Foreword to the Online Edition


This study revisits a subject that received attention only briefly in my comprehensive history of the Crater of Diamonds, the unusual volcanic formation now featured at the popular state park just outside of Murfreesboro, Arkansas. [1]   Upon beginning the research for that work twenty-three years ago, I found the man who discovered the first gems at the Crater in 1906, John Wesley Huddleston, was hardly the simple farmer depicted in the current literature.  Preliminary review of public records at the nearby Pike County Courthouse even suggested there were two John Huddlestons in the unfolding story:  “Diamond John,” the essentially fictional character described for decades in folk tales and promotional writings, and John Wesley, the rural Arkansan and family man who remained hidden behind that colorful imagery.


    The following pages acknowledge those longstanding folk tales as an entertaining facet of the man's history, but concentrate on the person portrayed by more-reliable sources such as property deeds, tax books, legal proceedings, photographs, and other documents.  Aside from census reports, the public records have been virtually ignored by those writing about Huddleston.  Readers familiar with the popular tales probably will find this side of the story surprising, particularly John Huddleston's family background and his personal ambition where property ownership was concerned.


   Although substantial and thoroughly documented, this treatment has its limitations.  It reflects the evidence available up to this time, including a certain amount of data considered suggestive or tentative to some degree.  Apparently and evidently are watchwords throughout the text and notes.  To some extent, this uncertainty reflects the absence of personal correspondence and other family records, largely a result of the widespread illiteracy of Huddleston's time.  Descendants say he left only a few photographs and some old furniture when he died in 1941, and the furnishings were destroyed later when a storage shed burned. [2]


    An online publication such as this has several advantages over its counterpart, printed hardcopy.  Among other things, readers can easily respond to the author through email or a website and offer constructive criticism or new information.  The subject at hand can be pursued further through collaboration.  In this case, Huddleston's many descendants and other interested persons are invited to participate through the author's email address , provided below Periodic updates of the study will include an Addendum acknowledging any significant information provided.  Once recorded, copies of all photographs and other documents will be deposited at the Pike County Archives and History Society in Murfreesboro.  Photos scanned and sent by email should be kept under one-half megabyte­.


   Online publication also allows readers to take advantage of their computer's Search/Find capability to locate names, topics, and sources in an article or book.  When a study is posted as a single webpage (usually a PDF file), a search can quickly cover the entire publication; if chapters are posted as separate webpages (the common HTML format), each must be searched individually.  In either case, Search/Find offers an efficient substitute for the standard index found in printed works, and it often replaces the separate bibliography or bibliographic essay needed for those publications.

    In this study, full bibliographic entries occur with the first citation, often with helpful annotation and Bibliographic Notes.  Abbreviated citations usually appear in following notes.  Any full entry can be called up quickly by scrolling to the beginning of the endnotes, setting the cursor (left-clicking the mouse), and typing key words into Search/Find.  Although there are several ways to scroll, this is the quickest method:  left-click on the button of the vertical scroll bar (usually located on the right side of the window being viewed); holding the click, move the scroll button up or down.  The pages will zip by.  This method of scrolling also allows readers to jump quickly from text to related endnotes (CDs copied from the original Word document offer another approach:  place the mouse cursor on the endnote number in the text and all except the extremely long endnotes will pop up fully on the screen, in slightly simplified style).


    Most important, digital publishing allows ample space for documentation.  Writers can do a thorough job of not only citing sources, but also qualifying them?clarifying their strengths and weaknesses, indicating how reliable they are compared with others.  This running commentary is, I think, a significant feature of this study.  Overall, the work serves as a guide to research as well as a detailed account of findings to date.

    Among other things, this study takes advantage of digital space to include a thorough, detailed review of tax and land records relating to the farmland and other properties held at some time by John Huddleston and forebears.  This weighty detail is confined to a few endnotes, and primarily will interest descendants of the Huddlestons and perhaps others living in the Murfreesboro area.  In a sense, each piece of property was a footprint of the Huddleston family group as it spread across the lower townships of Pike County after the 1830s.  Similarly, readers in nearby Clark County might be interested in John and Sarah Huddleston's extensive holdings in the area around Arkadelphia at one time.  For readers interested in pursuing their own family history, the extensive review of sources should prove useful.


    A word about illustrations.  To the extent allowable, the PDF version of this online study will include photographs, maps, and other documents.  That type of file (Portable Digital Format) is relatively easy to post on the website, compared with the HTML format.  PDFs require the Acrobat Reader software for downloading; but that program is available free from many internet sites if it is not already on your computer.  For technical reasons, the HTML of this online edition, which downloads without the Reader, includes very few illustrations.  Fully illustrated CDs of the study are available at the Pike County Archives and History Society, in Murfreesboro, and at a number of other archives and libraries in Arkansas.



June 6, 2008

Dean Banks, Ph.D.



[1] Banks, Arkansas Diamonds: Dreams, Myths, and Reality (© 1994, 1997; online edition available at , Pike County Archives and History Society); summarized as “Diamond Mining,” Encyclopedia of Arkansas (2006), online at .  In the summer of 1908, the online book will be expanded and titled Crater of Diamonds: Dreams, Myths and Reality.


[2] When Huddleston died, his nephew Jefferson D. (Jeff) Riley served informally as administrator of his estate.  Upon Jeff Riley's death, his daughters Rita and Clarene became custodians of Huddleston's belongings.  Rita (Mrs. James Arnold) lives in Nashville, Arkansas, about fifteen miles southwest of Murfreesboro; Clarene (Mrs. Richard Musgrave) lives nearby.  Huddleston's small collection of photographs evidently became part of the records collection of his brother-in-law Lee J. Wagner, and later was donated to the Crater of Diamonds archive (see Bibliographic Note 1, below).