A Local Man’s Extensive History Collection



About a quarter of the historical objects are on the ceiling!

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Monday I had the chance to stop by and visit Lewis Neal and his collection of Wilson County historical artifacts in his garage turned history museum. There I was fascinated by the breadth and depth of his collection as well as taken in by the hospitality and pleasant conversation with Lewis and his wife Tina. We talked about everything from segregation to Joshua Barnes (a founder of Wilson) to Elvis to college football (his grandson plays football for LSU and Lewis had just returned the day before from a game in New York).

Lewis was on his on at the age of thirteen and survived by picking cotton and tobacco while staying with any acquaintance that would give him a place to sleep. Eventually he became a successful truck driver, married and raised several children. All the while his natural curiosity was fed through collecting historical artifacts from all over the area that dealt with any aspect of Wilson County History.  These artifacts fill his garage, but it isn’t cluttered, the place is curated like a museum. Most every object has a label with a title or a description. Newspaper articles are framed on the wall or on the ground in giant poster frames separated by subject. There are also a great many binders filled with articles and documents on every Wilson County subject you can imagine.

Mr. Neal’s collection is a hidden, cultural treasure of Wilson County.

Two Unidentified Photos from Wilson County


The first unidentified photo I received from a patron who was in the library researching the Taylor family of Wilson and Nash County.  The photo was taken in Wilson at Winstead Photography studio, which I cannot pin down the date for because I can’t find them in any city directories from the 1890’s or early 1900’s.  Certainly their dress looks like the turn of the last century.  One of the men may be named Wade or Richard Taylor.

Unknown lady

Yesterday I went and visited Lewis Neal’s impressive Wilson County history collection that he has stored in his garage. This was a photo that he did not know who was pictured.  The photograph  was found in the old Drake theater on Nash street when they were cleaning it out.

The African American Woodard Family of Wilson County

A couple of months ago I posted some images from the Civil War of the white Woodard family of Wilson County, NC.  Now here is some documentation compiled by the late, local historian Hugh Johnston, on the African American Woodard family.  I recently showed the information to a retired Wilson County Sheriff’s deputy and friend of mine, who is African American and a Woodard, and he said that he knew a lady who could recite the names that were listed here from memory and an oral history account of the day William Woodard (the white master) died.  I wish I had some images of  the people listed but go to this link at 4th Generation Inclusive to find out about a former slave and preacher named London Woodard.  There is an image his church, the London Church, which is still standing in Wilson County.

Something that I found illuminating from the account is the fact that the Wilson County Register of Deeds has a copy of a record made in 1865 of the antebellum marriages of former slaves in the county.

What follows is an unaltered transcription of Hugh Johnston’s account of the Woodard family.


By Hugh Buckner Johnston

Because of the scarcity of surviving records of our black citizens prior to the Wilson County Census or 1870, the first Federal Census that gave the name and age of every individual living within our borders in that year, the discovery of any vital statistics of the Antebellum period represents purest genealogical gold.

The writer learned only a few weeks ago that his 3rd great uncle William Woodard (1795-1847) had inscribed on the rear flyleaves of Volume I of John Bunyan’s WORKS (New-Haven, 1831) “The ages of the Negroes Children,” with their names, to the number of sixty-one.

These families still living in 1865 adopted without known exception the surname Woodard and left descendants who have continued to be numbered among the most respectable black citizens. It should also be remembered that a book in the Wilson County Register of Deeds Office contains the record made in 1865 of the earlier marriages of all former slaves who desired that kind of legal protection for their children. (The marriages of both whites and blacks since 1865 have been recorded impartially down to current date in the regular Marriage Registers.)

The names and ages of the blacks belonging to William and Elizabeth Simms Woodard were as follows:

Morris Bornd March 1824

Blunt Bornd August 31st 1825

Ben Bornd April 1826

Peg Bornd May 18th 1826

Win Bornd September 1827

Arch Bornd December 1827

Bishe Bornd February 1828

Willis Bornd October 1829

Alfred Bornd March 1830

Silvire Bornd June 1830

Poity Bornd 26th February 1831

Aga Bornd 10th January 1832

_______ Bornd March 10th 1832

Sarah Bornd 22nd May 1832

Tom Bornd 15th June 1832

Charta Bornd 27th June 1832

Hanner Born 12th May 1833

Jonathan Bornd 31st July 1833

Jim was Bornd 1st August 1833

Liberty Bornd 23rd April 1834

_______ Bornd 8th May 1834

_______ Bornd 23rd May 1834

_______ Bornd Feb. 1st 1835

[N]ed Bornd 27th Sept. 1835

Zilpha Bornd 11th May 1836.

Chury Bornd 8th March 1837

Rachel Bornd 8th January 1838

Eady Bornd 3rd March 1838

Anna Bornd 31st July 1839

Manda Bornd 7th December 1839

Rila Bornd 2nd April 1840

Gray Bornd May 1840

Harry Bornd 30th May 1841

John Bornd Jan. 1842

Marry Bornd 4th July 1843

Jesse Bornd 30th December 1843

Susan Bornd 30th Nov. 1843

Lewis Bornd January 20h 1845

Mariar Bornd April 30th 1845

Rebecca Born January 16th 1846

Hilliard Bornd June 1846

Sally Born October 27, 1846

Tresy (?) Born 2nd March 1847

London born August 15th 1847

Mintey born December 29th 1847

Lizzy born Jan. 19th 1848

Rose born Jan. 1848

Ned born Nov. 1948

Venice Born Ap 30, 1849

Dennis February 1850

Simon borned March 1850

Richard borned June 1850

Charles Borned August 1851

Adline born Dec. 20th 1851

Louisa Born Sept. 29 1853

John Born May 1853

Nathan Born Sept. 8, 1855

Winney Born March 1856

Edwin Nov. 6, 1856

Jonas Jany 1858


Wilson in the Early 1960’s


Someone recently asked me if I had a picture of Ray’s Drive-in and I said no. But now I do and unfortunately I didn’t write down the person’s name.


Seat belts extra.


Awesome picture of an integrated business during the early 1960’s.


Not sure what is going on here Fike High School, but they look like they’re enjoying it.

I am almost finished re-cataloging the entire local history and genealogical collection which has been a big task but I have had some good help.

However, it might have taken less time if  I wasn’t eternally distracted when I have a book in my hands because I am always reading them and or looking at the pictures.

Above are some images from Wilson’s past that I gleaned from high school yearbooks.