HISTORY AND LORE
Hannibal Hamlin, brother of Mt. Mica discoverer, Elijah Hamlin, eventually went on to be the first Vice President under Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War. Being such an important individual in state and national history, Hannibal has a well documented life growing up in Maine with his brothers. One of the most famous stories about his life connects him with native Maine Abenaki doctress and historical figure, Molly Ockett. During the winter of 1809-10, Molly Ockett was traveling through Paris, Maine when harsh weather forced her to seek shelter. She was turned away, until she came to the home of Dr. Cyrus Hamlin and his wife Anna who welcomed her. Molly, having befriended the couple, continued to return to their home, and one spring found Anna “sitting in her doorway one day, rocking her feeble infant”. The story then tells that Molly Ockett looked at the child intently and said to feed the “papoose” warm milk from a cow, or he will die. Hannibal, the baby, once given the treatment, healed rapidly.
Molly Ockett was well known in Maine for giving her medical advice to those in need in return for shelter and other goods. Native American medical traditions she may have used include, herbal remedies, and possibly, the use of tourmaline. The gemstone may have been used in her work because it was traditionally known for its detoxifying properties for treating skin disorders, and cleansing and removing excess toxins from the body. Native Americans had many uses for tourmalines; green or pink tourmaline was used a funeral gift and schorl, or black tourmaline, was thought to possess protective properties. Tourmaline does have unique scientific properties like pyroelectricity where the crystals become electrically charged when warmed, and piezoelectricity where the gem generates electrical charge when pressure is applied. They are still used in some healing practices today.
PLUMBAGO MOUNTAIN MINE
The preliminary discovery and exploration of the largest gem find in North America was made by George Hartman, Dale Sweatt, and James Young of August 1972 in Newry, Maine at Plumbago Mountain. By October 1972, Plumbago Mining Corporation was formed by George Hartman, Dale Sweatt, Frank Perham, and Dean McCrillis Sr., who then began mining the area and keeping a daily log of the events that ran through 1974. Upon their first day of mining their log reads “it appears the pocket [of tourmaline] may be large than we thought”-- and it was. As they continued the yield turned from a few good gems a day, to several hundred pounds of gem material. The team was persistent even through the autumn rains that washed out their only access road to the site. By November 5th 1972, they had opened several more pockets and had dug 25-30 feet into the mountain. The end yield of 1972 alone was over 1 metric ton of pure quality tourmaline gems, approximately 3.5 million carats worth. Through the winter of 1972-1973 they sorted their material and resumed in spring of 1973 with an opening of 8-10 more pockets. The 1972 Plumbago mountain find produced the largest, highest quality, and widest shade variety of pink tourmalines anywhere in the world, and put Maine back on the map of world tourmaline sites.
|The Peary Necklace|
In 1913 arctic explorer, Admiral Peary, commissioned a Brunswick jeweler to craft a tourmaline necklace for his wife Josephine’s 50th birthday. Josephine would accompany Peary during most of his expeditions and he felt he needed to thank her with a one of a kind gift. The jeweler, John Towne, mined all 37.5 ct. of gems from Mt. Apatite in Auburn, and hand cut each stone. The entirety of the gold, approximately 0.5 oz. was panned from Swift River in Byron, Maine then melted by a Portland jeweler who then set the gems in it. The necklace is now on display in the Maine State Museum in Augusta.
Augustus Choate Hamlin, relative of Elijah and Hannibal Hamlin, had this necklace made with stones from Mt. Mica. Hamlin had purchased Mount Mica farm to mine the pegmatite, a composition of intergrowths of quartz, feldspar, and lavender mica, and ended up constructing the finest collection of specimens known in his time. He was a distinguished physician, businessman, and later Mayor of Bangor, Maine. He was also an ardent lover of gem minerals and often illustrated the tourmaline crystals that turned up in his mine in watercolor and published several books of his illustrations. Most of the originals of his paintings are preserved in the Harvard Mineralogical Museum along with the Hamlin necklace.