Testing the Properties


    In mid-1909, Duncan began ordering machinery for a mill that eventually would be built at the northeast corner of the main diamond field.  Doing little work on the field, itself, the mining crew concentrated first on the Riley tract, basically using core-drilling to trace an apparent peridotite formation lying 20-40 feet below the surface.[1]  Then the speculative boom, and investments, cooled; virtually no work except limited core-drilling occurred the rest of the year or in 1910.  “At present the outlook for great progress in these fields during 1911 is not promising,” John Fuller observed in his annual report.[2]

    As predicted, financial problems effectively halted all work for a while.  The Ozark Corporation scaled back exploration outside the Riley and Mauney tracts, and in late 1911 gave up the option on much of the Ozan Lumber Company’s 60,000 acres.[3]  At the time, the annual report indicated $1,000,975 capital paid in—the same as in 1910.  Although some stockholders had sold shares to other investors, the total shares had remained stable, indicating the Corporation received no significant income from sales. Debt had settled at $7,007.80, down slightly from $8,221.12 in 1910.[4]

    Then, in the late spring of 1912, “due entirely to the courage of the Bemis Bros. of Prescott, Ark.,” the Ozark Corporation initiated a serious test of its properties.[5]  A modern steam-powered “crushing and recovery plant” was ready in the spring of the following year, becoming the first full-size facility in the Arkansas diamond fields.[6]  Certainly, it was an impressive structure compared with the ADC’s small plant:  a visiting writer described it as 112 feet long, almost 29 feet wide, and 60 feet high at the peak of the roof.[7]  John Fuller rated it “a first-class washing plant” capable of handling about 100 loads in a standard 10-hour work day.”[8] 


    As the washing plant neared completion in late 1912, the flurry of activity inspired the Arkansas Democrat to publish one of the most exhaustive newspaper reports of the era.  The illustrated full-page spread, “Story of Ozark Diamond Mines in Pike County, Ark.,” reasserted the optimism and pride aroused earlier by Sam Reyburn’s group.  “Arkansas diamond mining through the enterprise of the Ozark company will become an established industry,” the article said, “and as soon as the new plant is in operation the marketing of the yield from these fields will be one of the leading business undertakings of the United States and will place Arkansas in the front as the only producer of diamonds outside of South Africa and Brazil.”  The article cited Woodford’s report indicating the company’s property might include an entire diamond-bearing pipe in addition to part of the original discovery.  Naming company officials, including Vice President H. E. Bemis, the writer assured readers:  “The Ozark company means business.  The men who are behind the enterprise are known for their business integrity and conservatism.”[9]

    The Ozark’s impressive financial commitment also received attention.  All together, the venture reportedly had spent “about $100,000 cash” for properties and the current preparation for “mining operations.”  The plant would cost approximately $20,000 when completed.  Drawing from the company’s financial statement, the writer indicated that all 60,000 shares of capital stock, par value of $25 each, were “fully paid and non-assessable.”  This included $500,000 (20,000 shares) of “treasury stock,” apparently shares the Corporation had subscribed but held in trust.[10]  As in previous reports, there was no indication of actual subscription prices, or total share capital.

    Before the testing commenced in 1913, however, the Ozark Corporation’s final annual report began reflecting reality.  The entry for capital “actually paid in” remained as in 1910, $1,000,975.  The value of real estate had risen to $30,000.  But debt now totaled $36,400, and over $10,000 was still needed to complete payments for the plant and equipment.[11]


    Testing only the Riley tract and four acres of the main field, the Corporation took about three months to learn what Sam Reyburn’s ADC did in sixteen years.  The new plant washed some 1000 tramcar loads from the Riley tract and found merely “pebbles of peridotite and grains of altered serpentine which were washed from an exposure of peridotite or were ejected as fragmental material from volcanic vents.”[12]  On the main field, the corporation’s experience paralleled that of the ADC.  The surface material proved much more productive than the underlying peridotite, but the black gumbo clogged the equipment, forcing the field crew to use sluicing at that level.[13]    Overall, the corporation processed about 5,000 loads from a huge cut 300 feet long, 15-35 feet wide, and 8-20 feet deep, and then shut down in the autumn of 1913.[14] The 700 to 900 diamonds recovered during the entire operation no doubt came overwhelmingly from the surface.[15]



[1] Fuller, “The Arkansas Diamond Field in 1909,” p. 767, mentioned an eight-foot rotary pan (“African Washer”) gotten in June.  Also, “Machinery is Bought,” Nashville News, July 14, 1909, p. 1 (brief, nonspecific comment about machinery ordered).  The Corporation’s Ledger indicated a payment of $404.75 on September 18, 1909, for a “Diamond Washer” (“Machinery & Equipment,” Ozark Diamond Mines Corporation, copy of ledger, p. 11, attached to the deposition of R. D. Duncan in Ozark Diamond Mines, a Corporation, bankruptcy case no. 364, infra).  That was the only equipment entered before 1912.

