The Diamond Preserve of the United States

    Facing obstacles to State ownership, Feild and a few businessmen from the area worked out an arrangement with Ethel Wilkinson, the majority shareholder of Trust A, and in 1950 also leased the Ozark property from Millar’s Consolidated Diamond Corporation.[1]  Feild, Wilkinson, and associates staged a grand opening of the Diamond Preserve of the United States on February 20, 1951, with state and national media covering the event.  Publicized as “One of the Most Interesting Sightseeing Attractions of the World,” the Preserve operated primarily as an educational experience, but the $1.25 admittance fee allowed each visitor to keep one of any diamonds found while searching the field.  Those weighing five carats or less were free; anything over five supposedly cost the finder a royalty payment of “25% rough value,” plus any tax due.  To encourage compliance with the rule, and provide a record of all finds, lucky hunters received an authenticating certificate.[2]


    Tourism, however, proved about as frustrating as commercial testing.  Lying well off the major highways, the Diamond Preserve depended heavily upon one thing to keep generating publicity and drawing enough visitors to pay the bills:  diamonds found on the surface.  And very few turned up when visitors were simply allowed to roam about.  Available records lend credibility to the later statement in Millar’s published memoir, It was Finders Keepers at America’s Only Diamond Mine (1976).  After the Diamond Preserve opened, he said, the owners followed his suggestion “that hunters be directed especially to the black ground area where diamonds were most likely to be found.  Visitors began to find diamonds . . ..”[3]  This was Howard Millar’s only public acknowledgment of the special contribution of the old surface layer.

    Still, visitor traffic remained too limited to cover expenses, and the Diamond Preserve headed toward bankruptcy before the end of its first year.  Howard Millar, always determined, tried to help; but debt had piled up.  The Diamond Preserve closed as winter began in 1951.  Millar terminated the Ozark lease in December.[4]



[1] Misc. 5, 257, Lease, Consolidated Diamond Corporation to R. D. Plant, November 1, 1950.  Items in “Printed Matter,” IV.E.5, Crater archive, identify Feild, Robert D. Plant, and Henry K. Holland as original incorporators of Diamonds Unlimited, Inc.  Plant and Holland were from Murfreesboro.  Howard Millar gave the group a ninety-nine year lease, with the property to be used only for “operating a tourist and/or sight-seeing attraction in order that Arkansas’ diamond area may be visited by all persons interested therein.”  The lease cost the group $10,000 annually in advance, or $1,000 monthly.  Cf. Millar, Finders Keepers, pp. 73-74.


[2] “Printed Materials,” IV, Crater archive, provides details.  Especially, see Domer Howard, “Diamond Mines of Arkansas,” Lapidary Journal, 5, No. 4 (October 1951), 254, and the accompanying full-page Diamond Preserve bulletin-announcement, 257 (IV.A, Crater; also on the first “separate” roll of microfilm [roll following the basic six-roll series]).  “Photographs,” VIII, unnumbered folder, Millar collection, has a sharp black-and-white of the opening-day ceremony, dated Feb. 20, 1951 (Ethel P. Wilkinson and other dignitaries stand at the gate for the ribbon cutting).

    The planning for the Diamond Preserve was idealistic but sound.   Feild and associates envisioned such things as nature trails with guides, a museum exhibiting rough diamonds and educating visitors about the geology of the pipe, and the erection of a $40,000 operating plant to demonstrate how diamonds were recovered.


[3] Finders Keepers, 73. 


[4]   In addition to materials in IV, “Printed Materials,” and Finders Keepers, 73-75, see Howard Millar’s correspondence, 1949-1952 (I.P-Q), which has considerable detail about his relationship with Wilkinson and the Diamond Preserve.  Also II, “Business and Financial Papers,” including O, “Visitor Register.”


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