Surviving a More Costly Encounter


    As an isolated event, the Steuart affair would have had little impact on Diamond John's fame or fortune.  As the journalist said in late 1920, he was still financially secure at the time, and no doubt could have remained so under normal conditions.  He had settled into a simple lifestyle soon after returning from Arkadelphia :   personal property reported in 1920 included little more than a few livestock, a piano, and a car valued at $350.  Recently, he had bought four properties in Murfreesboro by trading in a 1920 Maxwell automobile priced at $1,095. [103]   While the heavy investing in real estate still left only a moderate amount of cash on hand, he owned rental properties, and the rising value of real estate in the post-war era put him in good position to raise more money when needed.  The revival of major commercial testing at the diamond field in 1919 also worked in his favor by spurring local optimism and real-estate promotion, especially on the northern periphery of Murfreesboro where he finally accumulated over 170 acres of land. [104]


    John Huddleston had ample reason to begin the year 1921 confidently.  In April, he bought fifty-five acres immediately north of Murfreesboro for only $100 cash down and the balance of $2,100 due in two short-term payments.  In November, he added forty more acres for a stated $1 down and a balance of $499 due within a year. [105]

    Then, at the height of success, the elderly widower made the greatest mistake of his life by marrying a young woman about one-third his age:  Lizzie Curtis of nearby Pike City, allegedly a “blonde carnival girl he met in Arkadelphia.” [106]   The unlikely couple got their marriage license December 28, 1921, and wed the next day. [107]


Contrary to the folk tales, however, romance did not entirely blind John Huddleston to certain hazards of that venture, for he knew marriage would bestow common-law rights of dower and homestead upon the new wife, effectively giving her joint control of all properties during his lifetime as well as a share of the estate afterwards. [108]   Before the wedding, he demonstrated some of the “practical sense” one journalist noticed later and began deeding choice properties in Murfreesboro and the new additions to his daughters and his sister Harriet's husband, Lee J. Wagner. [109]   Perhaps Huddleston's daughters helped him decide the course of action?all four were considerably older than the nineteen-year-old prospective stepmother.  In any case, it is clear he intended to retain control of several of the properties conveyed to the daughters, while at the same time safeguarding them from a risky marriage. [110]


    The eventual annulment decree, obtained by John Huddleston in June 1924, left no doubt about basic details of that mismatch.  The couple had lived together only eleven days before young Lizzie “deserted the plaintiff and left his home and remained away for eleven months.”  Returning December 5, 1922, she stayed almost eight months and then departed for good, reportedly settling somewhere outside of Arkansas.  Furthermore, during the marriage Lizzie Huddleston “committed the crime of adultery,” the judge concluded, and on that basis the court declared the union “annuled [sic], cancelled, set aside” and the plaintiff “restored to all the rights, privileges and immunities of an unmarried man.”  Lizzie never contested the petition or the ruling. [111]


    With the decree, John Huddleston regained not only sole ownership and control of his properties, but also sole responsibility for any related obligations, because the annulment had stripped Lizzie of both her rights of dower and homestead and any responsibility for contracts signed jointly during the marriage . [112]

    All together, Huddleston was left holding notes for three short-term loans the couple had gotten a few months after Lizzie returned from the first absence.  The restless young bride evidently liked to spend money, in contrast with her aging spouse, whose investments left very little cash on hand ; and after she came back in late 1922, he tried to keep her satisfied.  At the same time, he had to cope with the costs of the Steuart affair and several other debts he had neglected during that disconcerting period of marriage and separation:  these obligations, incurred earlier by Huddleston himself, totaled at least $1,744. [113]   So, in late February 1923, the reunited couple used some large parcels of land around Murfreesboro to secure a loan of $2,500 from a private estate, at 8% interest.  Then two weeks later they signed a promissory note to a private individual for $1,050 at 10%, and used several lots in Murfreesboro for collateral.  That was followed a week later by a private loan of $400 at 10%, backed by three smaller parcels. [114]

    This seems to have been the limits of Diamond John's effort to reconcile with Lizzie and pay off the creditors.  It remains questionable whether the restless young woman finally fled in August 1923 with a significant amount of cash and a “Model T Ford coupe,” as a vague folk tale declares.  It is also uncertain whether her permanent exit left the beleaguered spouse feeling distraught or relieved. [115]  


    Clearly, the John Huddleston of 1922-1923 was essentially the disorganized, irresponsible Diamond John depicted in old folk tales.  In 1922, while absorbed in domestic problems, he had failed to respond when several creditors asked for payment of overdue real-estate notes and a small bill at the general store, leaving them no choice except law suits.  When summoned to court, he failed to respond.  Judgments followed, including the sale of the real-estate at public auction. [116]


    Huddleston's behavior from late 1923 into 1925 also seemed to reflect the same sort of distraction and withdrawal.  In February 1924, probably after deciding to divorce Lizzie and start over, his interest revived enough that he placed the highest bid for one of the properties he had let slip into public auction; but then he quickly defaulted after signing a standard three-month note for the purchase. [117]  Soon he allowed creditors and the Pike County Chancery Court to arrange the public auction of many of his mortgaged properties, particularly those he and Lizzie used to secure loans in early 1923. [118]   The besieged divorcee had paid nothing on those loans, and now chose not to respond to any of the court petitions.

