Report on the Geology of the Public Lands of Maine and Massachusetts

The Allagash, St.John, St.Francis, Madawaska, and Tobique Rivers, and the St.Lawrence at Rivière-du-Loup

James T. Hodge, July-August 1837

In 1836 the legislatures of the States of Maine and Massachusetts ordered that a geological survey be undertaken of the public lands belonging to Massachusetts and to Maine, located in the state of Maine. The reports were undertaken by the Geologist of the State of Maine, Charles T. Jackson.

This text transcribed below is part of the second report, presented to the Legislature on 4 April 1838. (For the first report, and further information about the reports, see the page on the 1836 Report by Charles Jackson).

In June 1837, James T. Hodge, assistant to the Geologist, undertook a trip to examine the geology of the lands belonging to Maine and Massachusetts in the "Allagash Section," from the Penobscot to the St.Lawrence River.  Leaving from Bangor on June 9, Hodge travelled up the Penobscot River, through Chesuncook Lake, Moosehead Lake, into the Allagash River.  The first twelve pages of his report is a detailed description of those sections of his trip.

Below is the last part of his report which describes his trip from 28 July through 21 August up the Allagash and St.John, up the Madawaska and Lake Temiscouata to the St.Lawrence at Riviere-du-Loup, then back down the St. Francis to the St.John and from there to the Tobique River.  His survey included all of this area because much of it was all claimed by the state of Maine (see the Border Dispute page). Of particular interest are his observations of the communities along the St.Lawrence River.

Because the purpose of the survey was to report on the economic potential of the area, with an eye on geological structures, soil quality, timber quality, etc., most of the report is focused on the natural characteristics of the area.  There are however also some mentions of the people he met along the way.

Second Annual Report on the Geology of the Public Lands belonging to the two states of Massachusetts and Maine. By C.T. Jackson, Geological Surveyor. Boston: Dutton and Wentworth, 1838.

Mr. Hodge's Report on the Allagash section, from the Penobscot to the St. Lawrence Rivers.

July 1837

1838. HOUSE NO. 70.      59

On the 28th, four miles above the Grand Falls on the Allagash,
we met with argillaceous slate, running N.E. b. N., S.W. b. S.
This is succeeded by banks of clay and gravel, until a little above the
falls we find micaceous and argillaceous slate ; and at the falls the
latter rock, forming the entire bed and shores of the stream. It dips
75° S.S.E., is of poor quality, and gullied full of deep pot-holes.
At the falls the river is divided by a small island, on each side of
which it pitches over the rough slate rocks 25 feet, nearly perpendi-
cularly. The banks just below are precipitous, and of about the same
height. The country in the vicinity has been burnt over, and the rough
ledges of slate appear every where above the soil. Through these
the portage extends about 25 rods on the southern side. Below, the
slate dips 70° S.E. From the falls to the mouth of the Allagash,
the water is shallow and quick ; the immediate shores continue low,
and are formed of gravel. Before we reach the mouth, the river
makes a large bend or "ox-bow," after passing which we find it ex-
pands into a wide bay, at its confluence with the Walloostook. This
bay is filled with small islands and their banks are covered with a
luxuriant growth of grass.

On the 29th, we continued down the St. John, which is formed
by the confluence of the Walloostook and Allagash. It is a broad
deep river, running quick, often with rapids dangerous to small boats,
by their swell, and is bordered by high banks of sand and gravel,
sometimes ferruginous, which frequently contain beds of blue and
yellow clay. Through these argillaceous slate, occasionally appears,
running from N.E. S.W. to E.N.E. S.S.W. 1½ miles down the
St. John, dipping to the S.E. ; a little below 75° N.N.W. On the
shores are boulders of quartz, slate, and red sandstone, and grau-
wacke in small pieces. The first settlement is nearly opposite the
mouth of the St. Francois, 16 miles from the mouth of the Allagash.
Four miles farther down is a rich island, inhabited by a former citi-
zen of Kennebec county. Another, below, supports a family from
the western part of the state ; while two other "Yankees" live on


the southern bank of the river near by. These, with Mr. John Ba-
ker, who lives at the mouth of the Meriumpticook, are the only
Americans on the river.

