The Courier News from Blytheville, Arkansas on July 1, 1936 · Page 17
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The Courier News from Blytheville, Arkansas · Page 17

Blytheville, Arkansas
Issue Date:
Wednesday, July 1, 1936
Page 17
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\ WEDNESDAY, JULY 1, 1930 BLYTHEVH 1,13. (ARK.) COURIER SECTION B PAGE I Wilson and Company Is Fifty Years Old Wilson Community Celebrates Cememiiul of Arkansas' Statehood Th)s photograph, taken on the day of the Wilson scho-1 anil community cerebration of the one InmdmUl, anniversary of Arkansas' admission to llio union, shows the park In the center of the tew,, will, the admlnlstrallun Company's far-flung activities, in the right background nml (he Wilson Tavern nt the left. brllillng, ncvvc center nt the Lee Wilson Founder's Dream Realized In Wilson Company's Vast Farm and ."Industrial Lee Wilson Company Is Owned by the family of Its Founder Dire Nestled among tall cotlomvoods Wilson, Ark., a 2,000 people, tlie fuinil- of Menii town of ment of the dreams of the late H. E. Lee Wilson, who built it upon. Tnctl | lc [ra land which he had carved from n' • wilderness. For Ofty on Ills way lo the river one day owner, paying all his earnings o! the past seven years of farming $150 cash, and notes for the balance. years Lee Wilson dreamed, but not idly; he was as a red land land for 2,100 acres of swamp to get limber for tlie mill. T»il: mill was located at Hickory Ijikc and the lumber was hauled to the fighting poet who wrote witli deeds, day a monument to his efforts. Lee Wilson's beginning was not different from that of other men who 'nave wrested fortunes from the alluvial lands and fine limber df .Mississippi, county/ but he : was different."'Tie was a' man of many moods, • directed by an indomitable will and'a genuine love of work. Lee Wilsoirneyer/stopped work ui\- •til--he Uurhed; Ins'allairs over ! tb meirwhoni.he-had selected -to'Ssrve him because they were something of his counterpart—men who had made/: theinsclves as he had, by hard/- work'; and fearless fighting, men' capable of carrying on. '. 37,000 Acres' 111 Farms £ ;Por eig'ht .miles ^ the highway stretch/the'Let' 1 Wilson' Company farm lands, '• and for nine miles west of the road you will step on Wilson land. If you cover these acres In rt circuitous route by roads and "turn rows" you will register something like 85 miles of driving, and see 25,000 acres ot farms, but you will not have seen all of the Lee Wilson Company's I making Armorel. R. E. Lee Wilson - -1863-1933 f Wilson Company Built Through Founder's Unremitting Effort One of the most beautiful little Elizabeth Adams Beall in 1885. Miss towns in the Sout'n is in Mississippi county. Arkansas. The town is Wilson, which bears the name of Lizzie, as she is still known, was a daughter of S. A. Beall, of Mississippi county, formerly of Penn- bus!ness. Tne firm's name, Wilson founder, the late Robert Edward j sylvania, who had come to this Lee Wilson. Mr. Wilson, better county in 1865 and settled on known as Lee Wilson, was a pio- neV of this county. He was born in 1863. Ills father, Joseph L. Wilson, had come to the county from Tennessee in 184.7, and purchased a small tract of land near Bassett. Lee Wilson did not have the bane- fit of much schooling. It is said that his only schooling was under ' Professor Bynrs who had a private school in Covington, Tenn. With '•.less than two years of attendance •' at this school, Lee Wilson returned ' to the county and immediately began working in the forest that covered the fertile soil of this community. He was not averse to suffering all privations and hardships in order to accomplish results. He worked side by side with his helpers. He never hesitated to plunge into any sorb of work, no matter how dflilcult and trying It might be, He was among the first pioneers in Mississippi county actually to realize the value of both clear- Ing the woods and obtaining a profit from the lumber, ami finally developing the wonderfully fertile soil of tills county for farm Innd. lliiill KIR Lumber Business. Mr. Wilson was immicd to Mi was 50 years ago, Wilson formed a partnership with his father-in-law, the firm being Wilson and Beall nnri he moved his mill to what Is today Wilson, then called Midway, where he operated n small commissary • In : which the postofflcc was located. The old location of Midway has • been swallowed by the Mississippi river in :Its changing " ck course, nndf-.Wlison^yas'.'moved ba ^tp'have levee protection. : : .' ~ Mill" at 'Armorcl In 1835 Lee Wilson was getting along, and In 1899 a sawmill i\vas established at Armorel, and a' ; new company sprang up, the Dcall Lumber company, la 1902. Very -little farm^ land, was .In cultivation' nl Arnioiel'then; onjy about 100 acres' bnf there" were 2,200 :'ncras In' tile Wilson tract. A' post