Below is an image of a New Albany Shale fossil that might be what is described in the 1896 Report.
On page 118, Parenchymophycus asphalticum is described as:
"Plant with band-like thallus 10 to 150 mm wide, the well preserved spongy parenchymatic cells always filled with asphaltum. The cell walls are rich in silica. Cross divisions (nodes) at regular distances divide the band into rectangular oblong pieces (internodes). The termination of the plant consists of an oval shaped bud similar to that of Fucus vesiculosus L. of the present age. The length of specimens found varied from a few centimeters to 183 cm. The cell walls of this most interesting sea plant have resisted so well the influence of decomposition that they served as a means of diffusion for fluid bitumen, which, after a long time, gave off the volatile components and left only the hard aspaltum. All specimens show no ramification. (Pl. II, fig. 1)"