Investments and a Fresh Start


    Consistent with earlier practice, the Huddlestons immediately began putting the bulk of available cash into rural properties and town lots in both Pike County and adjoining Clark County. [55]   In 1907, while still at the little farm, they also allowed themselves a good carriage and two expensive horses, and apparently the oldest daughters got watches and considerable jewelry.  The tax list for that year included almost $500 for extra personal items. [56]

    The horse-drawn carriage was not merely for local display.  It allowed the Huddlestons to make faster trips to the nearest railroad access for visits to Clark County and its leading city, Arkadelphia, about forty-five miles east of Murfreesboro. [57]   With a population of some 2,700, Arkadelphia had become a transportation hub and educational center as well as the county seat?it was a place filled with opportunities for the Huddlestons' daughters.  On August 23, 1907, John and Sarah bought a home on almost three and a half acres at the edge of that city, close to some of their other land.  On September 12, the weekly Clark County Southern Standard announced the previous owner had vacated and “the diamond King from Pike” had assumed ownership.  “We are glad indeed to welcome Mr. Huddleston and family to our city,” said the editors, extending the brief greeting usually accorded newcomers. [58]

    All five daughters accompanied their parents to Arkadelphia.  The two oldest, Mary and Delia, were already mature enough to start families of their own:  Mary had reached the ripe old age of about twenty and Delia was seventeen.  Eunice and Willie, fifteen and twelve, had more time to just take advantage of the schools and other benefits of the new setting without thinking about marriage.  As for eight-year-old Joe May, that bright-eyed youngster had an entirely new life now opening before her. [59]  


     While allowing themselves a bit more luxury, the Huddlestons kept putting their money into real estate, especially several hundred acres of land in and around the two county seats, where development and appreciation yielded the best returns.   The speculative investments no doubt benefited from the advice of experienced friends and associates such as J. C. Pinnix, soon to become Pike County's leading banker as well as its outstanding lawyer. [60]   John Huddleston, however, had more-familiar plans for some of the rural purchases:  “I had been raised on the land and knew how to till the soil.  I also knew the rental value of good farm lands.” [61]   Living at the edge of Arkadelphia, he began raising cotton and livestock on at least one of the working farms near the city, and for a time even had a small flock of sheep. [62]   He became?to the extent personal limitations allowed?a gentleman farmer, landlord, and land speculator.


    Contrary to later folk tales, the Huddlestons usually bought properties “cash in hand,” getting clear deeds.  And they met their obligations when making partial payments and signing short-term notes for balances due. [63]  As funds from Reyburn's group came in after mid August 1907, they eventually had over $40,000 of principal and interest to establish themselves in both farming and the business of buying and selling real estate.  An additional $2,300, plus considerable interest, derived from the sale of their little home farm southeast of Murfreesboro in 1911. [64]

    When fully invested and short of cash at times, the Huddlestons followed standard rural procedures:  they either mortgaged properties to secure short-term loans from individuals and banks or sold some of their appreciated holdings. [65]  Now and then, they also sold properties when it became clear they had made bad investments?as in the case of the new Town of Kimberly, a spectacular land-development venture between the diamond field and Murfreesboro.  That grand project collapsed as the speculative fever stoked by his discovery began cooling after 1909. [66]

Adjusting to the Good Life in Arkadelphia


    These were exciting and prosperous times for the Huddlestons.  As the Memphis Commercial Appeal reported in early 1909, the family settled into “a life of ease and luxury,” conditions they would enjoy throughout most of their stay in Clark County. [67]   Of course for “Diamond John,” there were notable challenges during the first few years, as he learned a few unpleasant lessons about life outside the relatively simple, close-knit community left behind.  Yet, considering his total illiteracy and extensive activities, the mishaps on record were surprisingly few.


    The lessons began in early 1908, about as soon as the family completed the move to Arkadelphia.  In following years, the first incident became a mainstay of gossip around Murfreesboro, and eventually it emerged as one of the tales popularized through the imaginative writings of the former Midwesterner who spent some sixty years as an aspiring diamond miner in Pike County.  Howard A. Millar's final memoir told of an agitated John Huddleston who stood on the passenger platform at Arkadelphia's railway depot trying to flag a nonstop train speeding toward Little Rock.  Supposedly, Huddleston had just bought a ticket to the state capital and was told a fast mail train from Dallas was about due but would not stop.  His response, as described by Millar:


‘It'll stop for me, I'm the “Diamond King!' John replied.  He walked down the platform to the hook on which the mail sacks were attached for a non-stop pick up by the oncoming train.  As the train approached, John waved both arms and shouted, ‘Stop!  I'm the “Diamond King!'  The engineer ignored him.  John was struck by mail sacks thrown from the train as it raced by. . . .  he ended up in the hospital with four broken ribs. [68]


    Available documents provide a more accurate account.  Standing on the passenger platform of the railroad depot on March 21, 1908, John W. Huddleston was struck by mailbags thrown from a nonstop train belonging to the St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern Railway Company.  He sued, complaining the company “through its negligence and the negligence of its servants, permitted and allowed said mail pouch or bag to be ejected from said North bound passenger and mail train . . . while running at a high rate of speed, and at such a place on said platform that it struck said plaintiff on the face and body knocking him to the ground, breaking and fracturing two ribs and scarring and disfiguring his face and head.”  Emphasizing his lawful presence on the platform, he sought $2,000 in damages. [69]   The regular Clark County Circuit judge, J. M. Carter, heard the case September 8-9, 1908.

