FHSU's Neuhauser really digs field surveys

Neuhauser feature

By Randy Gonzales
University Relations and Marketing
HAYS, Kan. -- Conducting field surveys is a stimulating part of the job for Dr. Ken Neuhauser, professor of geosciences at Fort Hays State University.

Neuhauser, who estimated he has gone on one or two geophysics surveys a year for about the last 15 years, used a magnetometer recently to survey a local stage and freight station called Lookout Station, used in the 19th century. With a magnetometer, the strength and location of the earth's magnetic field can be determined. The presence of iron-bearing metal changes the baseline readings of the magnetic field.

"This is exciting; this is fun," Neuhauser said. "I have this job, and part of it is the opportunity to do this stuff."

Lookout Station was located southwest of Hays. It was used by Butterfield Overland Dispatch, which delivered freight on the Smoky Hill Trail. On April 14, 1867, Indians raided Lookout Station and killed three men. They were said to have been buried next to a burned out barn at the station.

Neuhauser had two students mark out a grid where the bodies were thought to have been buried. His son, Kris Neuhauser, a graduate student in geology at FHSU, and Dave Befort, who received his bachelor's degree in geology this year, staked out the grid, using red flags. Befort is the son of Don Befort, who owns the land.

"I've been involved in using magnetometers and sometimes electrical resistivity to see what's buried underground," Neuhauser said. "I use this applied technique to teach to my classes -- my senior field methods class, my summer senior field camp course. They learn to interpret and integrate various scientific procedures."

The Smoky Hill Trail Association asked for Neuhauser's help in determining if there were, indeed, three unmarked graves at Lookout Station.

"We do know the names of the men buried there," said Jim Gray, who ranches in Geneseo in central Kansas.

"We're hoping to put a monument out there in recognition of those men, a memorial to them," added Gray, who is a member of SHTA.

Gray said the group would reveal the names of the men killed at the station during a ceremony for the monument, whenever it is erected. The SHTA meets in October, which is when Neuhauser will present his findings to the group.

Shortly after the SHTA was founded, one of its members, Linda Kohls, spotted something on a field trip to Lookout Station.

"She was the one who recognized a difference in the color of the grass right next to where the barn dugout was," Gray said. "It was her perceptive quality -- you could see the grass was the size of graves and there were three of them, side-by-side."

After studying the data, Neuhauser found some anomalies in the survey, just not enough to suit him. He saw iron-bearing objects below the surface at different depths.

"I was hoping to see three linear shadowy patterns, like a string of pearls," Neuhauser said. "I didn't see that.

"There's suspect anomalies there," he added. "It's my opinion that there's some iron-bearing things at these approximate depths."

As part of his students' course work, they are required to look for buried objects.

"I've got stuff buried all over this campus," Neuhauser said.

For example, one site has six 55-gallon steel drums buried at an undisclosed spot on FHSU property. Other iron-bearing items are also buried at other campus sites.

"We use these known field test sites," Neuhauser said. "I make my students figure this stuff out. I don't tell them what's down there, nor how deep. They've got to tell me. I'm their client. They have to write up an analysis and produce a scientific report."

In the past, Neuhauser has been asked to survey everything from gasoline tanks buried years ago to several B-29 crash sites. The test flights took off from the former Walker Army Airfield, located about 15 miles east of Hays.

"You just analyze with the data, try to figure out where and how deep the iron-bearing features are," Neuhauser said.

FHSU's Kris Neuhauser, left, a Hays graduate student in geology, and Dave Befort, Hays, who received his bachelor's degree in geology this spring, prepare to do a grid search using a magnetometer.

Back to top