Wilson’s unique history is a vital element of its appeal. Founded by Robert E. Lee Wilson in 1886, Wilson was once the most important company town in the South. From the Wilson family story, to its authentic artisanal traditions and collection of ancient aboriginal artifacts, the town occupies a singular position in the landscape of the American South and the Mississippi Delta Region.
Among the unique historic sites are the revitalized Tudor-inspired town square, the historic cotton gin and the Hampson Archeological Museum, housing a rare collection of Late Mississippian artifacts from the nearby Nodena site. Through an array of educational, cultural and economic initiatives, Wilson pays tribute to this heritage and brings the story of Wilson to life for its visitors.
The Tudor-inspired buildings in the town square were the brain child of R.E. Lee Wilson Jr., who returned from his honeymoon in England in 1925 with the idea of recreating the architecture at home. After that, all buildings in the town were built in the Tudor-inspired style, and existing buildings were retrofitted. Today, established, independent businesses on the square help sustain a sense of community: Priceless Galleries, Southern Glow Tanning & Boutique, Wilson Pharmacy, Wilson Library, Shear Beauty, Gunn’s Supermarket, a bank, a post office and Wilson Gas Station offer services to both locals and visitors. The renewed Wilson Cafe serves as both gathering spot and culinary center of town.
Blues Highway 61 is dotted with interesting natural and built environments. Some are obvious, while others require physical inspection. As one heads into Wilson, turning off Interstate 55 and passing through Bassett, Arkansas, a curious collection of buildings stands along the path. Their owner, Ish Herrera, is as interesting as the buildings themselves. Ish counts welder, farm mechanic and bar owner among his many pursuits. Each of his talents serves the community in many ways, while the sum of the parts creates a fascinating Delta story.
The museum, soon to move into a new, state-of-the-art space, houses an impressive exhibit of renowned artifacts from the 15-acre Nodena site of Late Mississippian Period Native Americans, dated A.D. 1400-1650. The new museum will offer special programming in addition to an interactive educational exhibit. Landowner and archeologist James K. Hampson began excavating the site in the 1920s. In 1900, Hampson also documented the nearby discovery of a prehistoric mastodon skeleton. Click here to see a 3-D interactive exhibit.
Wilson is home to one of the most unique and historically significant stories in the Mississippi River Delta region. The Lee Wilson Company boasted that it represented the “world’s largest cotton plantation,” a claim rendered plausible by its 57,000 acres and more than 11,000 employees, sharecroppers, and tenant farmers in its heyday. Robert Edward Lee Wilson continued his father’s legacy beginning in the 1800s, clearing the land for large-scale cultivation. Professor Jeannie Whayne, author of Delta Empire: Lee Wilson and the Transformation of Agriculture in the New South, provides an overview of the town of Wilson and those who helped build it.
The 4th Annual Crawfish Festival in Wilson, Arkansas is happening on Saturday, April 28. Learn more.
Time: 12 pm–8 pm
Location: Town Square