Central Delta Region

Covering the Mississippi Delta between Clarksdale and US 82 (Leland-Greenwood)


Here in June 1999, gone by May 2003. These greetings were located on US 49 (each one was facing in opposing direction), mentioning Tutwiler's claim as home of the blues. It should be noted that sometime in the Summer/Fall of 2003 that new signs were finally erected to direct traffic to their Railroad Blues park.

Here's Railroad Park, or at least some of it. The most notable part of the park is the murals shown here.
From left to right: the railroad, Handy meeting an unknown blues guitarist here, farming/crop dusting, catfish ponds, and Aleck Miller, alias Sonny Boy Williamson

Close up on the mural of W.C. Handy meeting an unknown guitarist in this town (railroad park was created because of this meeting) at the old train station here in Tutwiler. Handy when describing this meeting, said the guitarist was singing, "Going down to where the yellow meets the dog (which is in Moorhead, Ms)."
This photo was taken by me in June, 1999.

Close up on the mural for Aleck Miller, aka Sonny Boy Williamson (II). Aleck is buried outside Tutwiler and the mural even includes a map to direct interested parties to his grave site. I took this photo in June, 1999

As far back as 1976, people knew something important happened here in Tutwiler. This monument is located at Railroad Park in Tutwiler concerning Handy hearing the blues here for the first time. Photo taken in June, 1999

The last remnants of the old railroad that were next to the station. On the otherside of the murals above, there is still an active railline through Tutwiler (going from Greenwood to Clarksdale and beyond).

This group of buildings off on the horizon is Parchman Farms, or better known locally as the Mississippi State Penitentiary. Named after the crossroads in front of the main entrance (US 49E and MS 32), this was one of those prisons you didn't want to be sent to, up through the 1960s. You can drive through Parchman Farms (I did so during my Mississippi trip in 1999), but be prepared to be searched and interrogated, and don't stop your car while inside the prison grounds.


The Shelby Depot closed as a train station in the 1960s according to Steve Cheseborough's Blues Traveling. As the sign above states, it was reopened as a library and according to the same book, there are remenents from the railroad in the library still. Both photos taken in June, 1999.

Cleveland, Mississippi (not Ohio!)
Cleveland, Mississippi has cleaned itself up alot in the four years between my two visits here. Being a small university town (Delta St. Univ. is located here) must have help generate some funds for building restoration and streetscapes.

The Bolivar County Courthouse. Back in 1999, it was being renovated (I have a picture of this building with a dumpster of trash and a dust tube from one of the upper floors from back then). In 2003, you can see it looks better. Best known for another run-in W.C. Handy had with blues musicians (see below), and you can look up all four of Charley Patton's marriage licenses in here as well.

As mentioned above, W.C. Handy had an experience with blues music here in front of the courthouse (see above). According to legend, Handy was leading his orchestra during some festival here, and someone from the crowd requested Handy and his band to perform some "native music (codeword for black?)." Handy and company must have not played the desired tune, for a second request was sent up to him asking if he and his band would mind letting a local (colored) group play a couple of dances.

Since Handy's pay was all the same if he played or not, he let the local boys come up for a few songs. Supposedly, from the historic marker (on the left here), this led to an epiphany for Handy concerning the blues.

Another note about Handy and his enlightenment with the blues. Tutwiler claims Handy's chance meeting with a guitarist at their railroad station, led to him writing blues music, while Cleveland here claims the same. Both towns' claims are based in fact from Handy's own autobiography, it is just unknown (undocumented) which incident occurred first.











I like what Cleveland did with the old railroad right-of-way here through the old city square, turning this into a park and bike/walking trail.

What the Cleveland depot-library looked like in 1999 (with a malfunctioning shutter on my camera). It looked similar to the Shelby depot above.

What the Cleveland (depot) library looked like in 2003. Totally refinished on the outside with a new walkway and a tree.

Dockery Farms

Located along MS 8 between Cleveland and Ruleville, Dockery Plantation holds an important place in blues history, but some of its history is more myth than fact (starting with that historical marker). Neverless, the painted barn (see above) of Dockery Farms is one of the most well-known "trademarks" of the blues. It should also be noted that Dockery Farms is still in operation today, so don't get too carried away snooping around here.
Both photos taken in June, 1999

Other related pages on this site

Aleck Miller-Sonny Boy Williamson Grave
Charley Patton's grave

All photos taken in May, 2003, unless noted otherwise

Page created on January 14, 2004/last updated on February 23, 2007

Questions, comments, and submissions can be sent to Sandor Gulyas

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