Paper No. 45-1
Presentation Time: 3:20 PM
CHARLES WHITTLESEY, SAMUEL PRESCOTT HILDRETH, AND THE FIRST OHIO GEOLOGICAL SURVEY THAT BROUGHT THEM TOGETHER
Charles Whittlesey (1808 – 1886) was a Cleveland lawyer in May, 1837, when he was appointed surveyor and cartographer of the newly formed Ohio Geological Survey by William Mather (1804 – 1859), Chief. Architect of the fledging Survey was Samuel Prescott Hildreth (1783 – 1863) , a prominent Marietta physician who was the leading authority on Ohio geology. Hildreth declined the Governor’s offer of becoming Chief, but accepted the position as First Assistant. It was July, 1837 before the Survey became fully organized, and Mather soon departed for New York to fulfill a commitment with the Survey there, leaving Hildreth in charge. Hildreth mentored Whittlesey and the other assistants in the mapping of the geology of southeastern Ohio, with a focus on coal and iron ore. When Whittlesey completed his assignment of constructing base maps of several counties in southeastern Ohio, Hildreth directed him to begin the mapping of Ohio’s prehistoric earthworks.
In his year-end report for 1837, Hildreth expressed his belief that the primitive granite and gneiss boulders that lay scattered across the northern Ohio landscape had been deposited by icebergs originating from an ice sheet north of the Great Lakes, citing Greenland as his model. This report had a great impact on Whittlesey, who began to have thoughts of his own on the origin of the unconsolidated deposits known as drift that covered the bedrock of northern Ohio like a blanket. Whittlesey was a little-known geologist in 1843 – 44 when Henry Howe commissioned him to contribute a chapter on the geology of Ohio to be included in a book on Ohio history. Almost certainly it was Hildreth who recommended Whittlesey to Howe, thus setting in motion Whittlesey’s maturation as Ohio’s leading geologist, supplanting Hildreth.