Thursday, December 18, 2014

Uptop: A Winter Poem

By Steven Wade Veatch

The winter snow blankets the town of Uptop.
A wind blows hard, swirling angry flakes of snow.
Light from coal-oil lamps fall through cabin windows—
casting a golden glow down a silent, snowy street.















People of Uptop long for the days of springtime;
the changing realm of white to robust green,
when summer’s blooms spread cheerful colors—
and alpine beauty stirs dreams of travelers coming on rails.

For decades they came over the mountain pass and endured;
some searching streams for gold or looking for silver in mineral veins.
Others started ranches where the grass and water was good.
Each one tamed the West and the grieving mountains.

The depot still stands, built by section hands in 1877,
to meet countless fortune seekers coming over old La Veta Pass.
Today the rails are gone and the travelers are few.
Only a small number remain in the small town of Uptop.

On Sunday at the Chapel by the Wayside, among the trees,
a church bell breaks the weekly silence—renewing the sprits—
of humbled hearts to stay for another peaceful year,
in Uptop, Colorado, the secluded and cherished place.





















___________________________________________
DIRECTIONS TO UPTOP GHOST TOWN, COLORADO:
TWO turnoffs to Uptop ghost town are located off Hwy 160:
• 20 minutes east of Ft. Garland, CO: .turn at mile marker 276:
• 15 minutes west of La Veta or 20 min. west of Walsenburg: turn at mile marker 281

Poem   © by Steven Wade Veatch
Photos © by Steven Wade Veatch

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Pulver Gulch Prospect: A Hidden Reserve of Metamorphic Minerals

As U.S. Highway 24 approaches Wilkerson Pass, Colorado, the 1.7 billion-year-old metamorphic rocks of the Puma Hills replace the younger Pikes Peak Granite.  The Puma Hills were formed by the metamorphism of sedimentary rocks that were once oceanic sediments—sand, mud, and clay.
Before the highway reaches the summit of Wilkerson Pass, it goes past a dirt road to the M Lazy C ranch. The ranch road heads north into the hills where forest road 247 soon intersects the winding ranch road, and at this crossroad forest road 247 bears east, into the deep forest, past the old Pulver Gulch prospect.

The geology at Pulver Gulch is unlike the surrounding area.  The sediments at Pulver Gulch contain more calcium carbonate, from impure and muddy limestones, than the surrounding ocean sediments that formed the Puma Hills.  These calcareous sediments were heated, compressed, and transformed into calcium silicate rocks that host a group of interesting metamorphic minerals that include scheelite, vesuvianite, wollastonite, grossular garnet, and diopside. The Pulver Gulch prospect’s exploratory dump is an excellent place to search for these metamorphic minerals.
Prospectors worked the Pulver Gulch prospect over sixty years ago looking for scheelite (figure 1), a mineral that formed in the metamorphic rocks at the site.  Scheelite is an important source of tungsten. Tungsten has many industrial applications, including filaments in light bulbs.  Since scheelite is strongly fluorescent, prospectors searched the area with battery powered black lights at night.

Figure 1. Scheelite crystals and muscovite mica showing
fluorescence under ultraviolet radiation. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Brilliant brown granular crystals of vesuvianite (figure 2), a basic calcium magnesium silicate mineral, are common here.  Short prismatic crystals can also be found.  This mineral was named for Mt. Vesuvius, where it was discovered on the slopes of the Italian volcano.
 
 
Figure 2. Vesuvianite crystal.
Image courtesy of the CSMS blog by Mike Nelson.

Wollastonite (figure 3), a calcium silicate, occurs as milky-green masses of needle-like crystals at this site.  Some of the massive specimens are larger than a football.  This mineral is faintly fluorescent.  Wollastonite is used as a component in refractory or heat resistant ceramics and as a filler for paint.
 

Figure 3. Wollastonite with diopside (green), garnet (red) and vesuvianite (dark brown)
from the Stanislaw mine near Szklarska Poreba, Izerskie Mountains,
 Lower Silesia, Poland. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.
 
