Collecting Fossil Plants and Animals
in the Pennsylvanian Deposits of the Will County, Illinois Coal Measures
The Field Notes of George Langford, Sr. in the Years 1937-1960.
Prepared and organized by George Langford, Jr., 1973.
Copyright George Langford, III, 2010
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The Tipple Area
On September 17, 1938, we drove down to the "Tipple" where John McClucki and his young son awaited us.  The Tipple is in the southeastern part of Section 29, Wilmington Township.  It represents the coal washing and sorting plant of the Northern Illinois Coal Company.  There are many railroad tracks in it, also an office nearby.  We drove through the gated entrance along the west side of the Tipple, and then turned northwestward on the Tipple Road, a very rough and lumpy affair at first but somewhat better as we proceeded.  Mr. McClucki guided us into a new area in the extreme central western part of Section 29.  The road led alongside a railroad track, and we stopped where ahead of us we saw a wall of bushes.  We walked over the tracks to the spoil heaps close by.  This was Locality No. 26.  The slopes were covered with nodules.  The heaps were high and steep, but we climbed through deep gullies to the top and found more nodules there, also on the northern side when we descended.  There were a series of chains of spoil heaps to the north, and finally a large pond. 

The quality of material was good, and we did pretty well here, although the place had been picked over a good deal, and most of the things we found were of common species.  We went there three times more, going farther northward to the pond.  We did better there, as collectors had not done much, probably because they were too lazy to climb over the series of hills necessary to reach the place.

On September 22, 1938, Mr. McClucki guided us to another place, reached by the Tipple Road, but nearer the Tipple than the previous locality.  We turned to the left and drove through a cut in the spoil heaps.  The latter contained many nodules, and we got some good things, although collectors had been busy in the places where nodules were most abundant.  We went there a second time alone, but the picking was only fair, and [so] we were not tempted to go there again.  This was Locality No. 27.

Instead of stopping as before at the apparent end of the Tipple Road, we went on another hundred yards.  This was like flying blind, as the weeds were very thick, and we could only hope that there was solid ground and no deep holes under us.  We worked the slopes nearest the railroad track and then crossed the high range.  This was Locality No. 28, northwest of and a continuation of Locality No. 26.  Knowing by this time that other collectors balked at inaccessible places and were at least not inclined to do much work after long, hard climbs up and down the clay heaps, we spent seven days in this area, collecting not only where nodules were abundant, but also where they were scarce, paying particular attention to the clefts in the slopes, where every heavy rainfall was [likely] to wash out and disclose new material.  The result was that we got a great many good things, among which were quite a few big ones.  The largest of these, although of a common Pecopteris species, weighed about fifteen pounds.  We met with only occasional broken discards, and it was evident that no one before us had prospected there very seriously.  We proceeded to mop up and clear it of everything we could lay our hands on.  I estimate that we collected and split open over 12,000 nodules, from which we selected and took away over a thousand.  In general, the material was of good quality, and we did not get many bombs.  We did very well in our search for big ones and got some good show specimens.

We worked to the shores of the pond and to and over the dike, almost into the area where we had first collected in the Fall of 1937 with Dr. Elmer Stephen.  Proceeding west of the dike and a bit northward, we encountered much sandstone, and good nodules petered out.

In this area, the surface was originally spotted with Pleistocene water-worn Niagara Limestone and very little of any older rocks.  Occasionally the limestone lumps bore characteristic Niagara fossils, commonly found in the Joliet region twenty miles or so to the northeast.  Geologically, the sections were similar to our other localities.  This was a rather swampy part of the country.  Beneath the surface of dark loam was fine sand; then clay with claystone and shale lenses and nodules, or else clay and sandstone, above the coal.  In some places, coarse red-stained gravel lay between the sand and clay.  The clay was originally a soft rock with occasional plant impressions, but it soon disintegrated after exposure to the weather.  Here, as elsewhere, the nodules from above and near the coal are often, or rather usually, dark in color and more or less rough-surfaced.  Some of them were conspicuously laminated.  The finer specimens came from higher up and were as a rule of pebble-like smoothness.  As far as we could see, the common species of fossils occurred both close to the coal, and I judge, about ten feet above it.  It may be thought that scattered spoil heaps would not permit of such determinations, but for one thing, the foot or so directly above the coal has everywhere the same roughness and discoloration; also, if one looks closely, it is not difficult to see in what order, the succcessive layers were piled up when excavated.  As in other places, the nodules above the coal do not occur in zone levels, although I had previously considered this to be a possibility.  The occurrence of the same common species above and below does not support this idea and seems highly improbable.  Many nodules of good shape yielded no fossils, although a great many of the blanks showed a central halo of sulphide of iron, which seemed to have been the central nucleus about which the usually very hard stone was formed.

Instead of going to the end of Tipple Road, we turned left as we had done to reach Locality No. 27.  But we left the road and went southeast through brush and over bumps until our right front wheel sank into a soft ditch and we were stuck.  It took us an hour to jack up the wheel and get us out of there.  The spoil heaps were nearby,  This was Locality No. 29.  We spent two days looking over considerable ground and did not do very well, as most of the stuff was common or poorly preserved.  Others had been there.  This site was west of and rather close to the tipple.

Again we took Tipple Road but stopped not very far from the Tipple and walked north and west to the ranges, part of which were a continuation of Locality No. 17 on the west Pig Pen range.  This was simply an untried part of an area [in which] we had previously done considerable work.  We found many finely shaped nodules, and big ones.  Very little collecting had been done there, and [we] expected to get things in a big way.  But somehow, although we got good things, the result was disappointing, there being so much wood, common stuff, and poorly preserved material.  We worked back eastward to our old Locality No. 17, and then on October 15, 1938, we stopped everything, for George Jr. was to sever business association with me and take a position with a manufacturing concern in Chicago.  Our work in the strip coal mines was ended.
[unsigned, but in the handwriting of] George Langford, Sr.