The Enterprising Mauneys

    M.M. Mauney and family, owner of the six acres, at first began mining it themselves instead of selling to Reyburn’s group or others.  Walter and Henry, M.M.’s grown sons, processed both the eroded surface and small amounts of the softened peridotite beneath.[1]  Using mechanical ingenuity found commonly among rural Arkansans, Walter attached paddle wheels to three revolving washing screens and set them on a narrow wooden barge in Prairie Creek, by his home.  The current did the work as diamond dirt churned inside the cylinders—when sufficient current was available.[2]

    Wrestling with the tough surface layer, the Mauneys reportedly screened about thirty diamonds by mid-1908, and decided there were better ways to profit from their holdings.[3]  From May 1908 until late February 1909, M.M. Mauney engaged in a complicated series of contracts with a few investors who organized the Ozark Diamond Mining Company of Murfreesboro; he and his wife, Bettie, finally received $20,000 for a thirty-acre tract that included the best four acres of the northeast slope.[4]  They kept the two-acre Mauney Mine on the west edge of the slope.[5]


    At the same time, M.M. and his oldest son, Walter, became the leading real-estate agents of the area.  At twenty-seven years of age, Walter was easily the more aggressive of the two:  he not only accumulated options and bought a few tracts outright, but also contracted with landowners to sell or lease their land at high prices.  His first transaction, in April 1907, involved the 160-acre Riley property immediately northeast of the diamond pipe.  For that special prospect, his contract set a price of $60,000, with a 20% commission for himself; moreover, an accompanying deed granted him an outright 10% interest in the tract.[6]  The next year, as lofty expectations diminished, Mauney and the Rileys sold the land for a great deal less.[7]

    While Walter enjoyed free-wheeling activities, the more conservative M.M. Mauney preferred to buy and develop real estate.  In January 1909, he launched his flagship venture, the Kimberlite Township and Land Company.  Then, when the railroad extended to Murfreesboro in June, running close to the Mauney Mine, he started the first tourist attraction and planned an extensive rail system for the Murfreesboro area.[8]


    Soon, the collapse of speculation and investment redirected entrepreneurial thinking.  After the record-breaking 8.1-carat diamond turned up on his mine in 1911, Mauney was in position to bargain with anyone still wanting to buy or lease the two acres, and waiting on the sidelines were the enterprising diamond hunters from the Midwest, Austin Q. Millar and son, Howard, who were finding that their Kimberlite Mine in the hills offered only mounting frustration.  In April 1912, M.M. Mauney and wife, Bettie, leased the small field and eight adjacent acres to the Millars and associates for fifty years.  The shrewd M.M. required that Millar’s group build a processing plant on a five-acre plant site about a mile away on the north bank of Prairie Creek—on the edge of Mauney’s faltering real-estate venture.[9]

    As stated in the preamble of the lease, the Mauneys were basically “interested in the development and exploitation of a townsite, known as ‘Kimberly’ in the vicinity of said ‘Mauney Diamond Mine.’”  They believed the systematic working of the mine would “greatly expedite, as well as develop and enhance the value of property in said townsite.”   They expected “many laborers and skilled artisans” would be employed, ”thus directly benefiting the interests of said M. M. Mauney and wife in said townsite.”[10]

    The lease negotiations were conducted with Howard Millar and the Millars’ lawyer-agent from nearby Nashville, John W. Bishop.  Considering Bishop’s connections with the main railroad company serving the area, the Mauneys expected the lessees “to use their best efforts and endeavor to induce better railway facilities at Kimberly townsite for the proper dispatch and convenience of their [Mauneys’] business and project.”[11]

    Impressed by what they learned during the sessions, the Mauneys expressed special confidence in the younger Millar, “a practical mining engineer” who had “considerable experience in testing out deposits of Kimberlite of the same general character” as that in the Mauney Mine.”  Moreover, they felt confident because of the Millars’ declared supporters—“business men of large means and practical experience in mining and development work.”[12]


    With such expectations, the Mauneys charged only $10 for the lease of the ten-acres.  The plant site was free.  However, they required 25% of all diamonds recovered, and set specific rules for quarterly reporting of both the production and the marketing of such.[13]

