A. Introduction
B. Pays

C. Corniferous production
D. Big Six gas field
E. Knox-Whitley counties pools
F. Wayne County field
G. Cumberland River field
H. Big Lime production of Owsley County
I. Production of the Paint Creek uplift
J. Gas fields of Floyd, Pike, Knott, and Martin counties
K. Boyd County gas field
L. Berea production of Lawrence County
M. Owensboro field
N. Miscellaneous small oil and gas pools of western Kentucky
O. Gas pools of Meade and Breckinridge counties


Petroleum is a major mineral resource second only to coal. Maximum production was obtained in 1919 and 1921 and there has been a very appreciable decline since. To that time the outstanding development had been the Irvine-Big Sinking field and later the Weir production of the Paint Creek uplift. In the following years, the main seat of active exploration shifted to western Kentucky with the slow development of the Owensboro field and vicinity. In eastern Kentucky Lee County (Big Sinking Pool) has been outstanding; in western Kentucky, Ohio County.

While relatively an unimportant producer in the United States, Kentucky ranks fourth among the eastern states and surpasses New York, West Virginia, and Ohio among important commercial producers.

The natural gas industry has been growing rapidly (fig. 28). Production totaled 60,500M feet in 1937, all but a small part of it from eastern Kentucky. The outstanding development both recently and for all time was the development of shale gas in Floyd County on a grand scale in the last 10 to 15 years. Almost three-fourths of the annual production comes from this pay. In order of importance other sands in eastern Kentucky include the Corniferous, Big Lime, Maxon, Salt Sands, Weir, Big Six, Big Injun, and the Berea (a limited amount). In western Kentucky important gas sands include the Barlowe and Jett of the Owensboro field, the Sebree and Caseyville of Webster County and the Owensboro field, and the Corniferous of Green, Taylor, Hart and Barren counties. Meade County was the first shale gas producer in Kentucky. An unimportant amount of gas has come from the Trenton of Carroll County.


As in other eastern states, the discovery of oil and gas was closely connected with the early salt industry. The first oil strike was made in 1819, when Martin Beatty of Abingdon, Virginia, put down a well "for the benefit of sault" in the valley of the South Fork of the Cumberland River not far from the Tennessee line in what was then Wayne, but is now McCreary County. At a depth of several hundred feet a thick black oil was struck, which oozed to the top and flowed out on the waters of South Fork.

FIG. 26. Wooley well No. 2, Ragland field, Bath and Menifee counties

Burkesville Well and Burning Cumberland River.—The next notable instance of an oil strike was in 1829. In a well drilled for salt on Rennox Creek near Burkesville in Cumberland County, oil was encountered at a depth of 175 feet and flowed. It ran down the creek and out upon the Cumberland River, covering the latter for some 40 miles downstream. Catching afire and burning back upstream, it presented the strange spectacle of a "burning river" (Miller, 1919, p. 288). The well is referred to as the Great American (or Burkesville) well. The operator who drilled it is quoted as saying that he would either get salt water or drill into hell. His goal was apparently attained when, as the well caught on fire, he had, it would seem, opened up the infernal regions.

"The flow continued for three weeks, and oil was then bailed or pumped from the well until 1860, the product bottled and sold for fifty cents a bottle under the name 'American Oil.' It had a wide reputation in this southern and middle western country as a 'sovereign remedy for all the ills that flesh is heir to' " (Miller, 1919, p. 288).

"A barrel of this oil was shipped down the Cumberland and through New Orleans to England with the avowed purpose of having it analyzed by a British chemist. Unfortunately, before it fell into the hands of the proper parties, suspicion fastened itself upon the dark, oily, unfamiliar cargo, and it was dumped overboard into the Atlantic" (Jillson, 1919, p. 6).

It is estimated that during this period the well produced 50,000 barrels of oil. It began near the top of the Cincinnatian and ended in the Trenton.

Shortly afterward drilling for salt opened up another region with a shallow gusher in the Salt Sand (lower Pottsville) near Barbourville, Knox County.

In the years following 1830 an important industry deriving paraffin oil from cannel coal and black shale was developed in Europe. Such a plant using cannel coal was established in Breckinridge County in 1856, and at about the same time the Sunbury shale was similarly exploited at Vanceburg, Lewis County.
FIG. 27. Petroleum production in Kentucky, 1883-1938

The discovery in the late fifties that paraffin could be obtained more economically from crude petroleum than from cannel coal gave rise to a period of exploration for oil, which, however, was cut short by the Civil War. It was renewed at its close with the further impetus of observed oil and gas seepages seen by soldiers who had campaigned in Kentucky. In this period of the late sixties the Meade County (Lower Mississippian), Allen County (Corniferous), Barren County (Corniferous), and Cumberland River field (Trenton-Stones River) of Wayne, Russell, Cumberland, and Clinton counties joined the list of producers. The finding of associated gas and salt water in Meade County inaugurated a thriving salt industry.

