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now that's something i've not seen before. in my area we had common use of concrete, wood, and lead.
edit: here's something i found on the internet: (courtesy cowhampshireblog.com)
Soapstone is a metamorphic rock, usually called Steatite by mineralogists, that formed from 300 to 400 million years ago under intense heat and pressure. Because of its ability to be cut or carved easily, from ancient times this stone was used to create sculptures. Due to its tendency to both resist and retain heat, it has often been used for cooking, heating and serving food.
Soapstone is also known as soap-rock, black talc, and lava stone. From the fact that it has in years past been used–particularly by the aboriginal tribes–for making rude pots, it has also received the name potstone.
New England colonists early used soapstone for stove-backs, inkstands, sills, door steps, bed warmers, foot warmers, tombstones, and griddles. Later it was used to create woodstoves, wash tubs (sinks), water pipes, mantles and for industrial purposes. Soapstone is still used today as kitchen island tops, cook tops, oven floors, hearths, masonry heaters, fireplace liners, shower areas, and more.
The primary areas where soapstone has been found in New Hampshire include: Francestown, Canterbury, Orford, Haverhill, Warner, Keene, Lancaster, Weare, Richmond, and Swanzey. Reportedly the first New England soapstone deposit to be discovered was that at Francestown, New Hampshire. For many years it was considered the best soap stone quarry in New England. It was discovered in 1794 and was quarried by Daniel Fuller in 1802. The quarry closed in 1891.
As early as 1810 advertising can be found in the New Hampshire Gazette, of Portsmouth New Hampshire, for “Soap-stone Backlogs.” The Bangor Daily Whig & Courier (Bangor ME) on Friday May 22, 1874 printed the following story: “A bachelor remarked to a young lady that soapstone was excellent for keeping the feet warm in bed. 'Yes,” said the young lady; “but some gentlemen have an improvement on that which you know nothing about.'–The bachelor maintained a wistful silence.”
New Hampshire Historical Marker #23, placed in Francestown in 1964, commemorates the soapstone quarry. The marker is located on Route 136 about 1/2 mile east of the center of Francestown center. The wording on this marker: “A large deposit of highest quality was discovered early in the 19th century at a northerly section of Francestown by Daniel Fuller. During the heyday of its popularity, various common uses of this non-metallic mineral (steatite), when quarried were for sinks, water pipes, stoves, hearths, warming stones, mantels, and industrial purposes.”
I have found wood before, but the customers never let me take it. This customer was gracious enough to let me have this chunk. You can see the saw marks down all 4 sides. Ive never found a piece longer than this. Im not sure how long the sections were or how they connected to each other. ??
I had never seen or heard of this use for soapstone before, interesting.
A old house I owned some years backmthat was built in 1904 has a double soapstone washtub in the laundry. I don't know how old it was but in the 80s when I was there it was still in perfect condition and no leaks.
"When we build let us think we build forever. Let it not be for present delight nor for present use alone. Let it be such work that our descendants will thank us for, and let us think, as we lay stone upon stone, that a time is to come when these stones will be held sacred because our hands have touched them, and that men will say, as they look upon the labor and wrought substance of them, "See! This our fathers did for us."
John Ruskin (1819 - 1900)
According to the research I just finished it appears that his area of NH was the only area to use it extensively for plumbing and washtubs. It is still very popular all over for wood stoves and counter tops.
... it was plumbed by Ray Charles and his helper Stevie Wonder