Cleveland (population 13,841), the county seat of Bolivar County, is located in the heart of the Mississippi Delta region halfway between Memphis and Vicksburg. First settled in the mid-1800s, the community experienced an economic boom following the coming of the railroad in 1884. As the surrounding swamps were drained and the land cleared for timber, more and more settlers came in with the railroad, and Cleveland prospered.
In 1915, Delta Teachers College was established, which grew to be Delta State University. The Delta Center for Culture and Learning on the Delta State campus promotes the study of the Delta’s history and culture, including the birth of blues music. Dockery Plantation near Cleveland was the home of several influential blues musicians such as Charlie Patton during the early 1900s.
Downtown Cleveland is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as an historic district, and a portion of that area is also protected by local ordinance as the Crosstie Historic District. The name of the district reflects the importance of the railroad to the community’s history, and the City has partnered with the Bolivar County Library System to rehabilitate the historic railroad depot (1915) for use as a library and literacy center.
A recent expansion project at the depot has augmented its use by community organizations, and the building also serves as the community’s tourist information center. Cleveland further promotes heritage tourism by participating in the Blues Highway Association, a volunteer group working to promote Mississippi Delta heritage to visitors.
Designated a Preserve America Community in August 2005.