Monday, April 27, 2015


The Colorado Boys were a group of men who were mustered out of the US military service at the conclusion of the Civil War, migrated to Lincoln County, and filed for homesteads of 160 acres.  All had, at one time, served in the Colorado Infantry/Cavalry.  

The Colorado Boys included Edward E. Johnson, Isaac DeGraff, James Adams, D. C. Skinner, W. E. Thompson and Richard B. Clark. James Peate arrived shortly afterwards and lived with them.

They arrived in Lincoln County about Christmas 1865 and camped along the Saline River southeast of future town of Beverly.  Early interviews with the men indicated they hauled drift wood from the river to thaw the ground for the construction of a dugout.  No one has located the exact location of the dugout; however, after visiting with a then living relative of D.C. Skinner, I believe the dugout was built on the River on land later farmed by my maternal uncle---southeast of Beverly.

Several other families soon arrived in the Lincoln County and next door Ottawa Counties in 1866, 1867 and 1868.  In 1866 Mr. James Peate of settled in/near Beverly and in 1868 was asked by General Phil Sheridan (he of Civil War fame) to recruit local men to help form about 50 “Scouts” assigned to Col. George Forsyth.  This contingent of “frontiersmen” would be chasing Native Americans who had been raiding Caucasian settlers in the Lincoln-Ottawa County area.  The Scouts were to remain civilians employed by the U.S. Army. However, Forsyth’s second-in-command, Lt. Fred Beecher, was regular army but was killed in the Battle.  He was a nephew of Henry Ward Beecher (of Civil War fame).  

Peate immediately recruited locals Thomas Alderdice, Thomas Boyle, George Clark, George W. Culver, Andrew Eutsler, Hutson Farley, Lewis Farley, George Green, John Green, John Haley, Frank Herington, Edward E. Johnson (Colorado Boy), John Lyden, Howard Morton, D.C. Skinner (Colorado Boy), Chalmers Smith, William Stubbs, Edward Tozier, Richard Tozier, Henry Tucker, Fletcher Vilott and Eli Zigler.

James Peate, the recruiter, did not die until 1932 and was well known to my mother (born in 1913 and living in Beverly) as the local banker.
George W. Culver was farming near Tescott (my home town), about five miles east of Beverly.  I was able to locate his homesteading papers in the Ottawa County courthouse and noted his farm was at one of my favorite “fishing holes.”  Culver was killed in the battle at Beecher Island.

Andrew Eutsler was the grandfather of one of my maternal aunts (by marriage) and is buried in the local Tescott Cemetery. 

I grew up living in Morton Township---named after Howard Morton.

Edward E. Johnson was one of the original Colorado Boys.
Chalmers Smith was the grandfather of one of my maternal aunts (by marriage).

Not all of the people listed above as Scouts actually participated in the Battle of Beecher Island.  Peate, along with Boyle, John Green, Edward Johnson, D.C. Skinner, Stubbs, Edward Tozier, and Richard Tozier were later in getting to Fort Harker and then chased Forsyth and the other Scouts to Fort Hays and then to Fort Wallace but ended up missing the final march to follow the “hostiles.”  This group was then assigned to Col. Lewis Carpenter’s 10th Cavalry and participated in locating the battle-weary remnants of Col. Forsyth’s command trapped at Beecher Island.

The story could go on and on but I need to return to geology!  I have found this Beecher Island story fascinating due to its connection with the hometowns of my father (Tescott) and mother (Beverly).  Unfortunately my history classes in grades 1-12 sort of followed the textbook and neglected to mention any of the local history.  I also have tromped over the homesteads of several of these scouts and do not want local communities to forget the history associated with both the Scouts and the Native Americans.  

Wednesday, April 22, 2015



William E. Thompson was an original “Colorado Boy” credited with establishing one of the first permanent settlements in Lincoln County, Kansas (1865-1866).  I know that Thompson was 27 years of age in December 1863 (35 in July 1870) and was born in Maine, most likely in 1836 (the 1870 census states abt. 1835).  He had black hair, black eyes, a dark complexion and was 5’6.75” tall.  In my searches he first appears in Colorado as a miner in the “Nevada District”, evidently Nevadaville near Central City.

Thompson enlisted in the military on September 3, 1861 as a Private in the Colorado First Regiment Infantry and was assigned to Company G.  The 1st was organized by the Colorado Territory Governor William Gilpin and was often called “Gilpen’s Pet Lambs” or the “Pike Peakers.”  The Colorado State Archives noted that Thompson listed his occupation as a miner.  He served until October 31, 1862.

