History of Warren County, H. P. Smith
Chapter II: Natural Characteristics
This transcription was produced through the use of Readiris Pro 11 OCR software. Contributed by Tim Varney.
General Topography - The Geological Survey - Description of the Five Mountain Ranges - Recommendations to Lovers of Nature - Valleys of the County .- Lakes and Ponds - Falls and Cascades - Geology - Granite - Serpentine - Potsdam Sandstone - Sand Rock - Black Marble - Trenton Limestone - Utica Slate.
1. This chapter was prepared by Homer D. L. Sweet, of Syracuse, N. Y., a gentleman who is eminently qualified for the task, having been prominently connected with one survey of the greater part of Northern New York, and with much other similar work.
Mountains. - When, Page 18 by an act of the State Legislature, the geological survey was commenced, the people at large looked upon it as a foolish waste of money; but when Ebenezer Emmons submitted his report in 1842 for the survey of the second district, there was throughout the country a feeling of satisfaction, and particularly among men of scientific attainments; for Page 19 he had discovered mountains that were theretofore unknown, more than a mile in height, giving us, as a State, the right to use the "Great Seal" without inconsistency; for the sun, as depicted on the shield, could rise from behind real mountains, and the legend underneath, "EXCELSIOR," was no longer a myth.
Mr. Emmons gave, in the early pages of his report, a very concise description of the five great mountain ranges that occupy the entire northeast quarter of the State, and which farther investigation has not materially changed in the last forty years; but when treating of these same ranges of mountains in Warren county, he has given to them different names from those applied in Essex county, and in treating of the same in the county of Essex, he has left out the third range entirely. It is by this discrepancy in his descriptions that much trouble has been occasioned, and differences of opinion among individuals have arisen. To some of these ranges he gave names, and to others none. James Johonnot, who had charge of the topographical features of French's Gazetteer in 1860, added names to those ranges that had not been named, changed Moriah range to Boquet range and Clinton to Adirondack. These changes were called for, because that portion of the Boquet range in Moriah was an insignificant portion only; whereas, by naming it from a river that bordered it on the north, the name rendered its location at once apparent. Changing the Clinton range to Adirondack was only in conformity to common usage, which in twenty years had become quite fixed in the minds of the people, and which twenty-five years additional has completely established.
In writing of the topography of Warren county, to obtain a fair comprehension of the whole subject, it is easier and much more satisfactory to take it in connection with the surrounding territory, particularly in regard to the mountain ranges, for four of the five cross Warren, although they may have their rise or termini in other counties. A mountain range is as much determined by continuous valleys as by continuous peaks, and in the following descriptions I shall be as much governed by one as by the other. When Mr. Emmons made his survey there was no map of the State that was at all creditable, very few of the mountains had a location on them and that few were no more correctly located than they are on the maps we have at present, which is bad enough. Nothing but the trigonometrical survey of this entire region will ever place them absolutely in their right localities.
The first, or Palmerton range of mountains, rises in the extreme south point of Warren county, where it is locally known as the Luzerne Mountain, with its main axis lying in a southwest and northeast direction. Proceeding in a general northeast course, it is divided by a lateral valley, through which the road runs from Glens Falls to Lake George. Proceeding in the same general course, the next mass is known as French Mountain. Beyond this is a little valley in which is situated the hamlet of Harrisena. From this point the mountain ridge becomes Page 20 more continuous, and occupies about all the territory between Lake George and Lake Champlain, with the same general course, with scarcely any thing like a lateral valley, receiving different names in different localities, and finally terminates at Mount Defiance, where it proudly overlooks old Fort Ticonderoga. This range is about fifty miles in length; from three to five miles in width, and extends through the towns of Luzerne and Queensbury in Warren county; Fort Ann, Dresden, and Putnam in Washington county; and a part of Ticonderoga in Essex county. The highest point is in Washington county, in Dresden, called Black Mountain, which is about 3,000 feet high. The sides of this range are steep and rocky, often precipitous; composed of primitive rock and but scantily covered with a thin, sandy soil. Viewed from the deck of a steamboat on either lake, this high ridge is the most attractive in the landscape.
