WEST PARIS — At the tail end of the 1960s, Frank C. Perham, a miner and geologist from West Paris, learned that a rare silicated form of phosphate had been found in a Newry mine and had yet to be recognized as a mineral.

Perham, 82, said the mineral was discovered by Pete Dunn, a mineralogist with the Smithsonian Institution and a team of miners.

Perham said he and Dunn would later talk about how his family had been involved in mining for years, and that many of the mines that Perham owned remained open to the public, free of charge.

“Pete and I got to talking, and one afternoon he told me he’d like to name the new mineral after me,” Perham said. “He said that he wanted to name it ‘Perhamite’ for what my family has done for minerals in Oxford County.”

Four years after his conversation with Dunn, Perham received a letter informing him the mineral discovered by Dunn had been officially designated “Perhamite.”

In the 1970s, Perham said he was mining in Greenwood and stumbled across more Perhamite, including the five largest pieces identified to date.

Until now, many of those pieces have sat behind a display case in the basement of his home in West Paris.

Perham said that as of last week, one will be on display at the Natural History Museum in London.

“At one point, I had a large collection of Perhamite, but I traded most of it to the Maine Mineral and Gem Museum in Bethel,” Perham said. “I kept some of the larger pieces so I would still have something to show people.”

Perham said Carl Francis, curator of the Maine Mineral and Gem Museum, informed him that the National History Museum was interested in buying one of his remaining Perhamite pieces.

“It’s a pretty small piece,” Perham said, holding out a small box with a piece the size of a fingernail. “However, it’s one of the larger pieces out there. Most pieces are around one-sixteenth of an inch.”

Perhamite has been discovered in very few locations, he said.

“There are some places in Australia that it’s been found, and someone mined some in Nevada, but a lot of it has come from these mines in Western Maine,” he said. “That’s why many museums are so excited to get their hands on it. It’s a nice thing to have on display.”

Despite the rarity of Perhamite, Perham said he’s happy to see it go overseas, where others can look at it and learn more about it.

“You couldn’t ask for a better story,” Perham said with a grin, surrounded on all sides by minerals that he has found during a long career of mining. “I found the largest pieces of a mineral, named after me, practically in my backyard, and now, it’s going on display at an overseas museum. It’s really exciting.”

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