History of Greene County, Missouri

R. I. Holcombe, Editing Historian

Chapter 17
Geology of Greene County
by Geo. C. Swallow, L.L.D.

Greene county, Missouri, is a favored county of a favored State. It is, "beautiful for situation," 1,500 feet above the ocean, on the cool and sunny western slope of the Ozark highlands, and on the great highway from the central mart of the continent to the great southwest, the Pacific coast and Mexico. Every wave of the air comes laden with health, vigorous manhood and long life.

The geological features of this favored county, are in full accord with its position and surroundings. Greene county is not destined to rival some of its neighbors in the production of lead, zinc and coal; but it will surpass them all in corn, wheat, horses, cattle, sheep and swine, the magna bona that make civilized life the desired of all.


The rocks which appear on the surface in the various parts of the county, are varied and interesting. The Quaternary, the Carboniferous, the Devonian, and the Silurian systems are all well represented in Greene.

To be in with the oldest of these rocks, the Magnesian Limestone Series of the Lower Silurian System, comes to the surface and forms the principal geological features of the northeastern part of the county. On the headwaters of White river in the east, and on the forks of the Sac in the north, and the Pomme de Terre in the northeast the magnesian limestones of this geological age form the bluffs and principal features in the scenery of those interesting regions.

These magnesian limestones are fully described in my report of 1855, and it will be sufficient to repeat here that these are the great mineral bearing rocks of Missouri; that they have furnished all the copper, cobalt and nickel and a large part of the iron, lead and zinc of the State. The very best building stones and marbles in the State are in these rocks. They also furnish rich materials for the soils of the country; and besides a large proportion of the famous caves, wonderful springs and unparalleled underground streams of Southwest Missouri, are in these rocks. [573]

The Chemung Group of the Devonian System underlie considerable portions of the county along the branches of the Sac, Pomme de Terre and White rivers, and in many places, they crop out and form the bluffs and beds of those streams.

My report of 1855 gives a full description of these rocks and it is only necessary to say that the vermicular sandstone division of this group is best developed in Greene county, that it is argillaceous, fine ground and in regular strata. When first exposed it is soft and can be easily quarried and cut into desired forms for domestic and other purposes.

Many of the farms are fenced with regular substantial walls of this rock.

But the Subcarboniferous Limestones underlie the largest portion of the county. These limestones furnish an abundance of good durable building stone for all domestic purposes and for all public works. They also furnish an unlimited supply of than very best material for limes, mortars and cements. The vast deposits of lead and zinc in this region, are in these rocks, and these rich ores doubtless extend into Greene county in greater or less quantities. A more thorough exploration alone can settle this matter satisfactorily.

Some coal beds have been reported in Greene county; but I am unable to speak authoritatively on the subject, since I have not seen them. It is safe, however, to say such beds can not cover any considerable areas, though they may be very valuable for the immediate country around them.

The Quaternary System includes all the loose materials resting on the consolidated strata. The clays and marls underlying the soils on the highland belong to the Champlain Period; and they furnished most of the mineral ingredients of the soils, which rest upon them. The sands, clays and marls of the bottoms and lowlands belong to the Recent Period; and they furnished most of the mineral matter of the soils which rest upon these deposits.

The gravels and boulders in the beds of the streams belong to the Recent and preceding Periods of the Quaternary System.


The soils of Greene county are by far the most valuable of its geological formations. The soils furnish all the food of all the plants, and of all the animals human and brute. And besides, our clothing, dwellings, vehicles, machines, and implements are made in large part of materials grown from the soil. [574]

The soils of the county are varied and rich and well adapted to the staple products of the county. Corn, wheat, oats, tobacco, cotton, sorghum, molasses, and all the fruits and ornamental plants of this latitude find a genial home in the productive soils of this favored region.

The soils in the bottoms are exceedingly fertile, as shown by the large growth of native trees, vines, and grasses and by the luxuriant crops which they produce. Large areas of the upland soils are also very productive and are classed with the best soils of the State.

Grand and Kickapoo prairies furnish good illustrations of this class of soils. Some portions, as the high ridges and the abrupt slopes to the bottom lands, have soils so full of flints as to be useless for ordinary cultivation. But these soils produce good timber and pasturage and are admirably adapted to the grape and other fruits. The farmers of Greene county have ever been well pleased with their warm and productive soils. One could scarcely wish for a more desirable lot in life than to be the possessor of one of the fine farms of this county, where, surrounded by all the pleasures and luxuries of farm life he could enjoy the most genial and healthful climate on the continent; where the springs and streams are as pure and limpid as Castalian fountains; where the valleys are Arcadian and the skies are Italian. [575] 

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