The second or Kayaderosseras range, rises in Montgomery county, a little north of Amsterdam, and taking the same general northeast direction, is not broken by any lateral valley till it reaches the Sacandaga River a little west of the village of Luzerne. North of the Sacandaga, and west of the Hudson, is a single mass, where the continuity is again broken by the Hudson. From this point it again assumes the full character of a continuous range for several miles, only partially cleft by a little valley, through which the road runs from Caldwell to Warrensburgh. Still continuing in the same general direction in a high rocky ridge for about twenty miles, it spreads out in several spurs in the vicinity of Brant Lake, and one of them culminates in Mount Pharaoh, which has an estimated altitude of 4,500 feet. From this region the ridges, which are spread to about fifteen miles in width, gradually approach each other, and finally terminate on Lake Champlain in Bulwagga Mountain, which has a precipitous face of about 1,200 feet.
This range is some twenty to thirty miles longer than the first, and is flanked on both sides with outlying spurs, or isolated peaks, sometimes attaining a width of seven to ten miles in the southwest portion; but between the Hudson River and Lake George it is not more than four; farther north it occupies all the territory between Schroon Lake and Lakes George and Champlain. This mountain range takes a great variety of forms - sharp, steep and rocky on one side, and quite gradual in its slope on the other; is often precipitous, with bare and barren summits. In the southwest portion a very little arable land is found nestled in the coves and curves of either side, but as we proceed farther north the cultivated spots become less, and smaller, and finally die out altogether, until we reach the slope towards Lake Champlain, where the dairyman again assumes sway, and a little farther on the soil is in a good state of cultivation well up on to the sides of the mountain slopes. This range occupies parts of the towns of Edinburgh, Day and Hadley in Saratoga county; Luzerne, Caldwell, Bolton, Horicon and Hague in Warren county; Schroon, Ticonderoga and Crown Point in Essex county.Page 21
The third, or Schroon, range rises north of Johnstown, where it is called the Mayfield Mountain, and forms for a considerable distance a continuous ridge. The valley of the Sacandaga in the town of Hope, Hamilton county, completely dissevers it, but it soon assumes the full characteristics of a range, and for eight or ten miles lies nearly north and south, but finally bears off to the northeast again, and sends out a spur to the right, which is the culminating point of the range - Crane Mountain in Johnsburgh.
The most continuous ridge is farther west and passes Schroon Lake on the west and, some miles farther north, forms the divide between the waters of the Hudson and the Boquet, where it bends again more to the east and finally terminates in Split Rock Point on Lake Champlain. This range is about ninety miles in length, from three to five in width at the southern extremity, and about fifteen in width opposite Crane Mountain and quite narrow at its terminus. In the widest part the masses are not very high, with the exception of Crane Mountain, which is, barometrically, 3,289 feet, and the slopes are quite gentle in some places; but farther north in Essex county (a few miles north of Schroon), the masses are high, sharp and angular, with deep narrow valleys or gorges between them. This range occupies all the north part of Mayfield in Fulton county; the east part of Hope and Wells in Hamilton county; Thurman, Johnsburgh and Chester in Warren county; Minerva, North Hudson, Moriah, a corner of Elizabethtown and a part of Westport in Essex county. The lateral valleys are very few, and the only ones are the Sacandaga before spoken of, and the northwest branch of the Hudson. In its broadest portion there is very little arable land, for where it might be cultivated so far as the surface of the soil is concerned, it is covered by such quantities of boulders - brought down from farther north - that it is unprofitable to attempt the raising of but very limited patches of grain.
