Geology of Benton County, Arkansas

The site of Benton County is the plateau of the Ozark Mountains, the greatest unbroken portion of which in this State lies west of White River, in the counties of Benton and Washington. The elevation of the county above sea level averages from 1,400 to 1,600 feet, and the summit of Poor Mountain, in the northeastern part, is probably the highest point. With the exception of a strip of land about two miles wide, extending from Rogers to the southern boundary, the whole surface of the county lying east of the St. Louis & San Francisco Railroad is so broken and uneven that it is mostly unfit for cultivation, except in the valleys of the streams. In the north central portion of the county, extending several miles on both sides of Sugar Creek, is also a large tract of broken and hilly land. There is an elevated, broken and uneven ridge, or water shed, extending north and south through the county, mostly in Range 32 west, along the line of which much of the land is too rough for cultivation. With these exceptions, together with the steep hills or bluffs bordering on the streams, the balance of the county, and by far the greater portion thereof, consists of elevated plateaus of gently undulating or rolling prairie and timbered lands, all of which are susceptible of a high state of cultivation. These latter lands are classed as the table lands of the State, and are in fact the beginning of the prairie region which covers the southern part of the Oklahoma.

“The ascent from the level of White River, on the east, to the table lands, is 375 feet; the ascent from the level of Elk River, a tributary of the Grand River fork of the Arkansas, is 406 feet; and the ascent from the Illinois fork of the Arkansas is 394 feet. The area of the county is 900 square miles, or 576,000 acres. The proportion of unmodified prairie is, approximately, 86,000 acres; oak barrens or modified prairie, 175,000 acres; wooded mountain or ridge territory, 200,000 acres; and river and creek valley lands, 86,000 acres.”

Streams, Springs, etc

The southeastern and extreme northeastern portions of the county are drained by White River and its tributaries. This river enters the county on its southern boundary, near the line dividing Ranges 28 and 29, and flows thence in a northerly, northwesterly and northeasterly direction, and in fact toward all points of the compass, in its tortuous route, and finally leaves the county at its eastern boundary, from Section 5, in Township 20 north, Range 27 west. Its principal tributaries on the east are War Eagle and Little Clifty Creeks, and on the west are Spider, Indian, Prairie and Esculapia Creeks. White River, after crossing the northwest corner of Carroll County, enters the State of Missouri, in which it forms a bend, and then returns to Arkansas, and flows in a southerly direction, and empties into the Mississippi about twelve miles above the mouth of the Arkansas River. A portion of the extreme northeastern part of the county is drained by tributaries of Big Sugar Creek, flowing generally in a northwestern direction. The north central part of the county is drained by Little Sugar Creek and its numerous tributaries. This creek rises in the northeastern part of the county, and, after flowing in a general western direction about fifteen miles, it bears to the northwest, and enters the State of Missouri near the middle of Range 31 west, being also near the center of the north boundary line of the county. The south central and southwestern portions of the county are drained by the Osage fork of the Illinois River and its various tributaries, the main one of which has its source at the noted Osage Spring, at the home of Ezekiel Dickson, in Section 16, Township 19 north, Range 30 west. The Osage fork flows in a general west-southwest direction, and leaves the county near its southwest corner, where it enters the Indian Territory. The west central portion of the county is drained by Flint and Spavinaw Creeks and their tributaries. The former runs in a direction west of southwest, and crosses the western boundary line of the county in Section 23, Township 18 north, Range 34 west, and the latter runs in about the same direction, and leaves the county from Section 10, Township 19 north, Range 34 west. The extreme northwestern portion of the county is drained by creeks which flow mostly in a northwestern direction, and empty into the Neosho River. All the streams here mentioned, excepting White River and its tributaries, eventually flow into the Arkansas. On the larger streams, especially White River and War Eagle, excellent mill-sites abound, and a few have been improved, the most noted of which is at War Eagle Mills, on War Eagle Creek. This creek was named after an Indian chief called “War Eagle.”

Benton County has the great advantage of having many springs from which flow pure, soft water, “as clear as crystal.” and of a quality unsurpassed in any country. There are several groups or systems of springs distributed throughout the county, the most noted of which are White Sulphur Springs, in the northwestern part; Siloam Springs, in the southwestern part; Crystal Springs, near Bentonville, and the Electric and Esculapia groups, near Rogers. Some of the springs have medicinal qualities, mention of which will be made elsewhere in this work. There are also hundreds of individual springs, some of which produce a stream large enough to furnish good water-power, if properly utilized. Prominent among the individual springs is the one at Springtown, another one at the residence of Oliver I. Anderson, in Anderson Township, and the Osage Spring, before mentioned. According to tradition the latter derived its name from the following incident: An Indian belonging to the Osage tribe visited the spring to quench his thirst, and was shot and killed by one belonging to the Delaware tribe, who had concealed himself in a tree-top overlooking the spring, hence the name. These tribes are said to have then been at enmity. An abundance of good water on the uplands is obtained by digging or boring for it at various depths, ranging from fifteen to eighty feet, and much water is obtained from this source. Cistern water is also used to some extent by many who prefer it to any other water. Away from the streams stock water is frequently obtained from ponds of rain water kept in artificial excavations, the sub-soil or bottoms thereof being of such a nature as to hold the water and prevent its sinking. Upon the whole the supply of water is abundant, and its quality is first-class.