    According to Fuller’s information, the tests on the Riley tract indicated the dike was about 100 ft. wide, running north and south (ibid.).


[2] Fuller, “Arkansas Diamond Field in 1910,” p. 6.  The depositions and other documents in the bankruptcy proceedings help clarify the tightening of finances by late 1909.  Notice that the purchasing of equipment (supra) halted after payment for the diamond washer in September 1909.


[3] Fuller, “The Arkansas Diamond Field [in 1911],” p. 6; Deed Record V, 519, Quit Claim Deed, Ozark to Ozan, October 13, 1911.  Ozark officials stated the corporation had finished exploring the tracts returned.


[4] Pike, Misc. Record 2, 11, Annual Report, August 15, 1911.  The report listed almost 225 shareholders, about the same as in 1910 (Articles of Incorporation 1, 196, July 14, 1910).  Among the principals, the only notable change from 1909 was a shift of 1,500 shares each from W. N. and J. W. Bemis to H. E. Bemis as Trustee, and a drop in H. E. Bemis’ shares.  Individually, the three now had 3,000 shares each, in addition to the 3,000 in trust—a net decline of 1,950 shares.  The Ozan and Caddo River Lumber Companies remained at 1,350 and 450.


[5] Fuller, “Diamond Mining in Arkansas [in 1912],” p. 75; Ozark Ledger, p. 11, bankruptcy No. 364, infra (the first payment on the machinery contract was dated June 1, 1912).  In his deposition, ibid., Duncan said the building and installation began May-June 1912, which is consistent with other indicators.


[6] Fuller, ibid., and “The Arkansas Diamond Field in 1913,” p. 52; Ozark Ledger, 11.  The US Geological Survey map, Plate 10, located the plant on the edge of the main pipe (also see photographs, especially 23.71, Crater archive and microfilm; the photos in Williams, infra, are only fairly clear on microfilm).

    Expenditures from June 1, 1912, to July 30, 1913, totaled over $28,000 (Ledger, 11).  This included payroll, building material, “machinery and equipment,” and related expenses.


[7] Edwin M. Williams,”Story of Ozark Diamond Mines in Pike County, Ark.,” Arkansas Democrat, October 26, 1912, p. 9.  Williams described the equipment and the process of running diamond-bearing ore through the “reducing and washing plant,” designed by Allis-Chalmers of Chicago and constructed under its supervision.  This section of the article, “How Diamond Washing Machinery is Operated,” is thorough, yet concise and clear—a good introduction to basic diamond processing.  It does, however, lack detail about the grease table and visual sorting.

    Williams also helped clarified the plant’s water source (some reports seemed to contradict each other while referring to both the Little Missouri River and Prairie Creek).  At first, the Ozark used the ADC’s pumping station at the river, running pipe across the ADC’s property; but a “modern steam pumping engine” was being installed in a “solidly constructed building on the banks of Prairie creek [sic] near its junction with the Little Missouri.”  A four-inch iron pipeline had been extended to the plant.  According to the Ozark’s ledger (supra), $200 was paid on a “Pumping Site Lease” on January 31, 1913.

    Miser and Ross, USGS 735-I, 287, simply listed the basic equipment at the plant:  stationary boiler and engine, trommel separator, jaw crusher, log washer, sizing screens, jigs, and grease table.  Fuller had reported an eight-foot rotary washer (African pan type) in 1909, but the log washer was substituted.  During the bankruptcy sale in 1914, a “washing pan” was located at the railroad depot in Murfreesboro (infra, “Report of Trustee,” October 9, 1914).

    The Mauney Records has a typed copy of a five-page “Specifications for Diamond Washing Plant” submitted by E. W. Lindquist, Allis-Chalmers Company, Mining Machinery Department (undated), but Williams described a more complex operation.  Designed for “minimum expense,” the plant in the Mauney papers included a seven-by-nine foot Dodge Crusher, which reduced rock to about one-inch pieces; a set of three revolving screens for grading (one-half inch mesh, one-quarter inch, and one-eighth inch, with anything smaller than one-eighth “sent to waste”); two-compartment Hartz Plunger Type Jigs, where the graded material was agitated to separate diamonds and other solids from soil; a set of crushing rollers to reduce remaining course bits to one-quarter inch (material then was re-fed through screens and jigs).  The package included a 25-horsepower steam engine with forty-horsepower boiler, heater, and so on.