    According to further testimony, Huddleston had gone to the depot about noon to take the first train to Little Rock.  “He did not know the times of the arrival and departure of trains.”  The ticket office was closed.  After some fifteen minutes he went to a nearby lunch stand, “and while eating heard a train coming, and ran out and onto the track and flagged it with his hat, and then walked on to the platform and stood near the door of the waiting room for white passengers, and while there a train passed, moving very rapidly, and a mail agent threw a sack therefrom while it was in rapid motion, . . . and the train moved on without checking its speed.” [70]      

    In those days, railroads caused deaths and injuries regularly, especially in urban areas.  Arkadelphia's weekly Southern Standard provided constant news of the most tragic local incidents, and usually of the lawsuits that followed. [71]  Nevertheless, public safety remained secondary to the value of railroads as indispensable engines of growth and development.  In the incident on March 21 st , even literacy would have left John Huddleston uninformed and vulnerable:  there were no warning signs posted on the passenger platform and no section designated for mail drops. [72]

    The two clerks on the company's mail car testified about the haphazard method of delivering bags from the moving train.  The chief clerk was especially graphic:


. . . we were running late that day, going at a pretty fast rate; takes quick work to make the catch [to snag incoming mail from a “crane” beside the track] and throw off the mail; asked Craig to make the delivery while I made the catch; I was to pick out the place [to throw the mailbag]; I looked down the track, there was people all along in north of the depot and I told him to hold it until we passed the depot and about the time we got to the north end of the depot I told him to throw it, and about this time I saw a man close ? just did see a man on the ground make efforts like he wanted to get on[,] and here the pouch and sacks both hit him; the first I saw of this man he was right at the side of the train; just about the time I gave the orders to throw; looked forward and saw this was the only place unless we carried it [mail] above the [water] tank. [73]


    The company, on the other hand, denied Huddleston was injured by carelessness, negligence, or improper conduct on either its part or the part of its agents.  The company denied “that plaintiff had gone to defendant's depot for the purpose of becoming a passenger on the train from which the mail sacks were thrown.”  If the plaintiff suffered any injury at all, it resulted from “his own acts of carelessness and contributory negligence in this; that he ran across the track in front of defendants fast mail train . . . which did not stop, nor was scheduled to stop . . . and while crossing said track attempted to flag said train at a time and place he had no right to be.”  The company alleged, without proof, “That plaintiff was drunk and acted recklessly,” that he appeared on the platform suddenly after the mail clerks had released the sacks. [74]

    The Circuit judge hardly concealed his sympathy for the railroad.  His instructions to the jury repeated basic points requested by the defendant and ignored those submitted by the plaintiff.  Plaintiff's objections were overruled.  The jury found in favor of the defendant.  After the judge overruled a motion for new trial, plaintiff Huddleston appealed to the Supreme Court of Arkansas. [75]

    In a long opinion on May 10, 1909, the higher court firmly supported John Huddleston's position and remanded the case for a new trial.  At the same time, however, the court's thorough finding of facts made it clear?repetitiously?that any retrial would have to favor plaintiff Huddleston.  “Under the evidence in this case it was the duty of appellee, the Railway Company, to have used ordinary care to protect persons lawfully upon its platform against injuries by mail sacks thrown from its trains,” the opinion said at one point.  “It could have done so by requiring the sacks to be thrown at a certain place and by notices, posted in a conspicuous place, warning persons who should come on the platform . . .” [76]

    In criticizing the Circuit judge's instructions to the jury, the Supreme Court concluded its opinion with a clear statement about one item that Huddleston's lawyers had challenged.  “Instruction numbered 9 . . . should not have been given.  There was no evidence that appellant's injury was caused by his flagging the train or having gone upon the railroad track [en route to the platform].” [77]

    The case continued in Circuit Court, and on January 10, 1910, John Huddleston accepted an award of $325 plus all costs of litigation.  In the future, plaintiffs in similar lawsuits would cite his case to win much larger damage awards from railroads. [78]  


    Almost six months after the accident at the depot, Huddleston found himself in another legal dispute?this time as the defendant.  Officials of Henderson College, located just outside Arkadelphia by some of his property, believed their new neighbor had “detained” one of the school's calves.  They wanted $25 compensation plus $10, and a small-claims court (Justice of the Peace) ruled in their favor.  When Huddleston appealed to Circuit Court, he ended up paying $50.  It is not clear if justice was done, but the newcomer no doubt began understanding how non-influential and vulnerable he had become outside of Pike County. [79]

    Nevertheless, the victory over the railroad company in May 1909, in the Arkansas Supreme Court, demonstrated that the legal system and competent lawyers could also offer protection, and only a few months later this lesson was reinforced by a lawsuit over a farm the Huddlestons had bought more than a year earlier.  That 133-acre tract bordered on the Ouachita River about a mile and a half southeast of Arkadelphia.  The former owners had signed a standard deed indicating the full price of $2,200 had been “paid by J. W. Huddleston.”  There was no mention of a mortgage, lien or note.  Filed the day it was signed, the deed bore the standard certification that the owners had executed it “for the consideration and purposes therein mentioned and set forth.”  Yet, over a year later, one of the owners filed in Circuit Court, alleging Huddleston had made only a partial payment and still owed $900.35 plus interest.  Evidently, the complaint was dismissed. [80]

    After that, there were no recorded incidents until two final legal cases in February-March 1912.  In the first, Huddleston demonstrated that he now intended to defend even his relatively trivial interests:  he filed in a small-claims court (Justice of the Peace), asking for $6.90 he felt was still due on a cotton sale, and received an award of $4.60. [81]  A month later, he lost a much larger sum when sued in Clark County Circuit Court by a real-estate agency, the Arkansas Land Company.  It remains unclear if justice finally prevailed in this unusual case or if, this time, someone managed to exploit his illiteracy. [82]


    Aside from those incidents, the Huddlestons did settle into a good life in Clark County.  Their declared personal property in 1908 had a taxable value of $1,045, extremely high for families in the area.  Their working farm was stocked with thirteen cattle and twenty-four hogs, much more livestock than the average.  Home furnishings included a high-priced piano (“pianoforte”), and at hand were two extraordinarily expensive wagons/carriages, a high-priced horse, and two good mules.  Although real-estate investments left very little in savings in late 1908, the family had monthly interest and other payments coming in:  at the end of the next tax year, 1909, an extra $5,000 of funds raised the total personal-property valuation to $6,795.  That year, they apparently put $250 into farm equipment while spending about $400 on more mules and $100 on two more wagons/carriages.  Temporarily, they had a flock of at least fifteen sheep, animals with a taxable value of less than $1 each in those days.  The ladies also seem to have gained about $100 worth of jewelry in 1909. [83]  


