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Carroll County, Maryland Geological Survey (1840)

We have received a copy of the last Annual Report of Dr. Julius T. Dugatel, Geologist of Maryland.--A considerable part of the report being devoted to this County, we have transferred a portion of it to our columns, to give it more general circulation. The following extracts will be found quite interesting.


This county cannot boast of any mineral wealth, properly speaking; but there are subjects connected with its minerology and geology that are interesting, fitted to be treated of under the heading of this section, and that will be mentioned presently.

The indications of copper that present themselves in many places around Taneytown and on the Little Pipe creek, south of Middleburg, afford no inducement to any locality to commence any extensive explorations. In the latter spot there has been considerable search made in former times, but doubtless without any success.--All these localities occur in the red sandstone, and consist of small veins, or disseminated grains of the green carbonate of copper. There is not more to be expected as a means of increasing the mineral resources of the county, from the recurrence of iron ores in several spots. Large masses of the specular oxide of iron are found on the farm of Mr. David Everly, Senr., north of Westminster, and in the same vicinity, though in the opposite direction, on the estate of Messrs. Issaac and Thomas Van Bibber, at the head of Little Pipe creek, where there is the site of an old furnace, formerly supplied with ore from its own premises, belonging to the variety of argillaceous oxide of iron. [Editor's note. This is a rare 19th c. reference to the location of Legh Master's furnace. J.G.] A same description of ore was raised many years back, north of Manchester, for the supply of a furnace in Pennsylvania, since fallen into desuetude. The furruginous oxide of manganese that appears on the farm of John Beaver, two miles east of Westminster, is not likely to be put to any good account. There is more to be expected for the benefit of the county, as well as for that of the State, from the occurrence of limestone as an agricultural resource. This rock, likewise, presents itself possessed of characters that would render it useful in the arts. There are two quarries in the immediate neighborhood of Westminster, Mr. Sawble's and Mr. Smith's, that would furnish blocks of a fine white marble. On the farm of MM. Isaac and Thomas Van Bibber, at the head of the little Pipe creek settlement, and three miles from Westminster, there are some rocks that would doubtless furnish marbles of desirable quality, both white and mixed colors. I have requested the proprietors to furnish me some slabs to be left with Mr. John Beaver, stone cutter, near Westminster, who has kindly promised to prepar [sic] them for me, to be exhibited in the State Cabinet.

The existence of mineral springs, properly falls to be considered under the head of mineral resources of a county. Of these, there are two in the neighborhood of the thriving village of New Windsor, which are deserving of special mention. They are sulpherated chalybeate springs, that were formerly much resorted to. The village is situated in the fork of the two head streams of Dickenson's branch, which waters a flourishing limestone valley of small extent, and empties into Little Pipe creek. As the surrounding country is very beautiful, very healthy, under a most genial atmosphere, and highly cultivated, as well as easily accessible, this spot fully deserves the sttention of spring going people and of invalids. As previously stated, it was at one time much resorted to; the late Drs. Coale and Sappington, of Frederick county, and some older wealthy residents of Liberty town, holding the waters in such high esteem, as to induce them to build up accomodations for their families during the summer months. The property is part of the estate of the late Mr. Isaac Atlee*, [Original editor's note: This is an error, Mr. Isaac Atlee is still living.--Ed. Carr.] which is now managed by his very intelligent and enterprising successor, Mr. James C. Atlee, who is willing to deal liberally with any competent person, desirous of taking advantage of their location. It offers this inducement, that those invalids who cannot bear the sudden changes and vicissitudes of climate, incident to our watering places, located amidst the mountains, and that so frequently shorten the term of this most renovating relaxation from the confinement of a town life, may here, under a most genial atmosphere, that continues far into October, enjoy all the means of restoration so expected elsewhere, and to which they may retreat in case of any unusual inclemancy of weather. The situation further recommends itself to those unable to expose themselves over long and rugged mountainous roads; or such to whom it be inconvenient to absent themselves from their current business during a protracted period, communications by mail being almost daily, and the jaunt from New Windsor to Baltimore easily accomplished within the day. I am satisfied that with liberal disposition of the present proprietor of the premises, an enterprizing landlord would make of the New Windsor springs a place of fashionable resort, not only valuable to himself, but of great value to the citizens of the State, and to others who might feel disposed to take advantage of them.

I am not aware of the existence in this county of any other materials of value, that have not already been alluded to under the present section and a preceding one, referring to 'the physical geography and geology of Ferderick and Carroll counties,' excepting the occurence of soapstone on the property of Mr. Jacob Sherman, that would furnish a good building material, especially in the construction of lime kilns, and of roofing slates on the farms of Mrs. Fulz, Mr. David Mathias, and at Vance's mill, all which are situated at a short distance north of Manchester. Where this material can be conveniently obtained, it would seem not an impertinent suggestion to recommend its use for the protection of dwellings and farm houses, liable to accidents by fire, that are so uncontrolable in the country, when they once break out.

