This Pike County town is in the southwest corner of the state about 2.5 hours from Little Rock. The area is known for its tremendous geological diversity and is home to Crater of Diamonds State Park, the only diamond site in the nation open to the public. For a small fee, visitors can dig for diamonds and other gemstones at the park and keep what they find.
The first known inhabitants of the area were Native Americans including the Quapaw and Caddo tribes. The first white men seen by the Indians were European explorers—members of Hernando de Soto’s party in the mid 1500’s. Markers and a statue commemorate a violent clash the de Soto expedition had with the Tula Indians in Caddo Gap, about twenty-five miles north of town.
After Pike County was created in 1833, the area was given the name Zebulon and it was basically still a wilderness. A few years later, the name was changed to Murfreesborough (and later Murfreesboro). The name supposedly came from settlers who named it after their Tennessee hometown. Agriculture was the major source of income for the town.
Murfreesboro escaped the major battles of the Civil War, although it served as a winter quarters for the Confederate army.
In 1906, John Wesley Huddleston found the first diamonds on his property, which led to Crater of Diamonds State Park. Many are amazed to learn there is a place in Arkansas where they can go and dig for diamonds, which were first mined in India over 2700 years ago. The park is located above an eroded volcanic pipe. The crater, which became a state park in 1972, is a 37 1/2 acre open field that is plowed from time to time to bring diamonds and other gemstones to the surface.
Noteworthy finds include the “Uncle Sam” (40.23 carats), the largest diamond ever unearthed in the nation, the “Amarillo Starlight” (16.37 carats) the largest diamond ever unearthed by a visitor, and the “Strawn-Wagner Diamond”, which was certified a perfect grade by the American Gem Society. It weighed 3.03 carats in the rough and 1.09 carats cut. A diamond this perfect, and weighing over a carat after cutting it, is estimated to occur around 1 time in a billion. It’s even rarer coming from a non-commercial diamond mine such as Crater. Some diamonds from the park are also on display at the Smithsonian’s Musuem of National History in Washington, DC.
The leading industry in Murfreesboro was the Anthony Lumber Company. John William Anthony moved his family to Murfreesboro in the late 1920s and started a lumber mill, which became one of the leading sawmills in the South. Anthony retired in the 1940s, leaving the mill to be managed by his sons.
In 1941, Congress authorized $3 million for the construction of Narrows Dam. The dam was finished by 1951, creating Lake Greeson, now a popular recreational destination. The areas around Narrows Dam and Lake Greeson have continued to grow and are now known for their solid hunting and fishing. The upper waters of the Little Missouri River are excellent for canoeists.
The discovery of diamonds is celebrated every June with the Diamond Festival. On a separate date, the park also celebrates John Huddleston Day, honoring the man who discovered the first diamonds in the area.