1/8/13

Bringing Soapstone Back to New Hampshire

4 Min.

Soapstone sign from Francestown NH Soapstone Quarry in Francestown New Hampshire.

The origins of soapstone lie in the same state as our cabinetshop. In fact, on route to the Hampshire 100 Mountain Bike Race last summer we traveled through Francestown and discovered the site of one of the first quarries in NH.

As the Fuller Family tells is, in 1808 Daniel Fuller discovered that the rocky land he owned was worth more than he could have imagined. One day while out mending a fence he dropped his newly sharpened axe, to his surprise the axe was not harmed and had sliced through the ledge below. The undesirable rocky land he had bought cheap was laden with the highest quality soapstone in New Hampshire.

Fuller, who was on the verge of bankruptcy, began to work the quarry immediately. Within the year he had paid of his debts and went on to become a rich man. The soapstone in his quarry was known as the best available and sold at considerably higher prices than any other soapstone.

Soapstone was extremely popular for stoves, hearthstones, sinks and even pencils for slates. In frigid New England it was especially enjoyed as warming stones for cold fingers and toes. The quick heating time and long heat retention properties of these warming stones made carriage travel, cold beds and long sermons far more pleasant. Ox teams carried loads of stone the six day trip to Boston where it was sold for $36/ton.

The Francestown Quarry was operational until 1912 when an explosion occurred during the quarrying process; the ensuing fire burned two adjacent farms to the ground. The operation shut down and was never reopened. Since then soapstone supplies in New Hampshire and neighboring Vermont have been almost entirely exhausted. With the supply gone the popularity of soapstone dwindled – ushering in the ‘Granite Years’.

Brazil has since emerged as the global leader in soapstone – with the highest quality and most consistent supply. Knowing the history of soapstone in New Hampshire, we see our stone as traveling a long way to be perfectly at home.