Physical Geography and Geology of The Eastern Portion of Carroll Co.

This portion, formerly part of Baltimore co, comprises 279 square miles or 147,200 acres of the least improved land of the county, the soil of which is produced by the decomposition of a talcose slate with quartz veins, is very thin, and chiefly of that description known by the appelation of chestnut lands. On the ridge lands the prevailing growth is chestnut oak and chestnut with a few black oaks and fewer hickory, and on the old abandoned fields there is a profuse growth of sassafras. The ridge N. of Manchester, known as 'Dug Hill,' is a spur from Parr's ridge in a N.E. direction; the south side of which has a naturally good soil produced by the decmposition of a rock composed of carbonate of lime and talc. Where ever this soil occurs the woodland consists of oak, hickory, and some walnut. This region of country is watered by the head streams of the Gun Powder, the Big Pipe creek, and in a southerly direction those of the main branch of the Patapsco. The country is elevated, hilly and based upon talcose slate, which occasionally graduates into soapstone, ledges of limestone are also frequently met with that were observed to break out invariably on the E. and S.E. side of the ridge; the dip of the ledges being to the W. and N.W. with an inclination of 45 degrees.

Beyond Dug Hill, the N. side of which possesses a very thin soil, there is a slate ridge composed of talcose slate passing into argillites, or roofing slates.

In the valley lands around Manchester there are frequently seen sinks, or depressions from the original surface of the ground, that are said to be daily increasing in depth. These occur only within the region where the limestone is found to associated with the talcose slate, and the most probable mode of accounting for them would seem to be by the gradual solution of some limestone rock beneath them, as it is known that the atmospheric waters charged with carbonic acid have this property. This has suggested the propriety of recommending diggings to be made in such spots in the hope of reaching limestone, the occurence of which would be of inestimable value to the neighborhood. The limestone now referred to is of the compact variety.

The triangular portion of the county lying between the main branch of the Patapsco, its Western branch and Parr's ridge, which is watered by the formentioned streams and amongst the most important tributaries, Cranberry run, Morgan's run and the Piney falls, consists almost exclusively of chestnut lands, produced by the talcose slates which are succeeded on the approach to the western branch and part of the country watered by Piney falls, by gneiss and granite rocks that yeild a soil in general more highly esteemed. On the former there is a growth, in some parts quite valuable, of chestnut and black oaks, with chestnut and some hickory, and the waste fields are covered with sassafras and a few pines; whilst the latter are principally covered by a young growth of hickory and chestnut oak. The above mentioned streams afford numerous eligible sites for the use of water power.


{Editor Carr's original note. J.G.]Extract from section 2:--

"In the upper part of this region, north of Pipe creek, and forming the northwest corner of Carroll county, the prevailing rock is a red sandstone which may be further designated as cupreous; there being frequently seen disseminated through it particles of carbonate of copper. Its disintegration yields a red sandy and sour soil, the prevailing growth upon which is the oak, gum, pine and hickory, with some locust. The rock itself has a loose texture and is very porous, which renders it necessary, when wells are sunk into it, to carry them down to a great depth, usually 60 to 80 feet in order to secure a constant supply of water. The well in the center of Taneytown is 95 feet deep. In the fork of the two Pipe creeks a body of brecious limestone has been reached at the depth of 14 feet."

I pass to the consideration of the agricultural condition and resources of the county.

Agricultural condition and Resources of Carroll County

In the portion of Frederick and Baltimore counties for the formation of Carroll, this county obtained from the first named,[is] the most productive portions of its limits, situated on the western slope of Parr's ridge and chiefly on the waters of Little Pipe creek. The soil in this region is the result of the decomposition of slate rocks inlaid with ledges of limestone of the same character as that belonging to the vicinity of Liberty, which has been previously described. It contains no appreciable portion of lime by our usual modes of analysis, but its natural fertility and great susceptibility to improvement are doubtless owing to the presence of these limestone rocks, that flank the ridges and constitute the bases of the valleys. Wherever the slate and limestone occur together the soil is invariably good, and its better condition is indicated by the growth upon it, which consists principally of oaks, poplar, walnut, hickory and maple, and on the ridge lands is mostly oaks, hickory and chestnut. A soil of the same description occurs on the head waters of the Patapsco, and those of Big Bear creek. The southern flank of the Dug Hill ridge partakes of the same character, and there is another small valley watered by Silver run in the northern part of the county, the soil of which should be classed with the preceding. These different tracts of land, however, are not every where equally improved, as their price varies from $15 to #100 per acre. It is chiefly in the valleys of Sam's and Little Pipe creeks, and those of the small tributaries to these streams, that the best lands of the county are to be seen, and there they command the highest price. Besides their adaption to the ordinary staple crops of the, they present beautiful sites for meadows; but these have not been improved to the extent they might be. The farms about Westminster are also in a fine state of improvement by the use of lime.* [Original editor's inclusion. J.G.]