    Instead of reflecting confusion and indifference, however, these actions were part of a strategy designed to resolve his overall financial problems.  The legal maneuvering evidently was directed by the wealthy and influential old friend who had remained close to John Wesley Huddleston since the discovery in 1906.  When one of the public auctions was executed in June 1925, Pike County's leading lawyer and banker, J. C. Pinnix, salvaged Huddleston's best properties, those used to secure the $2,500 loan.  Pinnix bid high enough to cover the court judgment and related expenses, and then worked out an agreement allowing Huddleston to keep the land. [119]


    That same month, a subdued John Huddleston transferred 6.6 acres in the Murfreesboro Heights Addition to daughter Willie and confined himself to managing the remaining properties.  In 1930 that still included about 170 acres immediately north and northeast of Murfreesboro. [120]


Single, Older, and Still Resourceful


    While embarrassing and initially devastating, the failed marriage hardly forced Huddleston into social withdrawal.  Emerging clean-shaven and mellowed by age and experience, he was receptive and talkative when approached soon afterward by journalist Tom Shiras, editor-publisher of the reputable Baxter (County) Bulletin, published in distant Mountain Home, Arkansas.  “I went to Murfreesboro especially for this interview,” Shiras wrote later.  “Walter Mauney of Murfreesboro, who has been associated with diamond mining in the Arkansas field since it started, went with me up to John's white cottage that morning.  There was a comfortable bench before the big fireplace, and we all sat down and lighted our pipes and started to talk.  I caught a true picture of John Huddleston that day.” [121]

    Shiras was interested in Huddleston's background and character as well as the discovery in 1906.  “The Ozarks [mountains] have developed the same type of hardy prospectors who first discovered most of the big mines in the West.  John Huddleston was of this type.  He was not an educated man, but had plenty of practical sense and a determination to do what he thought should be done.”  As for the old outdoorsman's renown for marksmanship, “his eyes were still sharp.  At 25 yards he could put six bullets from an automatic revolver into the small heart of a pine log, and at 50 yards could with a rifle still ‘bust' a squirrel's eye.” [122]



    That sharp vision was just as evident during an afternoon spent at the diamond field.  John Huddleston's “keen, gray eyes” constantly detected shiny little objects that might be diamonds, “but he found none that day.”  When his brother-in-law Lee Wagner joined them, he and Huddleston located “the exact spot” where the first diamond was picked up, and Shiras took the famous photograph of the well-dressed discoverer kneeling and pointing at the ground. [123]    





  Text Box:      Left, a second photograph by Shiras during his visit, c. late 1924(?)  Huddleston's harelip appeared as a shadowed line (zoom in).  Crater.

    After the divorce, Huddleston no doubt made regular visits to the diamond field, where Wagner worked as property overseer.  The renewed commercial testing of the early 1920s proved as disappointing as earlier efforts, resulting in the closing of the field in mid 1925; but Lee Wagner kept his job.  Although small-scale testing occurred at times between 1928 and 1932, Huddleston and his affable brother-in-law were free to walk over the grounds reminiscing and chatting with Walter Mauney and others who happened by. [124]

    After a time, Huddleston participated in at least one of the many events of that era designed to advertise Pike County's diamonds and other natural resources and thereby attract tourists and new residents.  In July 1931, amid growing signs of economic depression, public officials used a Hot Springs radio station to invite listeners to order samples of material from the diamond field?small bags of it certified by the Arkansas Commissioner of Mines and Agriculture.  “The rock and dirt . . . were selected by John W. Huddleston, the first discoverer of the diamond fields in America,” the Pike County Courier reported.  “Tourists were invited to stop at the Pike County Bank at Murfreesboro and inspect the first two diamonds ever found at the diamond fields here.” [125]



The 1930s:  Hard Times for All


    To men such as John Huddleston, land had always been the ultimate source of wealth and wellbeing.  Over the decades it had remained the most trustworthy of investments.  Then came the Great Depression and drought, and suddenly unproductive land became a tax burden more than an asset.  By the end of 1932, State seizures and tax auctions began soaring. [126]   The elderly Huddleston, still responsible for a number of properties, finally gave up.  In May 1933, he signed a quitclaim deed giving J. C. Pinnix clear title to all his remaining real estate except a large lot in Kelly Addition and his home place nearby on Kelly Street, several blocks north of the courthouse. [127]  The quitclaim included some land not involved in the public auction of 1925.  Apparently, that was either sold to Pinnix or transferred to settle unrecorded obligations.

    At the time, John Huddleston also held legal claim to two other large lots in Kelly Addition and forty acres three miles southwest of town, properties he had sold in the early 1920s with balances due.  He had not moved to recover those when the buyers failed to make payments, and during the Depression he allowed them to cover only the taxes until final settlements in late 1938 and 1940. [128]


    While no longer prosperous, the old Discoverer fared better than many Arkansans after 1933.  The initial state-county relief programs of the early ‘30s provided very limited support for the needy, and the new federal Social Security program provided minimal aid for most retirees when it began.  John Huddleston's federal Old Age Pension, which started October 1, 1936, was $10 a month. [129]  Still resourceful, however, he made extra money by operating a little business in his yard.  “John's place had lots of stuff around it,” said an old-timer who grew up near Huddleston's home on Kelly Street.  “He was always dragging stuff in, buying and selling.” [130]   In addition, there was still good Huddleston farmland available for raising meat and vegetables. [131]

    In 1936, Literary Digest, a leading national magazine, described the once-famous Arkansan as a seventy-six-year-old “part-time junkman, part-time farmer.”  The writer echoed a story heard in Murfreesboro:  “John Huddleston received $36,000 for his tract.  For more than twenty-odd years he lived well on this money. . . . Then, through unfortunate speculation, he lost his fortune.” [132]  Perhaps John Huddleston had offered that simple explanation instead of trying to clarify all the property transfers and the events following the second wedding. 


