Clark County, Ohio

History and Genealogy



Physical Features


From The History of Clark County, Ohio
Chicago: W.H. Beers & Co., 1881 - Page 239


Mad River enters the county a little distance west of the middle of its northern boundary line, and, flowing in a southerly and southwesterly course, leaves it at a point near the southwestern corner. The principal tributaries to Mad River in this county are Logonda or Buck Creek, Chapman's Creek, Donnel's Creek, Honey Creek, and a few smaller streams. Beaver Creek is a large branch of Buck Creek.

The Little Miami River rises in the southeast part of the county, and, flowing in a southwest direction, leaves the county near the village of Clifton, at about the middle of the southern boundary. North Fork and Lisbon Fork are principal branches of the Little Miami; there are many other streams of less magnitude, which flow into one or the other of these principal rivers.

Taking all these water-courses into consideration, the county is abundantly supplied with water for agricultural and industrial purposes, besides the ample drainage afforded.

"The valley of Mad River is the most marked topographical feature of hte county. Rising in the island of Huron Shale (black slate), just east of Bellefontaine, its source has an altitude of 1,438 feet above the tide water, which is as great as that of any other point in the State. The stream then passes over the edge of the Corniferous limestone, over a considerable outcrop of Helderberg limestone, in Champaign County, and finds its way to Clark County over a flat tract of country which is underlain by the Niagra limestone, but at such depth that it is nowhere exposed in the bed of the stream. Swampy borders of considerable extent are found along its course in Champaign and the northern part of Clark Counties, which help to bestow upon the stream its comparatively permanent character. These borders, locally called 'cat-head prairies,' consist largely of vegetable accumulations, and are peculiarly retentive of moisture. Ditches draw the water but for a very short distance on either side, and therefore it is almost impossible to drain these tracts.

"The tributaries of Mad River share in the peculiarities that it possesses, in the districts through which they flow. Those that enter the river near Springfield have wrought out picturesque and beautiful valleys in the Cliff limestone, as, for instance, Buck Creek and Mill Creek, which crosses the Dayton Pike two miles below the city. The configuration of the valley at the junction of Mill Creek and Mad River indicates a long-continued history, in which the streams have occupied very different geographical relations from those now to be observed. A solitary remnant of their denuding action is found in a little island of Cliff rock, of three-fourths of an acre in area, that rises thirty feet above the general level in the angle between the two streams.

"Almost all the streams of the county, great and small, have their springs and earlier courses in drift deposits. They flow for awhile, many of them, indeed, through their whole extent, in broad and very shallow valleys, that they have wrought in the surface accumulations of clay and gravel. In such cases, the width of the valleys is greatly disproportioned to their depth. On the eastern side of the county, the descent of a few feet — not more than twenty-five feet below the general level — brings us to a broad, flat plain, one-half a mile in width, perhaps. A stream of insignificant proportions meanders through the valley, but seems lost in the expanse. Indeed, the single-spanned bridge in the midst of a level tract is often our only initimation that we are crossing a valley. The several forks of the Little Miami in Green and Madison Townships furnish good examples of this sort. It may be noted, in passing, that these broad and shallow valleys constitute some of the finest agricultural districts of the county.

"The present topography of the county is to be mainly attributed to erosive agencies, which are still in progress. All that is wanting to complete the horizontal plain of rock which originally filled the area of the county has been carried away by running water. The surface of the county has been worn and chiseled away by these agencies to a degree quite beyond a ready recognition, for these channels have been silted up by the drift deposits so as to be greatly reduced in dimensions, or even wholly concealed from view, unless some accidental section exposes them. The present surface of the county is irregular, through a considerable portion of it, the gravels and clays having been left in hills and hollows; but it is certain that the rocky floor has a far more uneven surface.

"The lowest land in the county is found in the valley of Mad River, in the southwest corner of Mad River Township. It is about 325 feet above low water mark of the Ohio River at Cincinnati. From this lowest level, taken as a floor, the whole county is built up to the extent of 100 feet, with the uppermost beds of the Blue Limestone or Cincinnati Group. The average thickness of the Clinton limestone, the next story of the county, does not exceed twenty-five feet, and the heaviest single section of the Niagra group gives seventy-five feet in addition to these measurements. The deposits of the drift formation are built up in many instances from 75 feet to 100 feet above the rocky floor.

"The highest land of the county, then, is from 600 to 625 feet above low water mark at Cincinnati, or from 1,025 feet to 1,050 feet above tide water. Some isolated points may exceed even this elevation by a few feet. The summits of Pleasant Township have probably as great an elevation as any land in the county.