Beginning again in the eighties and continuing through the close of the century, oil and gas exploration went on actively. The impetus came from (a) the discovery of Trenton gas in northern Ohio and northeastern Indiana, which resulted in some deep drilling principally in western Kentucky, and (b) from the increasing demand for kerosene and the growing list of by-products from oil refining.

Discoveries in western Kentucky included gas and oil west of Glasgow in Barren County, the Meade County shale gas, and gas in a Lower Mississippian limestone near Cloverport, Breckinridge County.
FIG. 28. Natural gas production in Kentucky, 1916-1937

In eastern Kentucky there were a number of important developments:

(a) The Warfield gas well, Martin County, located on the crest of the Warfield anticline, marked the beginning of the Warfield-Kermit-Tug Fork gas field with gas from the Big Injun and Big Lime. The location was made on the basis of gas seeps.

(b) The first successful oil wells of northeastern Kentucky from the Berea were drilled on Big Blaine Creek in Lawrence County in the nineties.

(c) The oil pool on the Right Fork of Beaver Creek in Floyd and Knott counties produced from the Salt Sands.

(d) The revival of interest in Wayne County gave production mainly from the Beaver sand.

Development in the twentieth century may be conveniently divided into an earlier period and a later one, starting with the opening of the Irvine pool.

Among important earlier developments were:

(a) Discovery of the Ragland pool, 1900 (Corniferous). This strike started another oil boom.

(b) Further drilling in the Sunnybrook field of Wayne County, which resulted in the establishment in 1901 of commercial production in the Trenton at Sunnybrook (lower Sunnybrook sand).

(c) Renewed activity in the Cumberland River field (Trenton-Stones River) and the drilling of some deep tests. The field was rather thoroughly drilled in the years 1901-1904.

(d) Discovery of the Knox County (Barbourville) field. Oil was discovered in 1901 on Little Richland Creek in the vicinity of Barbourville in the Salt Sands. Enough gas was encountered in the Big Injun to supply the city of Barbourville.

(e) Discovery of the Menifee gas field, extending into the edge of Powell County. This discovery came from the extension of operations from the Ragland field and produced from the same horizon (Corniferous).

(f) Discovery of the Campton field in 1903 (Corniferous). Miller (1919) listed this as the first instance in Kentucky of the successful use of geology in oil exploration.

These strikes in the opening years of the century jumped production to over a million barrels, which declined again to less than half that amount within a few years.

(g) The finding of commercial Corniferous oil on the south side of the Caney anticline in Morgan County in 1912, opened the Cannel City pool. The first well was a 320-barrel gusher which, however, was short lived. This anticline had been tested in 1901 without success.

(h) Small strikes in Wolfe County near Zachariah Post Office and again near Stillwater. The latter was on a continuation of the Campton structure.

(i) The discovery of the Busseyville pool (Berea), Lawrence County, 1912.

(j) The discovery of the Fallsburg pool (Berea), Lawrence County, 1912.

(k) The discovery of the Burning Fork gas wells of Magoffin County. The gas found here in several wells near Salyersville came from the Salt sands.

(1) The discovery of the Ravenna field. Following the development of the Campton field a considerable body of oil was discovered at the mouth of Cow Creek about a mile east of Irvine. The pool is noteworthy in the nearness of the Corniferous pay to outcrop. Some of the wells were only 75 to 110 feet deep.

This earlier period was brought to a close by a lull in drilling because of overproduction in the Cushing and other fields of the mid-continent. War prices resulted in another renewal of activity.

Late in 1915 or early in 1916, Charles Dulin drilled in a well on the Dan Rollings farm on Tick Fork of Cow Creek about 3 miles northeast of Irvine. The well was only 200 feet deep and found production immediately below the Black shale (Irvine sand—Corniferous). The news spread and initiated an oil boom, which, with prevailing war prices, surpassed anything earlier. Drilling has continued since with ups and downs in accord with prevailing prices and production elsewhere. A maximum output of 9,278,000 barrels was attained in 1919.

Ignoring re-drilling and extension of known fields, the principal discoveries have been:

1. "Corniferous."

(a) Irvine pool (Estill County), Ashley pool (Powell County), Sta¬tion Camp (Estill County), Ross Creek (Estill-Lee counties), Big Sinking (Lee County), and others of the Big Sinking-Irvine region.
(b) Gainesville, Scottsville, and other pools of Allen County.
(c) Jake Moulder pool, Davenport pool, and others of Warren County (Corniferous), including a shallow pay above the Black shale.