     Regardless of age, the Discoverer remained an imposing figure as he walked the streets of Murfreesboro.  Tall and still unsmiling, he made an indelible impression on imaginative youngsters such as Bobby Joe Flaherty, only nine years old in 1936.  “He was mean-looking and scared us kids to death,” said Flaherty.  “With that big old hat and those big hands and long arms, he reminded us of the desperados we saw in the movies.  I can't remember if he wore a gun or not.” [133]

    Some say Huddleston grew fond of alcohol in his last years?as did many contemporaries after the repeal of national prohibition in 1933.  In earlier times, there had been very few references to his drinking, and those instances were hardly remarkable. [134]   Now, he especially enjoyed beer.  The late Alton Terrell, whose mother was John Huddleston's cousin, told of a group of younger men who often got together at the courthouse square in Murfreesboro and went over to a popular drinking spot for discounted leftovers.  “If John Huddleston was around,” he said, “his ears always perked up when someone said something about going over there.  He liked that stale beer.” [135]  According to a more typical folk tale, the old Arkansan also accumulated “truck loads” of empty beer and whisky bottles in his home, leaving quite a mess to be cleaned up after his death.  That was one of several old stories exaggerating Huddleston's physical abilities. [136]  



[103] Pike County, Personal Assessment 1920, p. 102 (total valuation of personal property was $665, a comfortable level for Pike County); Pike, Deed Record 38, p. 219, Special Warranty Deed, Huddleston to Alford, September 2, 1919 (see details in Pike County purchases, Cross Reference 4, above).

[104] Aside from one known diamond sale in February 1921, Huddleston depended upon savings, rent payments, and occasional property sales for income.  A promoter from California, “Mr. Ziff,” reportedly purchased a one-carat diamond from him (“Purchase Diamond Mine from Riley Family,” Pike County Courier , February 4, 1921, p. 1).  Personal property assessments usually reflected some savings after the return from Arkadelphia; e.g., Personal Tax Record, 1918, p. 124, ($500 in the column for monies, credits, and bank balances) and Personal Assessment, 1921, p. 101 ($600).  Only the Personal Assessment Record is available for the years after 1918.

    For the full context of rising optimism and speculation around Murfreesboro, 1919-1925, see Banks, Diamonds, “Arkansas Diamond Corporation.”  Real-estate appreciation in the Murfreesboro area had continued since the virtual exhaustion of public lands in the late 1800s.  The Huddleston's had benefited from the trend before the discovery of diamonds in late 1906; and after that event, property values soared for several years.  After the initial speculative mania ended about 1910, diamonds, timber, and various other valuable minerals maintained appreciation through the war period.  The general post-war optimism was boosted considerably by a well-financed and highly-publicized major test of the main diamond field in 1919-1922; then continuing operations on a smaller scale helped maintain the attitude.  Murfreesboro's position as county seat of course strengthened appreciation on the north and south sides of town, where new additions were promoted and where John Huddleston concentrated his investments.

[105] Deed Record 47, p. 301, Crawfords to Huddleston, April 12, 1921; 30, p. 595, Johnsons to Huddleston, November 4, 1921 (details in Pike County Purchases, Cross Reference 4, above).

[106] Millar, Finders-Keepers, 19 (quotation).  Millar's brief story about an anonymous young bride is obviously flawed.  To create a logical tale, he has Sarah dying before Huddleston and the daughters moved to Arkadelphia, where Huddleston supposedly met Lizzie, married her, and at some point took her back to Pike County.

[107] Pike County, Marriage Record F, 311.  In the marriage affidavit, Huddleston said he was fifty-nine; Curtis declared herself 19.  In those days it was common for men to marry women considerably younger or older than themselves (e.g., John's grandfather David Huddleston, noted above); but in this case the age gap was extreme by any standard.  Whether Lizzie Curtis was a bit older or younger than her given age is not known.  The census for Pike City, 1900-1920, offers no information about her.


[108] These spousal property rights, as defined by state law, lasted a lifetime unless signed away. Just as wives gained rights of dower and homestead, husbands gained “curtsey interest” in properties owned by their wives.  In either case, the new spouse gained the right to sign deeds and mortgages or refuse to do so.


