History of Murfreesboro, Arkansas

Historical Development of Pike County

Pike County was created by Act of the Arkansas Territorial Legislature, the action being approved November 1, 1883. Thus, Pike County was one of the original when Arkansas became a State in 1836. On December 9, 1837, by act of the State Legislative, Murfreesboro was made the permanent county seat and the county lines were established. The first clerk’s office, which was erected of logs, was burned and all county records were destroyed in the Spring of 1855. A two-story frame courthouse was built in 1856, which was totally destroyed by fire on the night of March 9, 1885, when all the county records were again destroyed.

The receipts issued for the year 1893 were recorded which was preserved, and are the earliest tax records in existence for Pike County. Many of the deeds were re-recorded.

Pike County lines have been defined by Acts of the Arkansas Legislature as follows:

  • Between Pike and Sevier – November 15, 1833
  • Between Pike and Hempstead – December 14, 1838
  • Between Pike and Howard – April 14, 1875
  • Between Pike and Clark – April 25, 1873
  • Between Pike and Montgomery – December 16, 1874

Pike County Court House 1897-1933 (PCAHS)

On July 4, 1819, Arkansas began its separate existence under the name of Arkansas Territory. Congress declared that on that date all that part of the Missouri Territory lying south of a line beginning on the Mississippi River to 36 degrees north, running west to St. Francis River, thence to western territorial line of Missouri should be separate territory. This took place March 2, 1819. The seat of government was to be at Arkansas Post. President Monroe appointed General James Miller of New Hampshire as governor. The capitol was moved to Little Rock in 1821.

One of the most important issues of the day was the sale of public lands and this was started in 1815 and two million acres of land was surveyed and set apart for the soldiers of the War of 1812. None of these lands were sold, but each soldier was given a warrant and the land department located it by a lottery process. Thus the new territory of Arkansas from the start was populated with the heroes of the War of 1812 – men of courage and ability.

After the Territorial Legislation passed on the organization of Pike County November 1, 1833, Elijah Kelly and Henry Brewer were appointed as commissioners to find a seat of justice for the newly appointed county. Asa Thompson was the only man living in the vicinity at the time and a post office had been set up in his home and given the name of Zebulon. In searching old deeds, it is assumed he had property close to where the Floyd-Pickett house now stands. A log courthouse was quickly built with a small frame house for the clerk’s office. The clerk was D.S. Dickson from 1833-48. Zebulon at that time was no more than a settlement hacked out of the wilderness by a few hardy pioneers looking for a new frontier. In 1836, the name Zebulon was changed to Murfreesborough (later Murfreesboro) and has remained the county seat until this day. Legend has it that many of the new settlers were from Tennessee and named their town after Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

Pike County was originally a part of Hempstead and Clark counties, both formed in 1818 by legislature of Missouri. On December 31, 1813, two new counties were created, New Madrid and Arkansas. The first included the north-western angle of Arkansas County and Pike from these two. Pike was the twenty-sixth county formed in Arkansas out of seventy-five.

In 1833, there were three settlements in Pike County: Wolf Creek, east, which is now Delight, Brewer settlement on Muddy Fork, west, and a few families living at the place which was selected as the county seat, known later as Zebulon, then changed to Murfreesborough.

Some of the early families living in Pike County before 1830 were Asa Thompson, Joseph Davis, Jeremiah Davis, John Hughes, Oliver Brewer, Sr., Henry Brewer, Gabrill Oliver, John White, George Hensley, David Dickson, David Huddleston, John Blocker, William Stone, the Kelleys (Elijah and William), Isaac White and Pascal Sorrells.

The early land entry books were destroyed by fire so it is impossible to give a list of all the earliest settlers.

Present Courthouse (PCAHS)

Some of the earlier towns of Pike County were Stellville (post office, Wolf Creek), Royston, Nathan Village (western part of Muddy Fork Township), Bills Town, Rock Creek, Gentry (near Self Creek Township), New Hope and Star of the West.

