1902 Encyclopedia > Puy de Dôme

Puy de Dôme

PUY DE DÔME, a department of central France, four-fifths of which belonged to Basse-Auvergne, one-sixth to Bourbonnais, and the remainder to Forez (Lyonnais), lies between 45° 17' and 46° 16' N. lat. and 2° 23' and 4 E. long. It is bounded on the N. by Allier, on the E. by Loire, on the S. by Haute-Loire and Cantal, and on the W. by Oorrèze and Creuse. The chief town, Clermont-Ferrand, is 217 miles south of Paris in a direct line; and the department takes its name from a volcanic cone (4800 feet) which overlooks it. A meteorological observatory has stood on the summit, on the site of an old Roman temple, since 1876. The highest point of the department, the Puy de Sancy (6188 feet), is also the most elevated peak of central France; it commands the group of the vol-canic Monts Dore, so remarkable for their rocky corries, their erosion valleys, their trap dykes and orgues of basalt, their lakes sleeping in the depths of ancient craters or confined in the valleys by streams of lava, and their wide plains of pasture-land. The Puy de Sancy, forming part of the watershed, gives rise on its northern slope to the Dordogne, and on the east to the Couze, a sub-tributary of the Loire, through the Allier. The Monts Dore are joined to the mountains of Cantal by the non-volcanic group of the Cezallier, of which the highest peak, the Luguet (5101 feet), rises on the confines of Puy de Dome and Cantal. On the north the Monts Dore are continued by a plateau of the mean height of from 3000 to 3500 feet, upon which are seen sixty cones raised by volcanic outbursts in former times. These are the Monts Dome, which extend from south to north as far as Riom, the most remarkable being the Puy de Dome and the Puy de Pariou, the latter having a crater more than 300 feet in depth. To the east of the department, along the confines of Loire, are the Monts du Forez, rising to 5380 feet and still in part crowned with forests. Between these mountains and the Domes extends the fertile plain of Limagne. The drainage of Puy de Dome is divided between the Loire, by its affluents the Allier and the Cher, and the Gironde, by the Dordogne. The Allier traverses the department from south to north, receiving on its right the Dore, which falls into the Allier at the northern boundary and lowest level of the depart-ment (879 feet); on its left are the Alagnon from the Cantal, the two Couzes from the Luguet and the Monts Dore, and the Sioule, the most important of all, which drains the north-west slopes of the Monts Dore and Dome, and joins the Allier beyond the limits of the department. The Cher forms for a short space the boundary between the departments of Puy de D6ine and Creuse, close to that of Allier. The Dordogne, while still scarcely formed, flows past Mont-Dore-les-Bains and La Bourboule and is lost in a deep valley which divides this department from that of Correze. None of these streams are navigable, but boats can be used on the Allier during floods. The climate of Puy de Dome is usually very severe, owing to its high level and its distance from the sea; the mildest air is found in the northern valleys, where the elevation is least. During summer the hills about Clermont-Ferrand, exposed to the sun, become all the hotter because their black volcanic soil absorbs its rays. On the mountains from 24 to 36 inches of rain fall in the year, but only half this amount (18 inches) in Limagne, around which the mountains arrest the clouds. Nevertheless the soil of this plain, consisting of alluvial deposits of volcanic origin, and watered by torrents and streams from the mountains, makes it one of the richest regions of France.

Of a total area of 1,964,685 acres 925,146 are arable, 266,226 meadow and grassland, 232,210 underwood, 78,006 under vines, while 397,663 are moorland or coarse pasturage. Out of a total of 566,064 inhabitants 392,177 are engaged in agriculture. Puy de Dome possesses 18,500 horses, 1600 mules, 4850 asses, 16,100 oxen or bulls, 174,000 cows or heifers, 60,500 calves, 309,900 sheep, 90,500 pigs, 22,550 goats, and 25,900 beehives, wdiich in 1881 pro-duced 95 tons of honey and 33 tons of wax. In 1882 there were produced 369,313 quarters of wheat, 493,134 of rye, 197,241 of barley, 320,138 of oats, 25,172 of buckwheat, 5,172,408 bushels of potatoes, and in 1881 234,504 bushels of dried vegetables, 1,986,208 bushels of beetroot, 33 tons of tobacco, 1625 tons of hemp, 21 tons of flax, 26,176 bushels of rape-seed, a great quantity of colza oil, and 13,054,052 gallons of wine. The Limagne produces fruits of all kinds—apricots, cherries, pears, apples, and walnuts, and there are also plantations of mulberry trees.