Thick, banded layers of brown grossular (figure 4), a member of the garnet group, are associated with wollastonite at the Pulver Gulch prospect.  These garnets also formed from the impure limestones and occur here in a massive and granular form.
 

Figure 4. Garnet crystals from the Jeffery Mine, Quebec.
 Image courtesy of the Canada. Bureau of Mines, specimens C-01687.

By breaking open the host rocks on the Pulver Gulch dump, well-developed microcrystals of dark green diopside (figure 5) are exposed.  The diopside crystals, a calcium magnesium silicate, are embedded in sparkling white calcium silicate rocks.  These specimens of diopside can be interesting to micromount collectors. 


Figure 5. Diopside crystal from De Kalb, New York.
 Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Today the Pulver Gulch dump is largely undisturbed.  Occasionally a small group of geology students from Colorado College will stop by the dig site to study the local geology in this peaceful part of the Puma Hills.

References:

Chesterman, Charles, 1978, The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Rocks and Minerals,  Alfred A. Knopf, New York. 

Chronic, Halka, 1980, Roadside Geology of Colorado, Mountain Press Publishing Co, Missoula.

Mineral Galleries, World Wide Web homepage URL:   http://mineral.galleries.com/minerals/silicate/vesuvian/vesuvian.htm 

Wobus, R.A., 1997 (Williams College) personal communication.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Ghost Ranch Dinosaurs: Deadly Cannibals of the Late Triassic

Coelophysis, was a dinosaur that walked on two feet, was generally 6 to 10 feet (1.8 to 3 meters) long, and was among the best known of all late Triassic dinosaurs.  The Triassic world, beginning about 230 million years ago, marked the beginning of the Age of Dinosaurs and was very different than today.  The continents of the Triassic Earth were joined together into one huge continent called Pangaea. The central region of this enormous landmass was a vast and inhospitable desert with a dry and harsh climate.  Coelophysis inhabited this super continent during very uninviting times. 

These slightly built predatory dinosaurs, first named by the famous paleontologist Edward Drinker Cope, had long jaws with sharp and serrated teeth.  Coelophysis was a quick and agile dinosaur that hunted prey in packs, bringing other animals down with the fearsome claws of their three-fingered hands. They held their long tails high above their backs for balance. 

Many assumptions about Coelophysis behavior are based on interpretations of the remarkable accumulation of hundreds of well-preserved skeletons found at Ghost Ranch, New Mexico.  George Whitaker discovered skeletons of Coelophysis bauri at Ghost Ranch in the summer of 1947, approximately 38 miles northwest of the town of Española, New Mexico. 

The death curve pose of this Coelophysis is caused by body tissues and
 neck tendons stiffening and shortening.  This post-mortem action
 bends the head back.  Note the sharp claws used to grab prey. 
Image  © by S. Veatch.
The Whittaker quarry preserves the full range of growth of both genders of Coelophysis—from juveniles to fully grown adults. Why so many Coelophysis died at once at the Ghost Ranch location is a puzzle—predators typically do not congregate in the high density seen at Ghost Ranch unless there is an exceptionally rich food source.  There is nothing to suggest there was such a concentration of prey at the Ghost Ranch locality.  The Coelophysis skeletons at the Whittaker quarry are well-preserved (about 25% are articulated or complete) and show no signs of scavenging.  This is consistent with the leading hypothesis that these animals were killed by a flood, washed into a low spot or pond, and were then quickly buried.

New discoveries of Coelophysis fossils are continuing to be made at Ghost Ranch.  Each new discovery of these fossils yields more information about these remarkable dinosaurs.

 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Pebble Pups Conserve Cripple Creek's Mineral Collection

     The Pikes Peak Pebble Pups are taking turns this year to work on the mineral collection displayed at the Cripple Creek District Museum. The museum is located in Cripple Creek, Colorado on 5th and Bennett Avenue in what was the Midland Railroad depot.

