Little Zion M.B. Church
Money Road - Greenwood, MS
Pastor McArthur McKinley
church property on Money Road borders the Tallahatchie River about 2 miles north of
Greenwood, MS. Thousands of graves are located within this isolated, tree
lined, and peacefully secluded spot. Pastor
McArthur McKinley says it's both a blessing and a
curse that the popular Bluesman Robert Johnson is buried in this cemetery.
Hundreds of people visit the cemetery and leave behind an assortment of trash,
including liquor bottles, drugs, and beer cans. Johnson, most legendary of
all the Delta Bluesmen, purportedly sold his soul to the Devil at a crossroads
in Mississippi, in exchange for superior musical ability. Johnny Shines,
before his death, stated that Robert was a religious man and the crossroads
referred to in song was probably where the Southern (railroad) crosses the Yazoo
& Mississippi Valley (railroad) in Moorhead, MS. Shines stated that the selling of his soul
came from all the BS stories and that Robert Johnson was just poking fun at the
crossroads myth in his song, as Johnson was known for a lot of jive.
On December 7, 2001, after a prolonged 10 year legal battle of ups and
downs, Claud L. Johnson was named legal heir of his father's estate by The
Supreme Court of Mississippi. Claud told me that he had always known that
Robert was his father. The difficulty was proving it in the courts.
Claud also told me what the middle initial "L" stood for in both his
& his father's name, but I promised never to tell anyone while outside of
the Little Zion Graveyard. If you ever run into me at the gravesite, I'll
tell you the secret "Mississippi" truth!
Robert's life was one of mystery and legend, and the mystery continues in
death. In addition to the Little Zion gravesite, there are two additional
gravesites! Payne Chapel MB Church at 32830 County Rd 167 three miles
south of Itta Bena boasts a site, while Mount Zion MB Church on County Rd 511
outside of Morgan City boasts another site. The Morgan City site includes
an impressive grave marker (cenotaph) that was provided by Sony/Columbia records
and placed on April 20, 1991. In 1990, Columbia Records had released
"The Complete Works" of Robert Johnson. Needless to say, the
release turned into a big hit for Johnson's music. The granite obelisk has
inscriptions by Peter Guralnick and Skip Henderson.
Robert L. Johnson became known as the King of the Mississippi Delta Country
Blues even though he died tragically in Baptist
Town at the tender age of 27 and recorded only
29 songs in just two sessions.
A Robert Johnson tribute was held during March-2004 that
included Johnson's son, Claud, and Johnson's grandson, Steve. After
services at Little Zion M.B. Church, a special luncheon was held at Hoover's
Grocery Store in Baptist Town.
(CLICK HERE for
Tom "Peter Rabbit" Eskridge dug Robert Johnson's
grave on a hot August day in 1938 according to Mrs. Rosie
wife Rosie remembers walking from the Luther Wade Plantation bringing water out
for her husband to the Little Zion M.B. Church gravesite on this extremely hot
day. Both Mr. & Mrs. Eskridge are now deceased and are buried in the
Little Zion Cemetery next to each other.
Tom's stone shows the name Eskridge
mispelled with an extra letter 'E'.
Mrs Rosie's stone shows the date
of death as 7-1-2006,
however Mrs. Rosie died on 6-22-2006.
In June-2004, two blues fans from France were married at the church.
February-2007, The Mississippi Blues Commission erected a sign on Money
Road at the entrance to the Little Zion graveyard to recognize the historical
significance and impact of Robert Johnson's music. It was subsequently
stolen, and a second sign has been erected.
Back to "Joints-Robert
Johnson Gravesite/Little Zion" page
page added 2004
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