Except for her childhood in Kansas, Lena Wilson lived her life just off Pivot Rock Road near Eureka Springs. The trash and junk she collected around town was carried back to what she called “the farm.” She did have livestock over the years, including the pigs to which she fed the garbage.
When Lena Wilson and her horse, cart and dogs (she particularly liked Dalmatians) commuted daily through Dairy Hollow from Pivot Rock Road, Doris (Groblebe) O’Connor remembers that Lena would usually be walking beside the horse, one hand holding the reins and the other hand grasping a book or magazine that she was reading.
I’d heard that Lena Wilson was a talented artist. There is evidence that she won prizes for her watercolor landscapes, including a first place at the Colorado State Fair in Pueblo.
So, the question remains, why would Lena Wilson, an intelligent, educated and talented woman resort to collecting trash as a means of survival? This very question was posed to Lena in a 1949 Associated Press news story. Her response was that collecting garbage was not only more profitable than teaching, but healthier, too. In the article, she said that it took her six hours to make her daily rounds through Eureka Springs and though she was then 66 years old and only 120 pounds, she was stronger than when she quit teaching school.
But to many this does not adequately explain why she left the teaching profession and lived much of her life as a recluse. The persistent story among those who knew her was that it was a broken heart that prompted her to pursue the life she did. Some of the details have been lost over the years, but it seems that Lena Wilson was in love with an area businessman, but after her family lost its wealth, the relationship ended and she was never the same.
Lena Wilson was buried next to her father in the Eureka Springs Cemetery in 1963, though to this day the grave is without a tombstone. The last sentence in her short obituary was the following: “She has no known survivors.”