The 1st had companies stationed at Ft. Wise, Ft. Lyon and Camp Weld (all in Colorado).  In February and March 1862 the Regiment headed to Ft. Union, NM to meet the Confederate threat posed by General Sibley marching north with an “army” of Texans.  The Civil War Archives list their actions as follows:  At Fort Union until March 22; March toward Santa Fe; Actions at Apache Canon on March 26, La Glorietta Pass, or Pigeon Ranch, March 28, Peralta April 15; At Fort Craig until July; Garrison at Fort Garland, Fort Union, Fort Craig, Fort Larned and Fort Lyon until November and then mustered out.  The battles around Glorieta Pass, NM, were perhaps the most important battles of the Civil War in the west.

Thompson then enlisted in November 1862 as a Private in the First Colorado Cavalry and was assigned to Company G.  The Colorado State Archives note the Regiment was formed in November 1862 with members coming from the 1st Regiment Infantry and from Companies C and D of the 2nd Colorado Infantry. This conversion from infantry to cavalry was authorized by the War Department because cavalry troops were more effective for “Indian-fighting purposes”. The 1st Colorado Cavalry's assignment was to guard the Colorado Territory and its gold mines from possible Confederate invasion, and to protect the ever-expanding settlements from conflicts with the Native American population.

The Civil War Archives note that the 1st was stationed, by detachments, at Denver, Camps Collins, Curtis, Fillmore, Robbins, Weld and Canon City and at Forts Lyon and Garland (all in Colorado) and listed service of Company G as follows: Scout from Fort Sumner August 3-November 4, 1863 (evidently they had marched to NM); Skirmish near Sand Creek, CO August 11; Engagement with Native Americans at Sand Creek, CO., November 29.  So it appears that Thompson was at this infamous battle on the plains of eastern Colorado.

In December 1863, shortly after Sand Creek, Thompson either mustered out of Company G or simply transferred because on December 19, 1863 he joined Company C.  Perhaps his enlistment simply ended in December since it appears that several of his colleagues formed the First Colorado Veteran Volunteers in January 1864, after they had mustered out of the 1st.

I am still checking on activities of the 1st in 1864 and most of 1865.  However, in early1865 Company C saw action as follows (Civil War Archives):  Operations on Overland Stage Route between Denver and Julesburg January 14-25; Skirmish near Valley Station, CO, January 28.  The Regiment was mustered out at Ft. Leavenworth, KS on November 18, 1865.  The roster sheets noted that Thompson retained his army pistol and appendages and was charged $8.

Thompson then settled in Lincoln County, along with his fellow Colorado military veterans Richard Clark, D. C. Skinner, Edward Johnson, Isaac DeGraff, and James Adams.  In 1870 Thompson was a farmer with his holdings appraised at $1500, was single, and lived next to the DeGraff family in Colorado Township that was also home to several other “Colorado Boys”.  In 1871 he was the Township Trustee.   I also know that in his younger life he studied for the Priesthood and in 1876 owned a “livery property”.

Later in 1876 tragedy struck.  The Lincoln County Obituaries website gives the following information concerning Thompson:  Saline Valley Register -- Wednesday, September 13, 1876 Killed by the Indians.  A letter received here, on the 5th, by T.A. Walls, from Peter Smith of Custar (sic) City, states that William E. THOMPSON, who left here in March last for the Black Hills, was killed by the Indians near Custar, on the 23rd of August. He, with three others was out four miles from Custar, making hay, when they were murdered. Mr. THOMPSON had several balls in his body and was scalped also. He was one of the first settlers of this county, and was highly respected by all parties. He sold his livery property here to Mr. ROBINSON, last spring and in company with several other citizens of our county went to the new gold fields, where he has since been. He had been on the plains for a number of years, and was the last men we would have thought of being surprised and murdered by the savages. He was an intelligent, honest, industrious man, and his loss is deeply deplored by all our citizens, among whom he had many friends and few enemies.”

I had always wonder what became of Thompson’s body--was he buried at the site?  Was he moved to another location, or what?  For three years I kept hitting dead ends until I noticed a book in the Colorado Springs Library archives entitled The Black Hills or Last Hunting Grounds of the Dakotahs written by Annie D. Tallent in 1899.  She arrived in the Black Hills in 1874 and was an early chronicler of activities in the region.  Tallent writes:  In the early part of July [1876] word came from General Crook to Custer (South Dakota) that a large band of 800 Indians was making its way towards the Black Hills, with the avowed purpose of driving the white settlers from their country.  

