The land mass that eventually became South Carolina began as a continental
fragment, separated by a narrow sea from an arc of volcanic islands to the
east. As the African continental plate collided with the North American
plate, rocks of the continental fragment and island arc were slammed into
each other and then pushed further west, heating and twisting them into
metamorphic rocks and creating the characteristic southwest/northeast
trends of the southern Appalachians. As the plates collided and over-rode
each other, the friction and pressure melted some subterranean rocks into
magma, which eventually cooled and formed masses of granite deep beneath
the surface. Further mountain-building and subsequent erosion gradually
raised and exposed these massive igneous and metamorphic mounds into
distinctive peaks and bare rock surfaces, such as Caesars Head and Table
One of the more interesting geological outcomes of this metamorphism and
volcanism is the creation of minerals from combinations of chemicals mixed
under extreme heat and pressure and varied degrees of moisture. For
example, when magnesium and silica combine chemically under certain
conditions, the mineral talc is formed. Talc is extremely soft and feels
“soapy” to the touch. Pressurized and heated deep beneath the surface,
talc and other minerals may form a metamorphic rock called soapstone.
Soapstone outcrops on the prominent knob next to Soapstone Baptist Church.
Since soapstone is soft, Native Americans used it for pipes, bowls, and
utensils, and early settlers used it for tombstones, including some in the
Slave Cemetery and others at Oolenoy Cemetery.
Please do not take rock samples or carve into the soft stone.
For further information, see: Carolina Rocks! The geology of South
Carolina, by Carolyn Murphy (Orangeburg, SC: Sandlapper Publishing