The fourth, or Boquet, range rises at the Noses, on the east line of the town of Palatine, and pursues the same general northeast direction, through Palatine and Mohawk in Montgomery county; Ephrata, Johnstown, Caroga and Bleeker in Fulton county; Hope, Wells, Lake Pleasant and Indian Lake in Hamilton county; all the northwest part of Johnsburgh in Warren county; it enters Essex county in the southwest corner of Minerva, and, still continuing its course, it finally culminates in Dix's Peak, which is, barometrically, 4,916 feet above tide. This point is in the town of North Hudson, and from there it loses its continuity as a range, being completely broken up into spurs and isolated masses in Keene, Elizabethtown and Lewis; finally it ends in the town of Willsborough, Essex county, and is the only range that does not end abruptly in a precipice on the shore of Lake Champlain. The continuity of this range is broken in its southern portion, where it is crossed by the two lateral valleys of the western branches of the Sacandaga River in Hamilton county, and again by the Hudson in the town of Minerva. The borders of this range are not as Page 22 well defined as in some of the others; it is broad where the third range is narrow, and narrow where the third range is broad. It is about one hundred and ten miles in length and from five to fifteen miles in width, its narrow portions being in the vicinity of Lake Pleasant, and near its culminating point, with three broad portions: one at the southern part, one in the vicinity of Indian Lake, and the third at the northern extremity. Piseco Lake, Lake Pleasant, and Indian Lake farther north, lie upon the west side.
In the vicinity of Dix's Peak are several remarkable mountains - high, sharp, conical peaks, with deep, narrow gorges between them; or very narrow, sharp ridges, which, plainly visible when viewed from one direction, are not recognized when viewed from another but slightly altered direction. The clefts between them are very narrow, almost chasms, with nearly perpendicular sides, ragged in the extreme. This range has many outlying spurs, some of them rising into quite prominent peaks, that in any other portion of the State would be considered as objects of grandeur.
The fifth, or Adirondack, range rises fairly south of the Mohawk River and crosses that stream at Little Falls. From this point it pursues the same general course with all of the others, occupying a portion of Manheim and Salisbury in Herkimer county; Morehouse, Arietta, Lake Pleasant and Indian Lake in Hamilton county; all of Newcomb, Keene, Jay and Chesterfield, with parts of Elizabethtown and Lewis in Essex county; and finally terminates at Trembleau Point on Lake Champlain, near Port Kent, at the mouth of the great Ausable River. The continuity of this whole range is only broken by two lateral valleys; the first, by the little branch of the Hudson, just west of Lake Sanford, in Newcomb, and again by the south branch of the Ausable in the town of Keene. This, principal of all the mountain ranges in the State, is one hundred and thirty miles in length from the Mohawk River to the lake at Trembleau Point, and from ten to twenty miles in width. It has many outlying spurs in its whole course, but around the highest portion are clustered a group of the most remarkable peaks in the United States east of the Mississippi River. Mount Marcy, the highest of all, is 5,344 feet above tide, and Mount McIntyre, a near neighbor, 5, I 12. In the immediate vicinity are several others that have an altitude of over 4,000 feet, and in the whole range there are perhaps fifty that have an altitude of over 3,000 feet. It has three outlying spurs to the north that culminate in three remarkable peaks: Emmons in Hamilton county; Seward in Franklin county; and Whiteface in Essex county. Emmons (or Blue Mountain) 3,762, Seward 4,384, and Whiteface 4,871 feet above tide, respectively. In the southern portion of this range the sides of the hills where they are not properly called mountains are susceptible of some cultivation, and farther north the dairyman finds pasturage for his herds; but after leaving the county of Herkimer, the soil is thin, sandy, and the entire absence of lime renders it unsusceptible of profitable cultivation. The sides Page 23 of the mountains soon become steep and rocky, and the valleys filled with boulders, brought from the far north, which are too troublesome to contend with. In the middle portion of the range, in Hamilton county, it is the broadest and to a great extent has not been explored in any scientific manner known to the writer; but in the northern part this has been done, and the mountain masses are between high, sharp, conical peaks, with deep, narrow defiles, gorges and chasms, in great variety. The flanking spurs on either side are great mountains, nearly equal to the principal ones of the range, and cover a vast extent of territory, giving in this portion of the State the appellation of "The Switzerland of America." Northeast of the great group of mountains that gives this range its name, the "flankers" seem to withdraw from their skirmishing expeditions, the "pickets" are drawn in, and on approaching the lake the range modestly assumes the form of a respectable hill, and finally disappears in the rippling depths.
