First Report on the Geology of the Public Lands in the State of Maine

(The upper St.John, Madawaska, and Tobique Rivers)

Charles T. Jackson, October 1836

In March 1836, the legislatures of the States of Maine and Massachusetts passed resolves, calling for a geological survey of the public lands in the State of Maine owned by Maine and Massachusetts (see below for text of Resolves). On 25 June of that year, the Maine Board of Internal Improvements appointed Charles T. Jackson, a geologist from Boston, to undertake this survey. Jackson accepted his commission on 1 July.

Although the survey covered the entire state, I have reproduced below only that part of Jackson's Report that dealt with his travels in the upper St.John River valley.  He begins at the Tobique River, in part because the Tobique river gorge is revealing of the geological structures to the west of it that lie within the state of Maine. He then proceeds up the St.John River to the Madawaska settlement, where he comments not only on the geology and natural characteristics but also on the French-speaking population of that region. Jackson was in that region during the month of October 1836.

Since the survey is meant to detail the natural resources of the state, it is focused on geology, rocks, timber, etc. rather than on people.  There are however references to the people and settlements he encounters in his voyage.

The Report was delived to the legislatures of Maine and Massachusetts in March 1837. The transcription below is from the Report published by the Massachusetts Senate, pages 24-34.

For the Second Report on the Geology of the Public Lands in the State of Maine, covering the travels of James T. Hodge in the summer of 1837, see my page on Hodge's Report.

Title page of the Report

Title Page of Report

Resolves of the Legislatures of Maine and Massachusetts, and instructions of the Board of Internal Improvements:

Resolve of the Legislature of Massachusetts, passed March 21, 1836

Resolved, That the Governor with the advice of the Council, is hereby authorized to employ some suitable person or persons to make a Geological Survey of any lands in Maine, where such Survey, together with the various observations which the surveyors will have the opportunity to make, will probably lead to a more accurate knowledge of the worth of the public domain.


Resolve of the Legislature of Maine, passed March 28, 1836

Resolved, That (in the language of our chief magistrate) a Geological Survey of this State, upon a basis commensurate with the magnitude and variety of its territory, is an enterprise that may rightfully claim the encouragement of every class of industry, as involving more or less of probable utility to each and is intimately connected with the advancement of the arts and sciences, of agriculture, manufactures and commerce.

Resolved, That the Board of Internal Improvements cause a Geological Survey of this State to be made as soon as circumstances will admit, commencing in the early part of the next summer, and they are hereby empowered to appoint and contract with some suitable person or persons to perform the same.

Resolved, That it is with pleasure we learn the intention of Massachusetts to join us in prosecuting so much of said Survey as shall pertain to the Public Lands--that we cordially embrace the opportunity of co-operating with her in this design; and that the Board of Internal Improvements are hereby directed to take such measures as may be necessary to effect this portion of the contemplated Survey.

Resolved, That it shall be the duty of the Board of Internal Improvements to lay before the Legislature, at its annual sessions, a detailed account of the progress of the survey, together with the expenditures in prosecuting the same.

Resolved, That the person who shall be employed to make the Geological Survey, shall be required to select three complete suits of specimens of all the rocks and minerals of Maine and deposit one of them in the Public Buildings as the property of the State and also one in each College in the State.

Resolved, That the sum of Five Thousand Dollars be appropriated from the Treasury, subject to the discretion of the Board of Internal Improvements, and to be expended by them in carrying on said Geological Survey


State of Maine
In the Board of Internal Improvements
June 25, 1836

Ordered, That Messrs. Hodgdon, Pilsbury, and Burnham, be authorized to contract with Charles T. Jackson of Boston, to commence a Geological Survey of the State, subject to the instructions of the President of this Board, in pursuance of a Resolve of March 28, 1836.