2. Wier oil and gas of the Paint Creek uplift in Lawrence, Johnson, and Magoffin counties and vicinity.

3. Chester and Pottsville production of the Owensboro field.

4. Maxon gas of Pike, Martin, and Floyd counties.

5. Shale gas of Floyd County and vicinity and Boyd County. This has been the big gas development in Kentucky.

6. Breathitt County gas (small) from the Big Six, and more important production from the same horizon in Floyd and Johnson counties.

The Eden pinches out under cover south of the Blue Grass. It is not represented in the well records of
the region around Burkesville. Cumberland County.

Pre-Trenton.—The present status of knowledge on the St. Peter sandstone is outlined on page 5. Hoeing (1905) listed only three wells in the state that had shown promise of production from this zone.

(a) A well at Elizabethtown, Hardin County, produced some gas and blue lick water at 2300 feet.
(b) An old well on White Oak Creek, Estill County produced gas at 1940 feet. The gas was under considerable pressure and is said to have had a flow of .3M.
(c) A second well on this same creek had a strong show of oil at a slightly greater depth. Drilled deeper it went into salt water. Samples from one of these wells showed St. Peter sandstone at 1830 feet to 1950 feet with 230 feet of upper Cotter below.

Within the past couple of years there has been a renewal of interest in deeper pays and a considerable number of wells have been drilled over central Kentucky (fig. 2). Results have not been particularly encouraging. The Cornet Wiseman drilled by the Petroleum Exploration and the South Penn companies on White Oak Creek, Estill County, near the old wells showed a strong "puff" of gas in 63 feet of St. Peter sandstone.2 The Floyd Fitch well drilled by the Bear Track Oil Company on the Left Fork of Contrary Creek in Lee County encountered .05M feet of gas in the St. Peter which increased to almost .25M a few feet lower in the uppermost Knox. The Richard Boardman water well in North Middleton in eastern Bourbon County had a show of gas in the upper Knox. No St. Peter as a sandstone was recognized.

The St. Peter usually yields a strong flow of salt sulphur water (Blue Lick). Wells drilled to this formation in the valleys of the Ohio, Licking, and Kentucky rivers are under sufficient head to flow. This artesian circulation near the crest of the Cincinnati arch is an apparent anomaly, which finds its explanation in the greater uplift of the Ozarks and Wisconsin Highlands bringing the St. Peter and associated rocks to the surface in these regions. The saline character of the water would indicate, though, that the circulation is not active. Shaw and Mather (1919, p. 39) in their work on Allen County report that "throughout most of its extent the St. Peter yields an abundance of either good fresh water or a less quantity of highly mineralized water." The difference in nature of the water reported seems to be the result of confusion in the separation of this sandstone from those of the upper Knox.

Drilling below the Trenton has been extensively carried on in the Cum-berland River region of Cumberland County and vicinity and adjoining parts of Tennessee. Born and Burwell (1939a) have given a comprehensive study of the producing zones of this field in their report on Clay County, Tennessee. The Lowville-Stones River groups are a succession of massive limestones marked off above by the limestones and shales of the Trenton with the "Mud Cave" at its base, and the "Pencil Cave" about 20 feet lower. They are underlain by the Knox dolomite. Pre-Trenton pays include (see also pp. 352-354):

(a) Lower Carters (Tyrone-Oregon) and upper Lebanon (upper Camp Nelson) limestones. This is the best pay of the field.
(b) Upper part of the Ridley limestone (lower Camp Nelson).
(c) Upper part of the Murphreesboro. Other zones have yielded small producers.

Shows of oil have been encountered in the upper Knox dolomite since the opening of the field. A few have yielded a little oil on the pump. The George Smith No. 1 drilled by the Beech Bottom Oil and Gas Company on Kogar Creek in southeastern Clinton County in 1922 produced about five barrels of high gravity green oil at 1770 to 1780 feet, 831 feet below the Pencil Cave. This gave rise to the term Beech Bottom sand. A commercial well was reported from the Celina, Tennessee, field in 1939 (Born and Burwell, 1939a). It is the first commercial well of Kentucky and vicinity in the pre-Stones River.

FIG. 29. Kentucky's principal oil pools-production chart (from Kentucky Oil and Gas Association, 1935)

Upper and Lower Sunnybrook (Trenton)3—The Upper Sunnybrook was discovered with the drilling in of the Martin Beatty well in McCreary County (1819) and the Burkesville or Great American well in Cumberland County (1829). The Sunnybrook as a commercial producer was established in 1901 with deeper drilling in Wayne County (Sunnybrook pool).

Sunnybrook production occurs in the Cumberland River region of Cumberland, Clinton, Monroe, and Wayne counties, Kentucky and ad-joining parts of Tennessee. An upper and lower pay are recognized, the former occurring in the upper Cannon (Perryville) and the latter in the lower Hermitage (Born and Burwell 1939a). The section is more like that of the Nashville Basin than that of central Kentucky. Production is often flashy but short lived.