Still farther to the northwest of all these mountains is another great range, called the Ausable, or broken range. It occupies, with its spurs and isolated peaks, a territory of nearly a hundred miles in length, by from twenty to forty in width, embracing several hundred peaks of greater or less magnitude, a few of which only have been measured. The highest portion is the southeast border, and some of the most prominent peaks are Mount St. Louis in Herkimer county, 2,295; Owl's Head in Hamilton, 2,825; Graves in St. Lawrence, 2,345; St. Regis in Franklin, 2,888; De Bar in Franklin, 3,011; and Lyon Mountain in Clinton county, 3,809.
From this elevated portion towards the northwest the whole country gradually sinks and loses its rough characteristics, and when within about twenty miles of the St. Lawrence River it entirely disappears, and a nearly level plain continues to the river. This is not properly a range, but in treating it as such it occupies all of the territory lying to the northwest of the Fulton chain of lakes in Herkimer, Raquette and Long Lakes in Hamilton, the Saranacs and the Saranac valley continued to Lake Champlain. This range is thickly interspersed with numerous lakes and ponds, besides those on the southeast side that define its boundaries and give to it that fascination and attraction to those who delight in visiting this region as a summer resort.
Originally all of these mountain ranges were covered with a forest, and far up the slopes a heavy growth of timber of many varieties formerly existed, and in some instances to the very summits; but generally for not more than 2,000 feet was the timber of any great value, as above that in most instances it was dwarfed and useless except to retain moisture to supply the little rills that formed the rivers of the whole region. Some of the highest peaks were bald and barren, and this baldness and barrenness has been terribly increased by the forest fires and the woodman's axe, and the wildness, rockyness and barrenness revealed, where Nature, in her charity, has robed the deformity with a mantle of beauty.Page 24
Valleys. - To the lover of nature in winter, Essex stands pre-eminently first in the magnitude and magnificence of its mountains; but in summer, Warren equally claims his admiration, in the verdant beauty of its valleys, and the loveliness of its lakes. The first valley (that is, the one between the first and second ranges of mountains), is occupied for at least three-fourths of its length by Lake George, while the valley continues on to the southwest to the great bend of the Hudson River, near Corinth in Saratoga county. The rise in this direction from the lake is quite gradual, and the valley has several little lakes in its length; this is the most natural continuance of the valley, rather than the one leading to Glens Falls. It is bordered by an almost continuous chain of mountains on both sides, and the little lateral valleys are hardly noticeable on either side. The one through which the road leads to Glens Falls is the only one of importance.
The second valley extends from Luzerne northeasterly, and naturally follows the Schroon branch of the Hudson River; it is narrow in the southern portion, but widens out in the vicinity of Warrensburgh to several miles, gradually contracting again in the vicinity of Schroon Lake. The bordering hills and mountains wind and curve gracefully in the whole course; one little lateral valley only, on the east side, breaks the continuity, until the stream from Brant Lake is reached, which is so narrow as to be scarcely noticeable. On the west there are two or three breaks in the continuity of the mountain range before the valley of the northwest branch of the Hudson is attained, which is quite broad for some distance, and one other little break, where the stream comes in from Pottersville. These are the only continuous valleys in the county of any extent. The third valley, or the one between the third and fourth ranges of mountains, is simply a depression in the heights of the mountains, and is not occupied by any considerable stream. Its lowest depression is a little southeast of Gore Mountain, where North Creek falls into the Hudson and extends in the same southwest direction, and in its southern portion is occupied by the east branch of the Sacandaga River.
