PETERSTOWN — For a generation who may be unaware of the story, a family in Peterstown achieved national and international fame in the 1940s for two unrelated reasons.
The first was for unearthing by chance the largest alluvial diamond ever discovered in North America in Peterstown in 1928.
No one still knows the origin of the diamond and its whereabouts today also remains a mystery.
Called the Jones Diamond, Punch Jones Diamond and the Horseshoe Diamond, the 34.48 carat blue-white rare gem was found during a horseshoe game being played by Grover Cleveland Jones and his 12-year-old son, William “Punch” Jones in their yard near a creek (Rich Creek).
Not knowing what it was when Punch Jones’ throw revealed it in the dirt, they thought the beautiful stone was probably a piece of quartz, and the diamond was placed in a cigar box where it remained for 14 years.
According to various sources, Punch Jones eventually took the diamond to Virginia Tech to show it to a geology professor, Dr. Roy J. Holden, in 1943 and that is when the authentication was made.
The diamond measures 5/8 of an inch across with 12 diamond-shaped faces.
Holden, in an article on Appalachian History’s website, speculated that due to its “carry impact marks” and the size of the stone it had probably been washed down the New River into Rich Creek from a source in Virginia, North Carolina or Tennessee.
Other theories included it became embedded in the foot of an elephant in Africa and that elephant eventually was part of a circus that visited Peterstown.
Punch Jones was killed in combat in WWII in 1945 so the diamond’s fate rested with Grover Jones and his wife Grace.
Jones, who was a school teacher in Monroe County, initially approved the loan of the gem to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. where it was on display for many years before he returned it to Peterstown in 1964 and placed it in a safe deposit box at First Valley Bank in Rich Creek.
He never sold it, but Jones passed away in 1976 and one of the sons sold the diamond at Sotheby’s auction house in New York in 1984. Although the official price was debated, it was reported to be about $75,000 ($200,000 in today’s economy).
Pam Jackson, president of the Peterstown Preservation Group, said she thinks someone from South Korea bought the diamond but no one knows for sure or where it is now.
Jackson said the diamond and its fate apparently created a lot of controversy and, according to an article on Appalachian History’s website, Grace Jones, who died in 1992, once said:
“I wish they’d a threw it in the New River sometimes.”
Although the Jones family received a lot of national attention about the diamond, they also became famous for something entirely different, and even made Ripley’s Believe It Or Not.
Grover Jones and his wife Grace set a record with having 15 consecutive sons.
In fact, in 1940 his family was invited to the New York World’s Fair and had dinner with Pres. Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
According to an Associated Press story at the time, the 15th son was born in Narrows, Va. when Grover Jones was 29 and his oldest child was 22.
Dr. M.C. Newton delivered the 15th son and said he was informed by the U.S. Department of Vital Statistics that Mrs. Jones had set a record with the birth of her 12th consecutive son.
The AP report said the Mrs. Jone was asked if she wanted any more children and she replied: “Well, I wouldn’t want to give up any that we have now.”
But the 15th was not to be the last.
Jackson said Jones and his wife had one more son to make it 16.
“They finally had a girl (17 in all) and that was the last one,” she said.
Members of the family could not be contacted for comment about the fame.
A history marker about the diamond is located in Peterstown at the corner of Market and Sycamore streets.
— Contact Charles Boothe at firstname.lastname@example.org