Pike County is situated in the southwestern part of Arkansas. It is bounded on the north by Montgomery, on the east by Clark, on the south by Nevada and Hempstead, and west by Howard counties. It has an area of 620 square miles. The northern and central portions are quite mountainous. Between these hills are beautiful fertile valleys. The southern part is level and has much bottom land as it lies along the larger streams. The largest and most important stream is the Little Missouri River which rises in Polk County, enters Pike in the northwestern corner, flows southeast, and after forming a portion of the southern boundary line leaves the county at its southeastern corner. Antoine Creek is formed by three small streams in the northeastern part of the county and flows south forming a portion of the county’s eastern boundary and empties into the Little Missouri River at the southeastern part of the county. Saline Creek rises near the central part of the county, flows south about fifteen miles and empties into the Little Missouri. Wolf Creek rises near the central part of the county, flows southeast and empties into the Antoine Creek. Rock Creek rises in the northern part of the county, flows eastward and empties into the Caddo. The Caddo River flows for a short distance through the northeastern part of the county. The Muddy Fork of the Little Missouri River rises in Howard County, flowing east into the clear Creek which flows into the Little Missouri near Murfreesboro. The Woodall Creek rises near the center of the county, flows northeast and empties into Antoine Creek. Prairie Creek runs through Murfreesboro and empties into the Little Missouri River at the southeastern part of the county.

Pike County is good for farming, though the northern portion is hilly, broken and rough. Other parts of the county have a good sandy soil, running into sandy loam with clay subsoil, called Redlands, which is so productive. These lands are easily cultivated and cotton was the principal crop for many years. The average yield for bottom land was 1,400 pounds and the uplands 800 pounds per acre. Almost everything that is needed for home can be raised here. Timber grows in abundance, with the most valuable of these being the short leaf pine. Timber at first covered about three quarters of the area of Pike County. Other varieties existent other than pine are hickory, oak, walnut, maple, ash, sycamore, and red gum.

The Naming of Pike County

Pike County was created on November 1, 1833. The creative statute fixed the temporary county “at the home of Pascal C. Sorrells.” In 1834 the county seat was located at a town then named Zebulon. In 1836 the name of that town was changed to Murfreesborough, and it has remained the county seat to this day.

If a thousand representative citizens of Arkansas were asked to state, off-handed, for whom Pike County was named, probably at least 900 of them would say Albert Pike. Albert Pike lived more than a third of a century as an honored citizen of Little Rock, during which time he practiced law in all the principal courts of Arkansas. He went as an officer with the Arkansas soldiers into the Mexican War, and he was a brigadier general from Arkansas in the Confederacy during the War between the States. He was assistant Secretary of the council of the Territorial legislature in the fall of 1833 when Pike County was formed. Yet, Pike County was not named for him. It was named for a man who never set foot on Arkansas soil, and who had been dead twenty years when Pike County was created. A man, who did not live on earth as long as Albert Pike lived in Little Rock, had Pike County named for him. The Territorial legislature that met in Little Rock in October, 1833, named Pike County for the other Pike who was a distant kinsman of Albert Pike.

Pike County was named for Zebulon Montgomery Pike who was born at Lamberton, New Jersey, January 5, 1779. He was a military man and explorer, being commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson to explore the northwest portion of the Louisiana Territory then recently acquired from France. He later moved west and discovered Pike’s Peak. He was, as far as history records reveal, the first white man who ever attempted to climb that noted peak. Pike’s Peak is named for this explorer.

Pike County Courthouse

The first county courthouse was a log structure built in 1836. When Pike County was created in 1833 by the State Legislature, the creative statute fixed the temporary “county seat” at the home of Pascal C. Sorrells in the town of Zebulon. In 1836 the town changed its name to Murfreesborough and at that time built a log structure for the courthouse and a small frame building was used as the clerk’s office. The first and original courthouse supposedly stood near the spot where the present courthouse now stands.