The valley of the northwest branch of the Hudson cuts through the third range of mountains; it is wild and picturesque, and the only one of any consequence in the western part of the county. The valleys of the smaller streams are narrow, crooked, deep, wild, and rocky; and hardly one of them affords much opportunity for the cultivation of the soil. These hill and mountain sides are for the most part covered with the native forest, except where the fire has swept them bare, and even here they are gradually regaining their brightness and beauty. The broader valleys have but very little intervale land, but the slopes in many places are susceptible of cultivation. They are beautifully winding in their outlines, with an occasional rocky promontory, high, steep and covered with a great variety of foliage, which, in the autumn, cannot be surpassed for beauty in the wide world.Page 25
Lakes, Streams, Drainage, etc. - Lake George is the largest lake that is directly associated with the great wilderness region of northern New York. It is thirty-six miles in length, and nearly all lying in Warren county. It varies in width from less than a quarter of a mile to about two miles and for a greater part of its entire length is beautified with many lovely islands. These are said to number three hundred and sixty-five, and vary in size from a few square feet, to several acres. A number of them are inhabited as summer resorts, having elegant residences; some are barren and others are covered with the native forest, embracing a great variety of species both deciduous and coniferous. It is flanked on both sides with high, rocky, and precipitous mountains, clothed with dark forests, and picturesque in the highest degree.
As seen from the deck of a steamboat in sailing its entire length, it gives the beholder a panorama of continual beauty, exciting always a lively interest, even to those who are familiar with its loveliness. Travelers often compare it with the famous lakes of the old world - Scottish, Swiss, Italian, and usually with no disparagement to Lake George. Than the beauty of the lake itself, without raising the eyes above their natural plane, there is nothing in the world more lovely. In the height of the snow-capped mountains that surround it, Lake Luzerne (Switzerland) may bear off the palm. Lakes Constance and Geneva have none of the beauty of its islands; Como and Maggiore in Italy, and Lomond in Scotland have nothing to compare with the variety of its verdure on the mountain sides, while in the purity of its waters all travelers acknowledge that it is no where equaled. It is three hundred and forty-three feet above tide, and discharges its water north into Lake Champlain.
A well known American writer (1) has thus beautifully pictured this lovely lake in language that has, no doubt, often been felt by other visitors without his poetic power of expression: -
I linger sadly, loth to say adieu
To that which of me forms so sweet a part;
The crystal waters and the mountains blue,
Are mirrored deeply in my heart of heart,
And lake and mountains, rocks and wooded streams,
Now pass from pleasant seeing to my world of dreams.
Upon the lofty wooded mount I stand,
Where erst of old the simple huntsman stood,
I see about me far and wide expand
The scene of lake and mountains, isles and wood;
Like him I linger, loth to break the spell,
That lives in one sad word, and vainly says, farewell.
Now like vast giants in their deep repose
These mountains rest beneath the autumn day;
From early morn until the evening's close
The dreamy shadows on their summits play;
While in the distance dim they catch the hue
Of heaven, and melt in cloud land's deepest tint of blue.
I stood by lakes where peaks do pierce the sky,
Snow-clad, and grand in rocky solitudes;
I saw the homes where round them living lie
Tradition-haunted tales of love and feud;
Sweet human gossip chased the gloom so drear,
And gave to what was grand, humanity more dear.
They had no beauty like to thine, Lake George,
Where all that's grand, with all that's sweet, entwine;
I see thy fairy isles, while down each gorge
The birch and maple tint the gloomy pine;
The mountain sides are forests wide and deep,
Where song birds nestle, and the eagles scream and sweep.
And all is wild, as in that early day
The nations found a highway on thy shore,
And meeting, battled for a world's wide sway;
Thy mountains wakened to the mouthing roar
Of deadly cannon, while from each glen
Came back the doubled thunder to the strife of men.
And all is wild, as when the solemn mind
Of Cooper told its tale of savage war;
One was not startled in the wood to find
The sage Mohican, or wild Iroquois;
The dusky shadows of those shadowy things
That will survive our life; in 1men's imagining.
Ah! lovely lake, how do I long to dwell
In humble quiet on thy fairy shore,
With rod and books, and those I love so well,
Forgetting and forgot, live evermore.