[109] Cross Reference 5 .  Shiras, “Arkansas Diamond Discoverer” (comment on Huddleston's character); Pike, Deed Record 30, p. 616 , J. W. Huddleston to Mary Wallace, December 28, 1921, filed June 1, 1923 (stated price of $500, with $165 cash down [marginal note: paid in full August 10, 1940]; for a lot on the north side of Murfreesboro, 195.8' X 73.75', part of the E ½ of the SW ¼ of Sec. 8-8-25 [in Kelly's Addition, plat in Pike County Map Book A, 6]); 42, p. 469 , Warranty Deed, to Delia Huddleston, December 28, 1921, filed September 5, 1923 (stated price of $500 cash; large lot adjacent to that of Mary Wallace, above); 43, p. 32 , to Lee J. Wagner, Harriet's husband, May 26, 1921 (stated price of $1,500, with $500 cash down and $500 annually for two years at 10%; for all of Lots 7-12, Block 3 of Goodlett Addition, south side of Murfreesboro [see Pike County Map Book A, 2-3]); 45, p. 505 , WD, to Willie Goodlett, December 28, 1921, filed September 24, 1924 (stated $500, with $200 cash down and balance by January 1923, at 10%; for a large lot adjacent to that of Delia; part of the E ½ of SW ¼ of Sec. 8-8-25 [Kelly's Addition]); “Lost” deed, Huddleston to Eunice Gentry, “about” December 28, 1921, replaced by Record 55, p. 506 , Quit Claim Deed, Huddleston to M. C. Barton, November 18, 1936 (no price stated; for Lots 805 and 806, Kelly Addition).

    Although Lee Wagner was prospering in 1921 as a principal employee of the Arkansas Diamond Company, it is unlikely he and Harriett had to pay $1,500 for the lots.

    Other transfers from Huddleston to daughter Willie Goodlett occurred later:  Record 42, p. 488 , WD, September 23, 1924, filed the next day ($400 cash, for Lots 901 and 903 on Washington St. and Lots 902 and 904 on School St., in Kelley Addition); 42, p. 495 , WD, June 17, 1925, filed same day (stated $700 cash price, for tracts 24-26 in Murfreesboro Heights Addition, north side of town, about 2.2 acres each, total 6.77 acres [see Pike County Map Book A, Heights Addition, p. 5]).  Most of these properties were lost soon afterwards in law suits (Chancery Court cases below; also Record 1, p. 102, Notice of Les Pendens [notice filed on public records as a warning that the title to properties are in litigation and possibly subject to adverse judgment], G. P. Crawford, et al. v. John W. Huddleston and Willie Goodlett , relating to Deed Record 42, pp. 488, 495, and affecting Lots 902 and 904 on School St. in Kelly's Addition and tracts 24-26 [6.77 acres] in Murfreesboro Heights Addition; the plaintiff sued to take title from Goodlett or be awarded $699.30).

    Also see Record 45, p. 504 , “Wife's Deed, with Lien,” J. M. and Willie Goodlett to J. W. H., September 23, 1924 (a stated $535, with $400 cash paid and balance within one year; for the lot by Delia's, 195.8' X 73.75' in E ½  of SW ¼ of Sec. 8-8-25, Kelley's Addition); 56, p. 277 , WD, J. W. Huddleston to S. J. Thomasson, December 3, 1937 (for a large lot formerly deeded to Willie Goodlett on September 23, 1924, and deeded back to Huddleston that same date “by Willie Goodlett, my daughter”); and 58, p. 330 , WD, J. W. Huddleston and Mary Wallace McKinnon to J. L. Anderson, May 8, 1940.  This final deed conveyed the lot that Huddleston previously transferred to daughter Mary Wallace on December 28, 1921.  The deed said Mary had failed to pay off the note.  Therefore, John Huddleston and Mary Wallace McKinnon (remarried to W. P. McKinnon) clarified the matter and both signed a deed to Anderson.  Notice that the previous deed to Mary Wallace was not filed until June 1, 1923?when default suits against John Huddleston loomed (details follow).  The “lost deed” to Eunice Gentry (above) was never filed.

[110] See Cross Reference 5, above, especially the last paragraph. 


[111] Pike, Chancery Court Record E, 41, Decree, John W. Huddleston vs. Lizzie Huddleston , June 30, 1924, No. 1335.  The plaintiff stated that Lizzie had left Arkansas.  As required, the court appointed a local attorney to represent the defendant, who failed to respond to public notices.

    In cases such as this, where virtually all the testimony came from the plaintiff and witnesses favorable to the plaintiff, there could have been a tendency to excoriate the defendant more harshly than deserved.  Lizzie's side of the story, if ever told, might shift more responsibility to John Huddleston.  Yet, the basic conclusions about this relationship appear valid. 


[112] Lizzie's loss of financial responsibility was reaffirmed in lawsuits over various properties after the divorce (Chancery cases below).

[113] Cross Reference 6 .  After his bride deserted the first time, Huddleston's business behavior changed dramatically.  He became distracted and negligent.  In May 1922, the owner of a general store, Eli Clevenger, finally lost patience and sued for an overdue balance of $50.61.  When Huddleston failed to answer the summons, the J. P. Court awarded Clevenger that amount plus costs of $3.15, with 6% interest until paid.  Then Huddleston appealed to Circuit Court, but later filed for dismissal, apparently after settling with Clevenger (Circuit, Civil, Eli Clevenger v. J. W. Huddleston, May 22, 1922, No. 425½, case packet in file drawer 136, third-floor storage room, Circuit Clerk's office, Pike County Courthouse; Circuit Record, Civil, D, 76, Order to continue case, Clevenger v. Huddleston, September 19, 1922, No. 425½; D, 95, “Dismissed in Vacation,” by J. W. Huddleston).