Figure 1: Ben Nemo, who is in 5th grade, spent a day at the museum
working on conserving one of Colorado’s most important
mineral collections. Photo credit: Steven Veatch.
     The mineral and rock collection is from the historic mines of the Cripple Creek and Victor Gold Mining District. Gold tellurides make up the majority of the collection. Pebble pups take turns working a shift with three scientists where they learn the procedures involved with conserving and cataloging this remarkable collection. The pebble pups learn and then perform a number of steps while working at the museum. First, the specimen is imaged in a photography light tent. The specimen is then examined with a microscope. During this examination Dr. Bob Carnein describes the specimen.  A museum technician types Dr. Carnein’s description in a computer. John Rakowski, a geologist, also writes the description in a lab notebook. Next measurements (in the metric system) are taken and recorded.

Steven Marquez will be starting 8th grade. Steven measured specimens,
learned how to take photos through the microscope, and painted labels
on each specimen. Photo credit: Steven Veatch.
     The second step it to brush a strip of archival white paint on the specimen; after the paint dries an archival pen is used to write a unique catalog number directly on the paint strip. Steven Veatch, the project leader at the museum and the pebble pup leader, creates in the final step a photomicrograph—or an image with a microscope—of the specimen. The pebble pups, who range in age from 10 to 16 years old, work on all steps of the cataloging and conservation effort. The pebble pups, at the end of their work, receive a certificate of training from Kathy Reynolds, the museum director.

A microphotograph of a crystal of gold-bearing calaverite.
Photo credit: Steven Marquez. 
 

     The Pikes Peak Pebble Pup program (PPPP) includes students K-12 who explore the geosciences in the Pikes Peak region of Colorado. The program participates with the Future Rockhounds of America under the American Federation of Mineralogical Societies. The PPPP is composed of the youth of the Lake George Gem and Mineral Club (Teller County), and the Colorado Springs Mineralogical Society (El Paso County). A number of students from the United Kingdom participate in the program through the Internet. The goal of the program is to teach pebble pups to become rockhounds. Teen members of the group are called earth science scholars. The program focuses on communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking. Communication is achieved through a blog site (http://pebblepups.blogspot.com/) where merit badge assignments, lessons, and pebble pup written work or art work is posted. The PPPP use Facebook™ as a method of communication within the group. Collaboration is through local and regional museums, the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, the Science Olympiad, and Cool Science.
     Accomplishments of the PPPP include first place and third place awards in the National Park Service’s art contest for National Fossil Day; monthly articles published in the Ute Country News; and researched articles are published in an international magazine. Two pebble pups entered a poetry contest sponsored by the Library of Congress: one pebble pup was a finalist in the nation and received a medal from the U.S. Poet Laureate while another pebble pup won first place in Colorado. A book of collected poems on geoscience by the PPPP has been published with all of the books sold within weeks. A teen PPPP presented a paper at an Ice Age symposium last year at the Colorado School of Mines campus. Several PPPP were coauthors on papers presented at the University of Denver and the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology in Socorro, New Mexico.
     The pebble pups meet monthly during the academic school year. As there are so many ways for the PPPP to express their creative energies; the retention rate is very high. The informal setting allows for a more complete understanding of geoscience due to a more focused learning environment. The informal setting also allows for more personal and meaningful interaction between the informal educator and student. Students engaged in informal education are benefited on a personal level more than they would be in a formal setting. The informal education of the PPPP has proven to be more supportive to the development and growth of a student both intellectually and emotionally compared to education in a strictly controlled, formal learning environment. For more information on the PPPP contact Steven Veatch through his email at: steven.veatch@gmail.com.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Cripple Creek's District Museum Mineral Collection



Each month, for the past several years, I go twice  a month with two other scientists (Bob Carnein and John Rakowski) to catalog, photograph, and record detailed information on each specimen we work with. We donate our time to this important project. The Cripple Creek & Victor Gold Mining Company provided the funding for the archival materials that includes special paint and ink pens for catalog numbers, an ultrasonic cleaner, and other miscellaneous materials for the project. In addition to standard photographs of the specimens we work with, microphotographs are taken of certain specimens.I have a few microphotographs of selected specimens I would like to share with you.


