Pioneers decided to make soap themselves instead of buying it at the general store. Pioneers made soap from lye and grease. Lye was made from ashes. Most pioneers had lye because of their burned down trees. The ashes were placed in a leach. A leach was a barrel which held the ashes and the barrel had a small slit in it. The pioneers would put the barrel on top of a board that was raised at one end. The water was poured into the barrel and it would drip out of the small slit. The pioneers put a bucket under the slit. The water would go through the ashes and come out of the slit as lye.
Sometimes it took about a day for the lye to start to come out. It could burn the skin if it touched the skin. It could really burn the throat if the pioneer's breathed the fumes. Children wouldn't be allowed to stay around when soap was being made.
The pioneers boiled animal fat and water in a kettle. When the fat was melted, they added the lye. The fat is called tallow. Tallow makes the lye not be so strong, so it wouldn't burn your skin. The tallow and lye would be boiled outside. The liquid soap was put in a pan and left outside overnight to harden. Then it was cut into bars to use.
To make the soap smell nice for when they took baths, the pioneers added things like bayberry and wild ginger leaves to the liquid soap. For laundry soap, the pioneers added things like borax and resin.
Just for a warning to all kids, lye is dangerous. Don't go near it or breath it.