    Exercising an adventuresome side, John Huddleston indulged his taste for the newest mode of transportation.  “He recently purchased an automobile,” reported the Memphis Commercial Appeal in March 1909, “and his car has become a familiar sight on the rough country roads near his old home [in Pike County].  His latest exploit was a trapping expedition?hunting coon skins through the woods of Southern Arkansas in his motor car.” [84]

    The trips back to Murfreesboro allowed Huddleston to enjoy the fame and recognition lacking among the strangers of Clark County.  In those days, newspapers and magazines seldom carried photographs or sketches of newsworthy individuals, and Clark County's publication, the weekly Southern Standard of Arkadelphia , completely ignored the Huddlestons after the customary welcome.  His new neighbors might recognize him only if they happened to see his face on one of the picture post cards honoring the “Discoverer of Diamonds.” [85]

Text Box:                                                   Post card c. 1912(?).  Crater.                                         


   The couple kept their original little farm near the diamond field until August 1911, and perhaps stayed there while Diamond John visited friends and occasionally appeared as a special guest at local events.  On the weekend of January 22-23, 1909, for instance, he joined prominent land developers at an opening ceremony launching the new Town of Kimberly, the ambitious project near Murfreesboro.  Bands from nearby Nashville and Delight provided music as potential buyers of business and residential lots munched on free barbecue.  Helping publicize the venture, Huddleston purchased Lot Number l for a token $70, and then without publicity paid $200 for another lot. [86]


    Three years after moving to Arkadelphia, John and Sarah Huddleston began accomplishing one of their special goals.  The oldest daughter, Mary, now twenty-two years old, married W. W. Wallace of Clark County on May 14, 1911.  Then Willie, only six months past her sixteenth birthday, married Cleve Manley of Clark County on March 10, 1912.  Nineteen-year-old Eunice followed four months later, on July 7, marrying G. T. Gentry of Clark County. [87]  Only Delia and little Joe May were left at home.


    After ten years in Arkadelphia, however, John Huddleston experienced a double tragedy that altered the course of his life.  Sarah died December 19, 1917.  Then, two months later, the front page of the Southern Standard carried a poignant report about the death of young Joe May. [88]








[55] Cross Reference 1 .  Huddleston began buying property in Clark County immediately after he and Sarah received the $7,000 payment from Reyburn's group on August 14, 1907.  The recorded purchases:  Clark County, Deed Book 49, p. 369 , Warranty Deed, W. W. and E. L. Heard to J. W. Huddleston, August 23, 1907 ($1,500 cash paid for 3.33 acres [Huddlestons' new home], a strip 35 yards by 20 chains [a surveyor's chain, sixty-six feet long] along the West side of the SE ¼ of the NW ¼ of Section 17, Township 7 S, Range 19 W); Deed Book 51, p. 236 , Warranty Deed, E. F. and Louisa Wilson to John W. Huddleston, August 5, 1907 ($3,500 cash for a large tract beginning at a street in Arkadelphia on the east side of the Heard property and running north about a mile, in the SE ¼ of NW ¼ and NE ¼ of NW ¼ of Section 17, Township 7 S, Range 19 W, and in SE ¼ of SW ¼ of Sec. 8-7-19, exact acreage unstated and difficult to determine from the deed); Book 52, p. 92 , WD, J. R. and Dovie Wood to J. W. Huddleston, June 6, 1908 ($2,200 “paid by J. W. Huddleston” for 133 acres bordering on the Ouachita River, in SE ¼ of NW ¼ of Sec. 28-7-19 and Partial SE 1/4  of 28-7-19 [see comment on lawsuit, below] ); 52, p. 102 , WD, C. C. and Laura Henderson to John W. Huddleston, June 13, 1908 ($50 cash stated, for a parcel 40 feet by 165 feet about one-quarter mile NNE of the Huddleston's home near downtown Arkadelphia, in NE ¼ of NW ¼ of Sec. 17-7-19); 52, p. 108 , WD, O. D. Wood to J. W. Huddleston, June 15, 1908 (SW ¼ of NE ¼ of Sec. 28-7-9); 52, p. 264 , WD, M. E. McCabe to J. W. Huddleston, December 9, 1908 (Part of Lot 10, Block 37, Browning's Survey, Arkadelphia); 52, p. 331 , WD, T. F. and J. H. Anderson to J. W. Huddleston, January 20, 1909 ($500 price; $20 cash with balance at 10% interest, note due by February 15, 1909 [marginal notation on deed: balance paid in full February 5, 1909]; purchase of a lot 26 feet by 200 feet in Block 37 of Browning's Survey, Arkadelphia); 52, p. 369 , WD, Fred and Minnie Deaton to J. W. Huddleston, February 8, 1909 ($2,500 dollars cash for 160 acres:  NE ¼ of NE ¼ of Sec. 6-7-19 and NW ¼ of NW ¼ of Sec. 5-7-19 [total of 80 acres two miles north of the home], and W ½ of SW ¼ of Sec. 32, Township 6 S, Range 19 W [80 acres about four miles southwest of the home]); Deed of Trust 50, p. 518 , Deed of Trust, F. H. and Mary Morrical to B. F. Dooley, Trustee, with J. W. Huddleston a third party, April 17, 1909 (the Morricals borrowed $1,000 from Huddleston and for collateral put up the one-half acre he had sold to them earlier, with easement [below, sales, 52, p. 459]; a few weeks later, Huddleston put his X on a certified marginal notation stating the $1,000 had been paid in full; 81, p. 549 , WD, Frank H. Morrical and wife to J. W. Huddleston, June 1, 1909, filed March 20, 1918, as Huddleston sold the home and moved to Murfreesboro (Partial SE ¼ of NW ¼ of Sec. 17-7-19 [the one-half acre used for collateral April 17, 1909]); 52, p. 576 , WD, Agnes and Catherine Stewart to J. W. Huddleston, July 12, 1909 ($1,450 cash for the east side of Lot 8 and west side of Lot 9, Block 34, Browning's Svy., Arkadelphia); 52, p. 579 , WD, C. and Altha Webb to John Huddleston, July 16, 1909 ($1,250 cash for 32.5 acres in SE ¼ of Sec. 31-6-19, about four miles SSE of the home); 52, p. 580 , WD, C. and Altha Webb to John Huddleston, July 16, 1909 (3 acres in SW ¼ of SW ¼ of Sec. 5-7-19); 55, p. 176 , WD, Bertha Adams to J. W. Huddleston, January 7, 1910 (W ½ of Lot 12, Block 35, Browning's Svy.); 55, p. 252 , WD, T. C. Dawson and wife to J. W. Huddleston, January 15, 1910 (Part of Sec. 17-7-19); 62, p. 299 , WD, T. F. and J. H. Anderson to J. W. Huddleston, January 28, 1912 ($500, with $250 cash down and the balance by April 23, 1912 [marginal notation: paid in full February 3, 1912], for E part of Block 37, Browning's Svy.); Book 65, p. 75, WD, Robt. L. Johnson to John W. Huddleston, October 7, 1912 ($600 cash for 40 acres, SW ¼ of NE ¼ of Sec. 6-7-19, about two miles NNW of the home); Book 73, p. 45 , Quit Claim Deed, Abbie M. Crow to J. W. Huddleston, June 4, 1915 (SW ¼ of NE ¼ of Sec. 28-7-19, two miles SE of the home); 74, p. 14 , Quit Claim, Fannie C. Gerig to J. W. Huddleston, July 13, 1915 (SW ¼ of SE ¼ of Sec. 28-7-19); 78, p. 618 , Mortgage Deed, G. J. Bennett, et al., to J. W. Huddleston, December 7, 1916 (N ½ of NW ¼ of Sec. 15-8-20); 81, p. 111 , WD, E. Nowlin and wife, September 29, 1917 (N ½ of NW ¼ of Sec. 17-8-22); 110, p. 524 , Assignment of Oil and Gas Rights, W. D. Hume to J. W. Huddleston, March 30, 1923 (30 acres in Sec. 33-5-23).