A few days after the last recorded atrocity (in late July 4 miners were killed) four other men [haymakers] were killed and scalped within a short distance of Custer.  The unfortunate men who were engaged at the time in cutting hay for Ernest Schleuning Sr., now of Rapid City, went out from Custer on the morning of the fatal day to their work in the hay field, but never returned alive.  They had not been gone long before a man came running into the city, breathless and excited, and reported that he had seen Indians out in the direction of the hay field, and that they were up to some deviltry, as he put itOf course the man did not want to investigate. 

.....arrived on the scene, the Indians were nowhere to be seen, but the work of their gory hands was painfully in evidence.  The bodies of the four men were scalped, and curiously enough three of them were scalped in four circular pieces each, while the fourth was removed in one piece. The supposition was that there were thirteen Indians, each of whom desired a piece to exhibit as a trophy of his wonderful achievement.

.....The bodies of the murdered men were interred in the little graveyard a mile or so below Custer, where to-day, may be found among the tangled underbrush and weeds, the sunken graves of numerous victims of Indian savagery, little slabs of crumbling wood marking the spot where repose their ashes.”

The September 21st, 1876 edition of the Janesville Gazette (WI), paraphrasing or quoting from the Sioux City Journal, gave even more detail of the killings: “Little Jake [Jacob Weilly] thought he would rather go the other way and make a hay camp out of a point of rocks on the Sidney road.  So he and Sam Wallace, a half brother of  Lawyer Hooper, of that city, and Thompson [Wm. E.], from Denver, and another named Kidd [James], started out at 2 p. m., and had not got more than five miles from town when they ran into an ambuscade and were all killed, scalped and mutilated. They must have fought like tigers, for there were piles of empty shells lying where they stood when fired upon by the Indians.  Poor Thompson must have killed a number of them, for they beat his brains out with a new regulation needle gun, breaking it all up over his head. They scalped all of the boys and dragged them back into the road so that they might be seen by passing trains. The Indians must surely have been a party returning to the Red Cloud agency from the north, for the needle gun referred to was one they had captured in the Custer fight…”

So, at long last I knew what happed to Thompson’s body and decided to travel to Custer to further explore.  I visited with the Custer, SD, historian Jesse Sundstrom and found that the "haymakers" killed by the Indians in summer 1876 were buried in the "local Boot Hill", an area now covered with a mobile home park and housing development and that Kay Kiefer had made the coffins for the four men.  However, the Boot Hill bodies were exhumed in 1884 and reburied in the Custer City cemetery in an unmarked pauper's grave.  Today, the “pauper’s area” is just an open space in the cemetery without markers.

In my opinion, this should not be the end of the story for Wm. E. Thompson.  He served his country notably and should be remembered.   I am concerned that he lies in an unmarked pauper’s grave without citizens knowing much about the man and his military accomplishments.  Although I am uncertain about the exact location of burial in the cemetery, I do know the general area.  Unfortunately, only close relatives may request a marker stone from the federal government and I have been unable to locate any relatives.  Therefore, a man who served his country lies in an unmarked grave.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015


Sand in reality is nothing else than very small stones.
Axel F. Cronstedt

In the world of geological terminology, sand refers to unconsolidated sediments with particle sizes ranging from 1/16 mm (sugar grain size) to 2 mm (BB size).  Sand particles are visible to the naked eye with silt being smaller (cannot observe grains without magnification; grits in your teeth with tasting) and clay the smallest particles.  Pebbles, or gravel, are larger than sand grains.  Sand is composed of rock and mineral fragments derived from previously existing rocks, and then deposited by forces such as wind, streams, gravity, waves, tides and currents.  Here in Colorado we are most familiar with sand composed of either quartz or feldspar fragments---eroded from the igneous and metamorphic rocks that core the mountain ranges..  However, in visiting Florida one would find sand with high percentages of fossil fragments or limestone.  On the island of Hawai’i is Papakolea Beach, a “green sand” beach where the sand particles are pieces of olivine eroded from nearby volcanic basalt.  At White Sands National Monument in New Mexico the sands are particles of white gypsum.

Sandstone then refers to consolidated (hardened) sand, with siltstone (massive), shale (fissile) and claystone being the consolidated rocks of clay and silt.  Conglomerate (rounded particles) and breccia (angular particles) are rocks with pebble and larger size components.  The consolidation of particles takes place by either compaction or cementation with the latter common in sandstone and conglomerate.  The cement precipitates in the pore spaces between the sand grains and commonly is either calcium carbonate (CaCo3), silica (SiO2), or iron oxide (Fe2O3).  The nature of the cement also plays a role in the color of the sandstone.  For example, a small percentage of iron oxide in the cement will impart a bright red or orange color to the sandstone. However, in many cases not all pore spaces are completely filled with cement and buried sandstone may serve as a water aquifer, or be saturated with petroleum.