The section here begins with the Tobique. Other sections transcribed here: Grand FallsMadawaska Settlement


Having engaged our passage in a horse tow-boat, we
set out for the Grand Falls, carrying our provisions and
camping apparatus with us, and travelling slowly up the
St. John's river, at the rate of 15 miles per diem, so that
we could have leisure to explore the banks of the river
by walking along beside or in advance of the boat, and
putting our specimens on board when it stopped. In the
vicinity of Woodstock, large dykes of trap rocks are seen
cutting through the slate and limestone, and running in an
E. N. E. and W. S. W. direction. We found the strata
every where visible, as they were exposed by the river,
which was low at the time, and disclosed their outcrop-

1837. SENATE--No. 89. 25

ping edges. We noted the direction of the limestone and
slate in many hundreds of places along the river's banks,
as we proceeded, and found it to be E. N. E. and W. S.
W., and the dip W. N. W. Many dykes were observed,
cutting through the limestone, with veins of calcareous
spar accompanying them. Fossil shells, such as terebra-
tulæ and trilobites, were found, but they are rare along
the river's course. Large and perfect specimens of tere-
bratulæ were found in blocks of grey limestone, which we
traced to their origin on the Tobique River.

Masses of red sandstone occurred also in abundance, as
also did large pieces of beautiful red jasper, carnelian and
chalcedony, which were nuxed with rounded and water-
Worn pieces of amygdaloidal trap. All these minerals we
traced to the Tobique--not a specimen being found after
we passed above the mouth of that river. The occur-
rence of red sand-stone, in erratic blocks, along the course
of the St. Johns, served to satisfy me, that the coal mea-
sures were some where in the vicinity; and I am of opin-
iou, that this substance may be found between the Tobi-
que and the Grand Lake, on the St. John. We know
that it has been found at the latter place, and there is a
good prospect of its being found continuous to the Tobi-
que ; for there, that formation exists, and a powerful bed
of gypsum has been found, embraced in the new red
sandstone at that place. I had previously predicted that
this formation would strike the St. John at this point, and
hoped to have found it on the western side of that river,
but it has not yet been observed extending so far. There
is, however, no impossibility of its existing on the public
lands, west of the St. John, for there are frequent inter-
ruptions in the extent of the coal measures, and an inde-


pendent coal basin may as well occur there, as on the op-
posite side of the river.

No fragments of sandstone were observed in the bed of
the Aroostic at its confluence with the St. John, all the
transported masses of rock found there, consisting of strat-
ified blue limestone and argillaceous slate. If it should
happen to be the case, that the direction of the sand stone
strata, is such as to confine it to the eastern side of the
St. John River, it would then, if continuous, extend to
the lands belonging to Maine and Massachusetts, north
of the Grand Falls, and will be found on the range of
highlands, forming the northern boundary of the State.
In a future excursion, I propose to trace the known coal-
bearing strata of New Brunswick, up the St. John, from
the Grand Lake coal mines to the Aroostic; and thence,
if the strata are found to be continuous, following their
course until they intersect the public lands.

It is certainly a very important fact, that there are large
beds of gypsum on the Tobique River, for that substance
is well known to be exceedingly valuable in agriculture,
and it can be brought down the Tobique and the St. John,
to any point required, on the public lands which lie along
the St. John, within from two to six miles of the river,
while it would be impossible to bring the Nova Scotia
gypsum up the river, on account of the expense of freight,
which would cause its price to rise so high, that it never
could be afforded for agricultural purposes. It may also
be remarked, that gypsum is not subject to any custom-
house charges, and boats are not subject to tonnage duty;
so that the Tobique gypsum is just as valuable to the
State, as if it occurred within the limits of Maine.

The rocks along the course of the St. John, up to the
Grand Falls, consist entirely of stratified blue limestone