In the spring of 1855 the original building burned and all the county records to that date were lost. In 1856 the county court ordered the erection of a new courthouse and the contract was given to Moses and Jackson Brock. It was a two-story frame building surmounted by a cupola. The top floor was to be used by the Circuit Court, the downstairs for county offices and jury rooms. In 1895 the courthouse again burned destroying all records up to that date. It was thought by some old timers that the fire was caused by arson but this was never proved. In 1897 a brick building was built in the same location and stood until the county decided to build a new one which was completed March 1933. The contractor was May and Sharp Construction Company and the building cost the county $ 45,000.00. This is the courthouse that now stands in Murfreesboro, the county seat.

Lake Greeson

Martin White Greeson was born November 7, 1866 in Clinton, Arkansas. Mr. Greesen battled for 50 years, with the powers that be, to help alleviate flooding from the Little Missouri River. Mr. Greeson’s hard work and dedication toward this goal, led to the development of what is now known as Lake Greeson.

Narrows Dam on Lake Greeson is the only all-concrete dam in the Vicksburg District. In only three short years, construction of Narrows Dam, which impounds water forming Lake Greeson, was completed. The construction began in April 1947, but it wasn’t until June 1948 that the first bucket of concrete was placed into the dam. Completion of the dam came a mere two years later in 1950. The Narrows Dam was dedicated in July 1951, upon the completion of the entire project. The hard work and quality job performed by the construction crew has proved evident throughout the years the dam has been in operation. The beauty, recreation, and hydroelectric benefit that this 12-mile lake provides, most surely exceeds even the dreams of Mr. Martin White Greeson.

Narrows Dam and Powerhouse

Narrows Dam was authorized as a flood control and hydroelectric power project by the Flood Control Act of 1941. Narrows Dam impounds the waters of the Missouri River to form Lake Greeson. The dam is a feature of the comprehensive plan for the Ouachita River Basin. Lake Greeson is operated for flood control, hydroelectric power development, conservation, and recreational purposes. The lake is approximately 12 miles long and covers 7,260 acres. It is surrounded by 7,582 acres of federally administered public lands. The project is located on the beautiful Little Missouri River in Pike County, Arkansas.

The powerhouse section is located adjacent to the east abutment, and is 151 feet in length. This section of the dam, with the powerhouse immediately downstream, contains most of the equipment for the structure. The primary equipment is three 8,500 kwh generating units with trash racks, penstocks, gates, switchyard, and control equipment. The powerhouse originally only held two generating units, but a third unit was placed on line in 1969. The average annual output is 34,487,000 kwh.

Human History

People first began to suspect diamonds might exist just outside the quiet town of Murfreesboro, Arkansas when the precious stones were found in the peridotite soil Kimberly, South Africa. State geologist John Branner knew there was a field of peridotite soil just southeast of Murfreesboro, so he gave the area a through surface search in 1889. He didn’t find a thing.

The first diamonds would not be found until August 8, 1906 when John Wesley Huddleston found two stones on the farm he had purchased for $100 and a mule. The story goes that John had been slopping his hogs when he saw some shiny specks in the dirt. When he washed the dirt to see if the flakes were gold they floated away, proving to mica. However, in the gravel in the bottom of the washing pan were two unusual crystals, one yellow and one white, which were different from anything he had ever seen before. He took the stones to his grinding wheel that supposedly could grind anything, anything that is but diamonds.

John took the diamonds to town and showed them to the bank president who sent them to a Little Rock jeweler. From there they were sent to Tiffany’s in New York where they were certified as gem quality diamonds, a 3.0 carat white and a 1.5 carat yellow.

Shortly after his discovery John sold the property to three Little Rock men for $36,000. His reasoning was he had six daughters and $6,000 each should be a proper dowry for each of them. Unfortunately, John died a pauper, but said he had no regrets.

The Diamond Rush

A diamond rush developed soon after word of the find got out. In fact, the Conway hotel in Murfreesboro is said to have turned away more than 10,000 people in just one year. The tent city of Kimberly was established between Murfreesboro and the diamond field, but nothing remains of it today.