The numerous islands are composed of a rich alluvial soil, which
yields heavy crops of grain, particularly wheat, and supports a fine
growth of hard wood, such as elm, maple, ash, and bass. Most of
these islands are taken possession of, and are cultivated by settlers.
The intervales in the upper settlements are high, and the country
behind rolls back in swells, forming high ranges of hills. These
abound in the sugar or rock maple tree, birch, and pine. The for-
mer is of great importance to the inhabitants, as they derive from it
all their sugar and molasses. At night we reached Baker's 36 miles
from the mouth of the Allagash.

After leaving Baker's I passed down to the mouth of the Mada-
waska river ; thence up that stream to Temiscouata lake, across the
Grand Portage to a little village on the St. Lawrence, called the
Riviere du Loup, and returned down the St. Francois to the St.
John again.

On the St. Francois our boat was overturned, and I lost, together
with our provisions and a part of our baggage, most of my notes for
the preceding fortnight. I have restored them as well as I was able
from memory.

From the mouth of the Meriumpticook to the Madawaska river is
twelve miles. The banks are generally high, composed of gravel
and clay, and the same kind of slate so common above. The stream
is swift, and the country around hilly ; there are, however, fine in-
tervales on the borders. These are taken up by French settlers,
many of whom have already become wealthy in this country.

Excepting the fall near the mouth, we found the Madawaska a fine
stream to navigate, the water being rather high, and running with a
gentle current. The country on the western side is hilly, but the
banks seldom exceed twelve feet in height. They are generally not
more than eight feet high, are composed of loam and sand.
On the eastern side the country often extends back into rich inter-
vales. Ledges of rock occur only in three places below the lake,
and are argillaceous slate, running N.E. S.W. and nearly verti-
cal. The forests are entirely of tile "black growth;" hard wood

1838. HOUSE-No. 70.                61

is scarce, and pine not abundant. There are about fifteen houses
on the river which belong to the Canadian French.

We arrived at Temiscouata lake on Friday, August 4th. This is
24 Miles N. from the St. John, and extends nearly N. about 24
miles farther. High hills generally well-wooded surround the Lake
on all sides, but they do not abound in pines, although there are
enough to employ, every winter, a lumbering party from Madawaska.

The territory for six miles around the Lake was granted by the
French to Col. Frazier, who lived on the west side, near the foot of
the Grand Portage. He died the last spring, and a part of it now
belongs to citizens of Maine. At the foot of the Lake is a ledge of
argillaceous slate, running N.E. b. E., S.W. b. W., which contains
a little graphite. Several other similar ledges occur on the western
side of the Lake, and one of a coarse conglomerate or grau-wacke.
On the eastern side, opposite the foot of the Portage, is a high preci-
pitous hill, composed of grau-wacke slate lying in a nearly vertical
position, and having a N.E. and S.W. direction. At its base are
ledges of grau-wacke, which are filled with madrepores. They are
so numerous that the rock has been burned for lime, and plastering
made from it, when all the lime was derived merely from the coral-
lines. We have thus again arrived at the grau-wacke formation on
the other side of the Ktaadn mountains, the centre of elevation.

Temiscouata lake and the Madawaska river are of the greatest
importance to the state of Maine, and to Great Britain. By this
route the most ready communication may be had from Madawaska
to the sea-coast. It is also the most direct route between New
Brunswick and Lower Canada ; their mail traverses it regularly.
Nearly all the supplies for Madawaska come from the St. Law-
rence ; first across the Grand Portage, a road cut by the English
from St. Andre to Temiscouata Lake, 40 miles; and thence by
boats to the St. John. There is much more travelling here than
is generally supposed. The day before we reached the Portage,
there arrived twenty-one horses and carts, with supplies for the
Great Falls on the St. John. Families of emigrants are also con-
tinually passing over ; we met several on the road with their loads
of furniture moving from Canada.

Having learned that there was a piroque or French log-canoe on


the St. Francois, which I could probably purchase, I left the batteau
at the Lake, with directions that it should be sent down to the
mouth of the Madawaska, by some trustworthy traveller, and set
out to cross the Portage, on the 6th of August, our baggage in one
of the French carts, which was returning ; ourselves on foot. My
object in going to a settlement was to obtain a new supply of pro-
visions, which could not be procured in Madawaska.

For the first four or five miles the road passes through a tract of
burnt lands ; the growth is spruce, cedar, fir, &c.; the surface un-
even with no high hills. The country then becomes more rough ;
the road passing over hills of considerable elevation, and through
deep swamps. Many of the hills abound with fine sugar maple
trees, and the country is adapted for settling ; but the present inhab-
itants choose those spots, which are not encumbered with hard wood,
and are the most easily cleared. I noticed only one ledge of rock
this day, which was slate about six miles from the Lake.