A QFL Composition Diagram used to plot minerals and identify sandstones. From a lecture by Earle McBride.

Field geologists often use adjectives or qualifiers to describe different sandstones such as feldspathic sandstone (or arkose) for sandstones with a high percentage of the various feldspars, quartz arenites (arenite=sandstone) with a high percentage of quartz, etc.  After returning to the laboratory the geologist might make “thin sections” so that individual grains may be counted under a petrographic microscope.  Samples may then be plotted on a Q(quartz), F(feldspar), L(lithic=rock) diagram  for a more precise identification.  This thin section work, and subsequent plotting, then informs the geologist about such things as textural maturity and composition, which in turn is used to help interpret the depositional environment of the original sand.  For example, sandstone plotting in the far left margin, lower quadrant of the triangle (arkose) would indicate erosion of a feldspar-rich source rock without a long distance of transport.  Locally, many of the sandstones in the Fountain Formation (in Colorado Springs think Garden of the Gods and Red Rock Canyon Open Space) are feldspathic sandstones derived from the nearby feldspar-rich Pikes Peak granite.  The angularity of the individual particles indicates a short distance of transport. 
Fountain Formation exposed west of Colorado Springs along US 24.  The unit represents debris shed off the nearby granite (Pikes Peak granite) exposed in the core of the Ancestral Front Range (Permian-Pennsylvanian).
Greywacke (informally called dirty sandstone) has a particular type of matrix (clay particles between the rock grains and cement) plotting toward the lower right corner of the triangle.  This is significant since one would not normally expect clay particles (fine) and rock/mineral fragments (sand) to be deposited together.  However, modern oceanic studies have shown that submarine avalanches and turbidity currents are able to churn up the sediments on the edges of the Continental Shelf (sloping down to the trenches) and deposit these mixed size particles.  This understanding then allows geologists to more accurately place continents in constructing paleogeographic maps (maps detailing positions of continents and oceans in the geologic past).  The greywackes that I am familiar with include the great Franciscan Group of the Coast Ranges in California, several in the Precambrian of the Canadian Shield (around the U. S. Great Lakes), and rocks comprising the core mountains of New Zealand.  There are smaller exposures of greywacke in some of the Precambrian rocks of Colorado; however, they are not common.  A reasonable explanation might be that what we now know as Colorado has been part of the more stable continental interior (termed the craton) since the end of the Precambrian (last ~550 m.y.).  The migration of marine waters on and off the craton was in a shallow water environment without a continental slope, continental shelf or deep oceanic basin.  

The sandstones plotting out in the extreme upper part of the triangle are termed quartz arenites since quartz is the dominant (over 90 %) mineral.  Some of these sandstones are quite monomineralic with nearly 100% quartz.  Perhaps the most famous of these quartz arenites is the St. Peter Sandstone (Ordovician age) of the Midwest and Central Plains (also known as the Simpson Sandstone in Oklahoma and informally as the Ottawa sand).  The pureness of this sand (~99.5% quartz) has spawned a large glass making industry.  In Colorado, a similar formation is termed the Harding Sandstone from a locality near Canyon City.  The Harding perhaps is best known for producing some of the oldest vertebrate fossils in the world (as well as building stone for the local houses of incarceration).   Locally, some of the sandstones found in the Lyons Sandstone (at Garden of the Gods) are quite pure quartz arenites.  In reality, most of the sandstones found in Colorado (other than the arkosic Fountain Formation and its correlatives) plot somewhere in the upper 1/3 of the triangle---the mineral constituents are mostly quartz but other mineral/rock fragments are present.  The reason behind this fact is: 1) quartz is one of the most abundant minerals in metamorphic and igneous rocks, often the source for sandstones; 2) a high hardness [~7 Mohs] and a lack of cleavage make the mineral quite durable; and 3) quartz is chemically stable and has a very low solubility in water.   Sandstones are fairly resistant to erosion and therefore often form hogbacks, fins, buttes, cliffs, flatirons and “caprock”.

Resistant sandstone (Elephant Toe Butte) at Dinosaur National Monument.
Now on to the quartzites, and I do mean plural as this term is used, perhaps to confuse people, as describing  both sedimentary rocks and metamorphic rocks!  Some of the quartz arenites, those rocks composed essentially of quartz grains, become so tightly cemented that the rock takes on a glassy appearance and is quite hard. In fact, geologists term these sedimentary quartzites as orthoquartzites.

