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.