   The Huddlestons' sales in Clark County :  Book 52, p. 459 , WD, John and S. A. Huddleston to Frank H. Morrical, July 1, 1908 (one-half acre off the W side of SE ¼ of NW ¼ of Sec. 17-7-19 [off Huddlestons' home place]; recovered later by Huddleston [; 52, 459 , Easement, J. W. and S. A. Huddleston to F. H. Morrical, April 13, 1909; 69, p. 589 , Warranty Deed, J. W. and S. A. Huddleston to J. C. Braswell, March 12, 1910 ($1,300 cash for two parcels totaling six acres:  beginning at the north edge of Arkadelphia, an irregular tract extending 1,200 feet north and 835.5 feet east, in SE ¼ of NW ¼ of Sec. 17-7-19, and a strip 40 feet by 165 feet in NE ¼ of NW ¼ of 17-7-19); 67, p. 104 , Quit Claim Deed to C. C. Henderson, July 19, 1910 ($1 “and other good and valuable considerations” for the W part of S ½ of the NE ¼ of the NW ¼ of Sec. 17-7-19); 73, p. 169 , WD, Jno. W. Huddleston to Harsh Phillipp and wife, August 20, 1915 (SW ¼ of NE ¼, SE ¼ of NW ¼, Part of SW ¼ of NW ¼, and Part of SE ¼ of NE ¼ of SW ¼, all in Sec. 28-7-19); 75, p. 377 78, p. 386 , WD to W. M. Moore, January 9, 1917 ($4,400, with $400 down and balance within one year [marginal: satisfied in full October 29, 1917], for 151.5 acres total in W ½ of SW ¼ of Sec. 32-6-19, NW ¼ of NW ¼ of Sec. 5-7-19, and a tract in the SE ¼ of Sec. 31-6-19); 82, p. 355 , WD to J. A. Carr, September 29, 1917 (SE ¼ of SW ¼ of Sec. 8-7-19 and NE ¼ of NW ¼ of Sec. 17-7-19; 100, p. 16 , WD, J. W. H. to J. A. Carr, September 29, 1917, filed April 28, 1921 ($3,816.65 for N ½ of NW ¼ of NE ¼ of Sec. 15-8-20); 81, p. 169 , WD to Gid Cook, October 31, 1917 ($1,500 cash for NE ¼ of NE ¼ of Sec. 6-7-19 and Partial SW ¼ of SW ¼ of Sec. 5-7-19); 100, p. 580 , WD, J. W. Huddleston (now a widower) to George Harris, March 18, 1918 (N ½ of NW ¼ of Sec. 17-8-22 [see Release below, 105, p. 305]); 81, p. 591, WD, J. W. Huddleston, an unmarried man, to D. McMillan, March 19, 1918 ($2,850 cash for part of the E side of Lots 8 and 20 and part of the W side of Lot 9, all in Block 34 of Browning's Survey of Arkadelphia)); 81, p. 595 , WD to D. and J. H. McMillan, March 19, 1918 ($3,500 cash for W ½ of Lot 12 in Block 35 of Browning's Survey, with twenty feet of frontage on Main Street, Arkadelphia); 85, p. 411 , WD to John M. and Emma Riggan, March 26, 1918 ($3,000 for Huddleston's home in Arkadelphia, with three acres:  a strip one-half acre wide along the W side of SE ¼ of NW ¼ of Sec. 17-7-19, excepting approximately 0.3 acre lying N of the middle of a creek-bed running across the N end of the strip,) ; 106, p. 628 , WD, J. W. Huddleston to E. W. Hamilton, January 24, 1919, filed May 24, 1923 (SW ¼ of NE ¼ of Sec. 6-9-19); 89, p. 297 , WD to F. L. Williamson, September 16, 1919 ($5,250 cash for a strip seventy-eight feet wide running along the south side of Lots 6-10 of Block 37 of Browning's Svy., Arkadelphia); 105, p. 305 , Release, J. W. Huddleston to George Harris, March 14, 1922 (N ½ of NW ¼ of Sec. 17-8-22 [above, Deed Book 100, p. 580]).


