As the News suggested on September 12, some Little Rock businessmen had learned of Huddleston’s crystals and wanted control of his land in case the discovery proved genuine.  According to an early account, an excited John Huddleston had taken the first two diamonds to Murfreesboro and shown one to the cashier of the Pike County Bank, Jess Riley, who offended him by offering 50¢ for the strange little stone.  “Eventually he showed it to Judge J. C Pinix of Murfreesboro, who on finding that it cut a watch crystal like a glass cutter, advised him to send it to Charles S. Stifft, a Little Rock jeweler recognized as an expert on diamonds throughout the Southwest. . . .  The specimens were sent to Mr. Stifft . . ..”[1]  While wary of a possible hoax, Stifft tested and weighed the diamonds, and then quietly went to Murfreesboro to inspect Huddleston’s property.  His offer to take an option on the farm, at a purchase price of $36,000, proved unpersuasive.[2]  A real-estate developer as well as a jeweler, Stifft was no stranger to such transactions.[3]

    Identified by the News, Stifft returned to Little Rock and formed a partnership with two other leading businessmen and community leaders:  his son-in-law Albert D. Cohn, a merchant with training as an engineer; and Samuel W. (Sam) Reyburn, a lawyer and founder-president of the Union Trust Company.  The tall, thirty-five-year-old Reyburn, a native Arkansan with an affable, down-to-earth style, headed the venture as trustee.[4]  Later, Reyburn’s close relative John C. Peay joined as general manager of properties and field operations.[5]

    Getting an advantage over potential competitors, Reyburn’s group also included an agent in Murfreesboro who had considerable influence with Huddleston and other land owners—Joseph C. (J. C.) Pinnix, Pike County’s leading lawyer.[6]  In addition, Reyburn and his Union Trust Company were already involved in land transactions in Pike County.[7]

    On September 19, before the required two witnesses, John and Sarah Huddleston put their Xs on a contract, accepting $360 cash for an extendible six-month option on the 243 acres at a purchase price of $36,000.  After renegotiations and piecemeal payments, the couple signed a final contract on June 15, 1908, receiving $6,000 cash and a commitment for payment of the $22,000 balance by January 1, 1909.[8]

    John Huddleston’s diamond hunting did not end with the initial option.  “We further agree, as may suit our convenience,” the contract said, “to continue the prospecting of said land, agreeing to turn over to said Sam W. Reyburn, as Trustee, any and all minerals or stones of whatever nature we may find, to be held in trust to go to him in case he exercises the option or to be returned to us in case the said Sam W. Reyburn fails to exercise said option.”[9]  Huddleston’s presence in the field would help generate beneficial publicity for all concerned.


    Although no one knew at the time, that option handed the Little Rock investors virtual control of the big pipe.  The Huddlestons’ farm included over three-fourths of the volcanic formation and all of the diamond-producing area except six acres at the northeast corner, and soon the Little Rock venture had options on everything but the six acres.[10]  The owner of that property, Millard M. (M.M.) Mauney, demanded a high price.[11]



[1] “Genuine Diamonds Found to the Number of 140 in Pike County, Arkansas,” Arkansas Gazette, Sunday, August 5, 1907, reprinted as “Diamonds Genuine,” Nashville News, August 10, 1907, p. 3.   The full-page spread, with illustrations, was one of the most substantial and competently written articles of the early era.  The writer was exceptionally well informed about details, evidently drawing them from Stifft, Kunz and Washington, and others involved.  The style is more scholarly than reportorial.   An equally credible account by Kunz and Washington omitted Huddleston’s encounters with Riley and Pinnix, but added considerable detail about the three finds and said, “The stones were sent by Mr. Huddleston to persons in Little Rock” (“Occurrence of Diamonds in Arkansas,” 1248-1249).  John T. Fuller, “Diamond Mine in Pike County, Arkansas,” EMJ, 87, No. 3 (January 16, 1909), 152, also said Huddleston sent the diamonds to Stifft.  For a third basic account, see “Pike County Has Real Diamonds, He Says,” The World, August 14, 1927, no page number, clipping in “Misc.” box, Crater archive (the recollection of John Huddleston’s brother-in-law, Lee J. Wagner).  Also, the brief comments in “Diamonds Found in Pike County,” Arkansas Gazette, September 21, 1906, p. 1 (Stifft’s initial statement), and the more detailed report, including Stifft’s statement, in “Pike Diamond Lands,” Nashville News, September 22, 1906, p. 1.