Sylvanite crystals in quartz.  Sylvanite is a gold
telluride mineral. Photo © by S. W. Veatch
Calavarite gold telluride mineral specimen no. 196
Photo © by S. W. Veatch
Sylvanite crystal. Specimen no. 196.
Photo © by S. W. Veatch

Sylvanite crystal..  Specimen no 229.
Photo © by S. W. Veatch

Large gold blister from roasted gold sample.
Specimen no. 245. Photo © by S. W. Veatch
Roasted gold specimen no. 246.
Photo © by S. W. Veatch
Roasted gold specimen no. 248.
S. W. Veatch photograph




Another view of specimen 248 showing multiple gold blisters from roasting.
Photo © by S. W. Veatch


Cripple Creek gold ore sliced by diamond rock saw.
Gold and fluorite is present.
Photo © by S. W. Veatch


Calavarite specimen no. 81
Photo © by S. W. Veatch


Group of calavarite gold telluride specimens
Photo © by S. W. Veatch


Krennerite (?) gold telluride specimen no. 129
Photo © by S. W. Veatch

Krennerite (?) gold telluride specimen.
Photo by S. Veatch


Twin crystal of sylvanite. Specimen no. 146.Photo © by S. W. Veatch






Sunday, July 28, 2013

Remarkable Trace Fossil Found Near Woodland Park May Hold Clues to an Ancient Sandstone

By Steven Wade Veatch and Zachary Sepulveda

Winding into the mountains, U.S. highway 24 closely follows the Ute Pass fault, a major fault that separates the Rampart Range from the Pikes Peak massif and the rest of the Front Range. Starting southeast of Cheyenne Mountain, the Ute Pass fault can be traced for about 60 miles, and heads north along state highway 67 beyond Woodland Park. The fault zone is relatively wide and filled with broken and fractured rocks that create the course of Fountain Creek in Ute Pass.
There are at least three resistant ridges made up of sandstone exposed along Ute Pass and in the Woodland Park area. These can be thought of as “fault slices” of a sandstone rock unit “jammed” in Pikes Peak Granite during past movements of the Ute Pass fault. The sandstone rocks are called “injectites” by a number of geologists to describe this remarkable formation. Generally, the color of the injectites is reddish or maroon, but some of the weathered injectites have a buff discoloration on weathered surfaces that is related to the iron oxide cement present in the sandstone.

Today the injectites remain a source of much scientific debate. This was thought to be a sandstone unit called the Sawatch Sandstone that was deposited during the Paleozoic Era in the Cambrian Period—when there was an explosion of multicellular life. Geologists give names to units of rock that were formed generally in the same way at the same time so they can talk about them and map them. Upon closer examination, it is clear this is probably not Sawatch Sandstone. During a recent field trip attended by  seven geologists studying these features in Woodland Park, the scientists began to consider this sandstone was perhaps pre-Cambrian, formed at a time before there was multicellular life on Earth. During the intense and concentrated discussion during this field trip, the scientists considered it a distinct possibility this sandstone was laid down before larger life forms were present; Steve Spence, a geology student at Pikes Peak Community College, climbed a steep slope of this enigmatic sandstone while the geologists were fervently debating.  He came back down with an object he had never seen before and brought it to one of the authors (Veatch) and said, “What is this unusual looking thing?”

Steve Spence, a Pikes Peak Community College Student
with the trace fossil he found. Photo © by S.W. Veatch
Veatch knew exactly what it was—it was a trace fossil of a larger, multicellular creature that once crawled its way through the wet and moist sand millions of years ago. This large trace fossil put the primordial sandstone back in the Paleozoic when there were large, multicellular organisms.


