HISTORY OF PERRY COUNTY.
BY E. S. COLBORN
HISTORY OF PERRY COUNTY
GEOGRAPHY, TOPOGRAPHY AND GEOLOGY.
PERRY COUNTY is situated in the southeastern part of the State of Ohio, is bounded on the north by Licking and Muskingum, on the east by Muskingum and Morgan, on the south by Athens and Hocking, and on the west by Hocking and Fairfield. Its area is four hundred square miles. It is of irregular shape, and is longest from north-west to south-east. The divide, separating the waters which flow into the Hocking, from those that flow into the Muskingum, reaches the long way through the county, coming in at the north, in Thorn township, west of Thornville, and going out at the south, in Bearfield township, near Porterville. The highest parts of this divide, are about 500 feet above the level of Lake Erie; and about 1000 higher than the Atlantic ocean. About one-third of the county is drained into the Muskingum, and the remaining two-thirds into the Hocking. The Moxahala, (more commonly called Jonathan's Creek,) and its tributaries drain that portion of the county whose waters flow into the Muskingum; and Rush Creek, Monday Creek, Sunday Creek and their tributaries, that portion, of the waters which flows into the Hocking. The Moxahala, or Jonathan's Creek, has a principal north and south branch, the sources of which are comparatively far apart. The head-waters of the north branch are in the neighborhood of Thornville; those of the south branch are several miles southeast of New Lexington. The north and south branches of the Moxahala do not, in fact, unite within the limits of the county, but several miles over the line in Muskingum. Rush Creek also has two main branches, (known as north and south,) which, like those of the Moxahala, have their source in different parts of the county. The head waters of the north branch are in the western part of Thorn township; those of the south branch are near Rehoboth, nearly twenty miles distant. The north and south branches of Rush Creek do not come together in the limits of Perry, but near Bremen, in Fairfield county. Monday Creek has its chief sources in the neighborhood of Bristol, Maxville and Middletown, and Sunday creek consisting of three principal branches, in the vicinity of Whipstown, Oakfield and Thompsonville. All these creeks have numerous tributaries, and the natural drainage system of the county is one of the best in the State. The description of the divide, and what has been said about the water courses and drainage, has already indicated, in a great measure,
the general topography of the county. The divide, as has been stated, extends through the county from northwest to southeast, its line being crooked and irregular. Between the streams that flow from this backbone ridge, and its numerous spurs, are other ridges, many of them nearly as high as the great divide itself. In other places, the elevations between the streams are only small plateaus, sufficiently elevated to be picturesque and healthy. But Perry has, in fact, all kinds of land, from narrow valleys, gentle slopes, and moderately rolling country, to winding and tortuous ridges, and steep and almost inaccessible hills. As to soil, that of Perry County is neither the best nor the worst. A considerable portion of it has ever been, and is now, quite productive. Nearly all of it would originally produce very good crops. Much of it, in course of years, became worn-out and would yield no more, but is fast being reclaimed, and bids fair to produce more than ever, under a good system of farming. The virgin soil was thin, and would not hold out a great while, without a care and attention that was seldom given. But a new day is dawning on the farming community. When the first white settlers arrived, the country in general was well timbered. The timber consisted of oak, hickory, poplar, walnut, ash, elm, sugar, maple, beech, gum, chestnut, sycamore, wild cherry, dogwood and some other varieties. Many of the oaks were very large and of a fine quality. Wild beasts were not scarce when the early settlers came. Bears, deer, panthers, wild-cats, wolves and catamounts roamed at will through the dense forests with none to molest them or make them afraid. Bears, indeed, lingered around long enough to capture fattening hogs from pens and to eat peaches under trees planted by the pioneers. Foxes, coons, opossums, ground-hogs, rabbits, squirrels and other small animals abounded. Wild turkeys were plentiful, and the hoot of the owl, the cry of the whippoorwill and the call of the pheasant were familiar sounds in the ears of the men and women who left civilization behind and went forth to battle for existence and homes in wild forest. Nearly all of Perry county lies within the coal measures, the only exception being about six-sevenths of Thorn township and about one-fifth each of Reading and Jackson. It is not to be inferred that all the remaining portion of the county lies in the workable coal area, for such is not the fact. But the surface and all projecting rocks are such as belong to the geological structure known as the coal measures, though the coal seams in some parts of it may be found wanting. The coal measures, so-called, consists of seams of coal with interstratified deposits of limestone shale, sandstone, iron ore and fire-clay. The coal seams are not scattered haphazard through the series, but have their proper places in the formation. Though this is true generally, it sometimes happens that a coal seam becomes thin and worthless, and in some places fails altogether; but each seam has its own place in the series, and hence the classification as given by the professional geologists. The series of deposits known as the Coal Measures, is said to rest on the Maxville limestone, and when that is lacking, upon the Logan sandstone or upper Waverly stone. The principal coal seam of the series is known as number six, or the
