hydraulic, as indicated by the analysis.

“The upper beds of the lithographic limestones come in this class.

“The analysis and description show good hydraulic properties in the Cape Girardeau limestone.

“Several beds in the magnesian limestone formations are hydraulic.

“The upper division of the Chouteau limestone formation, as it is developed in Boone, Cooper, and Moniteau counties, gives the best indications of excellent hydraulic properties both in its texture and composition.  These very much resemble the hydraulic strata at Louisville, and they would furnish any desirable quantity.

“The upper and lower beds of the Hudson river group give good evidence of being hydraulic.

“From present indications, the hydraulic limestones of our State may be expected to supply the home demand and furnish large quantities for exportation.

Road Materials.

“In a country where the superficial deposits make such bad roads, it is a matter of no small importance to have an abundance of good materials for highways.  The limestones, so abundant in the country, are much used for macadamized roads (unreadable) the rapid pulverization of lime-rock, and the consequent mud and dust, particularly in towns and cities, render it very desirable to point out a more durable and economical substitute.  The coarse gravels of the Boulder formation, and the river-beds furnish an abundance of the best possible substitute.  These deposits contain gravel of any degree of fineness - from the sand, suited to formation of footpaths, to the best pebbles adapted to carriageways.  Any amount of any given coarseness may be obtained by screening, in all parts of the country, either from the drift or the river-beds.

“These pebbles have the advantage of limestone in several particulars:  First - They are more durable, being fragments of chert and the harder igneous and crystalline rocks, which have withstood the action of those unknown but all-powerful causes which have worn away and ground to dust so large a portion of our superficial rocks, and transported to our territory such quantities of the rocks in situ several hundred miles to the north.  Those from the river-beds, also, have been exposed to aqueous action for unknown ages.  Second - They are less injurious to animals and carriages, as all the pebbles are water-worn and rounded.  Third - By their use we should avoid the impalpable dust of the limestone, so injurious to health and property in our cities.  We should also escape much of the mud, which is scarcely less objectionable.”

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