1837. SENATE----No. 89. 27

and slate, which are traversed by numerous dykes, and
the rocks rise, in some places along its banks, to the
height of from 200 to 300 feet above the river. Much of
this limestone, I have no doubt, will furnish excellent hy-
draulic cement, a similar rock being used for this purpose
in Quebec. On the Aroostic, good limestone, for the
manufacture of lime, abounds, and much of that on the
St. John, will answer for the same purpose. Iron ores
also occur on the Aroostic, within the limits of Maine, and
about six miles from the boundary line. The details of
our observations on this river, will be seen marked on
the map which I have prepared. It will be remarked,
that there are high banks of diluvial soil resting on
the rocky banks along the river, and that the whole
track along its course to the Grand Falls, possesses
an uncommonly fertile soil, covered with an abundant
growth of forest trees, of every kind found in the
State. This river, below the falls, is broken by numerous
and powerful rapids, through which it is extremely diffi-
cult, and sometimes dangerous to pass in a boat. The
most remarkable of these rapids, are at the Presque Isle,
Tobique, and Salmon Rivers, and between the Salmon
River and the Grand Falls, the two latter being called
the Rapid de Femme and the Rapid Blanche, both of
which are dangerous and difficult to pass with boats.

The present mode of towing heavy flat bottomed boats,
by means of horses, wading along the banks of the river,
is exceedingly tedious; but owing to the rapidity of the
current, and the presence of rocks, breaking the surface of
the water, there is little prospect of steamboats ever being
used in the navigation of the river above Woodstock.

[Grand Falls]

The Grand Falls are produced by the falling of this
river over high ledges of slate and limestone rocks, where


it makes a sudden turn in its course. This cataract is a
most magnificent waterfall, and tumbles by a series of
three successive leaps over the rocks, to the distance of
125 feet, with a tremendous crash and roar, while it
rushes through its high rocky barriers, and whirls its
foaming waters along their course. When the sun's rays
fall upon the mist and spray, perpetually rising from the
cataract, a gorgeous iris is seen floating in the air, waving
its rich colors over the white foam, and forming a beau-
tiful contrast with the sombre rocks, covered with dark
cedars and pines, which overhang the abyss.

Sir John Caldwell has just erected a saw-mill beside
this waterfall, and has constructed a railroad of timber
across the high promontory of land, so as to transport the
deal boards aud logs from the mill, and to the river below
the falls. Although it is sometimes agreeable to see the
useful combined with the beautiful, I do not suppose that
lovers of the picturesque will imagine the beauty of the
falls enhanced, by the erection of saw mills by its side;
nevertheless, if they prove advantageous to the public, we
must yield in matters of taste, to the demands of com-
merce. There is, however, nothing repulsive in the ap-
pearance of these works, and they may be shut out of the
view, if found to detract from its interest. Travellers,
who may visit the Grand Falls, will find many very mag-
nificent scenes, which are peculiar, and will interest even
those who have seen the more stupendous cataract of Ni-
agara. We are indebted to Sir John CaIdwell for many
polite attentions, which we beg leave here to acknowl-

[Madawaska Settlement]

Having engaged two Acadians to carry us up the St.
John to the Madawaska River, in their birch bark canoes,
we set out on our voyage, and examined the shores on

1837. SENATE-No. 89. 29

either side of the river, as we proceeded slowly up against
the current. The St. John is much broader above the
falls than it is below, and there are but few rapids, and
none of them dangerous to the canoes. The boundary
line is but three miles west of the falls, and was marked
by the surveyors who ran the line seven or eight years
since. The whole tract between the Madawaska and
this line, is settled by Acadians, and is known under the
name of the Madawaska settlement. This district was
incorporated as a town, by the State of Maine; but diffi-
culties having ensued, as to the right of jurisdiction, it was
agreed to leave the place in statu quo, until the claims of
the two countries should be adjusted; an injunction being
placed, by mutual agreement, against cutting of the tim-
ber upon the disputed territory. It is well known that
Maine regards the usurpation by the British authorities,
as unjustifiable, her unoffending citizens having been
seized and committed to prison, on no other pretence than
their endeavor to carry into effect the laws of the State to
which they belonged, by calling a town meeting. We
met with Mr. Baker at the Grand Falls. He was one of
the persons arrested at the Madawaska town meeting,
and was subjected to the indignity of a foreign jail. This
gentleman gave us much information relating to the tim-
ber districts of Madawaska, and the means of transporting
the timber down the St. John River.

