One of our readers, Doug Turner, sent the following message about Charley Patton, the former Belzoni jail in Belzoni, Humphries County, Mississippi and the former sheriff’s deputies mentioned in Charley Patton’s song, High Sheriff Blues:
“My grandfather, O.J. Turner, Sr, was the first sheriff of Humphreys County. The county was formed in 1918 and he was appointed sheriff by the governor. He served as sheriff for a few years and it is my understanding that Mr. Purvis was his chief deputy and succeeded my grandfather as sheriff. Mr. Purvis’ grandson, Johnny Purvis, lives in Belzoni today. It would be a wonderful project for Blues History and fantastic for Belzoni.”
We agree. Restoration of the former Belzoni jail and new research on the early sheriffs and deputies mentioned in Charley Patton’s High Sheriff Blues would be very beneficial to Belzoni and to research and knowledge of Blues History. A Mississippi Blues Trail marker at the former Belzoni jail would also be a very useful project. We have sent an email to the Mayor of Belzoni about the idea.
Charley Patton was briefly incarcerated in the former Belzoni jail, circa 1933, and recorded his experiences in High Sheriff Blues.
Here is a Google Street View image of the former Belzoni jail where Charley Patton was incarcerated circa 1933:
Here is a map showing the location of the former Belzoni jail:
We are going to contact the Mississippi Blues Trail to see whether there is any interest on its part in erecting a new marker at the former Belzoni jail to commemorate Charley Patton and his song, High Sheriff Blues.
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Charley was never incarcerated. He and his wife, Bertha Lee were being held in protective custody along with others at a House Party where a man named Henry Freeman was killed. They were witnesses and were released into the hands of WR Calaway with the American Record Company.