    The Huddlestons' real-estate transactions in Pike County began in April 1908, although Clark County remained the primary interest until the deaths of Sarah and their youngest daughter in December 1917 and February 1918 (notes below).  The purchases before John Huddleston moved back to Murfreesboro in March 1918 :  Pike, Deed Record P, 101 , Warranty Deed, J. D. Huddleston and wife, E. J., to John W. Huddleston, April 11, 1908 ($800 cash for 40 acres, NW ¼ of NE ¼ of Section 26, Township 8 S., Range 26 W.); R, 44 , Warranty Deed, M. M. and Bettie Mauney to John W. Huddleston, January 22, 1909 ($70 cash paid for Lot 1, Block 13, Town of Kimberly [new land-development project immediately south of Murfreesboro]); R, 45 , WD ($200 cash paid for Lot 21, Block 28, Kimberly); R, 241 , WD, A. W. and F. A. Parker to J. W. H., September 27, 1909 ($500 “paid” for E. ½ of Lot 2, Block 4, original plat of Murfreesboro); R, 430 , WD, J. F. and M. F. Stevens to J. W. H., September 27, 1909 ($1,700, with $500 cash down and balance at 8% due by January 10, 1910 [marginal notation: balance paid in full February 2, 1910], for Lot 1 in Block 4, original Murfreesboro); Record 28, p. 583 , WD, A. W. and Mary Hamilton to J. W. H. March 25, 1914 ($1,500 cash for Lots 7-12, Block 3 of Goodlett Addition, Murfreesboro, in NW ¼ of SW ¼ of Sec. 17-8-25 [south edge of town; see Pike County Map Book A, Goodlett Addition, pp. 2-3]); 30, p. 380 , WD, J. M. and Minnie S. Goodlett to J. W. H., November 4, 1915 ($1,000, with $700 cash down and balance at 10% due by November 1, 1916 [satisfied in full that date: Record 36, p. 334, Release Deed, Goodletts to J. W. H., April 22, 1919], for Lots 2-3, Block 4 of Goodlett Addition, Murfreesboro, in NE ¼ of SW ¼ of 17-8-25); 34, p. 262 , WD, J. W. and F. C. Chapel to J. W. H., October 18, 1917 ($4,000 cash paid, for 40 acres, SW ¼ of SW ¼ of Sec. 9-8-25); 34, p. 329 , WD, Geo. H. and Mary C. Grayson to Jno. Huddleston, November 6, 1917 ($150 cash paid, for Lot 10 in Kelly Subdivision [no block indicated; north edge of original Murfreesboro; see Pike County Map Book A, Kelly's Addition, p. 6], in W ½ of SE ¼ of Sec. 8-8-25); 35, p. 55 , WD, H. A. and Rose Davis to J. W. H., January 19, 1916 ($2,000, with $850 down and balance at 10% due in two annual payments by January 1, 1918 [no marginal notation on deed, but personal note to Davis satisfied in full:  J. W. H. held clear title to the property later], for the part of Lots 805 on Kelly St. and 806 on Conway St. lying south of 9 th St., a strip 198.5' X 255' located in Kelly's Addition/Davis Survey, Murfreesboro, in E ½ of SW ¼ of Sec. 8-8-25); 35, p. 603 , WD, C. A. and Laura Kelley to J. W. H., November 30, 1917 ($1,100, with $250 cash down and balance by December 1, 1918; for 11 acres along Prairie Creek (69 rods X 26 rods) in SE ¼ of SE ¼ of Sec. 8-8-25); 36, p. 136 , WD, J. J. Huddleston [John J.?, nephew of John Huddleston?] and wife, Arrie, to J. W.H., August 21, 1917 (a stated $100 cash paid, for 18 acres in W ½ of SW ¼ of NW ¼ of Sec. 22).  


    The Huddlestons' sales in Pike County before 1918 :  Record 29, p. 629 , Warranty Deed to W. D. Fagan, et al., August 22, 1911 ($2,300, with $500 cash down and balance at 8%, in annual payments until January 1, 1915 [marginal note: paid in full February 19, 1917]; for 44.85 acres in SE ¼ of Sec. 34-8-25, west of River [John and Sarah Huddleston's home farm]); Record X, 79 , WD to Minerva R. Bickley, August 30, 1912 ($1,250 cash for the W ½ of Lot 1 and the E ½ of Lot 2, in Block 4 of original Murfreesboro, 50' X 99' in all); 34, p. 409 , WD, J. W. and S. A. Huddleston to A. W. Hamilton, March 27, 1914 ($220 cash for Lot 1 of Block 13 and Lot 21 of Block 28, Town of Kimberley [a failing land development project between Murfreesboro and the diamond field, by Prairie Creek; see Pike County Map Book A, Kimberly [sic], p. 50; original blueprint plat in Rodgers Collection, Arkansas History Commission, Little Rock).


[56] Pike County, Personal Tax 1907, p. 91.  Also listed:  eight cows, no mules, twenty-three hogs, four watches; valuation of watches, diamonds and jewelry, $305 total (the quantity of diamonds or jewelry is not specified), and $150 total for “other” unspecified items, for a total valuation of $728, far above the average in the area.  Notice the clothing in the family portrait, above.

    The $305 valuation entered under the general category of watches, diamonds, and other jewelry could have included one or two of the small diamonds Huddleston found in August 1906.  But considering the overall evidence, that seems improbable.  More likely, Sarah and the oldest girls bought jewelry to go along with the watches.


[57] Murfreesboro had no rail service until the Memphis, Paris and Gulf Railroad Company extended its line across the Little Missouri River from the southwest in June 1909 (from Nashville, some fifteen miles away).  One of the big lumber companies, however, had track running close to town from Prescott, to the southeast; local travelers often caught the log train to that city and took the St. Louis, Iron Mountain & Southern Railroad on to Arkadelphia.  At one point, Howard Millar mentioned the Prescott Northwest log train to Norvell, about twelve miles from Murfreesboro ( Finders-Keepers, 25).  A spur also ran from the east to within twenty miles of Murfreesboro.


[58] Clark County, Deed Book 49, p. 369, Warranty Deed, W. W. and E. L. Heard to J. W. Huddleston, August 23, 1907 (details in Clark County purchases, Cross Reference 1, above); community events page, Clark County Southern Standard, September 12, 1907, p. 3.  The brief item in the newspaper ? eight short sentences without headline ? lay among numerous other notices.  Afterwards, the editors virtually ignored Huddleston, although it began covering basic events at the diamond field after early 1907 (brief reports in the “News of Arkansas” column, p. 1; also titled “Arkansas State News”).  The death notices for Sarah and “Miss Joe,” cited below, suggest that at least the Huddleston's youngest daughter gained social standing.


