History of the Crater of Diamonds State Park
People first began to suspect that diamonds might occur just outside of the quiet town of Murfreesboro, Arkansas, when the precious stones were found in the peridotite soil of Kimberly, South Africa. State Geologist John Branner knew there was an area of peridotite soil just west of Murfreesboro, so he gave the place a thorough surface search in 1889. However, he didn't find a diamond.
The first diamonds found in Pike County, Arkansas, were discovered in August 1906 by John Wesley Huddleston. These stones were sent to Charles S. Stifft, a Little Rock jeweler and confirmed to be genuine diamonds. Stifft described them as blue-white diamonds, one weighing 2-5/8 carats and the other 1-3/8 carats. To verify his opinion, Stifft sent them to New York and states that "after subjecting them to every test they were pronounced diamonds of fine grade."
Early in 1906, Huddleston, a farmer, purchased the 160-acre McBrayer farm to make a home for his family, a decision that would etch him into history. Huddleston recounted the first diamond finds to Tom Shiras of the Arkansas Gazette: "I was crawling on my hands and knees...when my eyes fell on another glittering pebble...I knew it was different from any I had ever seen before. It had a fiery eye that blazed up at me every way I turned it. I hurried to the house with the pebble, saddled my mule and started for Murfreesboro…riding through the lane, my eye caught another glitter, and I dismounted and picked it up out of the dust."
Huddleston sold his diamond-bearing land for $36,000. According to a book by Howard Millar, It was Finders Keepers at America's Only Diamond Mine, 1976, Huddleston became "nationally famous, and had acquired the nickname 'Diamond John'." Although Huddleston was also known as the "Diamond King," he later met with some misfortunes and died a pauper, but was said to have had no regrets. He is buried in Japany Cemetery, about three miles east of the diamond mine.
The approximate location of Huddleston's first diamond find is designated on the diamond field by a historical marker on the south central mine boundary.
Huddleston's story is perpetuated as a part of the Crater of Diamonds story. He is a unique character in Arkansas history. And, his legend is celebrated in the park's annual celebration of "John Huddleston Heritage Day."
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