To float upon thy water's peaceful sheen
Where love is life and life a poet's happy dream.
Now dies apace the golden autumn day.
Now steal the ghostly shadows from the glen;
The stars are gathering in their glad array,
And stillness falls upon the haunts of men;
Earth parts from me, and closing on my view,
Back to the busy world I go. Fair lake, adieu!
1. Donn Piatt.
The western part of the county is thickly interspersed with little lakes and ponds that lie in the notches of the hills and mountains, deep, pure, and clear as crystal, usually surrounded with the native forest; these are the natural home of the trout, and consequently the enticing resort of the angler. Some of these are mere specks, as depicted upon the maps of this region, but are really large enough to thrill the visitor with their quiet beauty, to enrapture the poet, and captivate the painter.
Thirteenth Pond, which is more properly a lake, lies in the extreme northwest corner of the county. Loon Lake and Friends' Lake are considerable bodies of water in the north part of the county, and are very picturesque in all their surroundings. Besides these, there are many little ponds, some with Page 27 names, but more without, which add to the beauty of the scenery. Eleventh, Mill Creek. Round, Wolfe, Lizzard, Indian, Puffer, are the principal ones, but there are others that are equally as handsome, and in a piscatorial sense, quite as important.
In the extreme north part of the county is Schroon Lake, about half of which lies in this county; it is one of the most attractive in the State. It resembles those in the central counties of the State more than any other in this region. Cultivated fields reach from the water's edge back to the hills, and the contour of the shores has just enough of variety to keep the observer continuously on the watch for new beauties. It is eight miles long, and varies considerably in width, but averaging about a mile. It is about eight hundred and thirty' feet above tide.
Brant Lake, which lies between Schroon Lake and Lake George, is five miles in length, and averages about half a mile in width, lying high up in the second range of mountains. When first seen by the writer (1858) it was completely surrounded by an unbroken wilderness. The pale blue of the water, the deep blue of the sky, and the dark green of the forest between, brought to his mind the familiar lines -
"It was down by the dark tarn of Auber,
In the ghoul-haunted woodland of Wier."
The drainage of the entire county, with a little exception, is through the Hudson River and its tributaries. Schroon Lake being considered as eight hundred and thirty feet above tide, there is a fall of two hundred and ninety-four feet between it and the mouth of the Sacandaga River. This gives a fall of about eight and a half feet per mile in the distance of thirty-five miles, which causes a strong and powerful current. The west or main branch of the Hudson must have a very much more rapid current, for the fall from Lake Sanford to the same place cannot be far from one thousand five hundred feet, and the distance about seventy miles. There is nothing that can be called a cascade or a rapid in this whole distance, and consequently the descent must be very uniform. The tributaries of the Hudson on the west are all small, rapid streams, rising high among the mountain peaks, and flowing in deep, narrow gorges. The watershed of Lake George is very limited, reaching scarcely more than a mile from the shore in any place; the brooks are short and small. The immense flow of water from the outlet, that hardly varies an inch in a year, has been computed as several times greater than is due to the rain-fall, and can only be accounted for on the theory of great springs. In proof of this theory the inhabitants say that the lake rarely freezes at the north end, and one of the inducements offered by the proprietors of the water privileges, at the falls of Ticonderoga, has ever been that the water is so warm in winter that the waterwheels are never troubled by the formation of ice.
Cascades. - A few rods below the junction of the Sacandaga River with the Hudson, at the village of Luzerne, their united waters plunge down a cascade Page 28 of considerable height, in a broken, foamy mass, rolling, boiling and tumbling in a most fantastic manner. This is locally known as Little Jessup's Falls, and were it not for the existence of one much larger in the immediate vicinity, would be considered one of the remarkable sights of this region.