The population of Madawaska settlement, is estimated
at three thousand souls, nine hundred of whom dwell
above the Little falls. Most of the settlers are descendants
of the French neutrals or Acadians, who were driven by
British violence, from their homes in Nova Scotia, (called
by the French, Acadia,) on the 17th of July, 1775.* These

(* See Halliburton's History of Nova Scotia.)


people at first established themselves above Fredericton,
and subsequently removed above the Grand Falls, and
effected this settlement. The Acadians are a very pecu-
liar people, remarkable for the simplicity of their manners
and their fidelity to their employers. Although they are
said to be "sharp at a bargain," they are remarkably hon-
est, industrious, and respectful; and are polite and hos-
pitable to each other, and to strangers. It is curious to
observe, how perfectly they have retained all their Freuch
peculiarities. The forms of their houses, the decorations
of their apartments, dress, modes of cookery, &c., are ex-
actly such as they originally were in the land of their an-
cestors. They speak a kind of patois, or corrupted
French, but perfectly understand the modern language, as
spoken in Paris. But few persons can be found who un-
derstand or speak English, and these are such as from the
necessities of trade, have learned a few words of the lan-
guage. None of the women or children either under-
stand or speak English.

The Acadians are a cheerful, contented, and happy peo-
ple, social in their intercourse, and never pass each other
without a kind salutation. While they thus retain all the
marked characteristics of the French peasantry, it is a
curious fact that they appear to know but little respecting
the country from which they originated, and but few of
them have the least idea of its geographical situation.
Thus, we were asked, when we spoke of France, if it was
not separated from England by a river, or if it was
near the coast of Nova Scotia; and one inquired if Beth-
lehem, where Christ was born, was not a town in France!
Since they have no schools, and their knowledge is but
traditional, it is not surprising that they should remain
thus ignorant of geography and history. I can account

1837. SENATE---N0. 89. 31

for their understanding the pure French language, by the
circumstance that they are supplied with catholic priests
from the mother country, who, of course, speak to them
in that tongue. Those who visit Madawaska, must re-
member that no money passes current there but silver;
for the people do not know how to read, and will not
take bank notes, as they have often been imposed upon,
since they are unable to distinguish a £5 from a $5, or
five shilling note. As there are no regular taverns in this
settlement, every family the traveller calls upon, will fur-
nish accommodations, for which they expect a reasonable
compensation ; and he will be always sure of kind treat-
ment, which is beyond price. I have been thus particular
in speaking of the Acadian settlers of Madawaska, be-
cause little is generally known of their manners and cus-
toms; many people having the idea that they are demi-
savages, because, like the aboriginal inhabitants, they live
principally by hunting. Owing to the injunction placed
on the timber lands, ten families of the Acadian settlers
have emigrated to Michigan Territory. It is very desira-
ble that this obstacle to the prosperity of the people of
Madawaska, should be removed by an adjustment of the
present difficulties, respecting the North Eastern boun-
dary of the State.

The geology of Madawaska is simple, and not very
interesting; the rocks consisting of argillaceous slate and
blue limestone, which is covered with a deep and luxuri-
ant soil, bearing an abundance of cedar, pine, spruce,
birch, maple, hemlock, and other forest trees, which
abound in these regions. A few beds of plastic clay
were observed, suitable for pottery and brick making;
one of which is situated on the north bank of the river,
eighteen miles above the Grand Falls, and four miles


above the residence of Captain Tiberdot; another oc-
curs on the same side of the river, opposite Grand Island,
and near the Green River. This latter bed is interesting,
on account of its containing lignites, which are evidently
remains of cedar trees, completely penetrated with a
beautiful blue earthy phosphate of iron, which may be
used as a pigment. A fossil unio was also found in this
clay. Below the plastic clay, occurs a bed of pisolitic
iron ore, and beneath this a stratum of green sand, which
may be used with lime for a manure. The cliff rises
thirty feet abruptly from the river, and presents a section
of the variously colored blue, brown and green strata.

Slate rocks, suitable for roofing, occur three miles
above Green River, on the north side of the St. John,
where they form a precipice thirty feet high, and extend
along the river one-fourth of a mile. Hills, composed of
the same kind of rocks, occur on the southern side of the
St. John.