The men who bought the Huddleston property began the Arkansas Diamond Company. However, there were 40 acres of diamond-bearing soil that had not been owned by Huddleston. M.M. Mauney owned that land, but he refused to sell. Mauney tried to mine his property and even allowed visitors to search for a fee. Finally, he sold a three-quarter interest in the property to Horace Bernis who organized the Ozark Diamond Corporation. However, Bernis died soon after and his heirs weren’t interested in diamond mining. Austin Millar and his son Howard bought Bernis’ share. The Millars tried to buy out Mauney’s one-quarter share, but failed.

In 1949 the first real attempt was made to open the diamond deposit to the public. The land was leased from the Millar’s and opened as the Diamond Preserve of America. Later, the name was changed to the Crater of Diamonds and was successfully run by Mr. and Mrs. Millar. The adjacent property had passed through various owners and was in the hands of a Mrs. Wilkinson at the same time. She opened her property to the public as The Big Mine and a fierce battle of the billboards began.

Finally, in 1969 General Earth Minerals of Dallas bought both properties. They never operated it as a commercial mine, but continued as a private tourist attraction until 1972 when the State of Arkansas bought the land for a state park for $750.000.

Crater of Diamonds State Park

Many visitors wonder why this odd little park in southwest Arkansas is a place where diamonds have been found and mined for the past 107 years. The answer is fairly simple—you will only find diamonds within a volcano eruption. Yes, with the exception of some meteor craters, diamonds are always associated with volcanic rocks.

Geologists in recent years have been working on this question, and believe that they have the answers. First, instead of forming from coal that became buried deep in the Earth, scientists now believe that diamonds are the result of carbon dioxide that was trapped as the Earth was formed. They also believe that the diamonds formed between 2.5 and 3.5 billion years ago and are now stable in the upper mantle layer of the Earth’s insides, about 100 miles deep. That area has high enough pressures and temperatures to force the diamond’s carbon atoms into their unusual arrangement. So, in order for us to find diamonds on the Earth’s surface, something must have transported them up to that surface. That something that acted as an elevator, anywhere in the world—in Arkansas, South Africa, Russia, Western Australia or Canada—is always a volcanic eruption.

The next visitor question usually is, “So if I go to Mt. St. Helens or Hawaii, will I find diamonds in those volcanoes?” The answer is “No, not all volcanoes have diamonds”. The lava in most volcanoes came up to the surface from much shallower depths. In fact, scientists believe that the depth to the Hawaiian magma chamber may be as shallow as only 2 to 2.5 miles.

So, why then does this corner of southwest Arkansas have a weakness in the crust that reached down to the upper mantle, diamond bearing part of the crust? What would create such a deep weakness? The answer, geologists believe, is due to plate tectonics—the theory that suggests that the crust of the earth is made up of continental and oceanic “plates”. These plates have floated in various ways, sometimes crashing together, sometimes being pulled apart. In the case of southwest Arkansas, about 106 million years ago when the Crater of Diamonds volcano erupted, what are now the North and South American plates were being pulled apart. This stretching of the crust created the types of deep faults that we associate with present day pull-apart areas like the East African Rift or the Nevada Great Basin. Previous to this rifting event, those same crustal plates had collided, creating the folded rocks of the Oauchita and Arbuckle Mountains in central Arkansas and Oklahoma.

In addition when most of the visitors at the Crater of Diamonds State Park come up to have their rock and mineral finds identified they are confronted for the very first time with a very odd term—Lamproite. What makes it even harder for visitors to remember is the fact that it is also hard to pronounce. Most people want to add an “l” between the “o” and the “i”, because that makes it easier to say, but the real pronunciation is lam-pro-ite. So, several questions immediately come to mind, like: Why isn’t it called a kimberlite?, What is the difference between a lamproite and a kimberlite? and Why did geologists decide to change the name for the volcanic rocks found at the diamond mine from kimberlite to lamproite?

For most of its history the Crater diamond mine was in fact called a kimberlite. Geologists first used the word in the early 1870’s for the diamond rich volcanic rocks located near the town of Kimberley, South Africa. So, it is not too surprising that kimberlite was adopted in 1906 when the first diamonds were found in the southwest Arkansas volcanic rocks. Therefore, all the early articles called the Crater diamond mine volcanic rocks kimberlites, including the first geologic map made in 1888.

