The Millars and the Kimberlite Company, 1908-1939

    If gems could be squeezed from the northeast slope, Austin Q. Millar and son Howard were well prepared for the task.  Austin, an experienced mining engineer from Minnesota, was testing for diamonds in Kentucky when he heard about the discovery in Arkansas.  Howard, twenty-four years old at the time, studied geology, mining engineering and gemology at the University of Minnesota and University of Chicago before starting a consulting practice in St. Louis.  Father and son were a team, with Howard handling most of the administrative work.[1]  To finance ventures, Austin Millar had built a base of support in Chicago, and also had a few important supporters in St. Louis.[2]


    The elder Millar visited the Arkansas diamond field in early 1908 and began envisioning rich mines rivaling those of South Africa, mines yielding diamonds as large as 200-300 carats.  Before long he abandoned the fruitless property in Kentucky, leaving a processing plant, a house, and other buildings to deteriorate.[3]

     As a late arrival with little cash on hand, Millar had no chance at the original discovery, but by the end of 1908 he gained a substantial foothold up in the hills where a new peridotite deposit reportedly had rewarded a prospector with an impressive gem.  He secured a key parcel of land by enlisting two local associates to help file a law suit against current claimants, who finally agreed to sell after Millar confronted them with expert witnesses and a general display of legality.  Allegedly, the original settler had erred by taking public land for agricultural use instead of mineral exploitation, and was especially vulnerable because he had not quite fulfilled the five-year residency requirement of the federal Homestead Act.[4]

    It soon became clear that a sizeable peridotite deposit lay within the area Millar acquired.  At the time, he held all of that property as trustee for himself, son Howard, and two old associates in Chicago, Joseph G. Snydecker and Sam C. (Scotty) Scotten, four “Copartners.”[5] 

    Meanwhile, the big diamond “pipe” near Murfreesboro continued to captivate Austin Millar, and those controlling it quickly tested his patience.  Sam Reyburn, in particular, seemed to be “laying on his oars” instead of making a serious effort to test his property.[6]

    Reyburn was hardly the sole target of Austin Millar’s criticism.  To the Midwesterner and his close associates, the entire area seemed afflicted by plodding, inexperienced obstructionists.  “All this Country is daffy and don’t want to do anything toward actual development,” he wrote an old friend in July 1909.  “We are going to get out and let them ‘Dream’ and are now preparing with that end in view.”[7]

    Six months later, Millar was still declaring he would pull out “unless the Corporations will get together and go to work and quit waiting on the other fellow and stop their speculative stock jobbing tactics.”  He assured a colleague, “I’ll never get mixed up with another field that we can’t control.”[8]


    After continuous disappointment in Arkansas, Austin Millar entrusted the Pike County venture to a pair of local associates and left the state in early 1910.  The two, including a prominent lawyer in Nashville, John W. Bishop, coordinated with Howard Millar to organize the Kimberlite Diamond Mining and Washing Company, a Missouri corporation with a home office in St. Louis.[9]  The vaguely defined peridotite deposit in the hills, soon dubbed the “Kimberlite Mine,” became the centerpiece of their operation.[10]

    Of all the Kimberlite Company’s literature, nothing else matched the sophistication and apparent credibility of an item published in 1912—after speculative passion cooled in southwest Arkansas.  It appeared as a full-size “Supplement of the Nashville News, but essentially informed readers about a “wonderful opportunity” to invest in the Kimberlite Mine.  A main article invoking the imagery of the Cullinan Diamond, a giant found in South Africa in 1905, displayed the prevailing logic of recent years:  “Thus far there is nothing to show that the Arkansas deposits are not quite as extensive and rich as those in South Africa, so there are reasonable expectations that before very long Pike County, Arkansas, will be the scene of one of the greatest mining industries in the world.”[11]



[1] Fortunately, both Austin and Howard Millar had a penchant for keeping and maintaining records.  The character and activities of the father-son team are displayed clearly in their correspondence, company records, photographs, maps, and other documents housed in the Crater archives (on microfilm, “Crater of Diamonds,” rolls 1-6)


[2] These are introduced in following sections.


[3]   Millar’s correspondence in 1907-1908, I.A-B, provides details about his last venture before coming to Arkansas—an unsuccessful effort to find diamonds near Stephens, Kentucky (operating as the Kentucky Diamond and Developing Company of Minneapolis).  After trips to Pike County beginning in early 1908, he finally “broke camp” in Kentucky in late October, leaving the company’s property with a local caretaker, G. E. Marshall.  Years later, Marshall wrote Millar, “Well, your houses is all roten down . . . leaking bad and is also roten at the ground[;] the floor is all roten and also all the buildings is in bad shape.”   Marshall went on to say, “James is married and liven on your farm[;] if Jim was to take a noshing to move off I like to have the place . . ..” (G. E. Marshall, Stephens, Kentucky, to Austin Millar, March 20, 1915, I.I).  The previous year, D. C. Hamilton, Stephens, wrote Millar requesting $12 for property taxes due, on $1000 total valuation (November 24, 1914, I.H).


[4] The main tract usually was referred to as the “Pepper property,” after the homesteader.  Millar’s correspondence, June-November, 1908, I.B, covers much of the affair.  Especially see:  Philip F. Schneider, Onandaga Academy of Science, Syracuse, New York, to Austin Millar, Stephens, Kentucky, July 7, 1908; Schneider to Millar, October 25, 1908.  At Millar’s request, Schneider traveled to Pike County to secure information as an expert witness for a scheduled federal court hearing, as did Oliver Farrington of the Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago.