At the mouth of the Madawaska River, slate rocks are
again seen, and run E. N. E. and W. S. W.--and stand
in vertical strata. The Madawaska falls over these
rocks, to the distance of five or six feet. It would be
practicable to convert this fall into a valuable mill privi-
lege, but a dam must be built to the height of twelve
feet, since the St. John, during freshets, is crowded with
water, which overflows these rocks to that height. The
Madawaska River is thirty-five miles above the Grand
Falls of the St. John.

After examining, as far as we were able, along the
banks of this river, amid snow storms, while the ther-
mometer stood below freezing, we were compelled to re-
turn, on account of the snow, which covered the rocks
and soil. The river had nearly reached the freezing

1837. SENATE--No. 89. 33

point, and our clothes were covered with ice, while the
snow fell abundantly in our canoes. Descending the
St. John, the canoes glided with great ease and rapidity,
and we soon found ourselves at the Grand Falls; and
transporting our canoes over the land, we again set out,
on the river, to Woodstock, from whence we took pas-
sage to Houlton, and carried with us five boxes of speci-
mens of rocks and minerals, which we had collected on
our route.

The following Thermometrical Register was kept dur-
ing the last days, while we were on the river:

At Madawaska, Oct. 18 -- Temperature of the air at noon, 33° F.
  "      "           "           of the river,    "      38° F.

  "     19 -- Half-past 6, A. M., temp. of air 23° F

  "     20 --   "      "    8,    "        "          "  32° F
  "     21 --   "      "    "      "       "           " 28° F
  "     22 --   "      "    "      "       "          "  28° F
\   Snow storm; violent
 |  wind; water froze on

 our garments.
-- Rain and Snow
-- Snowed a little.
-- Snow
At Grand Falls,    "    22 --    "     "    "      "       "          "  34° F
   "    22 --  9, P.M., temp. of air,  .   .   .   36° F
   "    23 --  "     "        "      of river, .   . .   33° F

Before closing this section, I would remark, that it is
of the greatest importance to the State, that the bounda-
ry question should be adjusted, as soon as possible, for
not only is the timber, on the disputed territory, plun-
dered on a large scale, but it is also in many places ne-
cessary to have it cut, before it is ruined by decay. I
was informed by Mr. Baker, that on the district of St.
Francis, where a fire has killed the foliage, there are no
less than ten to twelve thousand tons of very valuable
pine timber, which is now fit for use, but which in a few
years will be good for nothing, unless it is cut down to
prevent its rotting. Although there is a prohibition
against cutting timber on the public lands in dispute, it is
no secret that this law is evaded.

From the observations of persons, who are in the habit
of rafting logs of timber down the St. John, it will ap-
pear that the current of the river above the Grand Falls,


is from one to three miles per hour, while below the falls,
it runs at the rate of from three to six miles per hour,
the swiftest current being at the rapids, and in the nar-
rowest parts of the river. When the snows of winter
begin to melt from the mountains and high lands, the St.
John rises with great rapidity, and frequently the water
accumulates, during freshets, to the height of thirty feet
above its ordinary level, so that the rocks at the rapids
are entirely submerged, and the banks of the river are
overflowed in many places. When the ice breaks up in
the spring, it is said that this river presents a sublime
spectacle, the ice being crowded into a narrow space, and
heaped up sheet upon sheet, in an enormous mass, so as
to arrest the passage of the water, when it accumulates
and finally overcomes the opposing barrier, moving it for-
ward with a noise like thunder, and sweeping down
every obstacle in its course. Rocks, frozen into the ice,
are thus transported down the river to a great distance,
and even carried out to sea. It is probable that most
of the large masses of sandstone, trap-rock, jasper, and
carnelian, found a little above Woodstock, are thus
brought down from the Tobique, and deposited along the
banks of the St. John, fifty or sixty miles below. Mov-
ing ice is a powerful cause, modifying the surface of the
earth, and probably was one of the means, by which the
various scattered blocks of stone and boulders of large
size, were transported to a distance, during the last grand
deluge that overwhelmed the globe.
Charles T. Jackson
Geological Surveyor of Public Lands
Boston, March, 25th, 1837

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Last revised 26 Sep 2004