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History of Lycoming County, Lloyd, Chapter 11


Apr 13, 2011




The geological formations of Lycoming County comprise all the rock formations from the carboniferous measures down to the limestones of the Trenton group representing a depth of about 12,600 feet.

The main range of the Allegheny Mountain chain sweeps across the county in the form of a crescent-like curve for a distance of 45 or 50 miles, entering the county on the western side about the middle of Watson Township, thence in a general northeast course across Lycoming County in Shrewsbury Township, changing to a northeast course on entering Sullivan County.

The Allegheny Mountain plateau system, with its intervening valleys, has a mean width of about eighteen miles. There is comprised in this group Watson Township, in part, all of Brown, Pine, McHenry, Jackson, McNett, McIntyre, Gamble, Cascade, Lewis, Cogan House, P1uikett’s Creek and the north corner of Eldred and Cummings, Anthony and Shrewsbury, in part. In these townships the mountain plateau assumes an elevation of about 2,000 feet above tide, while the intervening Devonian valleys of Rose and Cogan House have an elevation of 1,000 to 1,600 feet, the valley lands being composed of formations of red and grey Catskill, or upper Devonian, with a rim or formation of Poco sandstone around the edges of the valleys, with the exception of Jackson, McIntyre and McNett townships in which an uplift of Chemung measures occurs.

The mountain plateau lands of these townships consists largely of the formation of Pocono rocks along the south escarpment of the Allegheny range and around the mountains generally, with small areas of Mauch Chunk red shales and in parts with mountain limestone, which here assume the importance of being massive ledges from one and a half to three miles in length and being also the most northern extension of this formation at present known, the higher portions being composed of Pottsville conglomerate, from 40 to 50 feet thick and above this, generally occupying the crest of the mountains, occur the productive coal measures.

Catskill red shale or upper Devonian are noted for producing the agricultural lands, affording a luxuriant growth of grasses and excellent soil for fruit, which is largely clue to the detritus of the decomposing rocks of a calcareous nature.

On the south escarpment of the mountains are numerous peaks of a general height of from 800 to 1,000 feet above the adjacent streams which project into the Chemung measures in the valley adjoining, in bold relief and form prominent points of view in the landscape, while the rocks are cut out between 800 and 1,200 feet deep in the measures forming deep gorges or canyons, through which Pine and Lycoming creeks cross the entire mountain plateau, while many others cut out from within the mountains, wend their way through their rocky channels to the West Branch of the Susquehanna.

The townships north and east of the river, and up to the south escarpment of the Allegheny Range, form a marked contrast to the general regularity of the sections north of the mountain range by their various disturbances and much greater appearance of plications and faults.

The townships embraced in this group are all of Porter, Piatt, Woodward, Old Lycoming, Lycoming, Hepburn, Loyalsock, Fairfield, Muncy, Mill Creek, Muncy Creek, Penn, Moreland, Franklin and Jordan, and Watson, Mifflin, Anthony, Eldred and Shrewsbury in part.

Next in ascending order are the Oriskany sandstone and shales. This formation with its accompanying fossils and flinty shales, is well exposed in Edgewood Cemetery in Loyalsock Township and has a thickness of about 150 feet. Above this occurs Chemung measures which form the greater part of the area of all this group of townships, making generally domelike rounded hills, where capped by the softer shales of the series, and quite high where capped by the sandstones. Between the river and the foot of the mountains the measures consist of many strata of shales, slates and sandstones, intercalated on the lower and upper sides with many calcareous bands, which vary from two inches to five feet in thickness.

Next above the belt of Chemung measures, and up to the foot and sides of the main Allegheny chain occurs red Catskill which makes up the greater side of the mountain across the country and caps the adjoining hills at the foot of the mountain.

The lower Helderberg or Lewistown limestone formation is found in the townships of Nippenose, Limestone, Susquehanna, Bastress, Armstrong, Clinton, Brady and Washington. The White Deer Valley, comprising the townships of Clinton, Brady and Washington, lies mostly on or between the north and south White Deer Mountains. The formation commences at the river in descending order which, lying generally at a high angle, comprises the greater part of the north face of the Bald Eagle Mountain and can be seen in the immense sheets of grey and red shales, with their calcareous bands along the railroad.

Going over the crest of the mountain, on the south side are found Hudson River slate shales and limestone forming the rim around, and surface of, Mosquito Valley and also the rim around the base of the mountain ridge on the north and south side of Nippenose and Limestone townships. In Mosquito Valley the formation makes a dome-like hill at an elevation of about 800 feet above tide and consists of the Hudson River shales, the limestone bands being quite thin and fossiliferous. These measures along Mosquito Creek have been worked for marble, but not successfully.

Another exposure of these measures is seen above Antes Fort, or Jersey Shore station, on the Pennsylvania Railroad, where there is one exposure below the river bridge which is much contorted, and again a little further up they are resting on the edge of yellow shales showing on the opposite bank of Antes Creek a portion of measures concealed, while in the railroad cut, just above the station, is a large boulder of calciferous sandstone with large nodules of black chert scattered through the mass.