We reached the first house at night, having come sixteen miles.
The inhabitants were uneducated French people, who knew little of
what was passing excepting on the Grand Portage. They express-
ed much surprise when I told them the ground they lived upon was
in dispute between Great Britain and "the States."

The next day we continued our journey ; but owing to the bad
state of the road the horse could get along but slowly. I therefore
left him and the men to make the best of their way, while I con-
tinued on. After travelling a little more than a mile I came to
ledges of red and green slate in alternating beds, their direction is
N.N.E., S.S.W dip, 75° E.S.E. Five miles farther on is the
St. Francois ; it is little more than a brook, where the road crosses
it. Beyond this for two or three miles in extent, the surface is
at intervals formed entirely of rounded boulders of quartz rock.
Their average size is not far from eighteen inches in diameter, and
they lie one upon another, and exposed as if they once formed the
bottom of mountain torrents or large streams.

Six miles west from the St. Francois, the road crosses a consid-
erable stream, running to the north, and emptying into the St. Law-
rence. It is called the Riviere Verte. Its banks, at the portage, are
15 or 20 feet high, and composed entirely of red slate. The water
is colored red, as are all the brooks which flow through this soil.

1838. HOUSE-No. 70.                63

In this vicinity are the ranges of high lands which separate the wa-
ters running north from those running south. They form some high
hills, which extend in a N. and S. direction, so that the road crosses
them all. They are not difficult to cross, but have been considered of
sufficient elevation to receive names, as La Fourche, Mt. La Verte,

When within four miles of the St. Lawrence, I came out upon an
extensive plain, covered with fields of grass and grain, houses and
barns. It is a thickly settled spot for more than a mile. The inhabi-
tants are poor, living on the coarsest fare. Every one, however, owns
one or two good Canadian horses and cows. I stopped at one of
the houses to obtain something to eat. A large tin pan of "bonny
clabber" and a huge crust of sour brown bread were set before me,
these were all the house afforded, and nearly all that the inhabitants
require. Walking without food for eight hours enabled me to do
ample justice even to this. I hired the man of the house to take me
on to the Riviere du Loup, in his cart. The distance was nine
miles, and it would be necessary for him to return late in the even-
ing; for this he charged 80 cents.

When we first came in sight of the St. Lawrence, from the top of
a high hill the view was most striking, and much more interesting to
me from having been shut up in the woods for the two previous
months. Directly below us lays the broad river, extending across
9 or 10 miles, its surface broken by a few islands and reefs ; and two
ships riding at anchor near the shore. Beyond, extended ranges of
uncultivated hills, parallel with the river. The sun was just going
down behind them, and gilding the whole scene with its parting rays.
St. Andre is the name of the first parish ; it contains few houses.
Riviere du Loup, the parish six miles below, is much larger; it con-
tains about a hundred houses, and a catholic church. We passed
the river of the same name, a broad shallow stream, a mile or two
back from the St. Lawrence, thence over several hills to the St.
Lawrence, and along its side, a part of the way under a precipitous
bank of grau-wacke on our right, twenty or more feet high. This
rock forms curious ridges, running parallel with river, and at con-
siderable distances from each other. The stratification is irregular,
as if it had been once disturbed. The principal street is through the


plateau between two of these ridges. Directly above it the rock lies
in large tabular masses, the seams of stratification inclining in different
directions. These lie in the second ridge from the river.

I was detained here three days, the 8, 9, and 10th of August.
The two last days it rained almost incessantly. I was treated with
great hospitality and kindness by Mr. Davidson, who has charge of
the saw-mills at the falls of the Riv du Loup, and of all the business
of supplying the English ships with deal from this place. These
falls are a mile back from the St. Lawrence; in this distance the
river descends at least 150 feet ; about 70 feet at the second pitch,
above which there is a mill. The view is very striking and romantic,
--the river falling with a continued roar over this high precipice, and
afterwards rushing between higher banks of slate, through which it
has excavated for itself, a narrow passage, and which now rise per-
pendicularly above it from 60 to 100 feet. The slate is of the red
and greenish kinds noticed above; it easily crumbles, and is worn
away by the current. The saw-mill is supplied with timber from the
head of the Riviere du Loup, where it is in great abundance, as it is
around the head of the Riviere Verte.