The tube-like structure or the trace fossil was formed by the creature crawling through this ancient
sand and can be clearly seen from this side view. Steven Spence specimen. Photo © S. W. Veatch.

Trace fossils, also known as ichnofossils, are a very important kind of fossil, they record behavior exhibited by prehistoric creatures. They are formed by animals performing actions, rather than animals dying and being preserved in sediment. For instance, a trace fossil might be formed by a worm burrowing its way through the sand, leaving a trail that gets preserved for all of eternity; or a dinosaur traveling to its nesting site and leaving a trail of footprints in deep mud. The term trace fossil may also include other things like remnants organisms left behind, for example, egg shells or coprolites (scat or droppings). Trace fossils leave us with indirect evidence of how past animals lived their lives and how they may have behaved.

Footprint fossils can give us insight not only into the behavior of prehistoric animals, but also into their physical attributes. By looking at footprints we can determine the size, speed, and weight of the animal creating the print. Trace fossils are a valuable source of information on prehistoric animals' behavior and biology.

This is a good example of how science works, and how something can change like the name and age of a sandstone unit. Geologists for decades thought it was the Sawatch Sandstone, and now geologists do not know what the name of the sandstone is or the age of it. Now science has a trace fossil from Woodland Park to add to the understanding of this puzzling sandstone. Scientists will soon probe the mysteries of this ancient sandstone embedded in Pikes Peak Granite and hopefully assign a name and age to it.

About the authors:

Steven Veatch is from a descendant from Cripple Creek miners who mined in the Cripple Creek and Victor Mining District from 1892 to the late 1930s. He teaches the Pikes Peak Pebble Pups to become responsible rock hounds, writers, poets, and scientists. 











Zachary Sepulveda attends Palmer Ridge High School in Monument, Colorado. He is from Southern California, and has always been interested in geology, paleontology and biology. He is looking forward to making a meaningful contribution to the field of science.  His other interests include creative writing and drawing. Some of his poetry and drawings have been published in magazines such as Deposits and in local newspapers. Zachary is a member of the Colorado Springs Mineralogical Society (CSMS) and participates actively in the Pebble Pup/Junior program. He is also a member of the Colorado Scientific Society. 

Monday, March 25, 2013

Dr. John Allen Veatch: A Wayfaring Pioneer in Science and Politics

One hot summer day I was leading a field trip to a site not far from the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colorado. As the Colorado sun climbed to its meridian in a blue sky, we explored the local areas where paleontology presented itself in a profusion of mystery and wonder. The most interesting sites to me were narrow and deep slot ravines, cut from clay mining decades ago that now exposed fossil dinosaur tracks, fossil foliage, and a prehistoric rainstorm—where individual rain drops were preserved in mud that had turned, over time, into a layer of sedimentary rock. By the time I arrived with my field party to the mined out slot ravines, the sun was shining directly into them, making the temperature in the ravines seem like the heat of an assayer’s oven.

By the afternoon, we needed a place to cool off from a long day in the summer heat, so I took my group to the Colorado School of Mines Geology Museum. Once we went inside, we were greeted with welcomed cool air flowing from air conditioning vents. In this excellent museum, I showed my field party—a group of people of mixed ages and backgrounds—the section where Colorado gold ore and gold nuggets glittered in the light. Everyone’s eyes were wide, and I could see the sparkling gold reflected in their eyes. A number of jaws silently dropped. All of these gold specimens were from historic Colorado mining sites. Soon, I lost the group as they spread out to look at the fabulous Colorado crystals, rocks, and fossils on display.

I knew on the lower level in the museum the location of an uncommon mineral with an unusual name: veatchite, a strontium borate. I saw this mineral in the museum’s case on a previous trip. After a good hour had passed I went back upstairs and herded my entire group to the lower level of the museum, where I showed everyone that specimen of veatchite in the mineral cabinet.  I wished I could tell them I discovered it, but I had not. This specimen was named after one of my ancestors.  Even though I can’t claim to be its namesake, veatchite and especially the man it was named for had an impact on my life. Is it possible that the passions of your ancestors, especially if they are on both sides of your family, can become your passions?