Caney Sand.—This sand is described by J. B. Hoeing (1905, p. 50) as a bed of "open, porous sandstone, sometimes grey, sometimes white, included in the limestone series of the upper part of the Hudson group, and under a dense, close grained, impure limestone cap." It is the source of some gas and green oil on Caney Creek near West Liberty, Morgan County. The sand is said to occur 125 feet below the base of the "Niagara shale" (Crab Orchard) on Caney Creek and to occur in outcrop in Montgomery, Clark, and Madison counties. This "sand" is apparently one of the sandy dolomites of the Richmond, such as the basal Liberty, Oregonia, or perhaps another. There is no sandstone at this level in outcrop. Some of the dolomitic limestones are sandy and locally petroliferous.

Yellow Cap.—Some production, though small, is obtained from the dolomitic Brassfield limestone (Yellow Cap) in the Lecta pool of Barren County. More recently (1940) commercial oil was encountered in this limestone for the first time in eastern Kentucky at Hazel Green in Wolfe County at a depth of 1875 feet.

"Clinton."—The Clinton is said to have been the source of a little high grade oil in Morgan County. Here it lies about 40 feet below the Black shale, but separated from a few feet of Corniferous limestone by 35 feet of soft Niagara shale (Estill clay). The pay is referred to as "a firm gray rock partly sand, but cemented together with lime, and quite porous. It varies considerably in hardness in different parts of its thickness, two or three pay streaks being quite soft, and the rest of it rather hard" (J. B. Hoeing, 1905, p. 55). As used in Ohio, where it is a commercial producer, the Clinton of the driller is the Cataract (Medina) = Clinch sandstone of southeastern Kentucky (Brassfield limestone in outcrop in central Kentucky).

Big Six.—This is a gas producing zone in Breathitt County, a 30-to 60-foot sandstone 145 to 175 feet below the Black shale. In the last few years important production has been obtained from this same pay in Floyd and Johnson Counties. The pay is a quartz sand about 600 feet below the Black shale and is about 100 feet thick. In the Samuel Kelly No. 1 well, Johnson County, a red oolite (Clinton) occurs 278 feet below the pay and 180 feet lower 30 feet of "Red Medina" (Sequatchie = Juniata). Commercial wells range up to 1 M or better.

This sand would seem to be Clinton and well below the level of the sandstone facies of the upper Peebles (Niagaran) of the Irvine-Big Sinking field.
FIG. 1. Petroleum production in eastern Kentucky by counties, 1920-1938
FIG. 2. Petroleum production in western Kentucky by counties, 1920-1938

Corniferous.—The term "Corniferous" has been rather widely and at the same time loosely used for the producing limestone zone below the Black shale. Pays in the lower part have been commonly referred to the Niagaran. This has been customary in both the Irvine-Big Sinking area and the Bowling Green region. Because of overlap (p. 135) on both flanks of the Cincinnati arch, there is shown in outcrop a wide stratigraphic range in limestones occupying this position and they vary in age from Maysville to Hamilton.

A thickness of 0 to 28 feet in outcrop in the eastern Knobs, where the Boyle limestone (Hamilton) alone intervenes between the Crab Orchard shale (Clinton) and the Ohio, increases eastward to 600 feet in Lawrence County. Where this stratigraphic interval outcrops again at Big Stone Gap, Virginia, and vicinity, Cayugan and Helderberg, both unknown in outcrop in Kentucky, have been added to the section. Ballard (1938) recognized all of these beds in eastern Kentucky from a study of well samples. The Niagaran is added to the section a few miles east of outcrop in the eastern Knobs. At Cumberland Gap the Black shale rests on Clinton.

In the Irvine pool the several pays of the "Corniferous" are in the Peebles and Lilley dolomitic limestones of the Niagaran (McFarlan, 1938d). The upper "Corniferous” gas pay of Boyd, Johnson, and Magoffin counties is considered by Lafferty (1941) as Helderberg and about the equivalent of the Austinburg = "First Water of the Big Lime" of Ohio. This gas is sour.

On the western flank of the Arch a very much thickened and much more complete Silurian and Devonian section is developed down dip in the coal basin, involving beds unknown in outcrop in Kentucky but known in parts of Illinois, Missouri, and western Tennessee. These are overlapped to the east (up dip) by a thinning Grand Tower-Jeffersonville, which is in turn overlapped by the Hamilton (Sellersburg-Boyle) (Pl. XXXIII).

In Hart County the upper pay within ±40 feet of the shale is known as the "Corniferous" and the lower one, 70 to 80 feet below the shale, as the "Blue sand." Russell (1934) referred them to the Louisville and Laurel limestones. It is known, though, that the Blue sand locally produces from directly under the shale. In the producing fields of Warren, Barren, and Allen counties the Louisville limestone is known to be in contact with the shale in places but elsewhere separated from it by 75 to 80 feet of Jeffersonville-Sellersburg.