[59] The family completed the move by early 1908, the year John Huddleston dropped from Pike County's Personal Tax Assessment and appeared in Clark County's (Clark, Personal Property Tax Record [for] 1908, Caddo Township, p. 72).

    The family photograph in the Lee Wagner Collection, File 23.110, Crater archive, probably was taken soon after the move to Arkadelphia:  top left, Mary A. E., born Nov. 1887; top center, Delia E., Aug. 1890; top right, Eunice F. V., Sept. 1892; lower left, Willie M., Aug. 1895; bottom center, Joe May, July 1899.  The sources agree the Huddlestons moved primarily for the daughters' benefit, especially to improve opportunities for education and marriage; but the outskirts of Arkadelphia also offered opportunities for sound investment.  For the setting, see “Arkadelphia (Clark County),” Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture, online at .  Details are available in Wendy Richter, editor, Clark County: Past and Present (Arkadelphia, Arkansas:  Clark County Historical Association, 1992).


[60] John Huddleston and his extended family had broad expertise in rural properties, and he had dealt with prominent real-estate investors around Murfreesboro before finding the diamonds (one of these, O. B. Owens, provided the Huddlestons short-term loans when needed).  But most likely, his concentration on town lots and subdivisions reflected the influence of Pinnix and others involved in that sort of investment, including N. A. Goodlett and son J. M. (in the early 1920s, J. M. Goodlett married Huddleston's daughter Willie).

    In Pike County, the Huddlestons' basically took advantage of the development of new additions on the north and south sides of Murfreesboro ? development and speculative sales spurred largely by the discovery of diamonds.  The main land-development ventures:  Murfreesboro Heights Addition and Kelly's Addition (north side), Goodlett Addition (south side), and Town of Kimberly (between the diamond field and Goodlett Addition).  See Pike County Map Book A, pp. 2-3 (Goodlett), p. 5 (Heights), p. 6 (Kelly), and p. 50 (Kimberly).  “Pike County Diamonds,” Nashville (Arkansas) News, June 12, 1909, p. 5, and “Murfreesboro is Building,” Nashville News, August 11, 1909, p. 4, illustrate the trend.


[61] Quoted in Shiras, “Diamond Discoverer,” p. 10. 


[62] Fifteen sheep, with a total valuation of $13, appeared only in the Personal Property Tax Record for 1909, p. 72, line 6, and obviously were out of place in Clark County, Arkansas.  There, hogs prevailed, with most farmers raising fewer than a dozen.  They usually kept from three to five cattle as well, along with one or two horses and one or two mules.  In contrast, for 1908 the Huddlestons paid taxes on thirteen cattle, twenty-four hogs, one horse, and two mules (Record 1908, p. 72, line 35); for 1909, ten cattle, twenty-seven hogs, one horse, nine mules, and fifteen sheep.  The number of hogs reached thirty-six in 1911, the high point (p. 83, line 18).  The Huddlestons' rural purchases sometimes included a few livestock along with land (e.g. three mules and a wagon with the Wood place in June 1908, mentioned in Clark County Circuit Court, Civil, J. W. Wood v. J. W. Huddleston, August 3, 1909, Case No. 1252, file packet archived in Special Collections, Ouachita Baptist University Library, Arkadelphia).

    Other law suits in 1908-1912 provide further perspective.  One of the Huddlestons' farms, 150 acres within a mile of Arkadelphia, included a four-room house, barn, garden, and land in cultivation (Clark Circuit, Civil, Arkansas Land Company v. J. W. Huddleston, March 4, 1912 , No. 1501, file in Ouachita Baptist University [OBU] library).  Another case, Henderson College v. John W. Huddleston, offers a more colorful bit of information:  the college alleged that one of its calves, worth $25, had been “detained,” penned up, by Huddleston (details below).  Henderson College was then just outside the city by the Huddleston's property.  

    In those days, cotton was still the dominant row-crop across Arkansas.  Huddleston and other growers in Clark County marketed it through Saunders Mercantile or other buyers (for one incident, see Circuit, Civil, John Huddleston v. Saunders Mercantile, February 6, 1912, No. 1490, file in OBU library.  The Huddlestons' investments in farming equipment appeared initially in the Personal Property Tax Record 1909, p. 72, under “Value of Materials and Manufactured Articles” ($250 valuation), and again in 1910, p. 75 ($150).


[63] Cross Reference 1 above, Huddleston purchases before 1918; Cross Reference 4 below, purchases 1918-1921.


[64] Pike, Deed Record 29, p. 629, Warranty Deed to W. D. Fagan, et al., August 22, 1911 (see Cross Reference 1 above, Huddlestons' Pike County sales before 1918).