Image of Veatchite at the Colorado School of Mines Musuem.
© by Steven Wade Veatch
John Allen Veatch was a surgeon, surveyor, and scientist. He was born March 5, 1808, the first of eight children in a Kentucky frontier family. John Veatch’s mother died when he was fourteen. This was a very difficult time for his family. Money was scarce. The Veatch family decided to move to Spencer County, Indiana to start a new life. Another part of the Kentucky Veatch family—attracted by good farmland—moved from Kentucky to northeast Missouri. I am a direct descendent of the Missouri group.
Dr. J. A. Veatch, courtesy photo.

 At the age of nineteen, John Veatch knew that he had to make his own way in the world and look for fresh opportunities. He returned to Kentucky where he started his studies of medicine under a practicing physician, Dr. John Work in Louisville and soon became part of his practice. I noticed in those days it did not take as long to become a medical doctor as it does today.

John Veatch had a restless side to him, and after he had learned as much as he wanted to about the medical profession, he decided to leave Kentucky in 1829. He moved to Louisiana on the Pearl River near Covington and landed a job teaching school. He married Charlotte Edwards in 1831 and had two children:  Andrew Allen Veatch was born in 1832 in Covington and a year later Samuel Houston Veatch was also born in Covington. Samuel Houston Veatch was named after the great Texas General Sam Houston. Charlotte Veatch was so impressed with his "manners and distinguished presence” that she decided that her newborn child would be named Samuel Houston.

In 1834, Dr. Veatch moved to Texas with his family. While in Texas he bought land in Hardin, Trinity, and Jefferson counties. He later obtained additional land in the Zaval Land Grant from the Mexican government. This land would become, fifty years later, sites (Sour Lake and Spindletop) of significant oil discoveries and was some of the most valuable land in Texas. Although he no longer owned all of his holdings in the original Zaval Land Grant at his death, his grandson inherited what was left, 284 acres of oil land in the central part of the Sour Lake District.

The Texas Handbook describes Dr. Veatch as a giant man, standing 6' 4" tall and weighing over 200 pounds. His complexion was fair; he had blue eyes and auburn hair. Is it too much of a stretch to think some of those traits still exist in the Veatch bloodline? After all, I’m 6’ 2” and mild tempered. And, more to the point, I’m also a geologist. I like to think Dr. Veatch would have been proud of me and interested in my geological studies.

Dr. Veatch, during this time, wore more clothing than we do. Because there was no sunscreen, he wore shirts with high necks and long sleeves and long trousers during his field work. He also wore a wide-brimmed hat to have added protection from the sun. Since zippers and snaps had not been invented yet, he relied on buttons, hooks, and eyes for closure. He was characterized as a strong Democrat and was skilled in making friends. The Democrats at this time in history were the party of tradition—the successors of the Jeffersonian agrarians who looked back to the past and were suspicious of banks and corporations. Democrats had a strong commitment to states' rights, a limited federal government, and a continued agrarian ideal. The Democrats (during this time period) were composed of northern craftsman who felt vulnerable to the expansion of industry, farmers who were unhappy with tariffs, immigrants who wanted to maintain their own traditions, southerners who believed in the right to own slaves, and westerners who were in favor of land acquisition by any means, including war.

Dr. Veatch was a capable man and had many intellectual interests. Books became his college. He began to study botany and mineralogy while in Texas. Dr. Veatch was an emissary of science and medicine with wide sympathies, probity, and a strong sense of purpose. He was involved in the political movement seeking the independence of Texas. He was elected as a delegate from Bevil’s settlement (a pre-republic community of settlers between the Neches and Sabine rivers) to the Consultation of 1835, a crowded and raucous assembly that met to consider independent rule for Texas and even armed rebellion to achieve it.  Samuel Houston attended this consultation. Did my ancestor pound his fists on the table like some of the others at the meeting, demanding to be heard? Or did he merely stand on the sidelines, offering considered commentary later in the quiet of a side room conversation? Maybe he gestured and waited to be recognized, making the right point at just the right moment, helping Texas seal it history, if only for a few remembered years?