Nelsonville seam, the Straitsville seam, the “great vein,” the great seam, and perhaps by other names. It was first mined at Nelsonville, but is the same seam as the Shawnee, Straitsville, Corning, Rendville and Buckingham seam. This seam is six feet thick at Nelsonville, from ten to eleven at Straitsville and Shawnee, and from ten to thirteen at Buckingham, Corning, Rendville and other points on Sunday Creek. A seam from three to four feet in thickness, generally believed by geologists to be the same as the “great seam” further south, extends over nearly all of Pike, Clayton, Harrison and much of Reading, Bearfield and Madison townships. This is the seam generally mined. Another coal seam from four to five feet thick, about sixteen feet lower in the coal measure formation, is found in the neighborhood of New Lexington, and it is thought will be found generally wherever the other seam exists. Some geologists express the opinion that those two seams taken together, are the equivalent of the great seam of Straitsville and Sunday Creek, as there they appear to be two distinct seams, though found close together. From forty to fifty feet above the “great vein,” where the hills are high enough, is what is to be found the Norris coal, the seam from five to six feet in thickness. This seam, however, is not persistent, and sometimes is wanting altogether. But it is a good coal and is found in several places. Another seam of coal known as the Stallsmith, from eighty to ninety feet above the great seam, and from four to five feet thick, is tolerably persistent, though it sometimes is not found when due. This coal has been mined, is pronounced a good coal, and is said to be highly valuable for some purposes. What is called the lower New Lexington seam, because it has been mined at this place, if it be persistent, as it probably is, may prove to be a very valuable coal of commerce. It is from five to six feet thick in places, and is a dry-burning coal, and valuable for many purposes. If this seam extends over a wide area to the north and east, it will in the aggregate be of very great value. There are some other veins of coal that are soft, in the geological structure of the Coal Measures, but they are unimportant, and may be omitted specific mention. The iron ores may be grouped into two divisions---those situated below the great coal seam No. 6, and those found above it. A seam of ore is often found resting on the Maxville and Newtonville limestone. Prof. Andrews states that he has found a good ore above the horizon near Maxville, and also in Reading and Madison townships. He has found other ores near Crossenville, entirely belonging to the lower coal measures, but he could not ascertain their places definitely. The Baird ore, so called because it is the one chiefly used at Baird’s iron works in Monday Creek township, is a well defined and valuable seam, and is situated about thirty-five feet below the great seam, No. 6, of coal. This places it below the lower New Lexington coal. This has proved to be a very valuable ore, but as it dips to the east, and is too thin to admit of drifting, it is only available near the western margin of the coal measures. The “sour apple” ore, situated above the Norris coal, has been discovered in many places, and traced all the way from Sunday Creek to New Lexington. It has not been much used yet, but it is believed to be a good ore. The “Iron Point” ore is an important
deposit and is situated about one hundred feet above the great coal seam, No. 6. The equivalent of the Iron Point ore has been discovered at several places, varying in thickness from one to thirteen feet. The “Hone ore” two miles east of New Lexington, discovered by the Moxahala Furnace Company, was, on a purchased area of something over an acre, from seven to eight feet thick, and of good quality. Another deposit of ore, believed to be on the horizon of the Iron Point was found on the Whitlock farm, in Pleasant township. In the neighborhood of Bristol in Pike township, a large area of the Iron Point has been found, ranging from two to thirteen feet in thickness. There are other outcrops and deposits of ore in various places and at different horizons, but geologists have not fully studied or classified them, and a sufficient number of` borings has not been made to fairly test their extent or value. Experience, the best off all teachers, has proven that good and valuable ores exist in Reading, Jackson, Pike, Pleasant, Monroe, Saltlick, Coal and Monday Creek townships, and there is little doubt that Harrison, Bearfield, Clayton, Hopewell and Madison townships will ultimately be found rich in the same commodity. General theories and opinions go for something, particularly of learned and trained geologists; but there are so many variations and limitations to the general recognized structure of the Coal Measures with their limestone, ore, coal, sandstone, shale, etc., that only actual and minute inspection and investigation can fully disclose wonders that directly underlie the surface of the Coal Measures of Perry county. Even the great coal seam is sometimes wholly or partially missing where geologically due; the iron ores often lie in pockets, and are sometimes discovered where no geologist with all the information available would expect to find them. Hence, it will take time, more or less, and certainly it will require some expenditure of money and not a little labor, and careful, untiring investigation, to fully determine the area, extent and value of iron ore deposits in Perry county. As has been stated, the coal measures rest upon the Maxville limestone, and that rests upon the Logan sandstone, or Upper Waverly. The Maxville limestone, or its equivalent, is sometimes missing, and in that case the coal measures rest directly upon the sandstone of the Upper Waverly. Geologists state that the Maxville and Newtonville limestones are one, and that their equivalent is found along the lowest valleys in both the eastern and western