    Compare the account in “Genuine Diamonds” (or “Diamonds Genuine”)  with Howard A. Millar’s story much later:  Millar, It was Finders-Keepers at America’s Only Diamond Mine (New York:  Carlton Press, 1976), 20ff.


[2] “Diamonds in Pike,” Nashville News, September 12, 1906, p. 1, implied Huddleston had been offered $36,000 for an outright purchase, but that clearly was not the case.  At that point, Stifft and associates thought the property might have been “salted,” as had happened in the past (infra, “Caution to Overconfidence”).


[3] Sources relating to Stifft, infra.


[4] “Diamonds in Pike,” Nashville News, September 12, 1906, p. 1; “Genuine Diamonds”; Pike County, Deeds, Book L, 345, Option to Purchase, John and Sarah Huddleston to Reyburn, Trustee, September 19, 1906, and items below  Reyburn, an Episcopalian, was an ideal leader for the group.  At the time, Stifft and Cohn were cautious about getting out front publicly (see Stifft’s initial statement, Gazette, September 21, supra, which left the impression he had not been involved with Reyburn since inspecting Huddleston’s property earlier).

    Reyburn organized the Union Trust Company in the 1890s, and headed it until leaving for New York City in 1914 (Union Trust was the forerunner of Union National Bank).  Two extraordinarily long obituaries covered his early life and long career:  “Samuel W. Reyburn, 90, Dies at Home in Florida,” Arkansas Gazette, June 8, 1962, p. B1; “Reyburn Dies in Sarasota,” Arkansas Democrat, June 7, 1962, pp. 1-2.  Arkansas Gazette, The Book of Arkansas (Little Rock:  The Arkansas Gazette, 1913), 45, included a sharp, but rather stern photograph (a captain-of-industry pose); the brief caption noted Reyburn was “one of the owners and promoters of the Arkansas Diamond Company in Pike County.”  “Arkansans Have Amazed New York,” a long Chicago Tribune-New York Times Special to the Arkansas Gazette, November 22, 1927, p. 1, added perspective to that phase of Reyburn’s career, and offered insight into his personality.  Who Was Who, IV (Chicago:  Von Hoffman Press, 1968), 787, also reflected his prominence. 

    Stifft’s life, including real-estate development and his relation to Albert Cohen, was summarized in “Charles S. Stifft Called by Death,” Arkansas Gazette, August 27, 1926, p. 10 (the Gazette had carried a brief notice of the funeral on August 26, p. 14; Moorehead Wright, an old friend, was an honorary pallbearer).  Lucy Marion Reaves, “Glimpses of Yesterday,” Arkansas Gazette, February 5, 1939, clipping, Butler Center, Little Rock Central Library, focused on Stifft’s family and personal life, including the relation to Cohn; Reaves ended with a long paragraph on the “Arkansas Diamond Mining Company.”  A sharp photograph appeared in The Book of Arkansas , 25; the biographical caption listed “president, C. S. Stifft Realty Company” among his positions, along with “vice president, Arkansas Diamond Mining Company”.  Carolyn G. LeMaster, A Corner of the Tapestry:  A History of the Jewish Experience in Arkansas, 1820s-1990s (Feyetteville: The University of Arkansas Press, 1994), 65, 70, 78, 121, 133-134, 204, 388, adds a few details.

    Some of Reyburn and Stifft’s activities in Little Rock also are mentloned in Sandra Taylor Smith and Anne Wagner Speed, Little Rock’s Capitol View Neighborhood Historic District (Little Rock:  Arkansas Historic Preservation Program), 8-9, online at:

    Albert D. Cohn, Stifft’s son-in-law, was trained as a civil engineer, but had to help tend to the family business, the M. M. Cohn Company, when his older brother died.  Although he seldom received publicity as a founding member of Reyburn’s group, or as secretary of the companies they organized after 1906, he clearly lent stability to the operation.  Illness led to his death in 1926 at age fifty-two, three years after he succeeded his father as president of the company.  He died in Baltimore; Sam Reyburn accompanied the body back to Little Rock for burial.  At the time, Reyburn and associates were preparing to exit their mining venture in Pike County (infra, “Inactivity and Change of Leadership).  “Albert D. Cohn is Dead in Maryland,” Arkansas Gazette, July 14, 1926, p. 1, is long and detailed (LeMaster, Tapestry, 115-116, included a few details from the obituary).