The source of the oil is problematic. It has rather commonly been regarded as originating in the Black shale. Various objections have been made to such a source, and it is still an unsettled problem. Granting the Black shale to have been the source, failure of the Corniferous to produce to the southeast may be a matter of the increasing thickness of limestone intervening between the Mid-Silurian pays of the Irvine-Big Sinking and the Black shale.4 Thomas (1938) recognized a possible explanation in the distribution of the "Coffee shale" of eastern Kentucky, which he regarded as a more probable source. This is the lighter colored brown shale separated from the main body of Black shale above by the "Fire Clay," which is a light-colored nonbituminous shale of varying thickness but increasing to the southeast. Only the bituminous shales below the "Fire Clay" were regarded available as a source rock. The lighter color of the Coffee shale was a matter of "bleeding,” i.e., the loss of bituminous matter in supplying "Corniferous" oil. The increasing thickness of "Fire Clay" to the east formed an increasing barrier to the downward migration of oil and gas into the "Corniferous."

As a reservoir the Corniferous gives rise to somewhat spotted production, tightness or lack of permeability frequently offsetting favorable structure. The porosity is in part the result of pre-Ohio weathering of a dolomitic limestone, to a considerable extent the leaching of fossils. The tightness itself is both a matter of changing lithology (including that due to secondary causes) and change in the stratigraphic unit beveled by the unconformity. Recently it was shown by N. M. Wilder5 that at least the second of the three pays of the Irvine-Big Sinking region is a true sandstone, running as high as 96 per cent sand.

The "Corniferous" has been an outstanding producer of oil and an important producer of gas. Producing fields include the Lee-Powell-Estill counties group, the Ragland and Menifee fields, Green-Taylor counties gas field, the Warren and Allen counties fields, and the pools of Hart County.

Oriskany.—The Oriskany sand is a source of both oil and gas in eastern Ohio and gas in West Virginia. Its geographic extent up dip on the Cincinnati arch involves in Kentucky only a small part of eastern Pike County (Lafferty, 1941, fig. 3). It is represented in outcrop to the west by unconformity, and production seems to be that from stratigraphic traps. "All of the gas fields found in West Virginia and Ohio roughly parallel the western limits of this sand, and lie between this sand limit and a so-called 'perched' water table closely associated (fig. 3) with the gas belt on the east" (ibid., p. 811).

Black Shale.—The stratigraphy of this shale is none too well known in outcrop. Both the Ohio and Sunbury shales occur in the eastern Knob region in the Ohio River vicinity. Southward the intervening Bedford and Berea pinch. To the south it is commonly known as the Chattanooga shale; west of the Blue Grass, as the New Albany. These problems of stratigraphy are outlined on pages 50-53. Under cover to the east the Black shale thickens greatly and is referred to as the "Brown shale." It includes much interbedded "white" shale and in its lower part, the Marcellus shale as shown in outcrop in West Virginia and Virginia.

The history of production of gas from these shales dates back to the eighties, when, on the basis of geological work done by Major W. T. Davis of Louisville, gas accompanied by salt water was found at 375 feet in Meade County. The well was rated at about 750,000 cubic feet. With further drilling enough was found to supply Louisville with natural gas.

At the present time, about three-fourths of Kentucky's natural gas comes from the Black shale in Floyd County and vicinity. Production seems to have little relationship to local structure or to stratigraphic position within the shale. Porosity is present in the shale but not permeability. Gas is regarded as occurring in joint planes and bedding planes. Areas of maximum shattering where local shale character has rendered it more susceptible to fracture, or where local stresses have been unusually great, as along major folds or faults, irrespective of their nature, were areas of accumulation.6 In more recent work R. C. Lafferty and R. N. Thomas have thrown a great deal of light on the subject. Both recognized as significant the rapid eastward thickening of the shale in the producing region of Floyd County and vicinity, but differed in their interpretation of the situation. Thomas (unpublished manuscript) viewed it as indicating shoreline conditions and the development of siltier layers. Into these he regarded the gas to have migrated prior to consolidation. From this primary reservoir gas moved into available joints, bedding planes, etc. The siltier layers were also more susceptible to fracturing and hence more available as a reservoir. Lafferty7 recognized a hinge line along the margin of his "epicontinental shelf" to the east of which the rapid thickening of the section marked the western flank of the Appalachian geosyncline. He found that "this production is confined to the general area between Huntington, West Virginia, and Pikeville, Kentucky, and roughly parallels the lower margin of the epicontinental shelf, . . ." and "regional fracture zones are probably more dependent on the hinge line created by differential settling along the lower margin of the epicontinental shelf than on other causes" (1941, p. 807, 808).

In the vicinity of Ashland, Boyd County, the Black shale has produced for a great many years. The occurrence here is in part from the several Gordon sands—sandy lenses within the shale, and to a greater extent from the shale, as in Floyd and Johnson counties.