  Similarly, those holding overdue real-estate notes in 1922 had to file suit and force the properties into public auction, and again Huddleston failed to respond to the complaints.  The properties involved:  Pike, Deed Record 38, p. 105 , M. W. and Carrie Greeson; Record 30, p. 595 , J. R. and E. M. Johnson; Record 47, p. 301 , G. P. and M. E. Crawford (see the detailed entries in Huddleston's Pike County Purchases, Cross Reference 4, above).  The following provide basic details about the law suits and judgments (for further coverage, see index H  at the front of Chancery Court Records D and E, and other Chancery case packets on the third floor of the Pike County Courthouse):

    Circuit, Civil, Complaint, Geo. P. Crawford and J. M. Crawford v. John W. Huddleston, April 24, 1922, No. 462; Judgment, March 24, 1923, case No. 462; Receipt (by court clerk for payment by J. W. Huddleston), February 26, 1923, No. 462, case packet in file drawer 132, third floor, Courthouse.  Also, Circuit Record, Civil, D, 74, Judgment, September 19, 1922, No. 462.  Initially, the court awarded the Crawfords $800 plus costs, with 10% interest until paid.  Huddleston paid the court clerk $845.16.

    Chancery Court Record D, 459, Decree, James G. Clark v. J. W. Huddleston , November 13, 1922, No. 1244.  M. W. Greeson had transferred Huddleston's promissory notes to Clark, whose request for a judgment of $573 was granted (the case packet for Crawford v. Huddleston , No. 462, above, includes a deposit slip from Pike County Bank to the Circuit Court Clerk, March 2, 1923, showing a total “Huddleston Judgment” of $619.61 for Clark).  The properties involved, Tracts 24-26 in the Heights Addition, Murfreesboro, were later sold at auction.   

    Chancery Record E, 25, “Order Approving Report and Confirming Sale of Commissioner,” J. R. Johnson vs. J. W. Huddleston , November 13, 1924, No. 1281.  A $500 note, for 40 acres in Section 6-8-25, had been due November 1922; the Court appointed the Commissioner one year later, to handle the public auction.


[114] Pike, Mortgage Record 15, p. 542, Deed of Trust, J. W. and Lizzie Huddleston to Duncan McRae, Guardian for the Bemis Estate, February 26, 1923 (three tracts near Murfreesboro totaling about fifty-five acres, security for a $2,500 loan at 8% interest, payment due October 26, 1924); Pike, Mortgage Record 14, p. 499, Mortgage, J. W. and Lizzie Huddleston to S. J. Jackson, March 12, 1923 (six lots in Kelly Addition, north Murfreesboro, security for $1,050 loan at 10%); 14, p. 501, Mortgage, Huddlestons to L. E. Howard, March 19, 1923 (part of Lot 4, Block 18 in Murfreesboro and two parcels in Kelly Addition, security for $400 loan at 10%, with payment within one year).


[115] According to a simple story the old-timers tell around Murfreesboro, Lizzie “got all of Huddleston's money” and took off at some point in an automobile, never to be seen again.  Generally, they echo Howard Millar's brief version of the affair:  Huddleston “bought her a Model T Ford coupe.  She would drive it around the Murfreesboro square in the evenings, with John as a delighted passenger.  The story was told later that on one of these evening tours John got out of the car to go buy a cigar.  While on this errand, his wife headed the Model T westward out of town and kept going.  She, however, wasn't the only person who picked him when he was ready for the harvesting.” ( Finders-Keepers , 19-20.)

    Of course, Lizzie got only part of Huddleston's money ? some of the cash available from loans and other sources was used to pay debts he incurred on his own.  Settlement of court judgments in 1923 total $1,744.77 if the award for Steuart's legal costs is included (compared with the total of $3,950 the couple borrowed early that year), and the undisclosed settlement of the Huddleston-Steuart affair might have added considerably to the amount paid out.  Still, the sequence of loans and debt payments, together with Huddleston's other cash reserves, indicates the incoming money was spent largely to placate a young wife:  February 26, 1923, loan of $2,500 from the Bemis Estate and payment of $845.16 to Crawford; March 2, 1923, $619.61 deposited to Clark; March 3, 1923, $1,050 borrowed from Jackson; March 19, 1923, $400 loan from Howard; and May 21, 1923, $280 costs awarded to Steuart.  When Lizzie Huddleston departed for good in early August 1923, , she evidently left her husband with very little cash on hand (see additional court cases below).    

    As for the story about the Model T, the personal-tax records indicate Huddleston owned one moderately priced vehicle both before the marriage and in 1922 and then two cheaper vehicles in 1924 (Pike, Personal Assessment 1920, p. 102 [one auto, $350 valuation]; 1921, p. 101 [one, $100]; 1922, p. 108 [one, $200]; 1924, p. 109 [two, total of $150].)  The personal-property tax records for 1923 (and 1925-1929) are missing from the collection at PCAHS.


[116] See details in Cross Reference 6, above.


[117] Huddleston bought the 40 acres in Section 6-8-25 on February 9, 1924, for $645.80, and defaulted before receiving title.  In a second auction on April 30, 1924, Johnson bought the 40 acres for $300, leaving Huddleston owing the balance of the original judgment (details in Chancery, Record E, 26, 27, Order . . ., Johnson vs. Huddleston , November 13, 1924, No. 1281).