[5] John Creasy (Johnny) Peay, a year younger than Reyburn, appeared often in the records of the early decades, both the literature and several captioned photographs in the Crater archive (e.g., VIII., 23.14, a good group shot; 23.68, a close-up of “Johnie Peay” and Lee Wagner; and 23.75).  As Reyburn, he evidently had an easy-going personality, and got along with others in the diamond field, including the Millars (e.g., citations infra, and the Millars’ correspondence, passim, discussing visits with Peay at times).  He was active in the diamond field into the early 1930s, and died October 15, 1935, at age sixty-two (“Obituary–John C. Peay,” Arkansas Gazette, October 16, 1935, p. 10).  He was buried in Mount Holly Cemetery, Little Rock.  For some of the linkage between the Peays and the Reyburns, see Sybil F. Crawford and Mary Fletcher Worthen, compilers, Mount Holly Cemetery Burial Index, 1843-1993 (Little Rock:  August House, 1993), 181-183, 196-197.


[6] Some sources referred to Pinnix as a partner, but the deed records and other documents fail to reflect that.  Although he had a stake in the venture, including stock taken in lieu of cash for some services, he was the group’s local agent and lawyer, helping secure numerous properties and handling deeds and payments.  For an early reference to partnership:  Fuller, Report to Loree, in “Reports and Information,” 14.  Cf. Samuel W. Reyburn and Stanley H. Zimmerman, “Diamonds in Arkansas,“ 983:  after evaluating Huddleston’s property, Stifft “associated with himself A.D. Cohn, a merchant; Samuel W. Reyburn, a banker, . . . and J.C. Pinnix, a lawyer of Murfreesboro, Ark.”   Fuller, et al., “Historical Summary of Arkansas Diamond Corp.,” in “Reports and Information,” 1, merely said Stifft, Cohn, Reyburn “and J. C. Pinnix, of Murfreesboro, secured an option . . . and later organized the Arkansas Diamond Co.”  Similarly, Graham J. Mitchell, “Diamond Deposits in Arkansas,” Engineering and Mining Journal, 116 (August 18, 1923), 285, implied a partnership:  “An option was taken on the property by . . . [Reyburn, Stifft, Cohn] and J. C. Pinnix.”

    The Legal Directory 1900 for Lawyers, Merchants and all Business Men (Cincinnati, Ohio:  J. A. Graft & Co., 1900), 253-257, listed only Pinnix under Pike County.  The Directory is now online at:  http//


[7] The deed records indicate Reyburn had been involved in land transactions before 1906, as trustee for the optioning of sixteen tracts of land (initial option,Book D, 591, May 2, 1901) and as an officer of Union Trust Company, Little Rock, for a bond issue and a Quit Claim (E, 316; H, 292).


[8] Book L, 345, Option to Purchase, John and Sarah Huddleston to Reyburn, Trustee, September 19, 1906; P, 326, Option, June 15, 1908.  Under state law, property usually was deeded to husbands, but spouses gained a “right of dowry and homestead”—effectively, joint ownership, empowering them to approve or block future sales.

    The tall, gangly farmer posed with Reyburn for a photograph, apparently when the initial option was filed in Murfreesboro (“Photographs,” VIII, Folder 23.113 [originally part of the Lee J.    Wagner Collection], Crater archive).  Photos in The Book of Arkansas, 45, and in later articles in the Arkansas Gazette identified Rayburn (the first article:  “Arkansans Have Amazed New York,” November 22, 1927, p. 1).  The best two photos of the young Sam Reyburn, c. 1900:  “Hendrix Speaker, S. W. Reyburn, Holds High Business Posts,” Arkansas Gazette, October 25, 1936, II, p. 14.

    The group’s cautious maneuvering after September 1906 resulted in several other contracts with the Huddlestons:  Book M, 99, December 31, 1906 (conditional option deed, with full payment by September 1907); N, 405, August 14, 1907 (a fee-simple deed, in effect an extension of the option and the final payment, with the Huddlestons receiving $7,000 cash and a schedule for interest payments on a balance of $29,000); P, 49, March 4, 1908 (a new deed for $1,000 cash, an extension of the balance at 8% interest, and the Trust’s assumption of property taxes).  The Trust paid from 6% to 8% annual interest.  Perhaps reflecting the Huddlestons’ plans to move to Arkadelphia, the contract of March 4, 1908, sent monthly interest payments directly to the Pike County Bank.