After it is cut into deal, or thick plank, it is conveyed to near the
mouth of the river in a sluice, which is a mile and a quarter long, in
fourteen minutes. It is thence carried in large batteaux to the ships
in the stream. Lumber is exported from the provinces in the form
of deal, partly on account of the convenience of stowage, but princi-
pally to avoid the high duties on boards, clapboards, and shingles.
After the deal has arrived in Europe, it is most of it sawed again,
each piece into five boards.

The land on the St. Lawrence is good, and pretty well cultivated.
Along the river are fine meadows, which yield abundant crops of
grain, and both salt and English hay. This vicinity is not so subject
to frost, as the country back. The large plain I passed over, nine
miles from the St. Lawrence, produced the heaviest crops of grass
I have ever seen ; but their grain is almost sure to be cut off.

On the 11th we returned as far as the St. Francois,--21 miles.
The rains had flooded the country, and the last nine miles were al-
most impassable. I found on the road the owner of the piroque,
which I purchased, and at night we encamped on the St. Francois.

1838. HOUSE-No. 70. 65

This river, where it is crossed by the Grand Portage is a small
stream, but being now flowed by the rains, may be ten or twelve
feet across. In descending we find it often very narrow and shoal,
hardly able to float our canoe ; and overgrown for miles with elder
bushes, and obstructed by jams of trees, and full of crooks and turns,
through all which the current would hurry us much swifter than is
at all consistent with safety. The country around is low and flat,
producing only spruce, juniper fir cedar, and some birch. About
twelve miles below the portage appear two ledges of quartz rock,
running N.E. and S.W. very compact and hard. As we came
rapidly round a sharp turn, not far from seventeen miles below the
Grand Portage, our canoe was suddenly brought up by two fir trees,
lying across the stream. Their thick branches prevented her going
through ; she came round, filled, and rolled under. We remained
in the trees. That night and the next morning we collected what
we could find of our provisions and baggage, and as there was not
a day's allowance of the former, we were compelled to hurry through
to Madawaska, as fast as possible. We passed down twelve miles
with the current, as rapid as it was above, more crooked, and much
obstructed by jams. We then came to a large lake about eight
miles long and one wide. It was surrounded by hills, on which pine
grew abundantly, but of small size. The shores were hid by the
water, which extended up among the trees. We passed through
this lake, about eight miles below, and encamped. Pine continued
plenty all the way from the lake, and balm of gilead, and ash,
abound on the banks.

On the 14th, we crossed another lake about four miles long, soon
after three in a string, like the Umaskis or Sausage lakes, and at
night another, five miles long, and encamped at the foot. We were
obliged to make one portage of a quarter of a mile by a jam. The
country through which we passed is poor for settling, but rich in
pine timber. The banks vary much in height, being for two miles
on the western side of the river from fifteen to thirty feet high,
while the opposite shore is little above the water. They are com-
posed of sand and gravel and a little clay. Argillaceous slate occurs
in one place, which is at least 40 miles below the last ledge we


passed. The strata run N.E. b E., S.W. b W., and are nearly

The next day we arrived early at the mouth of the St. Francois,
which is six miles below the last lake. Soon after we reached
Mr. Hunnewell's, on Sugar Isle, where we were liberally supplied
with every thing we required. We then continued down to Mr.

The distance from the Grand Portage to the St. John, following
the course of the St. Francois, cannot be far from eighty-five miles;
in a direct line not much more than half this distance. It is upon
the whole, a good pine country, and there are some excellent water
privileges at the outlets of the lakes ; the best of these I noticed
was taken possession of by the usual way of felling trees around.
But the poor soil, and difficult navigation of the waters, are great
objections to this region. On the lower lake, there has already been
some timber cut. I find the inhabitants every where are not scrupu-
lous in cutting timber on the public lands.

About fourteen miles up the Meriumpticook occur argillaceous
slates ; which according to Mr. Baker's account may be obtained in
large thin sheets.

On the 17th, we continued down the St. John. At the mouth
of Madawaska we again took our batteau, which had been sent down
from Temiscouata Lake. The next day we arrived at the Great
Falls. In the clay bank near Grand Isle, examined last year, I
discovered at this time the trunk of a large brown ash tree. It lay
nearly horizontally ten feet below the surface and as many feet above
the water. It was somewhat decomposed, but I succeeded in get-
ting out some large pieces of it. Near it were spruce buds, imper-
fectly preserved, and sticks of various shapes.