    Under other performance clauses, the lessees had to “begin operation within thirty days from April 10, 1912 by taking such preliminary steps toward the preparation of plans and purchase of machinery necessary to carry on the work in contemplation” and “erect and install a modern washing and concentrating plant of African type within one year from April 10, 1912.”  Diamond processing had to begin by that date; then work could at no time cease for longer than three months.  During “each and every year” of the lease, Millar and associates had to process a minimum of 10,000 loads of material, at sixteen cubic feet per load.[14]

    Although the lease included the standard flexibility for acts of God or other unavoidable delays, the parties stipulated this clause did not apply to the annual processing requirement.  In the basic lease contract, “10,000 loads” was firm.[15]

    On the other hand, a Supplemental Lease Agreement of May 6, 1912, opened a wide door to future contention.  No doubt it was added because of lingering dissatisfaction in Millar’s camp:  in previous discussions that group had expressed concern over the hardibank on the Mauney Mine and thought it might necessitate underground mining, a difficult and costly method.  The basic contract had covered “excavating, tunneling, mining in, over, upon and under the land hereby leased,” but said nothing about the additional time needed if miners had to tunnel beneath the hardibank.  The brief supplement provided that if a shift to “an underground system” became necessary, the lessee and his associates could “take such time as is actually necessary, to make such changes without forfeiting their rights . . ..”  But, once begun, such an operation had to be completed “as soon as it can be reasonably effected.”[16] 


    Those performance requirements would have created problems even under the best circumstances, and this case, with a very limited mining prospect and a failing real estate venture involved, some frustration and friction were unavoidable, although not necessarily unmanageable.  The root problem in 1912, however, was not the leases, per se, but the strong personalities within the Millars’ group and the Mauney family.

    While the elder Mauneys owned the property and signed the documents, a new head of the family was being installed in 1912.  Other members were beginning to defer to the oldest son, Walter, then almost thirty-two years of age and highly competitive.  Since 1907, matters relating to diamond mining had become his special interest—and assumed responsibility.[17]  He was in all respects a worthy match for Austin Q. Millar and son Howard.

    The clash was evident by early 1913, before the deadline for completion of the Prairie Creek plant and commencement of diamond processing.  When construction lagged, the Mauneys refused to allow the Millars more time and began preparing a lawsuit seeking nullification of the lease.  They filed in Pike County Chancery Court on April 11, less than twenty-four hours after the deadline.[18]  Thus began the most bitter feud in the history of the Arkansas diamond fields.  For almost eight years, pleadings in state and federal courts remained the chief weapon, although reported violence and threats of violence sometimes exposed the underlying hostility.[19]



[1] Mauney Records.  The Mauneys left a large collection of photos documenting activities on their property from about late 1906 into 1911-1912.  Several show them digging shallow holes and trenches, basically working the surface layer.  VIII, “Photographs,” unnumbered folders, Millar collection, Crater archive, includes several early scenes on the Mauney Mine, apparently c. 1908:  clearing the field; scraping the surface with mules and plow; “primitive diamond washing” (dated “prior to 1912”); prospecting at small creek (geologists?) . . .


[2] Mauney Records (clear photo); “Old Photo Contest” box, Crater archive (a rather faint copy).


[3] The Nashville News, August 5, 1908, p. 1, reported a total of 32 diamonds found to date (cf. Reece Lamb, “Something About the Diamond Mine of the American Diamond Mining Company”:  when Lamb visited the Mauney Mine in March 1908, Mauney “had only discovered two small diamonds although he had been diligently hunting for them for quite a while”). John Fuller’s initial report to the ADC, November 11, 1908, said thirty-five had been taken from “the Mauney tract, . . . as far as known” (in prospectus, Diamonds in Arkansas, 20).  Woodford to President, Ozark Corporation, October 28, 1908, p. 4, mentioned forty-nine had been collected previously on the part of the northeast slope the corporation had gotten from Mauney, “with few exceptions . . . found by searching the immediate surface soil.”  Fuller, “The Arkansas Diamond Fields in 1909,” 767, reported about seventy-five “found without any systematic search or washing” (on the Mauney Mine).


[4] Infra, “Northeast Slope–Ozark Company.”


[5] The USGS map (1916), Plate 10, clarifies property divisions.


