Places In Blues History
Dockery Farms is located on Mississippi Highway 8 between Ruleville and Cleveland. It has an important place in Blues history as having been the home of musicians like Charley Patton, Tommy Johnson, Willie Brown, Howlin’ Wolf, and Roebuck “Pop” Staples.
Dockery Farms is important enough in Delta blues history that the Mississippi Blues Trail considers it “one of the primal centers” of blues in Mississippi.There is a Mississippi Department of Archives and History marker on Highway 8 at the entrance to Dockery Farm. The marker was placed here in 1999.The GPS location of this marker is: N 33° 43.796′ W 90° 36.996′
The marker reads:
“DOCKERY PLANTATION – Established by Will Dockery in 1895 and operated 1937-1982 by Joe Rice Dockery. Included a post office, commissary, and cotton gin. The plantation once employed Charley Patton, a legendary blues musician, who inspired such greats as Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson, B.B. King, and Elvis Presley”
The Mississippi Department of Archives and History has also declared Dockery Farms a Mississippi Landmark.
There is also a Mississippi Blues Trail marker at Dockery Farm.
This marker reads:”BIRTHPLACE OF THE BLUES? – The precise origins of the blues are lost to time, but one of the primal centers for the music in Mississippi was Dockery Farms. For nearly three decades the plantation was intermittently the home of Charley Patton (c.1891-1934), the most important early Delta blues musician. Patton himself learned from fellow Dockery resident Henry Sloan and influenced many other musicians who came here, including Howlin’ Wolf, Willie Brown, Tommy Johnson, and Roebuck ‘Pop’ Staples.”
Here is a map showing the location of Dockery Farms:
Here is a short documentary about Dockery Farms:
There is parking available at Dockery Farm so visitors can pull off the highway. Visitors can only access the public area at the entrance to the property. Access to other areas of the property is restricted.
The following photos show some of the buildings accessible in the public area at the Dockery Farm entrance. All the buildings at the entrance to Dockery Farms have been placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The building in the photo above stands at the entrance to Dockery Farm. Dockery Farms gets enough visits from Blues fans that it has a Visitors Book available in this building if you wish to sign it.
One of the buildings we found particularly interesting was the former commissary, or the company store. The building is actually in ruins – it burned down in the early 1960’s – but it is interesting because of its potential association to Charley Patton. The Mississippi Blue Trail Birthplace of the Blues? marker states (on the reverse side of the marker) that Charley Patton performed regularly at the commissary and on the front porch of the commissary building during the time he worked at Dockery Plantation. Other sources say that Dockery Plantation did not allow music at the time Charley Patton worked here, but the documentary above clearly states that Charley Patton and other blues musicians played here.
Here are some photos of the former Dockery Farm commissary building. The GPS location of the former commissary (or what remains of it) is: N 33° 43.791′ W 90° 37.021′ The first two photos show what would have been the front entrance steps and foundation of the commissary.
The following photos below show what is left of the exterior walls of the commissary. The first photo shows what would have been the interior wall; the second photo shows what would have been the exterior of the same wall. This building has significant historic interest since it was a place where Charley Patton played during his years at Dockery Farms. Given its association with Charley Patton, it is unfortunate that the commissary building burned down and has been allowed to deteriorate to its present condition.
Here are some more current photos of the section of Dockery Farms that is open to the public along Highway 8.
At the time of our last visit, the historic Dockery Farms service station on Highway 8 was being renovated, in part, with funds from a Save America’s Treasures grant from the National Parks Service. The National Parks Service citation reads: “Where the Blues Began – Dockery Farms is considered by many, including blues legend B.B. King, to be the birthplace of the blues. While there is no absolute certainty where the blues had its beginnings, there is widespread agreement among artists, fans and scholars of this music that Dockery Farms was pivotal for the development and eventual spread of the blues throughout America. This historic plantation community, located in the heart of the Mississippi Delta, was established by Will Dockery in 1895 to produce cotton – America’ most important export in the 19th and early 20th century. African Americans who came to Dockery Farms to cultivate cotton created a culture through their work in the fields that inspired the music we know as the blues.”
Dockery Farms Baptist Church, built in 1902 at the side of Highway 8.
The former cotton gin building:
The former overseer’s residence. The building has been vacant for some time.
Here are some selected sites with more information on Dockery Farms:
- Application for National Register of Historic Places designation, 2006 (note: PDF)
- US National Parks Service – National Register of Historic Places citation (note: PDF)
- Preservation In Mississippi
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