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R. E. L. Wilson Plantation Photographs

Identifier: MC 1870

  • Staff Only

Scope and Content Note

Materials include Lee Wilson and Co. photographs, developed by Jack Pryor, negatives, proofs, and a short list of descriptions about the pictures.

The Lee Wilson and Co. images were photographed by Jack Pryor. At least some of the images first appeared with the article, Arkansas Giant by J. D. Ratcliff from The Country Home Magazine and another article, The World's Largest Cotton Plantation, from the St. Louis Post Dispatch, which was printed on October 1, 1939. The collection of images illustrates a large scope of the Lee Wilson and Co.'s plantations, factories, and storage facilities, its smaller businesses and shops, and the communities the company established in Northeast Arkansas. There are many pictures of workers, students, and families as well.


  • ca 1939


Language of Materials

Materials are in English.

Access Information

Please call (479) 575-8444 or email at least two weeks in advance of your arrival to ensure availability of the materials.

Use Information

No Use Restrictions Apply.

No Interlibrary Loan.

Standard Federal Copyright Laws Apply (U.S. Title 17).

Biographical Note

Robert Edward Lee Wilson was born on March 5, 1865 to Josiah Wilson and Martha Parsons in Frenchman's Bayou, Mississippi County, Arkansas. He lived on a plantation, owned by his father, until 1870 when his father died. Although Josiah Wilson divided his land amongst his heirs, R. E. L. Wilson was not of legal age to acquire and manage the property. He moved to Memphis, Tennessee with his mother until she died of the yellow fever epidemic in 1878. for a short time, Wilson lived with his paternal uncle. In 1882, Wilson was declared "of age" to own his father's farm and acquired his inherited land. He married Elizabeth Adams Beall on December 20, 1885 and they had three children, victoria, Marie, and Robert, Jr. With his father-in-law, Socrates Beall, Wilson extended his logging company and began selling lumber to St. Louis, Missouri and other markets. After cutting down the trees, the Wilson and Beall Lumber Company cultivated the land for farming. Wilson was a proponent of a controversial drainage program to acquire more fertile land under the swamps near his plantations.

Wilson's company grew due to his crop diversification, which both fueled his animal-powered labor and sustained some financial security during poor crop seasons. In 1904, Wilson incorporated as Lee Wilson and Company. He founded several towns to accommodate his extensive plantations and businesses, including Victoria, Marie, named after his daughters, and Armorel. Wilson reportedly provided better housing and health care to his white and black workers, but established a sharecropping system as well. By the time of his death, on September 27, 1933, Wilson had served on the Arkansas State Highway Commission and the board of trustees of A and M College (now Arkansas State University), where Wilson Hall is named after him. The Wilson Plantation was reportedly the largest cotton plantation in the world. Wilson passed the company down in trust to his son and James H. Crain, his long-time employee. Lee Wilson and Co. continued through Wilson's heirs and is now managed by the fourth generation of the Wilson family.


1 Linear Feet (2 boxes)

Arrangement of the Papers

Material is arranged by format.

Acquisition Information

The R. E. L. Wilson Plantation Photographs were donated to the Special Collections Department by Lee Wilson and Company, of Mississippi County, Arkansas, on July 27, 1999.

Processing Information

Processed by William Quinn; completed in May 2010

R. E. L. Wilson Plantation Photographs
William Quinn
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid is written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Department Repository

University of Arkansas Libraries
365 N. McIlroy Avenue
Fayetteville AR 72701 United States