[118] Cross Reference 7 .  Chancery E, 75 , Decree, L. E. Howard vs. J. W. Huddleston , November 11, 1924, case No. 1341 (seeking to recover the money he had loaned John and Lizzie Huddleston the previous year, Howard was awarded the $400 plus $65.76 interest from March 19, 1923; Huddleston chose not to contest the suit); E, 86-88 , Decree, George W. Neal, Commissioner, G. P. Crawford, and J. W. Crawford vs. John W. Huddleston, et al. , November 11, 1924, No. 1342 (with five local men signing the standard surety bond, Huddleston had bid $1,784.80 at public auction, buying tracts of 24½ acres and 6 acres by Prairie Creek immediately north of Murfreesboro in Section 8; he defaulted and chose not to contest the suit; plaintiffs were awarded $2,049.39); E, 124 , Report of Sale, March 5, 1925, and E, 131 , Order Approving Sale, May 11, 1925, No. 1342 (the property was auctioned for $1,000 on December 20, 1924, leaving defendants to pay the balance of the $2,049.39 award); E, 142 , Decree, Thomas C. McRae, Guardian of Bemis Heirs, vs. John W. Huddleston , et al ., May 11, 1925, No. 1377 (In May 1925 the Guardian for the Bemis Estate, Thomas C. McRae, filed against the Huddlestons and several men involved peripherally with the mortgaged properties, in order to collect the $2,500 and interest; but the court excluded all except John Huddleston, who was given a week to pay an award of $2,954.60 and avoid public auction [if the proceeds at auction were insufficient, Huddleston would have had to pay the difference]; he chose not to respond to the suit, and J. C. Pinnix bid $3,056 ? enough to cover the judgment and related expenses); E, 155 , “Order and Report of Sale” and Order Approving Sale, June 13, 1925, No. 1377 (concerning J. C. Pinnix' payment of $2,954.60 for 12½ acres in Section 8, 40 acres in Section 9, and a small parcel in Sections 16-17, all in growth areas around Murfreesboro); E, 232, 261 , Decree, H. L. Jackson for Heirs of S. E. Jackson vs. J. W. Huddleston, J. M. Crawford, and G. P. Crawford, November 9, 1926, No. 1428 (on March 3, 1923, Huddleston signed a promissory note for $1,050, at 10% interest, and gave a first mortgage on three lots and a small strip of land; the court awarded Jackson $1,549.18; the Crawfords had already gotten a judgment against Huddleston on July 8, 1925, for defaulting on one of the lots and had bought that lot at public auction; the court ruled that the remaining three parcels were to be auctioned to satisfy plaintiff Jackson and that the Crawford's lot would be auctioned only if needed to accomplish that goal); E, 277-279 , Report of Sale, Order Approving Sale, Report of Sale, and Order Approving Sale, January 11, 1927, No. 1428 (H. L. and T. T. Jackson got the first lot for $901.89 and Kenneth Lockeby and Pearl Brock paid $705 for two parcels ? enough to pay the judgment and fees, thereby leaving Huddleston with no debt in this case).


[119] Cross Reference 8 .  See details in Thomas C. McRae, Guardian of Bemis Heirs, vs. John W. Huddleston, et al. , Cross Reference 7, above.  It was not unusual for Pinnix to salvage someone's property in this manner, but ordinarily the Pike County Bank financed the purchase and made an arrangement with the person involved (for example, see the Mauney case that began shortly before this one, in Banks, Diamonds, “Northeast Slope–Mauneys–1920s”).  Although the arrangement between Huddleston and Pinnix remains unclear, Pinnix filed his deed to the auctioned property and probably signed and notarized a deed to Huddleston but held it pending a settlement.  Huddleston continued paying the property taxes (Pike County, Real Estate Tax Book, 1925-1933).

    For perspective, compare John Huddleston's real-estate tax payments for 1927 and 1930 with the quit-claim deed to J. C. Pinnix below (Cross Reference 10).  These are the entries for Township 8 S, Range 25 W in Pike County Real Estate Tax Book 1930, pp. 181-182:  J. W. Huddleston, payment for 11 acres in SE ¼ of SE ¼ of Section 8-8-25; 50 acres in E ½ of SW ¼, Sec. 9-8-25; 3.7 acres in NW ¼ of SW ¼, Section 9; 40 acres , SW ¼ of SW ¼, Section 9; 50 acres , Part of W ½ of SE ¼, Section 9; 14 acres , Part of E ½ of NE ¼, Section 17-8-25.  Entries in Tax Book 1927, pp. 177, 180, match those of 1930 except for two additional properties Huddleston held in ‘27:  1.5 acres , Part of E ½ of SE ¼, Section 8, at the northeast corner of Murfreesboro, and 40 acres , NE ¼ of NW ¼, “Section 14” (should be Sec. 16?).  Tax Book 1927 lists virtually the same properties outside of original Murfreesboro as the Book for 1925, pp. 174-178, and 1926, pp. 182-187.