As exploration for diamonds expanded throughout the world, most of the rocks that geologist now call lamproites were named for the place where they were first found and described, like Wyomingite and Gaussburgite. So, the early Crater diamond miners could have called their rocks “Prairieite” for Prairie Creek that drains the diamond mine, or even Murfreesboroite.

In 1923 a Swiss mineralogist named Paul Niggli first introduced the term “lamproite” in his mineral crystal classification. The “lampro” is from a Greek word meaning “glistening” and refers to the shiny mica crystals that are always found in this type of volcanic rock. With the discovery in the 1970’s of diamond bearing volcanic rocks in Western Australia, geologists decided to look more closely at the entire group of diamond bearing volcanic rocks. They looked at three rock characteristics: the chemistry of the rocks, the types of mineral crystals they contain, and the types of volcanic eruptions that resulted in the diamond bearing rocks.

They discovered that some diamond bearing volcanic rocks differed enough from kimberlites to set up an entirely new category. This group of rocks became known as “lamproites. First, they found that lamproites, compared to other volcanic rocks contain very high amounts, up to 12%, of the element potassium. In most volcanic rocks, including kimberlite, the normal amount of potassium ranges from 2% to 6%. Second, the lamproite magma is usually erupted as large clouds of volcanic ash that collapse and fill in a martini-glass-shaped crater. Kimberlite volcanic material generally has not actually been erupted onto the Earth’s surface as either ash or lava. Instead, the kimberlite diamonds are found in a carrot-shaped pipe filled with the unerupted magma. Finally, the methods used to find diamond bearing kimberlites–searching for some distinctive minerals–don’t necessarily work when it comes to locating diamond bearing lamproites. It turns out that the best way to discover a new diamond-bearing lamproite volcano is to just look for diamonds!

Geologists have so far found lamproite volcanic rocks in only 25 places in the world. Of these places, only 7 contain diamonds. Our diamond mine volcano is the only diamond bearing lamproite volcano in North America. In South America, the Coromandel diamond field in southern Brazil is lamproite. Australia has two diamond lamproite mines, West Kimberley and Argyle, which are near each other in the state of West Australia. In the west Africa country of Ivory Coast the Bobi diamond field is a lamproite volcano, as is the Kapamba field in Zambia, a southern African country. Finally, India has a lamproite diamond area, Majhgawan, in the central northern part of the country.

Ka-Do Ha Indian Village

The Ka-Do Ha Indian Village is an ancient archeological site that exhibits the excavated remains using replicas of the actual relics found at each mound site.

Ka-Do-Ha-Indian-VillageCenturies ago the Americas were full of people who utilized trade routes extending thousands of miles. These cultures were ruled by social structure, religion, and environmental conditions. The eastern people of the United States were known as the Mound Builders, building earthen mounds reaching toward the heavens.

There were two types of mounds used by the Kadoha, temple and ceremonial. The temple mound had a structure on top where the chief lived. The chief was buried here and the house burned. A new structure was then built for the new chief. The ceremonial mounds were used for ceremonies. They dressed for these occasions with ear spools, ear plugs, necklaces and headdresses.

The territory extended from the waters of the Ouachita to the big bend in the Red River. The tribe has been traced back to 1000 A.D. The territory included Southwest Arkansas from the waters of the Ouachita to the Big Bend in the Red River near Fulton, Arkansas, extended to the Northwest Louisiana, sections in Northeast Texas and finally the reservations in Oklahoma.

The people were agricultural. They grew crops of corn, beans and squash. They also gathered nuts, berries and herbs. They fashioned tools and weapons from rocks, shells, bone, antlers, horns, skins, wood, bark, cane and vines. They made earthenware decorated with geometric and circular designs as well as animal effigies. They made baskets used for gathering. Their shelter was rectangular and circular or oval made from cane, grass or mud.

The museum displays some actual pieces found at the sites as well as many other authentic relics from other time periods. The exhibits within the museum are prime examples of the evidence left behind by this prehistoric culture. You will see pottery jars and water bottles, pipes, stone tools and projectile pointes left behind by the people who occupied this site for over one thousand years.