By Debbie Arnold
Dining with Debbie
I don’t remember much of my very first trip to Wilson in the northeastern corner of the Arkansas Delta. It was a quick trip with a college buddy who hailed from there. I do remember thinking what a quaint, pretty, little town — emphasis on the “little.” It certainly wasn’t a place I expected to return to again.
The town of Wilson was essentially a plantation of sorts created by R.E. Lee Wilson who drained swampland in Mississippi County he had inherited from his father Josiah. At an early age Lee Wilson had himself legally declared as an adult and thus began the building of his agricultural and logging empire amassing at one point over 65,000 acres worth millions making Lee Wilson and Company the biggest cotton producer in the entire South.
Wilson, Arkansas, located at the intersection of US 61 and Hwy 14, started as one of Lee Wilson’s company towns in which all of the services, except for the postmaster and railroad employees, were Wilson Company employees. Eventually, all of the buildings surrounding the town square were either built or retrofitted in the Tudor style, including the local restaurant and watering hole known as The Tavern.
For many years the restaurant and tavern operated successfully serving as both a gathering and entertainment place for the locals. As fewer laborers were required on the farms due to technological advances, people moved away to find other employment, and the cafe closed for many years.
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