Timber of Benton County, Arkansas

The table lands and ridges of the county, where not improved, are mostly covered, and in some places densely covered, with the several varieties of the oak, the black, or “jack oak,” predominating, and hickory. Some chestnut is also found on these lands. In the valleys and along the streams sycamore, hackberry, elm, black walnut, butternut, gum, ash, several kinds of oak, and other varieties of timber exist. Many trees of sycamore, hackberry and elm grow from two to five feet in diameter at the base, but all of them have a short, scrubby growth, so that but few trees will produce more than two saw-logs each. In the southeast corner of the county is a tract of land, six miles north and south by about eight miles east and west, covered with pine timber, much of which is large enough for lumber, and of it there is a seemingly inexhaustible supply. The best white oak timber is found in the gulches of the mountainous portion of the county, the ridges being covered with black oak of a short, scrubby growth. When the settlement of the county began (in the early part of the present century) all of the comparatively level upland was called prairie, while in truth there was but little real prairie. The timber was then very thin, the trees stood far apart, and the country which is now covered with a dense growth of young timber was then so open that the wild deer could be seen anywhere at a distance of several hundreds of yards. The entire surface of the earth was then covered with a rank growth of vegetation, consisting of the native grasses and wild flowers, which gave to the landscape, especially in the timbered lands, a more beautiful appearance than it now has. Annually, after this rank growth of vegetation became dead and dry, the Indians set fire to it, and burned it from the entire surface of the country. This they did to destroy the places of concealment for the wild game, the better to enable them to secure their prey. This burning of the decaying vegetation also destroyed the germs or sprouts, and thus prevented the growth of young timber. When this practice ceased the germs of underbrush and young timber began to grow, and the surface of the timbered lands, where they have not been cleared, are now covered with a dense growth of young timber and bushes. The supply of this young timber, all of which has grown in the present century, is so abundant that there is much more wood now in the county than when its settlement began. As yet not much of the young timber is large enough for lumber, but much of it can be made into rails.


But little can be definitely said upon the subject of geology, as there never has been made a geological survey of the county. The surface, especially the broken portion thereof, is underlaid with limestone, sandstone, vermicular and cavernous rocks, and in many places in the bluffs along the streams the rock crops out and forms perpendicular walls of immense height. Where the rock is thus exposed many caves are found, and from many of them streams of pure, cold water are flowing. The surface of the ridges and broken lands is composed of earth intermixed with pieces of flint and chert rock about the size that rock is generally broken into for the making of macadamized roads. This rock is so abundant that it is only necessary to clear a highway and use it in order to have a road as good in quality as the best of macadamized roads. In the beds of the streams and along their margins a sufficient supply of this naturally prepared rock can be found to thoroughly macadmize all the roads in the county.

At a point on White River, about five and a half miles southeast of Rogers, there is a large deposit of rock composed of fine, white sand, which is believed to be of the best quality for the manufacture of glass. It has, however, not been tested. Minerals are believed to exist in considerable quantities at various places in the county. Lead has been taken out at Cherokee City and on Spavinaw Creek, and specimens have been found at other places in the county; but no measures have yet been taken to ascertain its quantity. Indications of the existence of copper and zinc have been discovered in the county. It is believed also that silver exists, but in such limited quantities that its mining cannot be made profitable. A controversy is at present going on between the State geologist and certain citizens of the State, in regard to the existence of silver in Arkansas. The former claims that with the possible exception of Silver City, there is not sufficient silver in the State to pay for its mining.

Soils of Benton County, Arkansas

“As due to geological origin and the local modification–the soils having been derived from the red and yellow upper strata of the sub-carboniferous group, and also from disintegration of magnesium and sub-carboniferous limestone–the following distinct bodies of land are found distributed throughout the county: A rich and strong barren soil, a gravelly and cherty ridge soil, a compact soil on a foundation of stiff clay; a fourth, a dark brown soil lying in the valleys adjacent to the streams; and a fifth, the best of all, a soil of brown color, upon a foundation of red clay, and with a timber growth of black and red oaks, sugar maple, locust, hickory and walnut. This is in the interior. In the marginal areas, as in the broken country forming the eastern and northern boundaries, the characteristic types of interior lands are lost to an extent in coarser soils of a pale brown, and of a darker color, more silicious or more compact, as the case may be, and imposed upon a subsoil of no greater depth above the bed rock, excepting, of course, from this classification, the alluvial valley lands of White River.”

The soils of Benton County are well adapted to diversified agriculture, a system that has been adopted and practiced by the farmers. With proper cultivation, corn, oats, wheat, rye, potatoes and all kinds of vegetables can be produced in great abundance, and a large proportion of the soil produces the finest quality of tobacco. While the county is well adapted to diversified agriculture, its greatest advantage, perhaps, is its complete adaptability to horticulture. Apples, peaches, pears, plums, grapes and all manner of small fruits are grown in great abundance: The climate being mild and the atmosphere pure, all manner of fruits adapted to this latitude grow in Benton County to perfection. It has acquired the cognomen of “The apple orchard of America,” this fruit being so successfully and so extensively grown. Hereafter, in its proper place, more will be said about the agricultural and horticultural interests of the county. Comparative tables of the quantities produced, and the future prospects for obtaining wealth in Benton County will be mentioned.

Climate of Benton County, Arkansas

“Benton County is generally accepted to have a climate as that of the Piedmont region of Virginia, which is borne out in its annual mean temperature of approximately 60º F., and in the following approximate temperature: Spring, 60º; summer, 78º; autumn, 60º; winter, 40º F. The annual rainfall is from thirty-two to forty-four inches.”

Back to: Benton County, Arkansas History

Source: History of Benton, Washington, Carroll, Madison, Crawford, Franklin, and Sebastian Counties, Arkansas. Chicago, IL, USA: Goodspeed Publishing Co., 1889.

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