We currently have a professional cemetery headstone restorationist doing some work on the very old and damaged headstones at the Smithwick Cemetery.
He remarked that a certain group of the stones in old section were different from anything he had ever run across. When you rub on it becomes slick, even seemly an oily feel to it. The white stone is delicate enough that scratching it with a thumbnail will erode it. He said he had never seen anything like it before. I remarked that felt like soapstone. As the fellow continued to work on the various headstones, I found a shady spot and pulled up several references to soapstone being used for various monuments and other building uses, such as countertops.
I looked to see if there could have been a soapstone source in Texas, since these dated in the 1860’s and 1870’s. The only place I found it was in Hudspeth County, just this side of El Paso. So evidently it wasn’t used due to its local sourcing.
The most common place for soapstone to be mined and used in the US is in North Carolina. My best conclusion is someone had a shipment of this rather soft stone shipped over to this area and set up shop carving these headstones.
The most remarkable thing about this stone is while it’s easy to scratch it, the stones have held up remarkably well for 150 years. There doesn’t seem to be more breakage on these stones than any others made of far more durable stone such as marble and limestone.
Has anyone seen anything written about monuments made from the really soft stone are know where else it was used?
These stones are some of the soapstone monuments.