[120] Cross Reference 9 .  Other cross-reference notes above and below include details about properties outside of original Murfreesboro.  The transfer to Huddleston's daughter occurred immediately after Pinnix acted (Deed Record 42, 495, Warranty Deed, John W. Huddleston to Willie Goodlett, June 17, 1925).  That land, however, was part of the properties contested in court, and she lost them in 1927 (Real Estate Tax Book 1927, p. 320).  In 1926, Huddleston himself still paid taxes on six properties in town and in adjacent additions, but he lost three of those with the conclusion of Jackson v. Huddleston in January 1927 (court action, Cross Reference 7, above; Real Estate Tax Book 1926, “Lots,” pp. 302, 304, 310-312).  For this general trend involving properties in town, compare Tax Book 1926 , p. 304; 1927 , pp. 302, 308 (now Huddleston had only two taxed lots:  the home place at the SE ¼ of Lot 4, Block 18 of Survey/Addition 6 [Kelly's], and part of SE ¼ of SW ¼ of Sec. 8-8-25, in Survey/Addition 6); 1928 , pp. 304, 310; 1929 , p. 310, 316; 1930 , p. 310 (now only an entry for the home place on Kelly Street, north of the courthouse).  The Tax Books 1931-1940 reflect no further change before Huddleston's death (Book 1939-1940, “Town Lots,” no page number, tax receipt 3387, listed the same SE ¼ of Lot 4, Block 18, $400 valuation).


[121] Shiras, “Diamond Discoverer” p. 1 (details in Bibliographic Note 4).  Although Shiras failed to clarify the exact date of the visit, he said Huddleston was sixty-three years old at the time.  The trip to the diamond field and the comment about the fireplace suggests he met Huddleston in late fall or early spring.  Considering Huddleston's habit of using differing birthdates and ages, sixty-three is an unreliable indicator.  Perhaps the visit was prompted by news of the Uncle Sam Diamond, a record-setting beauty (40.23 carats in the rough) found at the main diamond field in the summer of 1924.  An initial article that Shiras published in the Arkansas Gazette  “a few years” after the interview mentioned the 40-carat find while using only a few bits of the story gotten in Murfreesboro (Shiras, “Ozark and Ouachita Mountains”).


[122] “Diamond Discoverer,” p. 1.


[123] Shiras included the photograph in his later article about the interview (“Diamond Discoverer”).  While at the diamond field he also took a photograph of Huddleston standing and looking solemnly into the camera (Lee J. Wagner Collection, Photographs, File 23.100, Crater archive).  Lee Wagner's records also include a copy of the photograph of Huddleston kneeling and pointing (File 23.80).  That copy was used for the illustration in Wood, “35 Acres of Diamonds,” 62 (Wood credited the photo to Mrs. Solon W. House, Lee Wagner's daughter).  Bibliographic Note 4, above, summarizes Huddleston's account of the discovery during the interview. 

    Compare Shiras' comment about the photograph with the later statement of Howard A. Millar, who said “a newspaper” once asked him for an article and photograph about the finding of the first diamonds in Arkansas.  He and Huddleston “went to his old farm,” Millar said.  “There he took me to a spot which he identified as the place . . . where he found the diamonds.  I took his photograph, which I still have.” ( Finders-Keepers, pp. 20-21.)  Millar's collection in the Crater of Diamonds archive has a copy of the photograph Shiras published with his earlier profile, showing Huddleston kneeling and pointing.


[124] An unidentified photographer produced a good record of one visit, apparently c. 1930:  Wagner Collection, Photographs, Files 23.3, 23.56, 23.66, and 23.101, Crater archive (descriptions in Bibliographic Note 1, above).  Banks, Diamonds , “ADC and the Arkansas Diamond Corporation,” provides context.


[125] “Radio Broadcast on Diamond Mines,” Courier, July 17, 1931, p. 1.  According to a later tale, the Pike County Bank had redeemed the two diamonds after Huddleston pawned them (below, Bibliographic Note 5).  It is more likely J. C. Pinnix, President of the bank, got them from Huddleston at some point ? if indeed they were the original diamonds.


[126] For perspective, see the Indirect or Direct Index to deeds, entries for “State,” “forfeited,” and others involved.  Tax records and the index in the Pike County Chancery Court Record are other convenient sources (in the Court Record, see especially “Commissioner's Report of Sale” and “Homeowner's Loan”).  The annual delinquent-tax list in the Pike County Courier expanded considerably in 1931 (“Delinquent Real Estate List,” June 5, 1931, oversize pages following p. 2).  Compare with “Notice of Lands Delinquent for Non-Payment of Taxes,” Courier, October 30, 1936, following p. 2.

    Howard A. Millar and his father, Austin Q. Millar, were among those losing properties early in the ‘30s (Banks, Diamonds, “The Northeast Slope–The Millars”).  Howard Millar, who later popularized the tales about Huddleston, managed to scrape up funds to recover their properties after the State auctions (original owners had two years to redeem auctioned real estate, by paying back-taxes, costs, penalties, and 10% interest).


[127] Cross Reference 10 . Deed Record 53, p. 381, Quit Claim Deed, J. W. Huddleston to J. C. Pinnix, May 29, 1933, filed February 19, 1934 (“$1” for eight tracts totaling 250.5 acres: 12.5 acres by Prairie Creek in the E ½ of the SE ¼ of Section 8-8-25, immediately north of original Murfeeesboro; 80 acres , S ½ of SW ¼ of Sec. 9-8-25, immediately north-northeast of Murfreesboro; 40 acres , SW ¼ of SE ¼ of 9-8-25; 10 acres in S ½ of S ½ of NW ¼ of SE ¼ of 9-8-25; 10 acres in S ½ of S ½ of NE ¼ of SW ¼ of 9-8-25; 4 acres in NW ¼ of SW ¼; 80 acres by Prairie Creek, in N ½ of NW ¼ of Sec. 16-8-25, immediately east-northeast of Murfreesboro; and 14 acres by Prairie Creek in NE ¼ of NE ¼ of Sec. 17-8-25, at the north edge of Murfresboro); Real Estate Tax Book, 1934, Town Lots, p. 305.

