In late 19th and early 20th centuries, natural pearls were rare and valuable. The pearl rush that swept northeast Arkansas began in the spring of 1897, a Dr. J.H. Meyers found a ball pearl weighing 14 grains in the Black River, two miles north of Black Rock. This event caused a rush to harvest river mussels, and tent camps soon appeared along the Black River. The first pearling in Lawrence County was referred to by Stockard as "pearling for profit," in order to distinguish it from the button-making industry that developed later. Between the years 1897 and 1899, dredges, rakes, and tongs were used to harvest pearls. By 1899, pearl fishers had extended their search 150 miles in either direction from Black Rock. Dr. Meyers stated: "After I had found my first pearl...hundreds of people waded the shallow parts of the rivers with gunny sacks. The muscles were so thick in those first years that they were easily picked up. Many pearls were sold for almost nothing...Hundreds were sold from $5-50 that were really worth from $100-5,000."

Meyers shipped his first carload of shells to Lincoln, Nebraska, for button-making in the summer of 1899. Following this, he said, "Men from the northern states began pouring in, teaching the people to save shells and how to bake them. These men brought in the crowfoot, which enabled them to bring in muscles from deep water."

A button factory was started in Black Rock in 1900--the first such enterprise in the south. It was reported by Stockard that the pearling industry, which netted $11,000 In 1897, boomed in 1902, netting $370,000, and that 80 percent of this profit stayed in Randolph, Lawrence, Jackson, Independence, and Woodruff counties in Arkansas. As late as the 1930s, the Black Rock Pearl Button Company, managed by V.C. Howe and owned by Harvey Chalmers Pearl Button Company of Amsterdam, New York, employed 70 men and had a weekly payroll of $650.

One of the more fortunate prospectors was Norman Stanley, who found a 58-grain pink button pearl between Black Rock and Powhatan, in an area that was thought depleted of mussels.Normal Stanley finds 58 grain pearl near Powhatan, 10-16-1901.pdf

Information: Pearl Business Booming.pdf