I’ve given my fair share of speeches in my own career as a geologist but, somehow what I learned about Dr. Veatch feels more impressive. He must have been considered an activist in his times. He even joined the militia during the battles for the independence of Texas. Surely he influenced others with his opinions.  For my part, I prefer exploring the landscape and playing a guitar in old mining camps. To each his own.

The following year (1836), the Texas Declaration of Independence was signed by Samuel Houston and the Battle of the Alamo occurred, where defenders, with infinite courage, held out for 13 days against General Antonio López de Santa Anna's army. The rallying cries “Remember the Alamo!" filled the ranks of the Texan Army led by General Sam Houston. On April 21, his militia attacked the Mexican army at the Battle of San Jacinto, where General Santa Anna was defeated and captured. The independence of Texas was now certain.

The Texas landscape is seemingly endless, like eternity. In the 1840s Dr. Veatch practiced medicine in the new settlement of Town Bluff, Texas. Summer in the area was beautiful: the sun’s light nurtured a landscape dotted with wild flowers that filled the mind with the music of nature. At sundown, the Texas bluebonnets and crimson clover blaze in the golden sunlight of evening while coyotes carefully stalk their prey.

The peaceful beauty did not last long—tragedy struck with the untimely death of Dr. Veatch’s wife Charlotte in 1844. Then the tensions between the United States and Mexico intensified and ultimately reached a breaking point: Between 1846 and 1848, the United States and Mexico went to war. In the war with Mexico, Dr. Veatch served as first lieutenant in Mirabeau B. Lamar’s Independent Volunteer Company during 1846-47. He was the surgeon for this military unit. He also raised a company of men in 1847 that included his two sons, Andrew Allen Veatch and Samuel Houston Veatch. Samuel Houston Veatch was only 14 when he served in his father’s company in the War with Mexico. Later Dr. Veatch served as a Captain in the Texas Mounted Volunteers, who defended the Texas frontier from 1847-1848. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, signed on February 2, 1848, ended the war between the United States and Mexico. By the end of the war, Mexico lost nearly half of its territory—the American Southwest from Texas to California.

By 1850, Veatch had moved to San Antonio and continued amassing widespread landholdings in Texas. Dr. Veatch married Ann M. Bradley while living in San Antonio. She had five children from her former marriage—all born in Alabama. Restless for adventure, Dr. Veatch gathered his reins and rode for California where many men were still searching for a golden bonanza. Following a crumbling marriage, Dr. Veatch and Ann divorced while he was in California. His sons Andrew and Samuel came with him to California and kept busy while they panned gold in the gravel bars of streams and rivers.  California continued to experience a large number of people coming into the state looking for gold deposits. It was during Dr. Veatch’s explorations in California that he discovered large deposits of borax (borate related minerals or chemical compounds) in Lake County in 1856.  I can see the site in my mind: the mineral pools, water running over stones, and natural gardens of cactus. Nothing moves other than heat waves, a slight breeze, and a lizard running over a rock slab. As a result of his work there, he published “The Report of Dr. John A. Veatch to the Borax Company of California” in 1857. Subsequently borax became “white gold.” Borax, boric acid, and other compounds of boron were used for medicine, the preservation of food, in glass blowing, and in other industrial applications.

Veatchite, a borate mineral, was discovered in 1938 at the Sterling Borax Mine in Tick Canyon, Los Angeles County, California. Veatchite was named to honor John Veatch. The Sterling Borax Mine is the type locality for veatchite.  To have a new species of mineral or fossil named after a person is a high honor in the world of science. Sometimes, a new mineral, plant, or animal species is named after the scientist who first worked with it, or it can be named after a colleague, a poet, or anyone to honor that person. Generally, the discoverer has the privilege of naming the new species. Since veatchite was not discovered until decades after Dr. Veatch’s investigations, the new mineral was named to honor his scientific work and contributions. Dr. Veatch passed away before the great fortunes were made in the borax industry by 20-mule teams pulling wagons full of borax to processing plants. Dr. Veatch, however, at the time of his death, was far from penniless; he still owned some of the most valuable land in Texas that contained “black gold.”

