McNeill was born January 9, 1911 in Pocahontas County, West Virginia, West Virginia, USA on a farm in Buckeye that her family had owned since 1769. Her father, G. D. McNeil was also a writer and published a collection of short stories about the forests of Pocahontas County, West Virginia and the decline of the wilderness entitled The Last Forest. She wrote her first poem at 16 on a friend's typewriter, and thereafter decided to be a poet. She graduated from Concord College (now Concord University) and then obtained her master's degree from Miami University in Ohio. She received a doctorate from West Virginia University in History, and also received a honorary doctorate in the humanities from the university later. She also studied at Middlebury College at the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference with the poet Robert Frost, and at the Iowa Writers' Workshop. In 1939, she married Roger Pease. McNeill taught English and history for over 30 years, beginning in rural one-room schools in West Virginia and eventually teaching at Potomac State College, Fairmont State College, and West Virginia University. McNeill's husband Roger died in 1990. McNeill died on June 18, 1993 in Malden, West Virginia, survived by her son Douglas McNeill.
Louis McNeill began her writing career selling short poems to the Saturday Evening Post, charging $5 a line. In 1931 her first collection, Mountain White, was published. She went on to publish six other collections. She published her best-known work, Gauley Mountain, in 1939. She incorporated themes of life in rural Appalachia in her work, and "was often hailed for her unflinching acceptance of local speech and dialect into the overall construction of her rhythmic poetry." McNeill published poetry over the course of her life, but did not publish another major collection of her poetry until 1972, with the publication of Paradox Hill. In the 1980s, McNeill's literary reputation was re-established by the poet Maggie Anderson, who edited McNeill's memoir for the University of Pittsburgh Press, as well as a new and selected poems in 1991.
In 1979, then-governor Jay Rockefeller named McNeill West Virginia's poet laureate, and she held the title until her death in 1993. In February 1989, West Virginia University recognized her accomplishments by inducting her into the Academy of Distinguished Alumni. In May of 1989, West Virginia also awarded her an honorary doctorate in the Humanities. In October 2006, the Charles C. Wise, Jr. Library at West Virginia University was made a Literary Landmark by the Friends of the Library Association U.S.A. (now United for Libraries), in recognition of the university's connection with McNeill and its efforts to preserve her writings and personal papers in its West Virginia and Regional History Center.
- Mountain White (1931)
- Gauley Mountain (1939)
- Time Is Our House (1942)
- The Prison Notebook of Captain James M. McNeill, CSA (1969, 1970)
- Poems From the Hills (1971)
- Paradox Hill from Appalachia to Lunar Shore (1972)
- Elderberry Flood, the History, Lore and Land of West Virginia Written in Verse Form (1979, 1980)
- Hill Daughter: New and Selected Poems (1991)
- Fermi Buffalo (1994)
- The Great Kanawha in the Old South, 1671-1861: A Study in Contradictions (1959)
- Microcosm and 'Magic Mountain': Interpretations of the Virginia Springs (1969, 1970)
- The Milkweed Ladies (1988)
- "West Virginia's Appalachian Music and Literature: Wind Up". West Virginia's Appalachian Music and Literature. Retrieved 25 November 2016.
- "Obituaries: Louise M. Pease, 82, Poet of Appalachia". The New York Times. The New York Times. June 19, 1993. Retrieved 25 November 2016.
- Ballard, Sandra L.; Hudson, Patricia L., eds. (2013). Listen Here: Women Writing in Appalachia. University Press of Kentucky. Retrieved 25 November 2016.
- Harshman, Marc. "Louise McNeill". e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. Retrieved 25 November 2016.
- "WVU's Wise Library named literary landmark as keeper of poet laureate's work". West Virginia University. West Virginia University. Retrieved 25 November 2016.