[65] Cross Reference 2 .  The recorded loans, 1907-1919:  Pike County, Mortgage Record 2, p. 55 , Mortgage with Power of Sale, Realty, John W. and Sarah A. Huddleston to Union Trust Co., Little Rock [J. C. Pinnix, attorney], January 17, 1907 (awaiting sale of their 243.56 acres to Samuel W. Reyburn's group, the couple took an advance of $800 through Reyburn's Union Trust Co.; repayment annually for three years at 8%, with lien on the 243.56 acres); Clark County, Deed Book 57, p. 517 , Deed of Trust (DT) to B. F. Dooley, Trustee, with Roy R. Golden the third party, October 25, 1913 (states that the Huddlestons borrowed $2,000 from Golden at 10%, payment due by October 25, 1914 [marginal notation: satisfied in full September 7, 1915], with collateral of 234.5 acres in SW ¼ of SW ¼ of Sec. 5-7-19, NW ¼ of NW ¼ of 5-7-19, and the NE ¼ of NE ¼ and SW ¼ of NE ¼ of Sec. 6-7-19); Clark 75, p. 377 , DT, J. W. Huddleston to Merchants and Planters Bank, November 13, 1916 (lien on NE ¼ of NE ¼ of Sec. 6-7-19, NW ¼ of NW ¼ of Sec. 5-17-19, SW ¼ of NE ¼ of Sec. 6-7-19, W ½ of SW ¼ and SE ¼ of SE ¼ of Sec. 31-6-19); Pike, Mortgage Record 11, Realty, p. 172 , Mortgage with Power of Sale, J. W. and S. A. Huddleston to Pike County Bank, October 22, 1917 ($500 loan for three months at 10% [marginal by J. C. Pinnix, Secretary of PCB: satisfied in full December 6, 1917]; lien on 40 acres, SW ¼ of SW ¼ of Sec. 9-8-25); Clark Deed 87, p. 73 , Deed of Trust, J. W. Huddleston to Ben Dooley, Trustee, with J. W. Bunch the third party, January 25, 1919 (according to the deed of trust, Huddleston borrowed $2,000 from Bunch January 25th, with payment due within one year; for collateral, Huddleston put up part of Lots 6-10 along the S side of Block 37 of Browning's Survey of Arkadelphia, a strip 78 feet deep [marginal notation: lien satisfied in full as recorded in Book 79, p. 571]); 79, p. 571 , Release, J. W. Bunch to J. W. Huddleston, September 16, 1919 (relating to the preceding Deed of Trust).

    For occasional property sales, see following note and Cross References 1 and 4.


[66] Pike, Deed Record 34, p. 409, Warranty Deed, J. W. and S. A. Huddleston to A. W. Hamilton, March 27, 1914 ($220 cash for Lot 1 of Block 13 and Lot 21 of Block 28, Town of Kimberly).  Cf. purchases, Kimberly opening ceremonies, Cross Reference 3, below.  By 1914, it was clear the nearby diamond-bearing “pipe” failed to justify the initial optimism and land speculation.  The Kimberly project began failing in 1910.  If the Huddlestons had sold later, they probably would have lost considerably more than the $50.  For context see Banks, Diamonds, “M. M. Mauney's Ill-fated ‘Boomtown,'” online at .


[67] “Status of Diamond Fields of Pike County, Arkansas,” The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tennessee, March 21, 1909, first page (page numbers unclear on available microfilm copies).


[68] Finders-Keepers, 26-27.


[69] Clark County Circuit Court, Civil, J. W. Huddleston v. St. Louis, Iron Mountain & Southern Railroad Company, “Complaint at Law,” July 8, 1908, Case No. 1099, file packet in Special Collections, Ouachita Baptist University Library (OBU), Arkadelphia.


[70] Part of the finding of facts in Supreme Court of Arkansas, Huddleston v. St. L., I. M. & S. Ry. Co., Opinion, May 10, 1909, Case No. 327, p. 2, in file packet for Circuit No. 1099, OBU; recorded as 90 Arkansas 378 1909 [vol. 90, p. 378 of the Arkansas Reports , published by the State of Arkansas] and 119 SW 280 1909 [ Southwest Reporter , part of the West Regional Reporter System].

    The file at OBU contains no affidavits or other record of testimony except as quoted or otherwise reflected in the Supreme Court Opinion.  Summonses and subpoenas are in the file.  Original case files for terminal appeals to the Supreme Court of Arkansas are archived at the Law Library of the University of Arkansas, Little Rock (The William H. Bowen School of Law); but Huddleston's appeal was upheld and remanded to Clark County Circuit for retrial, and the case file followed.  Sets of the Arkansas Reports are usually available at county courthouses.. 


[71] Relatively minor injuries like Huddleston's seldom warranted attention from the newspaper, which focused upon the continual deaths, losses of limbs, and other severe injuries.  While important for helping establish legal precedence, his case was ignored by the Southern Standard (brief reports on railway accidents appeared on the inside page devoted to community events, sometimes under the heading “Local Brevities”).  For a convenient indicator of the problem along any railroad, check the index of Arkansas Supreme Court cases during this period.  Arkadelphia's train service included the St. Louis, Iron Mountain & Southern Railroad Company (one name).  For accidents in individual counties with significant rail traffic, see the indices to the county circuit court civil record as well as the newspapers.


[72] The lack of signs or any kind of control was noted in Supreme Court Opinion, No. 327, p. 2.


[73] Postal Clerk Garrett, cited in Supreme Court Opinion, No. 327, p. 3.  W. L. Craig's briefer statement acknowledged “the train was running pretty fast and . . . [Garrett] made the catch of the crane and picked out the place and when he gave me the word to throw it I threw; [we] always try to select [a] place where there are no passengers and where it will not injure any one; we select the place in front and try to throw the mail so as [to] strike in this place.” (“Opinion,” pp. 2-3).


[74] Clark Circuit Civil, “Answer,” undated, No. 1099, OBU; Circuit Court Record Q, 269, Defendant's Answer, volumes in Special Collections, OBU Library.


[75] “Motion for New Trial,” September 11, 1908; “Bill of Exceptions” (seven pages), November 19, 1908, No. 1099.


[76] Opinion, No. 327, p. 4.


[77] Opinion, p. 6.  The standard form reversing the Circuit decision merely stated that “Said court erred in refusing to give instructions numbered 1, requested by appellant, and in giving instructions numbered 5 and 9 requested by the appellee.”  (“Reversed Law,” with copy of original Opinion, in file packet for Circuit No. 1099, OBU.)


[78] Circuit Court Record Q, 477, “Continued by Consent,” August 26, 1909; Q, 544, Judgment, January 10, 1910, No. 1099, volumes in OBU.  In an almost identical case in Woodruff County, Arkansas, in 1933, a Circuit jury awarded the injured plaintiff $2,200.  Upholding the judgment, the Supreme Court cited the Huddleston case ( Missouri Pacific Railroad Company v. Angus, 4-3223, Opinion, December 4, 1933, 188 Arkansas 300 1933).  Here, again, the railroad had failed to designate a mail-drop zone or to post any warning; again, the Circuit judge's instructions to the jury had favored the railroad (Opinion); but the jury found for the injured plaintiff.


[79] Clark Circuit, Civil, Henderson College v. John W. Huddleston, October 31, 1908, No. 1159, file packet, OBU.