Jessup's, or High Falls, on the Hudson, are situated just below the great bend towards the east, at the extreme south point of the town of Luzerne, near the village of Corinth, in Saratoga county. The water flows in a series of rapids for three-fourths of a mile over a declining rocky bottom, and is then compressed into a narrow gorge for eighty rods, at the bottom of which it shoots down a nearly perpendicular descent of sixty feet. The gneiss ledge over which it falls is convex in form, and the water is broken into perfect sheets of snow-white foam. A few rods above the last leap of the water, and where it is rushing with the greatest velocity, the river can be spanned with a single plank thirteen feet in length.
At Glens Falls the river flows over a shelving rock with a total descent of fifty feet. The fall is broken into three channels by natural piers of black limestone standing upon the brow of the precipice over which the water flows, forming a cascade of remarkable natural beauty.
Primary Rock. - Of the geology of Warren county, the most that we know is obtained from the reports of Ebenezer Emmons, on the Second District of the State, and made in 1842. From this source we have condensed portions of the following, modified by the discoveries of the past forty years and a few personal observations of the writer: -
The principal portion of the county is composed of gneiss; granite, primitive limestone and serpentine appear as intruding rocks associated with the gneiss. The first range of mountains on the east is composed of gneiss; the second range is gneiss, with some granite and hornblende; the third range is gneiss and some decomposing granite near its culminating point in Johnsburgh. The fourth range is gneiss in its southern portion, and if hypersthene exists, as. Mr. Emmons supposed, it must be limited to the north extremity, on the borders of Essex county.
There is no peculiar characteristic in this gneiss; it is all of the ordinary kind, with some intermixture of hornblende, that is common to other portions of the State. The general dip of the strata is westerly, and the strike obliquely across the main axis of the different ranges, in a direction more easterly than the general direction of the main chain. In regard to imbedded minerals, there is, in fact, a lack of them, especially of the useful kinds. Iron ore of the magnetic kind is not infrequent; but it does not occur in considerable masses.
Granite. - This rock, the next of any importance in extent in the county, is nearly all located in the valley between the second and third ranges of Page 29 mountains. The most important mass is in the vicinity of Crane Mountain, in Johnsburgh. It is white, tolerably coarse and contains small particles of mica. The feldspar decomposing rapidly forms the important material called porcelain clay. The precise extent of this material has not been determined, but it is known to extend, with little interruption, for about twenty miles.
Primitive Limestone. - This rock is of more frequent occurrence than granite; its beds, however, are generally quite limited in extent, but form quite a broad belt entirely across the county in the direction of the mountain ranges. It lies at their bases and forms low, inconspicuous hills, in the main valley. This belt, imperfect as it must be, passes through Stony Creek, Thurman, Johnsburgh, Warrensburgh, Chester and Horicon. It is one of the most important rocks in the county, as from it all the lime is obtained for building and agriculture. When the stone is properly selected it makes the strongest lime, a bushel being worth as much as a bushel and a half of lime made from the transition limestone. This rock is not suitable for marble, in consequence of its liability to disintegrate.
Serpentine. - Associated with primitive limestone are extensive beds of serpentine, intermixed with carbonate of lime. This is usually called verde antique; but this ancient and beautiful rock is composed of materials much harder and more valuable. It occurs in a great variety of colors, from a very dark green to a bright yellowish green. It has been discovered in a great many places, and for indoor work, mantels, table tops, etc., it would be very valuable.
Potsdam Sandstone. - This rock lies geologically next above the gneiss, or primary rocks, and is the first sedimentary rock in the New York sytem. At the High Falls on the Hudson at Corinth this rock appears about one hundred feet thick, the fall being occasioned by an uplift, and where the gneiss appears on one side of the river, and the sandstone on the other. Here the strata of sandstone appear very nearly in a horizontal position, and apparently showing that it was deposited in the bottom of the ocean and has not been disturbed by any upheaval since. North of Glens Falls about five miles it appears again, and with a dip to the south and southwest. It forms a good building material in almost all the localities where found. A fact of importance to the geological student is, that at the falls in Corinth, the sandstone can be seen perfectly in place at its juncture with the primitive rock.
