What is: the Dockery Farms Service Station, between Cleveland and Ruleville, Mississippi
What was: The service station/store, circa 1935, contained the general farm office and Joe Rice Dockery’s private office (Lester, 2005). It retains its original glass front counters, and a scale is visible through one of the front windows.
From Smithsonian Magazine: The plantation was founded on the vision of Will Dockery, a graduate of the University of Mississippi, who took a $1,000 gift from his grandmother and purchased tracts of Delta wilderness in 1885. Over a decade, the transformed the land into a cotton plantation. Eventually, the company town had an elementary school, churches, post and telegraph offices, a resident doctor, a ferry, a blacksmith shop, a cotton gin, cemeteries, picnic grounds for the workers, its own currency, and a commissary that sold dry goods, furniture, and groceries. To ship out the cotton, Dockery built a railroad depot and a spur route, named the Pea Vine for its twisted path, was laid from the main station in nearby Boyle (Patton’s “Pea Vine Blues” pays tribute to the line). At one time, roughly 3,000 people lived on the plantation’s 40 square miles.
Dockery Farms is widely regarded as the place where Delta blues music was born. Blues musicians resident at Dockery included Charley Patton, Robert Johnson (sold his soul to the develi) and Howlin’ Wolf and Pop Staples (Dad to the Staples Singers)