The night of the 18th, we spent at the Great Falls of the St.
John. The next day we procured some provisions of Mr. Coffin,
agent and mill-right of Sir John Caldwell, who assisted us in every
way, and then passed down the river as far as the mouth of the
Tobique. Having been directed to ascend this river, in order to
gain some correct information as to the sandstone and plaster rock,
said to occur on its banks, we left the St. John on the morning

1838. HOUSE-No.70. 67

of the 20th, and at night encamped about fifteen miles up the

In coming into the Tobique water from the St. John, one is
struck with its clear appearance, it being very transparent and dis-
tinct from that of the main river. The banks at its mouth are from
6 to 25 feet high. The Indian village which is on the northern
bank, contains only about twenty huts. A few roads above this we
meet with argillaceous slate, similar to that so common on the St.
John. A mile and a half above, it occurs again, for near half a mile,
forming steep banks of eighty feet or more high. Between these
the river has worn out a narrow passage, which is called the Narrows,
and which in spring, when the water is high, is exceedingly dangerous
to navigate. At present the water is very shoal ; but still runs quick,
and the river abounding in "gravel beds," makes it difficult to as-
cend. The slate runs N.E. and S.W.; it frequently contains small
beds of white carbonate of lime ; which, however, are not of suf-
ficient extent to make them of any importance. The strata appear
perpendicular. A mile farther up they dip 60° S.E. In continu-
ing up the river I noticed successively ledges of the following des-
cription. Quartz rock dipping 70° N. W. b W. Compact silice-
ous rock dipping 20° N.W., and crossed by seams, resting uncom-
formably upon argillaceous slate, which dips 80° S.S.E. Above
this by a saw-mill, which is six miles from the mouth of the Tobique,
siliceous slate, dipping 60° N.W. b N.; very near this the same
rock dipping 60° S.E.; then quartz rock. A mile above the last
we came to a dam, which is just made across the river by Mr.
Lombard, of Augusta. Here are to be erected saw-mills, for which
there is a fine privilege. The banks are ten or fifteen feet high,
formed entirely of new red sandstone. It lies in strata nearly hori-
zontal, and where exposed to the current and to the weather is un-
sound and crumbling. No large pieces can be got out. This is
called fourteen miles from the mouth. A mile above we encamped.
The next day, (21st August,) we continued up the river-noticed
coarse conglomerate or sandstone overlaying the new red sandstone,
strata apparently horizontal. To the mouth of the Wapskenheagan,
banks of red sandstone, and red sand derived from the decomposition


of the rock, continually occur, sometimes rising 60 feet above the
river. A few rods up this stream are high cliffs of red gypsum
filled with veins of white fibrous selenite which vary from one-half
an inch to two inches in thickness. The same rock appears on the
Tobique, two miles above, and the cliff there, which rises nearly
100 feet perpendicularly from the river, is probably a continuation
of that on the Wapskenhegan. On the face of the cliff are seen
these veins of white gypsum, and also beds of green gypsum. The
rock is crumbling, and at the base of the precipice are heaps of loose
pieces which have fallen from its sides.

The rock appears to dip 20° E.N.E.

A little below on the western side it dips 20° E. Though the
plaster rock is here of poor quality, it will answer as well as the
best for fertilizing the soil ; and it now lies in heaps ready to be
thrown into boats, which in the early part of the season could navi-
gate this river without much difficulty. We spent a part of the
next day in searching for a salt spring, which is said to exist some-
where in this vicinity. We were however unable to find it. There
is little doubt but that there is such a spring near by.

Though it would have been pleasant to have made farther exam-
inations in this interesting and important section, I did not feel au-
thorized to spend more time out of the limits of the State, and there-
fore returned immediately.

The islands in the Tobique, of which there are many, are low,
and covered with a fine growth of hard wood, particularly elm ; and
groves of these trees are frequent on the shores of the Tobique.
Hemlock is also abundant ; a tree we have not seen any where else,
excepting on the Penobscot waters. Of pine there are said to be
large quantities about the river. This will soon become an impor-
tant section to the inhabitants of Maine ; not only for lumbering,
but for obtaining plaster, and the sandstone for linings for furnaces.
Here is the formation, where bituminous coal is expected to be
found, there being every indication of its existing in the vicinity.

JAMES T. HODGE, Assistant

Return to Visits to the Upper St.John River Valley

Last revised 26 Sep 2004