Production is entirely gas, no oil. The Black shale, though, has been commonly regarded as the source rock of the several oil pays below and just above it.


There are a number of pays intervening between the Chattanooga shale and the St. Louis. Individually, though, they do not produce over large areas.

Beaver Sand of Wayne County (locally known as the "Cooper," "Otter," and "Slickford" sands).—This is the important pay of Wayne County. It is a cherty, geode-bearing limestone a few feet above the Chattanooga shale (occasionally as much as 60 feet), with an average thickness of about 15 feet. It was described by Butts (1922) from outcrop as a massive, rather dense, bluish limestone having in places inclusions of drusy or cavernous quartz several inches in diameter. The oil is associated with little or no salt water. Amber oil from this general horizon (above the Black shale) has been found, though in small quantities, in the western part of Allen County; similarly, in the Austin pool of Barren County, and considerable gas near Hiseville.

Stray Sand of Wayne County.—This is 10 to 30 feet of cherty, geode-bearing limestone near the top of the Waverly about 250 feet above the Chattanooga. It carries a heavy black oil and gas (Hoeing, 1905). Considerable salt water is reported at this horizon. Some of the wells have been spectacular producers.

Black Lime or Beaver Sand of Hart County and Vicinity.—This is a thin, porous limestone or dolomite just above the Chattanooga shale in which considerable gas has been found. It is not everywhere present and is only locally porous and permeable.

Berea.—The Berea is an important producer in Lawrence County. It is a fine grained, more or less indurated sandstone, readily identified by its lithology and relationship to the Black shale, and is rather widely distributed in northeastern Kentucky. It ranges from 40 to 90 feet in thickness and exhibits one or two pays each 5 to 25 feet thick (Jillson, 1922). Gas is present but not in commercial quantities (Hunter, 1935). The oil is high grade, and though the wells are for the most part small they are long lived.

Wier.—The Wier is an outstanding producer in the region of the Paint Creek uplift but has not been productive elsewhere. Production is long lived. It is a lower Cuyahoga (Waverly) sandstone of, fine to medium texture and readily distinguished from the Berea in that it comes above the Sunbury shale. Laterally it grades into sandy shale and in places three distinct pays are recognized, separated by dark shale beds. The occurrence of oil and gas is typically anticlinal. According to Hunter (1935) the source rock is probably the zone of rich bituminous shale below.

A maximum thickness of 64 feet is attained in Lawrence, Boyd, and Martin counties, and the pay thins to the northwest and southwest. This pay of the lower Waverly is known only in the northeastern part of the Eastern Coal Field, including Boyd, Lawrence, Johnson, Magoffin, Floyd, Martin, Pike, Greenup, Carter, Elliott, Morgan, and Breathitt counties.

Big Injun.—The Big Injun sand is a producer of both oil and gas, principally the latter, in Martin, Pike, Johnson, Magoffin, Floyd, Breathitt, Clay, and Knox counties. The rock is a fine-grained sandstone, often red-purple in color, and intercallated with red shales. It occurs just below the Big Lime, in the upper Waverly (Pocono of West Virginia). On the basis of shale partings, three pays are locally recognized; from top to bottom, the Keener, Big Injun, and Squaw. All three are seldom present and the whole producing zone is more commonly referred to as the Big Injun. These beds are well shown in road cuts at Pound Gap and south of Whitesburg in Pine Mountain.


Big Lime.—In its maximum development the Big Lime includes the Fort Payne, Warsaw, St. Louis, Ste. Genevieve, and Lower Chester limestones. As in outcrop, the stratigraphic composition of this drillers' formation varies greatly. The Fort Payne as a limestone is developed only in the southwestern counties, giving way to a clastic facies to the north (upper Waverly). The Warsaw is similarly restricted to the southwestern counties and seems to be missing to the north. The St. Louis is out in the northeastern counties and due to unconformity at the base of the Pennsylvanian the whole limestone section is very thin and even absent in parts of Lewis and Greenup counties. Such observations made from surface studies apply by inference to the subsurface. Little is known of the stratigraphic variation within the Big Lime under cover and yet in a knowledge of it is probably a part of the answer to the scattered production.
Map of eastern Kentucky showing distribution of
oil and gas pools and relative importance of pay
sands (McFarlan 1939a)

According to Hunter (1935) the occurrence of gas is in crevices, and the gas (and oil) migrated from the Waverly below. Very few wells even in small areas have the same rock pressures indicating lack of continuity in the reservoir. Connate water is locally present but where serious water conditions exist the source of the water generally can be traced to overlying formations.

The cherty Ft. Payne is often identified as the Keener sand (Hunter, 1935), the chert fragments cutting the bit much as a sandstone. The Big Lime has been productive of gas in Martin, Pike, Floyd, Johnson, and Knox counties, and of oil in the Beaver Creek pool of Floyd County and Island City pool of Owsley County. Production is short lived but responds well to acidizing.

