The most abundant and best building material in the State is limestone. It occurs in all the formations except the Pliocene and Dakota. In those two groups sandstones abound. In the Upper Cretaceous or Niobrara it is usually in the condition of chalk, more or less pure. Though usually too soft for the structure of heavy walls, by care in selection, stone of sufficient hardness can be obtained.
A heavy stratum of limestone, sixty feet in thickness, forms the upper part of the Benton group, and is the sharp line of division between it and the Niobrara. It extends from the Nebraska line in Jewell county, over one hundred and sixty miles, in a southwesterly direction, crossing the Solomon, Saline and Smoky Hill valleys, and disappearing on Pawnee Fork in Hodgeman county. The layers composing it are from one to four feet in thickness, and of quite uniform quality in all localities. It is wrought easily, is durable, and forms handsome buildings at low cost and improves in hardness on exposure. The Kansas Pacific Railway has used it in the construction of its works. It also gives a good quick lime when burnt.
The limestones of all the Carboniferous divisions furnish a great variety of good building material, of all degrees of hardness and shades of color. The strata vary in thickness from a few inches to thirty feet. They are again divided into layers, not over four feet thick, allowing the rock to be easily quarried.
That known as Junction City stone has been used extensively in several of the largest cities of the State. It is soft, of a fine grain, and can be sawed with a common saw and smoothed with a carpenter's plane, and is at the same time firm enough to be durable. This is seen in buildings at Fort Riley, erected forty years ago. They not only stand firmly, but the marks of the quarryman's tools are still clearly seen on the outer walls, being scarcely changed by the action of the elements. An error was made by the parties sending this stone to market, in polishing it for store fronts. A portion of the fine sawdust from the stone was rubbed over and into the surface, which gave it a handsome appearance, but the rains soon washed it out. This gives the impression that the stone is crumbling, when in fact the body is firm and durable. Large blocks have been used by the Kansas Pacific Railway in the piers for bridges, which stand firmly and resist the action of floods and frosts.
The limestones of Manhattan, Atchison, Leavenworth, Lawrence, Fort Scott, Florence, Cottonwood Falls, and other places, are also noted as affording excellent building material. In all these places, it also becomes the best fencing material, and affords a good quick lime for mortar. In a few localities it is necessary to quarry the stone in early summer, and allow it to be exposed to the hot sun, and, in the quarryman's phrase, to become "seasoned," after which it becomes a hard and permanent rock. A quarry near Topeka is of this kind, though not at first known to have that characteristic. Stone from that quarry was taken out in the fall and placed in the walls of the Capitol building, but soon began to crumble, from the action of winter frosts, so that it became necessary to remove them. Houses built from the same quarry ten years before, from stone that was "seasoned," are still standing, unaffected by the weather.
Some of the limestones take a good polish and are used as marbles.
Frequent strata of sandstone lie between the limestones of the Carboniferous age and furnish another good article for building. It is of various shades of color, and degrees of hardness, and is easily wrought. In some quarries it is of the right grain and texture to be used in the manufacture of grindstones.
The sandstone of the Dakota group is usually some shade of brown. It is of all degrees of compactness, from that which crumbles in the handling to that which turns the edge of the best cold chisel. This extreme hardness is usually owing to the presence of iron in the condition of oxide or silicate. If medium qualities are selected, it forms a good building material. The coarser varieties afford the farmer an article for a permanent fence.
In some parts of Saline, Dickinson and Marshall counties, gypsum is so massive as to supply another good building stone. It is easily quarried and wrought, and sufficiently hard and durable.
Transcribed from First Biennial Report of the State Board of Agriculture to the Legislature of the State of Kansas, for the Years 1877-8 embracing statistical exhibits, with diagrams of the agricultural, industrial, mercantile, and other interests of the state, together with a colored outline map of the state, and sectional maps, in colors, of each organized county, showing their relative size and location, railroads, towns, post offices, school houses, water powers, etc., etc. Topeka, Kansas: Kansas State Board of Agriculture. Rand, McNally & Co., Printers and Engravers, Chicago. 1878. Transcribed by Corey Metcalf, April 2002.
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