    Compare this summary with the few properties Pinnix bought at public auction in 1925:  Thomas C. McRae, Guardian of Bemis Heirs, vs. John W. Huddleston, et al., May 11, 1925, Cross Reference 7, above.  The disparity is not explained by available records.  Pinnix and Huddleston's private arrangement clouded those details.

    Huddleston also held the deed to a large lot formerly deeded to daughter Willie Goodlett on September 23, 1924, and deeded back to him that same date, as explained in Deed Record 56, p. 277, WD, J. W. Huddleston to S. J. Thomasson, December 3, 1937.  Evidently, she kept paying the taxes during the Depression ? after 1929, Huddleston paid only for his home on Kelly Street (SE ¼ of Lot 4, Block 18, Kelly's Addition).


[128] Cross Reference 11 . Huddleston to Dabney, April 4, 1921 (Pike County sales, Cross Reference 4, above; a marginal notation indicates payment in full September 3, 1938); Deed Record 58, p. 330, WD, J. W. Huddleston and Mary Wallace McKinnon to J. L. Anderson, May 8, 1940.  This final deed conveyed the lot that Huddleston previously transferred to daughter Mary Wallace on December 28, 1921.  The deed acknowledged Mary had never pay off the note.  Therefore, John Huddleston and Mary Wallace McKinnon (remarried to W. P. McKinnon) clarified the matter and both signed a deed to Anderson.

    According to tax records, Sam Davis paid the taxes on Dabney's forty acres in the 1920s and ‘30s (e.g., Real Estate Tax Book 1926, p. 252; 1938, p. 256).


[129] Pike County, Mortgage Record 25, 446c, “Order of Approval and Old Age Pension Certificate,” No. 8423, to John Wesley Huddleston, $10 monthly beginning October 1, 1936 (for some reason, the forms were placed in the mortgage records, towards the end of the volume).


[130] Interviews of Homer Davis, Murfreesboro, 1988-2003, notes in author's possession; quote from February 1, 1903.  Davis, born in 1927, lived close to Huddleston's house on Kelly Street.  Alton Terrell and other old-timers also recalled John Huddleston in those days.


[131] The Personal Tax record for 1936, p. 77, lists one J. W. Huddleston (one horse, 20 cattle, 2 hogs, $10 in household items; total valuation, $155).  This was for John Wesley Huddleston, not his cousin Jasper Wooten (above, Bibliographic Note 3).  Unlike real-estate taxes, unpaid personal-property tax assessments often were ignored during the Great Depression, and the record for J. W. Huddleston fit that pattern, especially in the late ‘30s. (Personal Assessment Tax Book 1937-1941, PCAHS).

    North of Murfreesboro, where thin rocky soil replaces the bottomland of the Little Missouri River, farmers had a difficult time scratching out a living, as did those in the hills southeast of town.  Settled along the river plain, the Huddleston family group could maintain at least subsistence farming.  Both those living thorough the Depression and those remembering stories about their parents' experience still draw this distinction.


[132] Literary Digest, November 14, 1936, p. 10. 


[133] Conversations with Flaherty, 1988-2006, notes in author's possession; quote from re-phrasing on January 18, 1906.   Flaherty was born March 28, 1927 .


[134] See the allusion to a hangover in Moreland, “Rambling in Arkansas,” a story based upon a tale by Huddleston's brother-in-law Lee Wagner (Bibliographic Note 4, above).  The only clear reference to drinking or drunkenness was the unsupported allegation by the railroad company in Huddleston v. St. Louis, Iron Mountain, & Southern Railway Co., 1909 (case discussed above).


[135] Alton Terrell's phrasing during one his last recorded conversations with the author, September 4, 2002, notes in author's possession.  Alton Terrell's father, Alma P. (A. P.) Terrell, married a daughter of Lewis Fielding (L. F.) Huddleston, Rosina.  L. F. was the son of the pioneer Lewis Huddleston, the brother of David.  David's son David Fielding (D. F.) Huddleston ? the father of Diamond John ? was Rosina's uncle.

    The relationship between the Huddlestons and the Terrells extended back to 1853.  Upon Sheriff Lewis Huddleston's untimely death in March of that year, reportedly by poisoning, his young children were taken in by families in Murfreesboro.  Lewis Fielding was raised by Dr. G. R. Mauney, whose great-granddaughter Alice married Alton Terrell (Census, 1860, Pike County, Thompson Township, Dwelling/Family 54/54; Alton Terrell; Evans, “Fielding Huddleston and Descendants,” Introduction).    


[136] The story as told by Harold Fugitt, Murfreesboro, conversations with the author, 1986-2006, notes in author's possession.  Compare with anecdotes below, in Domer Howard, “Diamond Mines of Arkansas”; Millar, Finders-Keepers, 27; and Siras, “Discoverer.”