office:' wai needed but a suitable name- that the postal officials would accept could not be thought of until the; suggested the first two letters in the abbreviations of Arkansas and Missouri to which was added the three Initials of R. E. Lee Wilson, considered unusually sound. Mrs Wilson is a refined and well educated lady and shows unusually good taste in the arrangement o her home. This young couple bid fair to become not only one 01 the wealthiest, but, what is of far more Importance, one of the most highly honored families in the county." The prediction of the writer of the past century was more than borne out by Mr. and Mrs. R. E. Lee Wilson. Hoad Not Always Smooth Frenchman's Bayou. Lcc Wilson [ Lce wlLwi ,. s bu . sincss ' c!lrccr was and Mr. Beall were partners for a j not always a successful one. Just number of years in the sawmill as other business men In file south and i:i the nation, he suffered dur- & Beall, was well known through-1 ing the so-called panic years. Dur- out the entire lumber industry of ing 1903 and more greatly during the country, it had a big plant 1 '" -— at Golden Lake and another at Armorel. The plant at Golden Lake had a capacity of 14.000 feat, per day. w'nich was quite a large output in the 19th century. From this mill Mr. Wilson built a tramway about six miles in length, extending .from the river back into his timber lands, where a large number of men were engaged In lumbering. The firm shipped large quantities of lumber from this mill 1907 Mr. Wilson had to work overtime to keep his possessions together. Again in 1912 and 1913, during the levee breaks, when the Mississippi river overflowed In and about Wilson, he had an enormous task in continuing his operations. He never shirked from his duty. It seemed that the more difficult We job ahead of him the more he would work. Hours never meant anything at all to him. Mr. Wili son was always careful about 'ills holdings. Beyond Blyt'nevllle, at Armorel, tnere are G,500 acres; at Lepanto. 2,50ft acres; on Island 34 900 acres, and in Tunica county, Miss., there are 7,500 acres. Thirty-seven thousand of these acres arc In farms. The Wilson interests comprise the largest individual cotton plantation in the world and the largest one-man town of diversified Industries In ,tlic United States. Lee Wilson's dream has been made reality. Any one who knew Lee Wilson in his early years will tell you tiiat Mr. Wilson was always on just little higher mental plane than the country In which he worked. He nought faster, farther and deeper .han the men of his day. This quality never failed him in a crisis. Lee Wilson began his life work as mi orphan. His father died when lie was three years old, and iis mother when he was 15. He !iad only two or three years 01 schooling, but 'nls executives admit that his quick head-work embarrassed them when he talked figures. Re had more figures In his head than they had on the books and his mind worked faster than adding machines and pencils. Sees Opportunity in Timber He was distinctly a man of the soil. He knew It, loved It, arid I repaid him handsomely for his patience, insistence and years o hard work. Lee Wilson's success would indicate that he never stoop cd to the job, but broug'nt the job up to hts level, it was the method and the Armorel mill to Chicago,! employes. He attempted to sur Milwaukee and St. Paul. The principal demand was for ash lumber. An account which was written in 1886 about Mr. Wilson expresses well t'ne high regard In which he was held by his contemporaries: "Mr. Wilson is one whose integrity and honor have never been questioned, and, though a young man. his views relating to matters of business, as wcl| as on general and, special topics of i'n6 day, are. round himself with men who would stay with him on the Job without always looking at the clock.. Tills together, with his own tenacity, probably accounts for his success. Everyone who Is familiar with the 'History of this section knows the Importance that the construction of ditches played in the development of agriculture. This development would never have bcei (Continued On Page 5) Tue- intensity of this man's In-1 .istence on work extended even to lis dollars. He never had any idle noncy In the bank. It had to work as he did. At the close of 'nis career he was known as a man oi millions without any cash. Lee Wilson bought Mr. Beall's interest and after the turn of the century t'ne Lee Wilson dollars began tc sprout industries and businesses. They mushroomed last during the next few years. The Idaho Grocery Company; Wilson and Ward cotton factors and commission merchants; and tile Whlte-Wilson- Drew Company, wholesale grocers In Memphis. He acquired the Jonesboro-Lake City and Eastern railroad, and he owned half the stock in man}- banks. Subsidiary companies of the Lee Wilson Company developed at Armorel, Marie, Kclser