parts of Perry county. The northern branches of Rush Creek and Jonathan's Creek, both, in places, uncover the limestone and expose it to full view. In many other places it is believed that it might be easily uncovered and found. What is asserted to be an equivalent of the Maxville and Newtonville limestone was largely quarried in Reading, Clayton, and Madison townships for use in constructing the Zanesville and Maysville turnpike. There are several limestone quarries in Perry county, developed since the erection of blast furnaces, of a higher horizon than the Maxville limestone, but geologists do not appear to have traced them carefully, and whether they belong to the Putnam Hill, Zoar, or Cambridge series or to independent and unclassified formation, is a subject of conjecture and to be decided by future investigations. Many of them are known to be of good quality, whatever may be their relation to the
general geological structure of the coal measure system. In the recognized limestone horizons, there is sometimes found bastard limestone deposits, which are of little or no value. In other localities flint or chert appears to take the place of limestone. The chert is used for pikeing roads or streets, and is very useful and durable for that purpose. Fire clays are often found interstratified among the coal measure rocks, though there has been, as yet, no special investigation of this subject, or considerable test of the qualities of the clay. There is little room to doubt, however, that a very considerable portion of Perry county will prove to be rich in this important material. Potter’s clay is found to exist, in a greater or less degree, in all parts of the county, though the best and richest beds appear to be in the eastern part, in which section many potteries are in operation and large quantities of ware manufactured. When the white settlers came there was a salt spring, or “deer lick,” on the present site of McCuneville, hence the name of Saltlick township. There is a sulphur spring on a branch of Sunday Creek, and there is also a similar spring of medical virtue in the south-western part of Reading township. There are a few alum springs, and a number of alum wells of no special value or economic importance, and only interesting as indicating the various composition of the coal measure system. The county is extremely well watered, considered in the aggregate. In addition to the creeks and smaller streams, that are hereinbefore outlined, the surface of the county is dotted with numerous springs, affording a bountiful supply of pure water the year round. Digging wells was one hardship that few of the pioneers were called upon to undergo. Wells are even yet infrequent, except in towns and villages, and good, pure water is almost everywhere secured at no very great depth and at no inordinate expense. The spring water is usually “soft” and the well water “hard”, though both have exceptions. Sandstone of a durable nature, suitable for building purposes, is found in almost all parts of the county. The most of this stone quarries easily and works well. Though the county abounds in stone quarries and outcrops of stone, very little of it, comparatively, lies so near the surface as to disturb the plowman, or in any way to interfere with the proper cultivation of the soil. If the Maxville or Newtonville limestone is good for building purposes---and it is now almost universally so considered---the county surely has an abundant supply of different kinds of stone for building, both for home and foreign consumption. A few stone houses were built, quite early in the history of the county, which have withstood the storms, freezes, and thaws of many a year, and are yet but little the worse for the wear. If these may be taken as testimony, the stone may be considered as of a fairly durable character. It is not within the scope or general purpose of this work to enter into a discussion of speculative or minutely descriptive geology. Nearly all of Perry county is included within the coal measures, and the soil is all, or nearly all, supposed to be native, and composed from the decaying and pulverization of the underlying rocks. Nearly all of Thorn township, and small portions of Reading and Jackson townships, are in the “Drift” section, which comprises about two-thirds of the State,
and all the north-western part. The soil and directly underlying deposits of the Drift are of foreign origin, and came, at some unknown and remote period, probably from the far north, the round gravelstones found in it, rounded and rolled, probably, by the strong glacial currents that bore down from the north. The little smooth, roundish stones, of various colors, that are seen along the railroads in most of Perry county, are not native inhabitants, but have been brought in from the Drift region west and north, where they have been long enough to gain a residence; and yet, in the long ago, they were unconscious immigrants from a far-off country. The stones and pebbles of the coal measures are of quite a different character. Whoever reads what is herein written concerning geology, will obtain a hint of the uncertainty and incompleteness of the science; whoever studies carefully the various printed works upon the subject, will be yet more deeply impressed with the same fact. Yet it is undeniable that much valuable and economic knowledge has been gathered and assorted by learned and patient geologists and investigators; and further information that will bear good fruit to commerce and mankind, is sure to be secured by their study and industry; yet it is but simple candor to admit that there is much about the changes and making of the earth which they cannot fathom or disclose, and that, in view of the many useful pursuits which may occupy every energy of the mind and body, it seems something like folly to waste time upon mere speculation or guesses as to the inert, unconscious, unknown and unknowable.