Mufreesboro, Arkansas, September 12, 1906: John Wesley Huddleston, local farmer and land speculator in Pike County, has made an extra-ordinary diamond discovery along the side of the road and even in the ruts of the road that passes through his 253 acre farm southeast of here. This road goes right into downtown Murfreesboro. It is the busiest road in the county; yet, no one has ever found these sparking gems on it before.
Huddleston actually found his first two diamonds back on August 1st, while looking along side the road for traces of copper, iron, or lead. Horse hooves had ripped up the grass on the road, and wagon wheels had plowed deep ruts, apparently churning up the diamonds that were safely hidden just below the surface.
At first, Huddleston didn’t know what the stones were. He knew they weren’t quartz, but he also knew that dreaming that they were diamonds was foolishness. He took them to his banker, Jess Riley, to see what he thought they were. The banker said he didn’t know but offered him 50 cents for the pair. Huddleston left the bank offended and in a huff.
Next stop? The office of our leading lawyer in these parts, Joseph Pinnix. Pinnix suggested sending the stones to the top jeweler in Arkansas, Charles Stifft, in Little Rock, and that is exactly what Huddleston did.
Stifft said he saw “immediately that the stones were diamonds” and thought the “whole thing was a hoax.” But, just to make sure, he and an associate quietly visited our area about two weeks ago to inspect Huddleston’s property.
What they saw apparently convinced them to try to get a sale option on the 253 acre farm or to try to get Huddleston to enter into an exploratory partnership with Stifft and his group that now includes our local attorney, Joseph Pinnix.
Huddleston has rejected the partnership idea outright, but he says he is thinking about the sales option on his property.
Word must be seeping out about this “diamond find.” Over the last week, local Pike Countians have noticed quite a few strangers riding their horses slowly up and down the county road between Huddleston’s property and downtown Murfreesboro, staring intently at the ground as they move their heads deliberately from side to side.
Huddleston said he would make a decision on whether or not to option his property soon.
A week later, on September 19, 1906, Huddleston and his wife, Sarah, made their decision. They agreed to sell their farm for $360 option money, payable every six months, and if the Little Rock group eventually decided to buy the land, the group would pay Huddleston $36,000 (about $1.9 million today). After numerous cash payments over the next ten years, the deed to the property was finally transferred to the Little Rock group in 1916.
This diamond-bearing area on which the Huddleston’s lived just happened to be the top of what’s called a “volcanic pipe”—an 80 acre wide earthen tube that drops about 70 miles below the surface. About 100 million years ago, there was an eruption deep within the bowels of the earth. The diamonds were formed from the heat, and the valuable stones were shot up the pipe to the earth’s surface and onto what eventually became Huddleston’s farm – kind of like nature’s lottery.
In 1972, Huddleston’s old farm became the Arkansas Crater of Diamonds State Park – one of the few places on earth where the public can search for diamonds and keep them. More than 22,000 diamonds have been found by visitors since 1972, and more than 50,000 gems had been found commercially before that. The largest diamond ever found in the United States—40.23 carats uncut—was discovered here in 1924.
The sale of his farm made Huddleston a prosperous man and helped fund many of his successful real estate deals for the rest of his life. He died at his home in Murfreesboro on November 12, 1941, at age 79 and was buried in a cemetery 3 miles from his original diamond field—containing Southern Memories that can still be found and reflected on, even today.
Visitors to the state park pay an admission fee—Adults, $4.50 and Children 6 through 12, $2.00; they are given instructions for how to search for the diamonds; and, then, they are allowed to “look til they’re loaded,” as the park rangers say.