and Victoria. Tramways brought timber from the lowlands and the plow followed the saw, turning the new ground Into green fields of cotton. Through all the years of his sawmill and lumber industry and his various other business activities, Lee Wilson never stopped farming. He pictured this country without timber as It is now, and his keen foresight spanned the years to the day Mississippi county would be the largest cotton growing county In the world, and his the largest cotton plantation. Through his nature there ran a full deep vein ot rich humor, He enjoyed u Joke even when it was on himself. lie was feared by the shlftlacs iind,lm'ed'by t'ne energetic and respected throughout the land In the center of this (own of Wilson is the administration building, set back of a green park where It glistens while against the broad green leafed cottonwoods. From this building rndlate the many Industries of the town and Its 37,000 acres of farm lands which arc divided Into individual farms of from 800 to 1,000 acres with individual farm managers. Ally one of the diversified industries operated by [he Lee Wilson Company would make an Individual business larger than most of tlie other concerns now operating In tho county. Pew department stores in large cities have a larger day's business than the one-floor department store of the Lee Wilson Company during the full season. The town and everything In It belongs to the Lcc Wilson Company, which In 1917 was changed from a corporation to n trust estate. The only industry, In the town which the Lee '•Wilson Company does not own or operate is tho power and light j>lant. it was sold by the L^c.WU- -'son Company to the Arkansas Power and Light Company in 1330, for a million dollars. Company Omis Town The town of Wilson lias nil the conveniences of a city. Four hundred houses have beautiful shrubs, some have garages and servants houses which the tenant may use 3r rent. There Is street and garbage service and tho shrubs nre kept and replaced If they die. There is a good sewerage system and a plentiful supply of artesian water without meters. All ot this is Included In the rent which ranges from $12 to $35 a mont'n for white tenants, and $5 (o $7 n month for negroes. There is also a volunteer fire department. All the streets are paved. But there is no mayor and no municipal government, it Is the town of the Lee Wilson Com- Tltc Wilson Company is a trust estate, owned entirely Us the family of Us founder, tlie late H. U. Leu Wilson. Three of the cwncrn, Mr. Wll- .sc;u's widow nnd her son, It; R. L, Wilson, and ijramlscni. joe Wilson Nelson, live at Wilson. Mrs. Flank 11. Wesson, u druijihtei 1 of the founder, lives nl Springfield, Mass and Mrs. Marie Howells. nnothi i daughter, lives at Miami, 1'la. Since his father's dentil In W.n the present H, E. I,. Wlls:m has n co-trustee of this estate, serving with J. 11. Craln, malinger of the company. Born nt'Uassctt, Ark., a few miles from Wilson, in issa. lu received his first education under n governess in the Wilson hom» He later ntiendfd public schools in Wilson and the Memphis University school. After preparatory work at the Woodbury Forest school, in Virginia, he entered the University of Virginia. 1000 he enrolled at Yale University, graduatin On October 2-1, in 1912. 1912, Mr. Wilson vats united in marriage lo Nnlallc Armstrong, daughter "of Mr. and Mrs. A. I}. Armstrong, of Memphis. They luivc lived nt Wilson since their marrlaac. Three children were born to Mr. J. H. Cram, co-lrustec of L;e Wilson and Company, a trust estate, has been general manager of Ihe company since the death of its founder. He has taken over the duties formerly performed by Lee Wilson. His job has really been made more difficult by the fact that he has had lo produce the same results as his predecessor, who was one of the best farmers, business men and financiers in the entire South. Jim Crain was born near Brandon, Miss., on August 7, 1888. Ho was the son of John c. Grain and Hattle Grain and was cnristcned James Henry. His boyhood days were spent on a farm where he received training cir.illar to that . pany, owned ami opsratcd by the j which almost all rural boys obtain. company. There is no marked diltcrcnce In the houses In Wilson except in size. You would not know, in walking down the street, the house occupied by J. H. Grain, who took over the duties of Mr. Wilson, from that of one of his employes. They arc not pretentious houses, but they are In good taste, restful and attractive with long cool screened verandas for outdoor living. The streets are lined with tall rows of cottonwood trees that form a solid canopy of shade, it's a town of happy, congenial, friendly workers, The man In overalls from Hie shoos wiio drops In the restaurant for a refreshing drink calls the man in a white shirt from the office John. They laugh and Joke, and