    The prevailing myth:  Huddleston sold a 160-acre farm–bought earlier in 1906–for $36,000 cash, and required payment in $10 or $20 bills.


Bibliographic Note.  The extensive photographic record in the Crater archive, VIII, contains many shots of Huddleston and other leading actors of the early decades.  Both Lee J. Wagner and Howard and Austin Millar accumulated photographs.  For a convenient review of those in the archive by April 1984, see the microfilm, “Crater of Diamonds,” rolls 5-6 of eight rolls, AHC; copy also in the Crater archive).

    The semiweekly Nashville News reported the basic details of the initial contract correctly (“Pike Diamond Lands,” September 22, 1906, p. 1).  Although still a small town in Howard County, thirteen miles southwest of Murfreesboro, Nashville lay at a terminus of the Memphis, Paris and Gulf Railroad and served as the commercial hub of the area.  The News  was one of the main regional publications, with links to the Little Rock press and other news sources.  As newspapers generally did in those days, it displayed a strong “booster” spirit, throwing its support behind economic ventures, often uncritically; yet, the basic reporting of events in the area was consistently substantial and reliable.  It’s coverage of the Pike County diamond fields was virtually continuous from the discovery until about 1909—during the most intense part of the speculative heyday—and then fell as activities declined.  The Howard County Public Library, Nashville, has the basic microfilm of the paper.

    Murfreesboro’s weekly Pike County Courier, an impressive newspaper for an even smaller town, no doubt followed events closely after the discovery.  But very few issues are available for 1906 to 1919, when the record becomes quite substantial (in contrast with the weak coverage of the Nashville News after the first years).  The most complete microfilm of the Courier, including a few issues of the combined Courier and Murfreesboro Messenger, is in the Arkansas History Commission Research Room, Little Rock.


[9] Option to Purchase, September 19, 1906.  Later, an option renewal allowed the Huddlestons more flexibility:  “We hereby reserve the right to continue, as may suit our convenience, the prospecting of said land . . ..” (Deed Book M, 99, Option, September 9, 1907).

    The Nashville News kept a running tally of John Huddleston’s finds in late 1906 and early 1907:  “The Fourth Diamond,” October 6, 1906, p. 1; “Diamonds Plentiful,” January 9, 1907, p. 1 (“a total of fifteen to date, many of them being splendid stones”); “More Options Taken,” January 16, 1907, p. 1 (“a total of seventeen diamonds to date”); “Four More Diamonds,” March 9, 1907, p. 1 (without specifying Huddleston’s total, reports “a total of thirty-three diamonds found since the first discovery, made by Mr. Huddleston on his farm”).


[10] Between September 22, 1906, and August 27, 1907, Reyburn’s group secured options on several properties around the formation.  As with the Huddlestons, payments extended to January 1, 1909, for almost all contracts.  The group eventually purchased about 900 acres.  Properties included the farm of John Huddleston’s brother-in-law, Lee J. Wagner, who joined Reyburn’s operation as a trustworthy crew leader and property overseer.  Wagner remained in the field until all operations shut down in late 1932, and then continued tending to the property until the 1940s (infra, passim).


[11] John Fuller’s Report to Loree, June 1908, said of Mauney’s six acres of pipe:  “For this piece of ground an excessive price is demanded by Mr. Mauney and all thought of purchase has been abandoned for the present” (in “Reports and Information,” 15).  Cf. Pinnix’s comment, “An Option Expired,” Nashville News, November 9, 1907, p. 1:  “Hess and Bowie [Rollo W. Hess and Henry T. Buie] . . . allowed their option to expire on Nov. 3.  Mr. Pinnix stated that he, as representative of the Reyburn interests, at once offered to take the property at the price made Hess & Bowie, which was $8,500, but that the offer was declined by Mr. Mauney.”   See infra for Hess and Buie’s activities.

    A new group, those later involved in the Ozark Company, finally stepped in and took an option to purchase three-fourths of the forty-acre tract for $20,000 (infra, “Speculative Heyday” and “Northeast Slope).”


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