"The sand and gravel are left over the surface of the country in picturesque knolls and ridges, which add greatly to its natural beauty, and which, in the advantages they offer for building sites and road materials, form no mean element in its desirability for human habitation. These knolls and ridges are not the remnants of more extensive beds that covered the whole face of the country originally, as might be thought at the first inspection, but they were deposited where we find them, and in the same form that they now possess. This is clearly proved by the lines of deposition that their sections furnish. The ridges often inclose basin-shaped depressions of small extent, which can be accounted for in no other way than as the results of the original deposition of the surrounding masses. These depressions are particularly noticeable in the northeastern corner of the county, near Catawba."

One prominent branch of business in this county springs from the vast amount of limestone existing here, large quantities of which are yearly converted into dressed building-stone, rough stone, lime, etc., which are thus spoken of in the "Geological Survey of Ohio:"

"We come next to what has been denominated the Springfield stone, viz.: the building-stone courses which form so constant an element in the Niagra rocks of Ohio at this horizon. It is separated from the West Union limestone by a distinct boundary. As this portion of the series is so well developed and exhibited in the Springfield quarries, it seems appropriate to designate it as the Springfield limestone, and this name has accordingly been attached to this division in all portions of Southwest Ohio in which it is shown. It is a prominent member of the Highland County series, as will be seen in the report of the geology of that county, subserving there the same purpose as a building-stone that it does here.

"The Springfield limestone is a magnesian carbonate, containing generally about 50 per cent of carbonate of lime, and 40 per cent of carbonate of magnesia. Some of the remaining substances — a small percentage of silica, and also of alumina — stand in the way of its being burned into an approved lime. There is, however, no uniformity in its composition.

"The prevailing color of this rock in Clark County is a light drab, though several blue courses occur. To the southward, the rock is mainly blue. The desirability of the light-colored stone for fine work is sometimes lessened by faint reddish streaks through its substance.

"The thickness of this division is never more than twenty feet, and seldom exceeds fifteen feet in this portion of the State. At Holcomb's, it is thirteen feet. Like the other members of the series, it expands to the southward, reaching at Hillsboro its maximum in Ohio of forty-five feet.

"Beginning in the Springfield quarries at the bottom of the series, we find several heavy courses, from ten to eighteen inches thick overlying the West Union cliff. These lowest courses are blue in color, and, despite their massive appearance, are generally treacherous as building-stones. Where exposed to the weather, they lose, in a few years, their dressed surfaces, their seams continually widen, and, in a word, they show themselves to be undergoing a state of certain, though slow, disintegration.

"The blue courses generally, even when found above the lowest beds, show the same tendency, and should at least be carefully tested before being used in structures where they can be attacked by atmospheric agencies. The drab courses are almost all durable building-stones in all ordinary situations. Making up as they do the bulk of this division, they furnish an invaluable supply of building-stone to Springfield and the adjacent country.

The character of the Springfield lime deserves some notice. It is the standard of excellence as a finishing lime in the Cincinnati market and for all Southwestern Ohio. It is carried in considerable quantity into Kentucky, and finds its way even to New Orleans. The qualities of the lime that especially recommend it are its mildness, its whiteness and its strength.

The quality of lime annually produced in Springfield and its immediate vicinity is very considerable. It is not less than 500,000 bushels, and during some years it has largely exceeded this amount. The parties who deal in Springfield stone are the lime-burners also — the two branches of business being necessarily connected, as will be understood from the relations that the building-rock and limestone bear to each other."

The timber of the original forests consisted of beech, maple (sugar), oak, hickory, poplar, walnut, and some ash. Of course, this was not the exact list for every township, but in a general way these were the principal varieties. In some localities, the beech prevailed; in others, the oak was the most common. There were no pines, hemlocks or chestnuts.

On the tract where Fern Cliff Cemtery is now located are the remnants of what appears to have been a botanical garden, wherein were planted a great variety of such herbs and roots as the Indians used as remedies, or for seasoning their nondescript messes of meats and vegetables. It is not known to have been especially planted, but the great number of different botanical specimens on so small an area of ground, together with the well-known medicinal character of some of them, makes this explanation plausible, at least.

The soil of nearly every part of the county is more or less impregnated with lime; even the clays seem to be commingled with a lime "drift." This natural condition of the soil makes wheat-raising a prominent feature. This crop, therefore, is the leading one, as will be seen by the statistical table in another part of this volume. The rich bottom lands of the valleys are among the best corn lands in the country, and a large acreage of this crop is regularly planted. Of course the prospective market value of any crop regulates, to a great degree, the extent of its development, and it may not be surprising that the corn product sometimes exceeds all others in value here. Stock-raising is one of the special interests in which many of the farmers of this county have been long and profitably engaged; in fact, the breeding of fine stock was begun here at a date as early as at any other place in this part of the State.