they work w"nile the bookkeeping LIU. imgcdt cwuun piawauon. He "^J N«»K wnue ine DOOKkecpinc, worked for tills end, built for ^! machines grind out R payroll of and achieved it. Conquers Difficulties Lee Wilson had no fear of fi- he employed in reclaiming thou- j nance. He had a way of conquer- sands of acres of backwoods, low! '"g" such situations as he conquered lands and cancbrakes. He visual ited what thus land should be and made it just that. He did much of the actual labor In achieving this, but he never accepted things as they were. He made them better. He had 160 acres of land to start with and he made the most of It. He plowed It and planted It, and then he rented more land. But the years were hard, lean years for young Wilson. His money came hard and he saved it, but even at that lime he wouldn't have idle money. It was in the early eighties that he noticed saw mills nibbling at tlie forests. He pi-ssed one the forests and floods and all but bent nature to do his will. He weathered the panics of 1903, 1907, and the floods of 1912 and 1913 and achieved his masterpiece of financing in the worst year of the depression, 1333. He constantly rode the waves o( economic upheaval* through 50 years of American history, and he rode them courageously and successfully. Lee Wilson was a man of simple taste; a hard worker, a firm driver, a kind friend. He was sympathetic with'misfor- tune, and impatient of short-rom- Ings; Intolerant of laziness and an admirer of earnest workers. He did not have the advantage which many young fellows today have in securing a higher education. As soon as he had completed his public school education he went to work for ills father. Except for a few months In a business college at Nashville, Tenn., he never attended any other schools. He married Ruby Enochs at Brandon In 1909 nnd two years later they moved lo Arkansas. Made Farm Superintendent His first connection with Lee Wilson and Company was when Vie obtained a Job with the Idaho Grocery Company, a subsidiary, at Dassett. Not long afterwards he was moved to the general offices of the company at Wilson. Mr. Craln received a thorough training in the R. E. L. Wilson and Mrs. Wilson, of whom two", arc now living, R. JB, U Wilson III., and Frank Owen .Wilson. Lee Wilsbn Company Affairs Now Directed by Jim Grain company's business during his stay i be bcated and constructed near staggering figures. 550,000 Monthly Payroll The combined farm and Industrial payrolls of the Lee Wilson Co. and its subsidiaries and affiliat-s average about $50,000 per month. Coupon books are issued to the employes in the various industries which they use as cash between their pay days, which o'ccur every two weeks. The sale 'of these book's had reached $21,000 June 18, following a two weeks pay day June 15. Farm payrolls are met weeklv. l-ee Wilson Company employes and their families number about 10,000, not one of whom has been on relief. The company kept its workers employed In some manner, even during the depths of the (Continued on Page 4) in the local offices. For five years he was assigned to Jobs in every position in the clerical department, Including the work of the cashier. In 1917 Lee Wilson recognized 'nis abilities and promoted him'to the Job of farm superintendent, in which capacity he was the manager of the- entire farm organization for the various units of the company. He served as suc'n until Lee Wilson's death in 1933. The experience which he had both in the office and as farm supirinten'dent has been Sielpful In assisting him In his present capacity as ma'liager of the entire organization. Daring his lifetime Lee' Wilson had come to depend quile largely upon him and since Mr. Wilson's death Craln has followed the business methods of Isc Wilson very closely- J. H. Crain lluilds New Industries Mr. 'craln recognized that the lumbering industry in I his- section was waning »nd that it would.luv* to be replaced either by other industries or by increased farming operations. He was instrumental in causing a new modem compress to WlUon. A modern de'iiydraliug plant or alfalfa mill was built.' A large cotton seed oil mill is now being constructed near the new compress. This industry will employ quite a large number of men. He was also largely instrumental in the establishment of the Dycss' Colony, west of Wilson, and the locating'of rehabilitation farm; for tiie Resettlement Administration. In addition to all these activities, Mr. Crain has played a major part in-the refinancing- of the drainage districts in Mississippi county Although landowners sere willing to pay for improvement fixes during ordinary ^ears because they realized the importance of drainage for their lands they were not nble to piy these faxes during tin- depression years , Cram looh the (Continued on* page 2)

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