Calciferous Sand Rock. - This rock lies next above the Potsdam sandstone and may be observed in many places in the county. Diamond Island in Lake George is a good example, and is the usual form in which it appears. There are many varieties, but they still possess many characteristics in common. About a mile northeasterly from Glens Falls it appears as an outcropping mass; it occurs in many places, at some of which it was quarried for locks on the Champlain Canal, and for other purposes. The beds are thick and blocks Page 30 of large size can be obtained; the stone is durable. This rock also appears at the falls, beneath the black marble, and is, we believe, the first rock that shows the remains of any living animal.
Black Marble, or Chazy Limestone. - The stratum of limestone that is quarried at Glens Falls, and sawed into marble, lies next above the calciferous sand rock and corresponds with the marble of the Isle la Motte and the Chazy limestone. By means of an uplift at the falls and the action of the water, the three rocks have here been exposed and may be seen lying one above another, on the Warren county side; on the Saratoga side is an additional stratum of slate above the Trenton limestone. The black marble of Glens Falls is ten feet thick, and has now been quarried and manufactured for about half a century.
Trenton Limestone. - This rock lies next above the black marble and is easily recognized by the geological student by its characteristic fossils. It occupies but a very little of the county and can only be examined with any degree of success in the limited chasm of the Hudson River below the falls. The gorge between Glens Falls and Baker's Falls gives the student a rare opportunity to study the different strata and obtain an exact knowledge of their situation, their fossils, and their superposition on one another.
Utica Slate. - The succeeding rock is Utica slate. In pursuing the course of the river from Glens Falls either east or west for about a mile, this rock is seen resting on the Trenton limestone. It is a rock easily disintegrated by the frost, very fragile, and never firm enough to use as a roofing slate. Its disintegration makes a slaty soil that time changes to a clayey one. It is of no importance in this county except as being the highest rock, geologically.
In speculative geology, the student has an ample field in this county; almost equal to that of Essex, and in some particulars, more than her equal. Although not so prolific in the mineral department, and not quite so interesting in her great masses of mountains, there is a greater variety of rocks which show in more places, with different characteristics and different associations, making up what is lacking in one direction by going farther in another. Among minor minerals, those of no particular importance in an economic or a commercial value, except magnetic iron ore, are pyroxene, hornblende, calcareous spar, zircon, pyritous iron, pyritous copper, crystals of quartz, graphite, labradorite, red oxide of titanium, tourmaline, sulphuret of iron, colophonite, scapolite and manganese. The localities of these different minerals are in various parts of the county, and since the geological survey was made their number has been greatly increased. While in 1840 when there were not, probably, fifty men in the State who were deeply interested in the geology of this or any other State, there are now probably five thousand who have made investigations in the Great Wilderness of Northern New York, and could their researches be brought together at this day, and published, so that the knowledge that each has obtained Page 31 would be combined and made useful to each and all, the knowledge of our State would greatly increased, and the science of geology made more popular with the great mass of the people.
Soil. - Speaking in very general terms the soil of this county may be said to be composed mostly of thin, sandy loam. The declivities of the mountains particularly have a very thin soil and usually scant vegetation. In the valleys clay is mixed with the sand to some extent which, with the disintegrated rock, forms a deep and generally excellent soil. The level lands about Glens Falls are very sandy, and have been known as the "pine plains," from the fact of the locality having formerly been covered with a dense growth of heavy pine timber. The soil of each town will be further described in the succeeding town histories.
Forests. - Most of the territory within this county was originally covered with a heavy growth of forest, much of which was valuable pine, such as we have mentioned as having covered the "pine plains." The cutting and marketing of these forests gave employment for many years to the early inhabitants and caused the erection of almost innumerable saw-mills wherever there was available water-power. In some portions of the county the common varieties of hard timber were found - beech, maple, birch, oak, etc. A large proportion of the mountainous portion of the county, which is not adapted to successful cultivation and which has been cleared of the primitive forest, has become more or less overgrown with a second growth of yellow pine and other varieties of wood, which in later years has furnished a supply of fuel. Lumbering is still carried on in the northern and northwestern parts of the county, where there are still considerable areas of forest.