[80] Clark, Deed Book 52, p. 92, WD, J. R. and Dovie Wood to J. W. Huddleston, June 6, 1908 ($2,200 “paid by J. W. Huddleston” for 133 acres bordering on the Ouachita River, in SE ¼ of NW ¼ of Sec. 28-7-19 and Partial SE 1/4 of 28-7-19); Circuit Civil, J. R. Wood v. J. W. Huddleston, August 3, 1909, Case No. 1252, file packet, OBU.  Only Wood's complaint is in the file packet.


[81] Circuit, Civil, John Huddleston v. Saunders Mercantile, February 6, 1912, No. 1490, packet, OBU.


[82] Clark Circuit, Civil, Arkansas Land Co., firm of Joe Hardage & T. N. Wilson, v. J. W. Huddleston, March 4, 1912, No. 1501, packet, OBU.  The suit concerned a farm Huddleston allegedly put back on the market in November 1911?apparently the 133 acres involved in a previous case.  According to the land company, Huddleston wanted $3,650 for the property and agreed the agency could keep anything it got over that amount as a commission.  It allegedly sold the place on February 29, 1912, for $4,000, with one-third cash down and the balance payable within eighteen months at 8% interest.

    On March 4, 1912, the land company sued for $360, plus 6% interest.  Huddleston denied the allegations.  Acknowledging he was “illiterate and unable to read or write,” he said fraud had been committed if his name appeared on a contract as stated by the plaintiff.  When Huddleston's lawyers insisted upon seeing a signed contract, the land company submitted a copy of a document indicating Huddleston had approved it with his X.  Sarah Huddleston's approval was missing.   Nevertheless, the declared buyers evidently supported the allegation; the judge instructed the jury to find for the land company.  Huddleston's motion for a new trial failed.

    In this case, the court records on file appear incomplete.  The sale described in court was never registered in Clark County.  The Huddlestons sold at least part of the same property to another buyer later (the company stated it sold “the John Woods [sic] place” on February 29, 1912, to A. J. Vestal and B. F. Condroy; but compare this with Clark County Deed Book 73, p. 169, Huddlestons to Harsh Phillipp, August 20, 1915).


[83] Personal Property Tax Record for 1909, p. 72, line 6.  Compare with Record for 1910 , p. 75, line 23 (after more real-estate purchases, the total valuation fell to $1,200 declared); for 1911 , p. 83, line 18 (total valuation, $1,720 declared; under a new tax category for “Firearms,” Huddleston's entry is partially blocked by an overlying strip of paper); 1912 , p. 80, 27 (total, $1096 declared; firearm price is still blocked; farm stock remains consistent; wagons/carriages now consistent at two units; four mules); 1913 , p. 80, 33 (total, $1,000 declared; firearm, $20; one wagon/carriage, $250, probably reflecting the marriage of three daughters by 1913 [documents cited below]); 1914 , p. 75, 35 (total, $755 declared; Firearm, $20; only two daughters at home); 1915 (skipped; evidently too damaged to microfilm); 1916 , p. 80, 37 (total, $647 declared; now five mules and two carriages, perhaps because the youngest daughter, Joe May [“Miss Joe”] had come of age); 1917 , p. 87, line 38 (total, $1,115 declared; now five horses, four cows, and 14 pigs; five mules, but no wagon/carriage, watch/jewelry, or piano listed; John's wife, Sarah, died in December 1917 [note below]).  For the 1918 tax year, Huddleston's personal assessment shifted to Pike County, reflecting his return early that year.


[84] “Status of Diamond Fields of Pike County, Arkansas,” The Commercial Appeal, p. 1.  Folk tales as well as various documents underscore John Huddleston's attraction to automobiles.  This continuing facet of his life also was among the sharpest memories of the late Alton Terrell of Murfreesboro, a prominent old-timer born in 1914 (interviews, 1985-2002, notes in author's possession).

[85] As newspapers generally, the Southern Standard initially was wary of another possible diamond hoax such as those in recent decades, and at first the editors scarcely paid attention to the discovery in Pike County.  Brief items about activities at the diamond field appeared occasionally after the find was validated in 1907, but without referring to John Huddleston (“News of Arkansas” column, p. 1; sometimes styled “Arkansas State News”).  By late 1917, the family had gotten attention, perhaps mostly because of a popular “Miss Joe,” the youngest daughter (death notice, below).

    The popular picture post cards covered all sorts of subjects, providing a fairly comprehensive view of life in those times.  At least one image of John Huddleston survived, an undated card showing a well dressed, middle-aged Discoverer sitting on a log (“Photographs,” Lee J. Wagner collection, File 23-108, Crater archive).

[86] Cross Reference 3 .  “ Kimberley Opening,” Nashville News , January 27, 1909, p. 4; Pike County, Deed Record R, 44, Warranty Deed, M. M. and Bettie Mauney to John W. Huddleston, January 22, 1909 ($70 cash for Lot 1, Block 13); Record R, 45, WD ($200 cash for Lot 21, Block 28).

    The Huddlestons finally sold the remaining 44.85 acres of their home farm for $2,300?a good return on the $100 invested in 1889 (Pike, Deed Record 29, 629, Warranty Deed, to W. D. Fagan, et al., August 22, 1911; $500 cash and balance in annual payments until January 1, 1915, at 8% interest [paid in full on February 19, 1917]).  Before the discovery of diamonds, the Fagans paid $60 for 4.4 acres of the farm (note above).

[87] Clark County Marriage Record Q, 37, Mary; Q, 298, Willie; Q, 379, Eunice.  The marriage documents show Wallace's surname as “Wallis”; he signed “Wallace.”  Evans, p. 51, and other sources referred to him as “Will Wallace.”

    The Southern Standard mentioned only Eunice's marriage, including it in a brief listing (“Marriage Licenses,” July 11, 1912, p. 1).

[88] “Local Brevities,” Southern Standard , Arkadelphia, December 20, 1917, p. 5 (“Mrs. John Huddleston died at her home in this city yesterday morning of heart trouble.”); “Miss Joe Huddleston Died,” February 28, 1918 , p. 1 (published on Thursday, indicating Joe May Huddleston died February 26 if “Tuesday night” was used precisely).