Maxon (Maxton).—The Maxon sand is a massive, cliff-forming sandstone member of the Pennington (Mauch Chunk) formation as shown in outcrop in Pine Mountain. An excellent exposure is that at Pound Gap. Under cover it is an important gas, and to a more limited extent, an oil producer. It is a quartz sandstone.

"Regionally, the Maxon sandstone seems to increase in coarseness toward the north and west, and with increased coarseness, production increases" (Hunter, 1935, p. 934). Gas is generally encountered in the upper part. Production is determined by both structural and sedimentary conditions.

The Maxon is not always easily differentiated from the Salt Sands in well records and the basal unconformity of the Pennsylvanian has probably been a cause of considerable confusion. However the red shales of the upper Pennington overlying the Maxon are a distinguishing feature.

The main area of production is in Floyd, Martin, and Pike counties, with some also in Knox County and the Weir sand field of Johnson, Lawrence, and Magoffin counties.

Salt Sands.—The term is applied to the one or more producing zones of the Lower Pottsville in eastern Kentucky. It is the usual type of Pottsville sandstone with porous zones of limited geographic extent and irregular vertical distribution. As many as three pays are known in places, and these have been designated the First, Second and Third Salt sands (northeastern Kentucky), the Beaver, Horton, and Pike sands of Floyd and Knott counties, and the Wages, Jones, and Epperson sands of Knox County. It is a commercial gas sand which has yielded important production in the shale gas field of Knott, Floyd, and Pike counties, the region of the Paint Creek uplift, Knox County, and Boyd County.

Large initial flows are common but wells are comparatively short lived. Accumulation is controlled by local structure and availability of porosity. In recent years wells have not been drilled for this gas. It was encountered incidental to drilling for shale gas.



Map of south-central Kentucky showing distribution of oil and gas pools and relative importance of pays. Cross
sections of eastern Kentucky showing oil and gas sands (after Hunter 1935)

Cross sections of eastern Kentucky showing oil and gas sands (after Hunter 1935)
FIG. 1. D-D', from Powell County to Letcher County, Kentucky.
FIG. 2. C-C', from Lawrence County, Ohio, through eastern Kentucky to Bell County.
FIG. 3. E-E', from Bath County to Pike County, Kentucky.
Cross sections of eastern Kentucky showing oil and
gas sands (after Hunter, 1935)
Carbon ratio map of the Eastern Coal Field and
showing distribution of oil and gas pools
(McFarlan 1926)


Shallow Pay of the Bowling Green Field.—This is a limestone pay 250 to 335 feet above the Black shale and regarded as St. Louis. The wells come in large but are short lived.

McCloskey.—The McCloskey sand assumed some promise of importance as a producer in Kentucky with the drilling in of the C. T. Blackwell in the Birk City pool, Henderson County, April 22, 1938 with an initial of 1,000 barrels. It established the first commercial McCloskey production in the state, though it was already a well-known producer in Illinois. One well in Daviess County was known to produce from this pay and several shows or small wells were known in the Owensboro field. There was also some small production from near Greenville, Muhlenberg County.

The pay8 comes in the oolitic Ste. Genevieve from 50 to 260 feet below the Cunningham break (Renault) and consists of somewhat coarser and much more loosely cemented oolites. These run from 0.7 mm. to 1.5 mm. in contrast to an average of about 0.5 mm. in the normal rock. The smaller oolites are well cemented and tend to break across oolite and cement alike. These larger oolites tend to be more irregular and frequently have fossils as nuclei. The microfauna is a recurrent Salem fauna and is represented again in a similar oolitic facies locally developed in the Golconda. Some gas has been found in the Golconda at Birk City and some oil flowed from it in wells in the Barrett Hill district (L. B. Freeman, 1938, quoting E. C. Dyer).

The large oolite phase in all wells studied is overlain by a few feet of dark green to black shale interbedded with the limestone. The interval from the Cunningham break seems to thicken southward as does also the Ste. Genevieve. This may be interpreted as due to marine recession with the youngest Ste. Genevieve unrepresented to the north. The association of the dark shale and oolitic facies suggests this interpretation and that the McCloskey represents a definite horizon. On the other hand both the shale and McCloskey oolites may represent a related and shifting facies. The availability of the McCloskey is primarily a matter of cement and grain size.

Production is short lived and associated with some salt water. Acid treatment is a common practice and has resulted in some flowing wells. Some apparently unproductive wells have been converted into commercial producers. In southeastern Illinois the old fields producing in part from the McCloskey are on the LaSalle anticline. The new pools in Clay and Wayne counties are located structurally on what seems to be a southwestward extension from the Oakland anticline (Wasson, 1938). Structural control of McCloskey production in Kentucky, over and above that by the lenticular nature of the pay, remains to be proved.

