“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Southaven in Desoto County, Mississippi — The American South (East South Central)

Dockery Farms

Dockery Farm Marker image. Click for full size.
By Steve Masler, June 17, 2017
1. Dockery Farm Marker
Inscription. Dockery Farms, one of the most important plantations in the Delta, was founded in 1895 by William Alfred “Will” Dockery (1865-1936). Dockery purchased thousands of acres bordering the Sunflower River and worked for years to clear the swampy woodlands. At its peak Dockery Farms was essentially a self-sufficient town with an elementary school, churches, post and telegraph offices, its own currency, resident doctor, railroad depot, ferry, blacksmith shop, cotton gin, cemeteries, picnic grounds for the workers, and a commissary that sold dry goods, furniture, and groceries. In the early 20th century Dockery housed four hundred tenant families, most of whom were African Americans who migrated to the region in pursuit of work. Will Dockery earned a reputation for treating his tenants fairly, and many resided there for long periods of time.

One such family was that of Bill Patton, Jr. and his wife Annie, who moved here with their five children from the Bolton/Edwards area east of Vicksburg in the early 1900s. The Pattons were relatively prosperous and well educated—Bill Patton later bought his own land and operated a country store in nearby Renova—and their son Charley (born between 1885 and 1891, according to various records) decided to pursue a life in music. He was inspired by an older guitarist,
Dockery Farm Marker image. Click for full size.
By Steve Masler
2. Dockery Farm Marker
Henry Sloan, who like the Patton family had moved to Dockery from the Bolton area. By around 1910 Patton was himself influencing other musicians, including his longtime partner Willie Brown; Tommy Johnson, who became the most influential musician in the Jackson area; Howlin’ Wolf, who took guitar lessons from Patton after moving to the area as a teen and later recorded a version of Patton’s “Pony Blues”; and Roebuck “Pops” Staples, who later led the popular gospel group the Staple Singers. Historians have traced so much blues back to Patton and his contemporaries around Dockery and Drew that the area is regarded by some as the wellspring of Delta blues.

Patton was a popular performer in the region among both whites and blacks, and at Dockery he often played on the porch of the commissary and at all-night picnics hosted by Will Dockery for residents. He began recording in 1929, and many of the songs he recorded addressed daily life and events in the Delta, including some at Dockery. In “34 Blues” Patton sang of being banished from Dockery by plantation manager Herman Jett, apparently because Patton was running off with various tenants’ women. Patton’s “Pea Vine Blues” referred to a train line that ran from Dockery westward to Boyle, where it connected with the “Yellow Dog” line that led to Cleveland and points beyond. Some of Patton’s relatives continued to live and work at Dockery, and though he roamed the Delta and beyond playing the blues and sometimes preaching, Dockery was his most regular stopping point. Patton died of mitral valve disorder on April 28, 1934, near Indianola.
Erected by The Mississippi Blues Commission.
Location. 34° 56.207′ N, 89° 59.487′ W. Marker is in Southaven, Mississippi, in Desoto County. Marker can be reached from Airways Boulevard north of Church Road West, on the left when traveling north. Touch for map. Located in Tanger Outlet. Marker is at or near this postal address: 5205 Airways Blvd, Southaven MS 38671, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 8 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. The Peavine Branch (here, next to this marker); Hubert Sumlin (within shouting distance of this marker); Charley Patton (within shouting distance of this marker); Living Blues (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Club Ebony (about 300 feet away); Po' Monkey's (about 400 feet away); Albert King (about 400 feet away); Graceland (approx. 7.8 miles away in Tennessee). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Southaven.
Categories. African AmericansAgricultureArts, Letters, MusicEntertainment
Credits. This page was last revised on June 27, 2017. This page originally submitted on June 24, 2017, by Steve Masler of Memphis, Tennessee. This page has been viewed 139 times since then and 29 times this year. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on June 24, 2017, by Steve Masler of Memphis, Tennessee. • Bernard Fisher was the editor who published this page.
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