Dr. Veatch put much in motion when he conducted his studies on the mineral waters in California. While still in California, Dr. Veatch also explored and surveyed Carros Island (off Lower California) in 1858, and then he was the curator of conchology (study of molluscs) at the California Academy of Sciences from 1858 to 1861. He also authored several scientific papers during this period.

In 1862, Dr. Veatch moved yet again.  I think he sought out the wild places where the thunder roared, dust devils whirled, and where he could study the Earth where it revealed itself in the rock record. This time he headed for the gold and silver fields of the Comstock Lode in Nevada—the first major discovery of silver ore in the United States. The Comstock Lode discovery was announced in 1859, starting the “Rush to Washoe” and the establishment of Virginia City almost overnight. Dr. Veatch arrived, after the dust of discovery settled, in 1862—to explore a new mining district. It is hard for any geologist to resist the call of a new discovery of ore and have the chance to study the geological conditions that formed it.

Dr. Veatch practiced medicine and worked in geology in the Comstock Mining District for two years. His son Andrew was superintendent of the reduction works of the Central Mill in the district. Andrew Veatch studied mining and became a prominent mining engineer. I’m not certain how Andrew died, only that he didn’t outlive his father and was sadly buried in 1872, at the young age of 40, in California.  Mentzelia veatchiana or Veatch's blazingstar, when discovered and described by scientists, was named to honor Andrew Veatch.  Samuel Houston Veatch served in the Confederate army and became a Christian minister.

By 1865, Dr. Veatch married a third wife, Samanthe Brisbee. After Dr. Veatch left Virginia City, he worked as a geologist in San Francisco. He maintained an office at 712 Montgomery Street. If his desk was anything like mine, and I like to think it might have been, it surely was cluttered with mineral samples, dusty scales, rock fragments next to a petrographic microscope, and stacks of colorful geologic maps.

Dr. Veatch made an unsuccessful attempt to become state geologist of Oregon in 1868 while still working in San Francisco. He remained in San Francisco until 1869, when his wife Samanthe died.

After his disappointment of not becoming Oregon’s state geologist and the loss of his wife, Dr. Veatch moved to Oregon to join the faculty of Oregon’s first medical school—Willamette University Medical School (in 1913 it became the University of Oregon School of Medicine). He was the professor of chemistry and toxicology. Unfortunately, Dr. Veatch did not hold his new position very long; he died of pneumonia in Portland on April 24, 1870. A new plant species was officially named in 1873 by the California Academy of Science in honor of Dr. Veatch for his pioneering botanical work: Garrya veatchii or Canyon siltassel.  Lotus dendroideus variety veatchii; and Acmispon dendroideus variety veatchii or San Miguel Island deerweed were also named to honor Dr. Veatch.

At the Colorado School of Mines Geology Museum, the group that I led on the field trip that summer day would not know this story of Dr. Veatch by looking through the glass case at veatchite. I did gather the story, and piecing together Dr. Veatch’s life and sharing his name  has helped me to find meaning in my life and helped me to understand why we I enjoy geology so much. In the quest to understand my own life’s path, I believe that the groundwork of my ancestors paved the way for me to do the work I was born to do and that I am now doing today.  

In contrast to Dr. Veatch and countless other wanderers in our nation’s early history—I remain tied to Colorado—just as some of my other ancestors did in the Caribou, Nederland, and Cripple Creek mining camps of Colorado. I made a commitment to Colorado’s mountains, mines, minerals, and fossils to stay in one place so that I could really know the geology of the ground I walk over.