Restored Dockery gin brings history to life

cotton gin

The Delta boasts many National Historic Registry places, dozens of Mississippi historical markers and a large number of Blues Trail markers. Even among these special places, Dockery Farms in Sunflower County is unique because it can claim all three distinctions. Will Dockery established Dockery Farms in 1895 and his son Joe Rice Dockery ran the plantation after his father's death in 1936. Charlie Patton and other legendary blues musicians once lived and worked at Dockery Farms. Bill Lester, executive director of the Dockery Farms Foundation, was instrumental in saving the farm from loosing some its historic buildings a number of years ago. Lester's passion for the farm and preserving its history has not stopped since. "We recently received a historic preservation grant from the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area, to restore and refurbish the cotton gin on the farm. The cotton gin was in operation on the farm from 1920 to 1950. “Dockery was originally a cotton farm. When they stopped growing cotton they didn't need the gin anymore. They just locked it up, I'm sure they probably thought they would go right back to growing so all the equipment was left inside," explained Lester. Joe Rice Dockery, the owner of the farm at that time, did not go back to growing cotton. "Once a gin has been left idle like that for too long it isn’t practical to reopen so everything just remained locked up inside. It's possibly the gin one in the delta with all the equipment still present. It isn't in working condition, but it has been very carefully restored. Even if you have been out Dockery Farms before, you need to come and see this. It's extremely rare to be able to see this type of equipment in this good of shape," continued Lester. In addition to the restored gin, Dockery has also created a brief video. "The video is on cotton production at Dockery and here in the delta. The story is told by some of the people who lived and worked here as children. They talk about the experiences they and their parents had working on the farm when it was still in operation. We had over six hours of raw footage but we had to condense it way down. Some of the stories they shared are sad but some were very lighthearted. The overall view was that they enjoyed being kids out here on the farm. The film is really outstanding and tells so much about the farm," said Lester. Dockery Farms held a ribbon cutting ceremony for the Cotton Gin on May 12. "The gin is currently open and available for the public to come and see. We tried to make things as simple for our visitors as possible, so we have a self-guided tour. The lights will come on when you walk in and you can walk around the gin and see all of the equipment. The video plays on a loop so all you have to do is press one button to activate the sound. It's only about eight minutes. "What we wanted to do was create a real sense of time and place. We want our visitors to be able to imagine what it was like to live and work at Dockery all those years ago. Our hope is that the video and the restoration we have done with the gin will help to recreate the feeling of what it used to look like. I think it's been pretty successful because we have more and more people coming everyday to visit," Lester explained. If you would like to visit Dockery Farms the former plantation is open from dawn until dusk year round. Dockery suggests a $10 donation to support the ongoing mission of restoration to the property and grounds. If you would like to have a guided tour for yourself or your group, the fee is $10 per person, though special arrangement can be made for large groups. To schedule a tour contact Lester at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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