    The dispute started earlier when a prospector found peridotite on the homestead about two and one-half miles southeast of Murfreesboro and two miles northeast of Huddleston’s discovery (east side of Section 15, Township 8, South Range 25 West).  Pepper had not yet received a deed; the prospector, M. N. Burgess, filed a standard twenty-acre mining claim under the minerals act, and other claimants followed in both Section 15 and Section14, where the Kimberlite Mine eventually was located (“A New Diamond Field,” Nashville News, December 11, 1907, p. 1, covered the initial episode; also, Pike, Mining Record B, 169, “Location–Placer Claim,” M. N. Burgess, site “discovered” December 1, 1907, “located” December 13; ibid., “Location–Placer,” Cordelia Burgess, signed by M. N. Burgess, same dates and site [North ½ of NE ¼ of SE ¼, Sec. 15]).

    Austin Q. Millar entered the fray with a demonstration of authority, and Pepper and other claimants finally sold the tracts he wanted.  Acting as Trustee for himself, son Howard, and old associates Joseph G. Snydecker and Sam C. Scotten (both of Chicago), Millar ended up with 200 acres in Section 14, comprising ten mining claims (Pike, Mining Record, B, 221-235, “Locations,” eight entries by Austin Q. and two by Howard A. Millar, October 9, 1908).  He bought sixty adjoining acres in Section 15 from the Burgesses and Rollo W. Hess (Pike, Deeds, P, 467, Warranty Deed, M. N. Burgess, Rolla W. Hess, and Cordelia Burgess to Austin Q. Millar, Trustee, October 31, 1908, sixty acres for $1,500 cash; P, 469, Quit Claim deed, Hess to Millar, Trustee, November 4, 1908, same property, for $750).  The Nashville News reported the highlights: “Eminent Geologists–Here in Connection with Pike Diamond Litigation,” June 13, 1908, p. 1; “Options Renewed,” June 20, p. 1 [only a brief relevant paragraph:  “A contest of the Pepper homestead, as to whether it is mineral land or not, is in progress, the testimony being taken today”]; and “Matter is Settled,” November 7, 1908 p. 1, (cf. “Diamond Lands Being Jumped,” ibid., October 31, 1908, p. 1—a more sensational case involving a lumber company’s 1,600 acres).

    The large peridotite deposit–the “Kimberlite Mine”–lay within the claims in Section 14.  The American Mining Company’s land abutted it on the south.  Combined, the two “mines” rivaled the original discovery in size, but hardly in diamond content.

    According to the Pike County Courier, the U.S. Land Office gradually rejected all except forty acres of the Millars’ first ten mining claims in Section 14, ruling them non-mineral in character (August 8, 1924, p. 1).  It granted a patent in 1926 for an additional eighty-acre claim immediately north of that forty (Deed Book 51, 450, Patent, to Howard A. Millar, November 24, 1926, for the north half of the northwest quarter, Sec. 14).


[5] Specified in the mining claims and Austin Millar’s first annual certification for labor and money expended to satisfy federal law (Mining Record, B, 345, May 6, 1909).   354, 355, 357, 360, and 367, annual certifications for labor and money expended


[6] Philip F. Schneider to Austin Millar, September 30, 1909, I.C, Crater archive.  Schneider was perplexed by Reyburn’s operation:  “Why don’t they go ahead and wash instead of ‘laying on their oars’ if they have a good thing?”


[7] Austin Millar, St. Louis, to Professor Otto Veatch, Atlanta, Georgia, July 12, 1909, ibid.


[8] Millar to Veatch, January 14, 1910, I.D.  Millar said the “promotion work and future development in Arkansas is in Mr. Abadie’s hands.”


[9] Correspondence in January-August 1910, I.D, provided details.  Millar to Veatch, and John W. Bishop to Kimberlite Diamond Mining & Washing Co., St. Louis, Missouri, August 15, 1910, are basic.  In lieu of a retainer fee and service fee, Bishop, the new company’s lawyer and agent in Arkansas, accepted 500 shares of capital stock, with any “extraordinary services” covered by separate agreement.

    Bishop’s local associate, E. H. Abadie, was initially listed as president of the company.  Their letterhead stationary identified Austin Q. Millar as secretary; but he and Midwestern associates soon took leadership.  Millar and son Howard served as trustees for administration of property and for operations generally.  Austin and wife, Margaret, deeded Pike County properties held in their own names to the company on July 8, 1910 (Fordyce, Holliday & White, Attorneys, to President, Kimberlite Company, June 16, 1911, I.D, listing deeds and other items belonging to the company).

    The transformation of the company is also reflected in Millar’s annual certifications for the mining claims:  Mining Record B, 354, August 31, 1911 (Millar as trustee for the four copartners and for himself as general agent of the Kimberlite Diamond Mining & Washing Co., a Missouri corporation); B, 357, December 29, 1913 (same certification, but also as trustee for shareholders of the KDMWC).  Scotten and Snydecker headed the company’s list of shareholders, along with two other old friends in Chicago, Charles W. Buckley and Alfred F. Leopold.  Along with some of the other basic supporters in that city, the four held 1,000 shares each (“Shareholders,” undated, but evidently accumulative, I.W, Crater).


[10] Supra, “Heyday.”


[11] “Diamonds in Arkansas—Supplement of the Nashville News” (content dates it 1912), copy in “Misc.” box, Crater archive.  Reproductions of this item have been sold as souvenirs at Crater of Diamonds State Park.

    Also in 1912, the St. Louis (Missouri) Republic, in Howard Millar’s base of operations, carried an illustrated Sunday spread declaring “Arkansas Diamonds ‘Bottled Up’ and Mining Companies are Preparing to ‘Pull the Corks.’”  The article called the Arkansas field “a new El Dorado that has been the marvel of the age” (May 5, 1912, no page no., clipping in W. C. Rodgers Collection, Box 2.IV, File 26, AHC, Little Rock).


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