Next in order comes the Trenton limestone. The various subdivisions of this formation are from the west to the east end of the valley where about a thickness of 800 feet of the measure is exposed.

At the southeast part of the county occurs the White Deer Valley group of lower Helderberg limestone, forming a double fold against the north and south White Deer Mountains while Clinton shales come in above and in some parts form the face of the mountain, while Medina forms the crest alike of the North and South White Deer Mountain and lower Helderberg forms the lower part of the valley in Clinton and Brady townships. Clinton shales form the center and greater area of Washington Township and the Chemung forms the greater part of Brady Township.

The lands of these valleys compare favorably with any of the limestone valleys in the state in their agricultural value and the finely cultivated farms and fruitful orchards give evidence of the general fertility of the soil.

In addition to the three groups just described, there is also an area of what is known as “The West Branch Valley.” This term has been applied to the rich alluvium along the river, but the term is intended to take in the broad belt of land from the river mountain on the south to the foot of the Allegheny Mountains on the north, a belt some eight miles wide and having a general elevation of 530 feet above tide nearest the river and some 850 feet on the uplands back from the river, the present river channel being about 500 feet above sea level. A careful examination shows that the ancient river channel was from 65 to 80 feet below the present level which has been filled with drift and alluvium and is now the site of the City of Williamsport.

Commencing at the southeast corner of the county there is a synclinal valley which is shown in railroad cuts along the river and the upper measures above Watsontown and back of Muncy and at Hails Station. At the latter place Hamilton limestone occurs and lower Helderberg is found in White Deer and Black Hole valleys. Next against the North and South White Deer mountains is found Clinton shales and sandstone and next above, forming the crest of the two mountains, is Medina and Oneida conglomerate, which is the North White Deer ridge or Bald Eagle Mountain, forming the south dip of the great anticlinal of the Medina group which, stretching upward, formed an immense arch over Mosquito and Nippenose valleys. The distance on a base line from the south dip in Washington Township to the north dip to the face of the mountain along the West Branch of the Susquehanna River, is about six and one-fourth miles, and with the estimated thickness of the measures it would be over 2,400 feet; and including all the superior measures, would make a column of a total height of some 17,000 feet or over three miles – some estimate five miles which has been carried away over these remarkable valleys by erosion.

Some of the effects are seen by a walk over these mountains. The wonderful agencies exerted to have produced such varied phenomena can be partly seen in the ruins of the formations strewed over the surface, as if hurled down the precipitous sides of high mountains and leaving the open page to be read with awe. The field of broken rocks seen from the highway above Sylvan Dell going over the mountain into White Deer Valley, vulgarly called “The Devil’s Turnip Patch,” and “Featherbed Lane,” together with the scraggy rocks up Mosquito Valley and the overturned anticlinal towards the east end of the arch, near the old Mosquito Valley quarries and Culbertson’s path, are among the debris left as indications of the mighty forces that formed the present surface and made the great changes as they are now found.

Going north to the river are found many places that show plications and faults. Near Jersey Shore station, above and below the river bridge, occur rolls and plications in the strata. Above Jersey Shore to Pine Creek, just below the Beech Creek railroad bridge, can be observed some interesting plications and rolls on a grand scale in a vertical cliff of lower Helderberg or Lewistown sandstone. Above and along Pine Creek are many exposures of Chemung measures which are quite precipitous. Just above Cammal station, in the railroad cut, is a good opportunity to observe the characteristics of the peculiar mode of deposition of that calcareous breccia or cornerstone.

Going south along the Beech Creek railroad below Jersey Shore a series of rolls and plications are seen in the Chemung measures; and just above the railroad, under the grade crossing of Larry’s Creek, can be observed a perfect section, about eight feet high, of an arch of anticlinal, the slates being mineralized in contact with Galenite. Passing up Larry’s Creek there are a number of exposures for the next half mile; south, below Larry’s Creek station, occur many exposures in the short railroad cuts towards Level Corner and Linden. On Lycoming and Loyalsock creeks many exposures occur, showing the plications in different parts. On Lycoming Creek two anticilnals of considerable height formerly existed, one over the lower part of the village of Hepburnville. The base line between the north and south dip does not exceed 240 rods, but occurring at an exceedingly high angle, approaching the vertical, this anticlinal may have been quite sharp and high. Just above this another occurs, the best exposure being the north dip about a half mile below No. 3 bridge over Lycoming Creek, in Lycoming Township, the base line between the north and south dips being about 40 rods and the angle of the dip 70 degrees. These anticlinals follow the course of the fossil ore across the county.

One of the important agencies in the particular arrangement of surface geology was the presence of the Great Glacier in the northern part of the continent, which occupied a large area, the southern edge passing through the upper corner of Lycoming County. It has been variously estimated as having been from 2,000 to 5,000 feet thick.

