Q: Recently, I was visiting the lovely town of Bar Harbor, on lovely Mount Desert Island, in the lovely state of Maine, where I was shocked to read the following statement on a historical marker: “Mount Desert Island was a world-renowned source for pink granite for buildings (such as the Philadelphia Mint and the capitol building in Austin, Texas).” What the . . . ?! That can’t be true, can it? 

Dave Pasley, San Antonio

A: The Texanist, in his long life, has had the opportunity to spend time in bars, on harbors, on mountains, in deserts, and on islands. He has even had the pleasure of knocking back a few at bars on harbors, on mountains, in deserts, on mountains in the middle of deserts, and, of course, on islands. But he has never,  in his more than half a century on earth, been to Bar Harbor, on Mount Desert Island. After doing a little online digging, though, the Texanist must say that the entire region appears to be an all-around lovely place to visit. 

With regard to the specific gist of this missive, however, the Texanist must also say that his tall-tale radar started pinging when he read this letter. In fact, it probably hasn’t gone off quite so jarringly since the time someone tried to convince him that it’s illegal to pick bluebonnets in the state of Texas or the time he heard a boast about the Texas Capitol being the tallest statehouse in the union. (It isn’t. The honor, by 147 feet, goes to Louisiana’s 450-foot-tall seat of government. The Texas Capitol is, though, taller than the U.S. Capitol by 15 feet, which is worth at least a little bragging.)

The Texanist is not, to be clear, cock-a-doodle-dooing that he is possessed of particularly powerful whopper-detection capabilities. Truth be told, he suspects that most Texans would have a similarly alarmed reaction upon reading the historical marker in question. That’s because most every Texan, having been subjected to a rigorous course of instruction in the state’s history at a young age, is aware that our Capitol was constructed in the late 1880s out of a striking pink granite that was quarried at Granite Mountain, near Marble Falls, in the Hill Country, and then shipped via some four thousand train trips to the construction site, fifty or so miles away. 

Many Texans are also aware that as part of a deal that extended the Austin and Northwestern Railroad’s tracks six miles from Fairland to Granite Mountain, the stone was supplied to the state for free. In the process of moving all that rock, nearly fifty of the heavy blocks fell off the flatcars, and many rest to this day right where they landed. In one incident, a full three dozen of them spilled off the train during a derailment, and they are still sitting in the bed of Brushy Creek, in Williamson County. 

A good portion of this information was recorded on a historical marker near the resting place of the Brushy Creek blocks. The plaque, placed by the Texas Historical Commission, is titled “Granite for the State Capitol.”

Does this mean that all of the granite used to construct the Texas Capitol was sourced in Texas and nary a bit of it came from Maine? Well, that’s exactly what the Texanist believed to be the case. But the Texanist is old enough to know that he doesn’t know it all. And so, for confirmation of his preexisting assumption he reached out to the Texas State Preservation Board, the agency responsible for the care and upkeep of the Capitol. 

Chris Currens, the board’s director of special operations, did indeed confirm the Texanist’s supposition. “We sometimes find the [Capitol] the subject of wildly inaccurate stories,” Currens explained. “There is no buried Confederate gold on the grounds or cannonballs embedded in its walls,” he said, adding that the agency may now need to add to its list of inveracities the belief that the building is constructed—even partly—of Maine granite. “There may be other state capitols built with Maine granite,” Currens notes, “but our magnificent edifice is all Texan.” 

Wanting to leave no stone unturned, as it were, the Texanist thought it wise to check in with the Mainiacs, er, Mainers responsible for the seemingly specious text. The marker’s fine print led the Texanist to an organization called the Museum in the Streets, as well as to the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce. Neither entity, though, was able to identify the source of the assertion about the Texas Capitol. 

This was not, however, the end of the trail. After some more sleuthing, the Texanist found himself conversing with rock hound Steven Haynes, the founder and president of the Maine Granite Industry Historical Society and Museum, which is located right there on Mount Desert Island. 

Haynes, who has been intrigued by the area’s igneous formations for some sixty years, confirmed that Mount Desert Island granite was indeed used in the construction of the Philadelphia Mint, as the marker states. He also mentioned other notable buildings for which Mount Desert Island granite was used, including the Royal Insurance Building in Chicago and the First National Bank in Omaha. 

After kindly doing a little digging, Haynes explained to the Texanist that “there is no information here in the museum that states that there is Maine granite in the Capitol of Texas.” He further conceded that he had “no information that tells of Mount Desert Island granite going to Texas.” 

That sounded fairly rock solid, but still left the Texanist wondering how this boulder-size blunder occurred. Fortunately, he was ultimately able to make contact with Dick Cough, a local historian and president of the Bar Harbor Village Improvement Association. Mr. Cough confessed to having authored the text on the marker—including the problematic parenthetical—when it went up a decade or so ago. And when presented with the Texanist’s findings he immediately owned up to the error, though he couldn’t put his finger on the exact source of the misinformation. 

“Evidently, I have been wrong about that for years, as I told many a passenger on my sightseeing tours that both the Philadelphia Mint and the capitol building in Austin were made of Maine island pink granite,” he said. Mr. Cough promised to correct the offending passage on the marker, thanked the Texanist for setting things straight, and bid him adieu. 

In sum, while Mount Desert Island may very well be a source of stone for plenty of notable buildings, a fact all Mainers can be proud of, it played no part in the construction of our Capitol, a fact most all Texans likely take for granite. 

On behalf of an accurate historical record, Mr. Pasley, the Texanist offers thanks for your eagle eye.

Have a question for the Texanist? He’s always available here. Be sure to tell him where you’re from. 

This article originally appeared in the March 2023 issue of Texas Monthly with the headline “The Texanist.” Subscribe today.