The department possesses numerous mineral treasures. The coal-mines, occupying a surface-area of 7660 acres, employ 1381 men, and in 1882 produced 188,234 tons. The most important, at Brassac on the Allier, on the borders of Haute-Loire, employ 1200 or 1500 men (in the two departments). Next come those of St Eloi near the department of Allier, and of Bourg-Lastic and Messeix on the borders of Corrèze. The department also works peat, asphalt, and bituminous schists. Mines of argentiferous lead employ 640 men and produce 33,695 tons of lead or silver, worth £45,600. The most important mines and foundries are at Poutgibaud on the Sioule. Copper, arsenic, iron, antimony, barium sulphate, alum, manganese, white lead, sulphur, sulphuretted zinc, loadstone, and (of precious stones) amethysts, jacinths, rubies, agates, chalcedonies, opals, are also found in the department. Quarries of porphyry and lava are worked (Volvic with 900 men), as well as marl, limestone, and gypsum.

The hot springs of Mont Bore, known in the days of the Romans, contain a mixture of arsenic and iron bicarbonates, and are used especially for affections of the respiratory organs. The waters of La Bourboule, containing sodium chlorides and bicarbonates, are particularly rich in arsenic, and efficacious against affections of the lymphatic glands, scrofula, diseases of the skin and air-passages, and rheumatism. The springs of St Nectaire, containing sodium and iron chlorides and bicarbonates, are efficacious in liver complaints, rheumatism, and gravel. Some of them are petrifying, as the spring of St Allyre at Clermont-Ferrand. The waters of Royat, in use in tho time of the Romans, containing sodium and iron chlorides and bicarbonates, sparkling and rich in lithia, are used in cases of anœmia, rheumatism, gout, diabetes, and gravel. The waters of Cluiteauneuf (on the Sioule), also known to the Romans, contain iron bicarbonates and are resorted to for skin diseases. Those of Châtelguyon, like the waters of Carlsbad and Marienbad, are used for disorders of the digestive organs, congestions of the liver, rheumatism, &c. The waters of Châteldon are used for the table. There are other chalybeate waters at St Martial, Beaulieu, Pontgibaud, St Myon, St Maurice, Ariane, and many other mineral springs of varied character.

Manufactures are for the most part grouped around Thiers, which produces a large amount of cheap cutlery, pasteboards (especially adapted for stamps or playing-cards), and leather; 20,000 workmen are thus employed, and tho annual turn-over amounts to £1,200,000. The department contains important paper-mills, factories for lace and braid (in the mountains), for buntings, and camlets. Those for wool, cotton, and hemp contain 3500 spindles and more than 400 looms. There are wool-carding works and factories for linens, cloths, and counter-panes,—also silk-mills, tanneries, manufactories for chamois and other leathers, for caoutchouc, important sugar-works, starch-works, manufactures of edible pastes with a reputation as high as those of Italy, and manufactures of fruit-preserves. The saw-mills and the cheese industry in the mountains complete the list, which includes 201 establishments employing 75,553 persons. The department exports grain, fruits, cattle, wines, cheese, wood, and mineral waters.

Traffic is carried on over 294 miles of Government roads, 9591 miles of other roads, and 178 miles of railway. The department is crossed from north to south by tho railway from Paris to Nîmes, and that of Vichy to Thiers ; from west to east by that from Bordeaux to Lyons by Tulle, Clermont-Ferrand, and Thiers, with branches from Eygurande to Largnac and from Vertaison to Billom. It is skirted on the north-west by the line from Montluçon to Gannat, with a branch line for goods to the mines of St Eloi.

Twenty thousand inhabitants of the department, belonging chiefly to the district of Ambert, leave it during winter and find work elsewhere as navvies, chimney-sweeps, pit-sawyers, &c. The department in 1881 contained 566,064 inhabitants and includes five arrondissements—CLERMONT-FERRAND (q.v.), Ambert (town, 3940 * inhabitants), Issoire (6137), Riom (9590), Thiers (10,583)—50 cantons, and 467 communes. It is attached to the bishopric of Clermont-Ferrand and to the 13th Army Corps in the same town ; the superior court is at Riom. (G. ME.)

The above article was written by: Gaston Meissas.

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