Chester Sands.—The Chester sandstones are the main pays of western Kentucky. Of these the Jett is outstanding, with Bethel second. It is sandstone production (there are some limestone pays) with pools of limited geographic extent because of the lenticular nature .of the pay. Sandstone becoming shaly or well cemented is of course nonproductive. Russell (1932) has called attention to the tight nature of these sandstones in the belt of pronounced folding and faulting of the Rough Creek fault zone.

The source of the oil and gas is discussed by the same author, who concludes (p. 250) that "the vertical movement across the strata is generally less than 100 feet, and that lateral movement is ordinarily only a few miles." The lack of wide horizontal movement is well shown in the Livermore pool where production, with salt water down the dip is followed by more production farther down the dip in the same sand. Further, the same pay again produces a thousand feet on down the dip in the Island (McLean County) pool. These features all seem to emphasize the possibilities of production in the deeper parts of the Western Coal Basin as well as the margin. The shifting shore line with progressive development of the basin is a rather complex matter.

Pennsylvanian.--Production from Pennsylvanian rocks was described by Russell (1932). The best production is from pebbly sand lenses of the Buford Pool. They occur in the basal Pennsylvanian filling a stream channel cut into the underlying Chester. Rock asphalt occurs under similar conditions at Kyrock. Because of the presence of abundant salt water the basal sandstone of the Caseyville is commonly logged as the Big Water sand. The Niagara pool (Henderson County) also produces from a sand in the lower part of the Pennsylvanian.

The best gas production (Russell, 1932) comes from a fairly persistent sandstone 400 feet below coal No. 9. Such production is found at Sebree and again at Niagara. Gas was encountered at both 400 feet and 300 feet below No. 9 coal on the M. A. Rideout No. 1 on top of a closed structure, with some oil in the upper pay in wells to the west and down the dip.


1 Miller, 1919; Jillson, 1919.
2 Freeman (1939a) regarded the lower 40 typically St. Peter. The upper part is fine grained and calcareous and possibly Stones River.
3 See figure 36, page 353 for other Trenton pays.
4 Gas does occur, though, low in the Corniferous 500 and 600 feet below the shale in the Mine Fork (Magoffin County), Flat Gap (Johnson County), and Auxier (Floyd County) fields as well as in the Big Six near Prestonsburg.
5 Paper read before the Appalachian Geological Society, November 8, 1935.
6 From a symposium prepared by the Appalachian Geological Society, 1935.
7 The situation seems to be somewhat like that involved in the distribution of upper Corniferous production and that of the Big Six and is outlined in a paper presented before the meeting of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, April, 1942, at Denver, Colorado, by R. C. Lafferty and R. N. Thomas. (See plate CV and notes on pp. 358.)
These notes taken from L. B. Freeman, 1938.
9 Some "Corniferous" gas has been found in the Isonville (southern Elliott County), Flat Gap (northern Johnson County), Mine Fork (northeastern Magoffin County), and Auxier (northern Floyd County) fields. These are all in the region of the Paint Creek uplift and are mentioned in connection with Weir sand production of that region (p. 355).
A. M. Miller, 1919, gives the discovery well as on the farm of Uncle Tommy Ragland.
See Irvine-Big Sinking group.
12 These notes are from a study of this field by Phil M. Miles (Master's thesis, University of Kentucky, 1939) based on data supplied by the Petroleum Exploration Company of Lexington through the courtesy of Earl Wallace.
13 Structural relationships are summarized in a diagrammatic cross section (Pl. XXXIII, after Freeman, 1941).
14 As defined by that author.
15 Miller (1919) said only the Beechwood member of the Sellersburg, and this is confirmed by Savage (1930a).
16 Miller (1919) said up to 60 feet of Osgood to Louisville.
17 Notes mainly from Russell (1934).
18 Notes from Russell, 1934.
19 Notes from Russell, 1934.
20 Sunnybrook production is considered separately with the Burkesville field.
21 The recent report by Kendall Born and H. B. Burwell (1939) on Clay County, Tennessee is the first comprehensive published work on this field and becomes the outstanding reference work. His conclusions are equally applicable to Cumberland, Clinton, and Monroe counties, Kentucky.
22 Mainly Weir sand (Johnson, Lawrence, Magoffin, and Elliott counties).
23 Notes supplied by George Straughan.
24 Now commonly spelled Barlow in referring to the sand.
25 Notes from E. A. Barnes.
26 Notes from E. A. Barnes.
27 Notes from E. A. Barnes.
28 Notes from E. A. Barnes.
29 Notes from E. A. Barnes.
30 Notes from R. C. Lafferty.
31 Notes from R. E. Stouder.
32 These notes from information supplied by D. J. Jones.