[6] Pike, Deeds, M, 591, 592, Contract to Sell and Warranty Deed, Marion W. Riley and wife, Roxanne, to Walter J. Mauney, April 18, 1907 (applying to the west half of the southwest quarter of Section 22 and the east half of the southeast quarter of Sec. 21).

    The Mauneys’ publicized transactions added to the speculative climate of the time.  For early examples, see the following in the Nashville News:  “New Diamond Field,” April 20, 1907, p. 1 (“C. K. Garner found a genuine diamond on his farm, which is situated near the Huddleston diamond field, this week, and Walter Mauney closed an option contract on the land at once.  While the proposition has not been developed, it is thought that it will prove equally as paying as the Huddleston diamond field”); “Four Propositions,” June 12, 1907, p. 1 (“. . . shafts are being sunk on the Woodson property, under the direction of Walter Mauney” [who was securing properties for Col. J. A. Woodson of Little Rock]); “Five More Diamonds,” June 19, 1907, p. 1 (still securing options for Col. J. A. Woodson of Little Rock); “The News of Pike,” July 27, 1907, p. 2 (“Walter Mauney has secured options on some more diamond land in this part.  Mr. Mauney is representing a firm of Texarkana people”).

    Deeds, Indirect Index, 1895-1940, “Mauney” (buyers and lessees are indexed) provides an unusually convenient overview of activities.  At some point, the Mauney entries were extracted from the regular indirect index and listed neatly on several typed pages, perhaps during the family’s financial crisis in the 1920s.


[7] Infra, “Ozark Company.”


[8] Supra, “Ill-fated ‘Boomtown’” and “Beginnings of Recreational Diamond Hunting.”  As Fuller noted, little work was done at the Mauney Mine in 1909 except the tourist operation (“Arkansas Diamond Fields in 1909,” 768).


[9] Pike, Deed Book 27, 430, Lease Contract, M.M. Mauney and wife, Bettie L., to Howard A. Millar, et al., April 12, 1912; also, Deposition, John W. Bishop, in Bettie L. Mauney, et al. v. Austin Q. Millar, et al., 1920, Arkansas Supreme Court 6029 (reprinted as “The Origin and History of the Mining Lease Entered into Between M.M. Mauney and Bettie L. Mauney, His Wife, and Howard A. Millar and Associates,” Pike County Courier, July 18, 1919, p. 1).  Bishop, of nearby Nashville, had been attorney-agent for the Millars’ Kimberlite Company since 1910, and in 1912 was also General Attorney and Secretary of the Memphis-Dallas and Gulf Railway Company.  In the deposition, he said he changed jobs in November 1918, becoming “General Attorney under the United States Railroad administration.”

    Bishop’s earlier work with the Millars receives attention infra, “Kimberlite Company.”  The deposition recalled discussion in 1912 of Kimberly townsite and possible underground mining necessitated by hardibank in the Mauney Mine.  Bishop, a key participant in the lease negotiations, correctly testified the Mauneys were interested primarily in the townsite, while he and Howard Millar focused on diamond mining.  Although still based in St. Louis, Howard Millar was business manager for his father’s venture, and went to Murfreesboro with Bishop. 


[10] Lease Contract.


[11] Ibid., preamble.  In his deposition (supra), Bishop said he was General Attorney and Secretary of the Memphis-Dallas and Gulf Railroad Company in 1912 (when extended to Murfreesboro in 1909, the branch was known as the Memphis, Paris, and Gulf Railroad Company).  Later, in November 1918, he became General Attorney under the United States Railroad Administration (deposition).

    According to Bishop, the train stopped only in Murfreesboro before the lease was concluded.  Then he used his influence “to have the passenger trains stop on signal at Kimberley . . . and this program I think was carried into effect almost immediately, as thereafter all trains stopped at the townsite of Kimberley” (ibid.).  If this is correct, photographs in the Crater archive and the Mauney Records showing trains stopping near the diamond field to discharge passengers were taken after early 1912 (supra, “Mauney and the Beginning of Recreational Diamond Mining”).  But the photos and the phrasing in the lease seem to indicate trains were stopping before then.  It seems unlikely that excursion trains—coming because of the diamond field—would not have stopped at Kimberley “on signal” after the railway was extended in 1909.  Perhaps Bishop was responsible for “all trains” stopping regularly. 


[12] Ibid.