[8] Fuller, “Diamond Field in 1913,” p. 52, and Williams, ibid., gave the same capacity, 100 loads per day.


[9] Williams, “Story of Ozark Diamond Mines,” Democrat, October 26, 1912, p. 9.  While containing much detail about the company, the plant, and the mining process, this feature article exhibited the “booster” spirit characterizing the Nashville News earlier.  The subheadings:  “THE DISCOVERY OF PRECIOUS STONES IN THIS STATE HAS LED TO GREAT DEVELOPMENT–WHAT THE NEW INDUSTRY MEANS TO STATE.”  The rhetoric was part of an ongoing movement to publicize Arkansas’ natural resources—particularly its unique diamond field—in order to instill pride and improve the state’s image nationally.

    The article coincided with a stock transaction in Little Rock involving Garanflo & Townes, but there is no evidence Ozark officials prompted the article for promotional purposes (Schedule B.[2], Personal Property, promissory notes, W. H. Garanflo & J. Town, October 26, 1912).


[10] Ibid.  If “treasury stock” was used correctly, the Ozark Corporation had recovered $500,000 worth of shares from the marketplace.  The board could have resold it or kept it in reserve.  Perhaps the writer meant “unissued stock,” shares authorized but not yet sold.


[11] Miscellaneous Record 2, 82, Annual Report, Ozark, July 15, 1913; Ozark Ledger, 11.  With the final Ledger entry on November 28, 1913, costs relating to construction and equipment amounted to $29,348.90.  The Ozark had already paid about $20,000 on that activity before filing the report (Ledger, 11).  The remainder of the $36,400 debt was not clarified, but most of it probably was unpaid bills relating to the preparation for testing.

   In this final report, the Bemis brothers still owned 3,000 shares each as individuals; Horace Bemis held an additional 3,000 as Trustee; the Ozan Lumber Company had 1,350; the Caddo River Lumber Co., 450.  Duncan still had 7,200; Charles McKee, 3,218; and W. B. Russell, 405.  E. G. Woodford held 760 shares personally and 2,400 as Trustee.   


[12] Miser and Ross, USGS 735-I, 287, 318; cf. Fuller, “The Arkansas Diamond Field in 1913,” p. 52.


[13] Miser and Ross, ibid., 287, 318, 322, cited the plant superintendent, “Mr. Warren,” as a source.  The company’s choice of sizing screens would have contributed to the clogging:  the system used four screens instead of the usual three (the smallest mesh in the standard set was one-eighth inch, as in the Allis-Chalmers proposal, supra, or one-quarter inch, as in the British-American plant, supra).  Evidently, the Ozark intended to recover tiny diamonds, likely down to a one-sixteenth mesh.

    A long record of experience at the Crater shows that the clayey material is difficult to break down sufficiently with a one-eighth inch screen and much more difficult at one-sixteenth—even when washed and manipulated by hand.  The smaller the screen mesh, the more the material tends to form into clay balls, much of which envelops small gravel and other solids.  The problem declines somewhat when a run of material includes a large volume of gravel:  the more the solids, the better the clay breaks down.

    In an automatic system such as the Ozark’s, the jigs handling the run from the small screens would have been another basic problem; but trommel screens, grease tables, and even the log washer (providing better agitation than the African-type pan washer) faced a challenge when surface material was simply dug up and fed into the plant.


[14] Miser and Ross, ibid., described the trench and the loads; Fuller, “Diamond Field in 1913,” p. 52, agrees about the loads. The big cut appeared on the USGS map, completed in 1916 (northeast corner, “Ozark Mine,” irregular ditch running southwest to northeast; other cuts nearby were made later by the Millars’ operation).  The USGS map is available in Miser’s publications after 1920, and in VI.A.6, “Maps, Blueprints,” Crater archive (microfilm, roll 4).  Also see the photographs, especially 23.71 (showing the deep excavation in the early stages).  The thick layer of dark overburden is clear.

    On the map, notice the “mine workings” extending along the drainage cut running from the pipe.  It is not clear if the Ozark Corporation did this alluvial testing or if the Millars’ Kimberlite Company did at least some of it after 1914.


[15] Miser and Ross, ibid., 287, and Fuller, ibid., reported 800-900 diamonds and 700-800 diamonds, respectively.  The reports provided no breakdown for surface and peridotite, and no total weight or average yield; but further evidence of the extremely low yield of the matrix on the northeast slope came in later tests (infra, “Northeast Slope-Millars,” and “Final Confirmation”).


© 2006 All rights reserved. Brief citations may be used in writings or other presentations if this source is properly identified. No part of this study may be photocopied or otherwise reproduced without written permission of the author. Address inquiries to: dbanks@windstream.net