The valleys of all the streams south of the section in Lycoming County once covered with ice show evidence of the near presence of the glacial moraine. There have been found granite pebbles in a hill of modified drift on the east side of Lycoming Creek from Trout Run station, which were evidently derived from the glacial moraine. They have also been found in the drift at Cogan Station and at Williamsport. Quite a number of glacial pebbles have been found, some of granite, gneiss and garnetiferous gneiss, while the pebbles of all the formations belonging to the country north of the moraine can be found in every drift deposit along the streams. The moraine crossing the larger streams, being washed by heavy floods in prehistoric ages, formed the large areas of water and ice-worn rounded cobble stone, known locally along the stream as “stony batters,” which are quite a trial to the patience of the farmers when tilling the soil. A careful study of these “stony deposits” will show some of the effects of the prehistoric floods which gave the present conformation to the valley of Lycoming Creek and in part to the West Branch Valley.

There have been but a few workable coal beds found in Lycoming County, but some containing the Gresh coal bed of Elk and McIntyre counties. A mine was opened and operated for some time in McIntyre Township but was soon worked out. There was also a deposit on Red Run at Ralston which is still being worked to some extent but the vein is thin. The basin on Pine Creek is the largest undeveloped coal deposit in Lycoming County. The basin is about 14 miles long and three miles wide and it is divided by streams into five parts. On the east side of Texas Creek there are three parts and on the west side the basin lies in an almost unbroken bed. The lowest coal opened has an elevation above tide of 1,000 feet while another is opened at 1,670 feet and the summit of the highest ground is 1,970 feet, giving the greatest depth of measures anywhere in the country. It is estimated that on 3,000 acres there are 11,337,000 tons of coal. This estimate does not include the coal lying in other parts of the basin.

Next in order come the iron ores of Lycoming County. Formations of the Clinton group, the fossil ore of Montour’s ridge, occur in the southern part of the county on a long line of outcrop along the face of the mountain and around its flank, forming a loop around Black Hole Valley. But on account of the mass of superincumbent debris from the next formation, Medina and Oneida, covering it up deeply, it is not readily accessible. The ore has been mined along the face of the mountain, on the north side in Nippenose Township and on either side of Antes Creek, High up on the side of the mountain the ore has been reported as averaging 15 to 18 inches and the result of three analyses was 39 percent metallic iron. The ore bed was oolitic and resembled closely that of the mountain’s ridge, a dull reddish color, staining the hands when coming in contact with it, the deep characteristic of keel, or Indian paint ore.

Above the Clinton shales occur Chemung measures which also carry a fossil ore very similar in its characteristics and associated rock formation to the above described ores. It has been called the Mansfield ore and has been generally reported in the state surveys as belonging to other formations. There have been many exposures of this ore in the county and some of them have been worked from time to time.

These ores occur from 15 inches to three feet six inches and are of various grades of quality. They were mined some 75 years ago and the work was continued for 25 years when the demand ceased. They were shipped principally to Danville and Bloomsburg and at the latter place were observed to have worked 40 per cent in the furnace when properly mined and clear of slate. This was considered a good working per cent for ores of this class.

There are next observed several varieties of ore that occur along the edge of the limestone back of Hughesville. There some very fine hand specimens of yellow hemitite iron ore have been found, resembling very closely the hemitite ores of Centre County. There have been found small deposits of other ores in various sections of the county but in small quantities.

Surface specimens of ores analyzing fifty to sixty per cent of iron, in masses of from five to 50 pounds in weight, of a very fine-grained compact and semi-crystalline texture have been found in Cogan House and Pine townships while very fine specimens of brown and yellow hemitite ore have been found in the same sections. The measures seem to indicate the outcrop of three or more beds of ore.

There are also observed the oxidized carbonate and clay carbonates. There are many outcrops of these ores in the county, in the coal basins and they occur in a round nodular form, from four inches in diameter and upwards. Some fine crystalline specimens of earthy blue color occur on Pine Creek while in McIntyre Township and on Red Run there are many exposures and at one time good tough iron was made from the pig metal of the white and gray carbonates at the old Anstonville furnace a short distance below Ralston.

There are some seven veins of brown argillaceous iron ore known to exist in the county, having one slab and five veins of ball ore. The ball ore occurs in a soft shale or fire clay four to eight inches in diameter. Also two veins of a gray white carbonate ore, one to two feet and one five and a half feet in thickness. The area of the iron ore deposits and their accompanying coals, with the area of inferior formation, would embrace a total of upwards of 50,000 acres that contain these different classes of ore in Lycoming County.

In the formation of Pocono and Pottsville conglomerate are many very fine and desirable building stones for massive or cut stone work. There is a better class from this source in the little stone chapel in Hepburnville and as good, durable and economical building stone as many of the imported stones, used in some of the Williamsport buildings. Some have been used in a small way for flagging of a fair quality quarried at many places on Pine Creek. Good quarries for flagging might be opened at many places in the county were it not for the fact that cement has almost entirely superseded flagstones for city pavements. Fine flagging stone has been quarried above Picture Rocks and near Larry’s Creek and good quarries might be opened on Pine, Larry’s and Loyalsock creeks and Red Catskill and mountain limestone, with calcareous bands, would furnish flagging of almost any desirable size.

SOURCE:  Page(s) 144-153, History of Lycoming County Pennsylvania, Col. Thomas W. Lloyd, Volume 1, Topeka – Indianapolis; Historical Publishing Company; 1929

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