*Extract from section 1, page 9, of the Report:

"After conversiong with many extensive lime-burners in Frederick, Carroll and Baltimore counties, I am now confident that by adopting the directions that I have widely circulated among the peoples of these counties, it is in their power to obtain lime with one-third less expenditure of time, labor and fuel."

In the northern part of the county, but still on the western side of Parr's ridge beyond the Big Pipe creek, the country becomes more rugged and hilly. The soil produced by a talcose slate, traversed by numerous veins of quartz, is in its natural condition thin, and belongs to that class designated as chestnut lands. But amidst these hills there are slips of alluvial soils along the water courses, forming limited tracts of land that are occupied by some industrious settlers who cultivate them to considerable advantage. Their resource is principally in garden truck--butter, eggs, poultry, cheese, dried fruit, &c. that are regularly purchased of them by traders who travel in small one-horse carts, and supply their Baltimore customers.

The north west portion of the county, between the Monocacy and the Little Pipe creek, occupying a space of about six miles square of which Taneytown may be considered the centre, is based upon a red sandstone, very little intermixed with slate. Its disintegration yields a thin, sandy and sour soil, which in its present condition is little improved and not much valued, being rated from 15 to $25 an acre. There is also within this tract, much waste lands in bodies of from two to three thousand acres, unproductive of course in their present condition, but far from being irreclaimable. Birnie's lease, embracing about three thousand acres, is one of these. It lies three miles east of Taney Town, and affords soils of various descriptions, presenting an aspect in its physical geography equally varied, from the rolling red lands, to those that are level (composed of shale and sandstone,) and from gravelly to slate soils; the latter being decidely the best. The "Lease" is watered on the N.W. side by the Big Pipe Creek, and on the E. and S.E. by Little Bear Branch, both affording numerous sites with a large amount of water power. Nearly one fourth of the tract is in meadow lands unimproved, but the latter well wooded. The deficiency of woodlands is on the cleared portions, and there are no farm houses; but upon the whole, it forms a tract, in a most healthy portion of our State, on a public high way, well worthy the attention of land speculators. There is some probabililty that ledges of limsetone rock will make their appearance after more minute examinations along the ridge bordering the Little Bear Branch, where a mixed rock of slate & limestone has already been discovered.--It is with feelings of deep gratitude that I here acknowledge the kind and hospitable reception I met at Mr. Birnie's, from himself and the accomplished family by which he is surrounded. Another tract of nearly the same extent and of the same description, nearer Taney town is owned by Major McKaleb. These two tracts of land, improved and properly cultivated, would become flourishing portions of the country, as they no doubt originally were.

East of Parr's ridge on the head waters of the branch of the Patapsco, and following the road from Manchester, southerly, the county offers a succession of cleared but waste lands, the soil of which is very thin, but now in progress of improvement by the use of lime, that can be obtained at the distance of one to eight miles. These lands are now rated at from 10 to $40 per acre, and considering the extraordinary [sic] results that have been obtained by lime, are certainly not estimated at their true value. They are still well supplied with wood, though some management will of course be required, should the use of lime be extended.


On Morgan's run, that empties into the Patapsco, the country is well settled, but not in a high degree of improvement. The saoil is thin, and has probably been overworked in the cultivation of tobacco, which, however, it still continues to yield of a very good quality.

Piney falls, which empties into the western branch of the Patapsco, flows principally through chestnut lands; though within four miles of their junction, it traverses a granite ridge, in which the character of the soil is materially changed, being, though still thin, much better constituted. The soils of both the chestnut lands and the "grey rock," as it is termed, are readily improved by lime, a striking proof of which has been given by the most praiseworthy exertions of Mr. George Patterson. This gentlemen has, by the judicious use of lime, succeeded in reclaiming waste fields that were scarcely worth their possession, and has made them among the most productive of the State, yielding forty bushels of wheat and one hundred of corn to the acre. The whole expense of the improvement, he informs me, does not exceed twenty-seven dollars to the acre, each of which, thus improved, is worth one hundred. It is a subject of regret that this meritorious example, set in the midst of a section of country previously judged stricken with poverty, should, instead of being followed, and even publicly acknowledged by some worthy token of gratitude, has actually served as a pretext for the imposition of additional taxes upon its projector.

FromThe Carrolltonian, And Baltimore And Frederick Advertiser,April 3, 1840.

This article typed and edited by Jesse Glass.