[13] Ibid.  Howard Millar and associates were entrusted with the management of sales, which were set at three-month intervals.  The Mauneys had the first right of purchase, at three-fourths of the price set by the lessee; or if the lessee failed to set a price, the Mauneys could do so, and the lessee had an option to purchase.  If neither chose to buy production, the lessee was responsible for selling in the cash market (both parties had to agree on any credit sales).  Lessee would keep the Mauneys informed of “the manner, methods and records, of sale, together with quarterly statements of sales made with payment in full for royalties due.”

    Under the three-month rule, the lessee had to furnish “an accurate statement of the number, character, quality and weight of all diamonds and other valuable minerals taken from said mine at all reasonable times.”  As a general safeguard, the Mauneys, and their agents and attorneys, had “at all reasonable times” access to the grounds and equipment involved.


[14] Ibid.


[15] Ibid.  This was the final clause of the contract.


[16] Deed Book 27, 435, Supplemental Lease Agreement, May 6, 1912 (allowed extra time in case underground mining was required; re-specified the plant location, and provided for the leasing of extra acreage for “flooring” [spreading peridotite for natural weathering]).  Austin Q. Millar was out of the state during initial lease negotiations, and perhaps noticed the deficiencies upon returning.


[17] Statements of Mauney descendants in Murfreesboro (notes in author’s possession).  Walter’s younger brother, Henry, relayed the accounts of Walter’s interaction with the Millars, particularly Howard.  The information agrees with the documentary evidence cited in this study.

    According to Howard Millar’s memoir, M. M. Mauney “became ill during this period, and his son Walter took charge of his business affairs” (Finders-Keepers, 44).


[18] “Complaint in Equity,” M.M. Mauney and Bettie L. Mauney vs. Kimberlite Diamond Mining and Washing Co., Austin Q. Millar and Howard A. Millar, April 11, 1913, Pike County Chancery Court, Equity No. 12.  Again, other sources agree with Millar’s Finders-Keepers:  “Our delays getting into operation caused us to miss the date agreed upon . . ..  Walter influenced his father to sue us for failure to meet the agreement, but we won the case” (44).


[19] The barrage of charges, denials, and countercharges ran virtually nonstop from the Mauneys’ initial filing of April 11, 1913, until the Millars’ final legal offensive in 1920.  Wary of local courts, the Millars and the Kimberliite Company (a Missouri corporation) had Equity No. 12 moved to federal jurisdiction.  The continuing interaction:  “Amendment to Complaint,” 1913, US District Court for the Western District of Arkansas, Texarkana Division; “Separate Answer of the Defendant, Austin Q. Millar,” 1913, US District Court; “Amended Answer and Cross-Bill of he Kimberlite Diamond Mining and Washing Company,” US District Court; “Answer of the Plaintiffs, M. M. Mauney and Bettie L. Mauney to the Cross Bill of the Kimberlite Diamond Mining and Washing Company,” 1913, US District Court; “Decree,” April 1, 1914, District Court, Texarkana, Equity No. 12, case file in the National Archives and Records Administration Center (NARA), Ft. Worth, Texas.

    For the entire range of Mauney-Millar court battles, including Equity No. 12, a comprehensive review is available in a later case file at NARA:  Austin Q. Millar, Howard A. Millar and W. L. Wilder, As Trustees, vs. Bettie L. Mauney, W. J. Mauney, Henry Mauney, Occo Alford, Roxie Kempner, Mesilla Shackelford, May 24, 1920, US, Western District of Arkansas, Texarkana, Equity Case No. 45 (the Archive location numbers:  Accession-transfer No. 55-A-843; FRC Location No. 72657; Record Box No. 118).  In this final effort to retain the lease, the Millars’ lawyers included copies of previous case pleadings and decrees, as exhibits.  The file also has typed and printed copies of the leases of 1912.  It does not include the numerous depositions filed with the various cases.  


Bibliographic note.  NARA, Ft. Worth consists of the Records Center, where federal documents from the southwest region are initially transferred after a certain period, and the Archive—the permanent storage for aging files such as the above.  To place orders for other case files of the early era, or to schedule a research visit, first get the transfer numbers from the court of original jurisdiction (in this case, Western District for Arkansas, Texarkana, Arkansas).  The clerk will need the case number and approximate date to check the registry.  At NARA, contact the Archive division directly:  the Record Center will have only more recent files.


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