Just a little more than 250 years ago, a Frenchman passed up the Kaw (Kansas) River Valley and made note of the granite and quartzite boulders for what may have been the first recorded notes on the geology of Kansas. Most of the early records were sporadic and not systematically taken. Early expeditions were mainly military; later ones were railroad surveys. Scientists, if on the expeditions, were natural scientists and not geologists, so descriptions usually were of topography, agriculture suitability, transportation feasibility, climate, botany, and other natural phenomena, but seldom of the geology. Documents of these early expeditions, including those of expeditions of Lewis and Clark (1804-6), Pike (1805-7), Long (1819-20), Fremont (1843-45), Emory (1846-47), Stansbury (1849), Marcy (1852), and Beckwith (1853-54) were in a narrative form - long on generalities but short on detail. Thus by the mid-19th century, the geology of Kansas was known only in a general way.

The ‘Great American Desert’ was a place to cross, not to stay. The influx of gold seekers and those wanting to exploit the land changed everything and information on the geology became important. To fill the void, ‘guides’ by a variety of self-styled experts on the history, geography, climate, mineral resources, soils, etc., were issued as aids to the emigrants. The guides, usually published by the author, were interesting and popular but included little scientific information. In 1852, David Dale Owen was commissioned a "United States Geologist" and made observations in northeastern Kansas as part of a larger survey. Other geological observations were made by members of early federal government-sponsored territorial surveys of the West. The fossils collected on these surveys and by collectors were described by paleontologists - most reports described the different, new, or spectacular finds. In 1864 the State commissioned the first geological survey headed by B. F. Mudge; the second survey was created in 1865 with G. C. Swallow as State Geologist. Thus the State government assumed responsibility for the surveying - mostly with the idea of making an inventory of economic resources and promoting development of the young state. During the period from creation of the second geological survey in 1865 to the third in 1895, the Kansas Academy of Science Transactions served as one of the leading outlets for information on Kansas geology. The systematic and regular recording of the geology of Kansas commenced in 1895 with creation of the third (and present) State Geological Survey in Lawrence with Erasmus (Daddy) Haworth appointed State Geologist.

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