Paper No. 5
Presentation Time: 4:30 PM
PIONEERING GEOLOGIC STUDIES OF THE BLACK HILLS, DAKOTA TERRITORY, USA
Discovery of significant gold in the Black Hills, Dakota Territory, in the early 1870's led to a Congressional mandate that organized geological exploration of the Hills be undertaken. Ferdinand V. Hayden (1829-1887), who had previously visited the region, principally to collect fossils, was thwarted in his efforts to oversee such exploration by the combined efforts of John Strong Newberry (1822-1892) and John Wesley Powell (1834-1902), who instead promoted Walter P. Jenney (1850-1904?) and Henry Newton (1845-1877), both Newberry colleagues at the Columbia College School of Mines. In a four-month field season the Jenney/Newton Survey (1875) carefully examined some 6,000 square miles of the Black Hills. Newton then oversaw production of an extensive report on the geology, mineral resources and other aspects of natural history. The report included a detailed geologic map, numerous stratigraphic columns, interpretive figures illustrating the geomorphic evolution of the Hills, thin section petrography of samples collected, and a general discussion of the geologic history. Of note are Newton's interpretations of laccolith formation and drainage evolution. Despite Congressional approval funding production, the report publication was delayed until 1880, after Newton's untimely death in 1877 during a second visit to the Hills. It appeared under the auspices of John Wesley Powell's Geographical and Geological Survey of the Rocky Mountains Region. G. K. Gilbert (1843-1918) unofficially edited the final version of the report, using Newton's notes, drafts and figures, however, Newton should justly receive credit for its excellence. I feel that Newton should be afforded a more significant status in the history of 19th Century American geology than he has been in the past, and that the Report on the Geology and Resources of the Black Hills of Dakota, published in 1880, qualifies as one of the best monographs on western exploration of its era.