Concretions weathering from the Dakota Formation at Rock City in central Kansas (a few miles from the author’s home town).  The rock is an orthoquartzite with an excess of 95% quartz grains; however, the cement is calcite (rather than silica).  From McBride and Milliken, 2006.

In Colorado, some sandstones of the Cambrian Sawatch Formation are called quartzite as the quartz grains are tightly cemented by silica.  In fact, one can find references in the geological literature to the Sawatch Quartzite (as opposed to Formation) as the name of the rock unit.  In central Kansas a resistant and hard unit of the Dakota Formation is cemented by calcite and locals call it the Lincoln quartzite and market the stone as road aggregate or “rip-rap” for stabilization of steep areas such as dam faces on reservoirs. The best exposures of this orthoquartzite are about 30 miles from Lincoln at Rock City. 

One of the best known quartzites in the central part of the US is the Sioux Quartzite of Proterozoic (Precambrian) age that crops out in far eastern South Dakota and adjacent Minnesota.  The formation is mostly a tightly cemented, pink to red quartz arenite (orthoquartzite) that has been subjected, in places, to a very mild metamorphism---but not enough heat and/or pressure to term it a true metamorphic quartzite.  The outcrops are not all that common as most of the time they are covered in glacial drift.  However, the numerous quarries have produced millions of tons of this resistant rock for building stones and large rip-rap.  It seems as if tens/hundreds of miles of the Missouri River in South Dakota have seen its banks stabilized by large-scale hunks of that distinctive pink to red quartzite.  Many of these “hunks” (2 x 3 feet or so) contain well-formed sedimentary structures such as ripple marks and or cross bedding.

Sioux Quartzite with a source area in eastern South Dakota appearing as a glacial erratic in northeastern Kansas.  This orthoquartzite is extremely hard and resistant to erosion.  Photo courtesy of Kansas Geological Survey.
So, the Sioux Quartzite is sort of a hybrid consisting mostly of tightly cemented (quartz cement) quartz grains (orthoquartzite) but also containing areas where there has been some low cooking that has produced a few metamorphic minerals such as sericite and pyrophyllite, and fused a few individual grains together. 
Metaquartzites are the true quartzites and are metamorphic rocks, formed when quartz arenites are subjected to high heat and high pressure in areas of regional metamorphism.  This metamorphism generally takes place along plate margins where some sort of plate collision or subduction is occurring.  In Colorado these metaquartzites are almost always Precambrian in age.
So, confusion may abound, and sometimes identification of a hard rock, with a glassy texture, and “sugary grains, is difficult!  However, the following hints will make life easier.  If you suspect the cement is either calcite or silica (clear), a drop of  hydrochloric (or similar such as acetic) acid will determine composition.  You should also examine any reaction with a hand lens to make certain the cement is “fizzing” rather than some included calcite grains.  If calcite cement is present then the rock is a quartz arenite or orthoquartzite as any calcite cement in the original rock would have been destroyed with later metamorphism.  Examine a fresh surface of the rock with a hand lens and observe the individual grains.  In a sedimentary quartzite one can observe: 1) the cement; 2) the rounded grains of quartz (usually not fractured and simply touching each other); and 3) the fact that usually the rock breaks between the grains.  In a metamorphic quartzite: 1) the grains are commonly fractured,  “squashed and squeezed” , and recrystallized during metamorphism; 2) the cement is recrystallized and “blends in” with grains to give the rock a quite glassy appearance; and 3) the rock breaks through the grains.
Cartoon of an orthoquartzite thin section.  Rounded quartz grains are cemented by such agents as silica, calcite, or iron oxide.  Note any break is between and around the grains. Public Domain sketch.
Cartoon of a metaquartzite thin section.  Note compressed and fractured Quartz grains and the break is through the grains.  The space between the grains is recrystallized quartz. Public Domain sketch.
I see pieces of sandstone virtually every day of my life but rarely give them a second thought.  However, trained geologists can determine a wealth of information from what appears as a simple “stone.”  Universities teach entire courses on the identification and classification of sandstones (I know from past experience).  I read somewhere that several hundred classification schemes have been proposed for sandstone---that appears to be overkill!  I also read about collectors specializing in acquiring vials/jars of unconsolidated sand from localities around the world.  Next time that you visit a beach or a river collect a small bottle of sand and take it home and examine particles under a scope.  I think that you will be surprised with the complexity of the different grains.

McBride, E. F. and Milliken, K. L. 2006. Giant calcite-cemented concretions, Dakota Formation, central Kansas, USA. Sedimentology, v.53, p. 1161-1179.