Maine Minute: Legend has it that one man stubbing his toe led to a discovery of gemstone

Published: Mar. 10, 2020 at 4:53 PM EDT
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A Maine Minute: Unique facts about our state, some we may know...some we may not.

This is a story about young Elijah in the 1800s.

As legend has it, as told by former state archivist David Cheever: "He and a buddy of his went up Mount Mica in Paris and Elijah on the climb stubbed his toe on a rock he had never seen before. It wasn't a scruffy piece of granite or a piece of shale, this had some color to it."

So, Elijah took it home to show his family.

His brother asked if he could have it.

"The apocryphal story goes that Elijah told him to go get his own. So, what happens is Hamlin takes a buddy, he goes around the other side of Mount Mica and blows it up and what they find is a large vein of tourmaline."

That's right.

Hannibal Hamlin, the former Vice President and his brother Elijah Hamlin.

"The Hamlin family finds tourmaline and it becomes the first gemstone mined in the United States by anybody who wasn't living here before the colonists arrived."

It's considered the most colorful semi-precious gemstone in the world.

"We had over 20 mines of tourmaline active in the state of Maine and some of them are still active because there is still a demand for the gem."

And something else came out of this discovery.

"Over time, you amass a certain fortune from all of this and Elijah tried to figure out, 'What am I going to do with the money?' And he forms what becomes Bangor Savings Bank."

Take a closer look the next time you stub your toe in the Maine woods.

More information about the gemstone's history can be found here: