By RUTH MORGAN
For Starkville Daily News
The Daily Democrat-Times of Greenville reported on Dec. 9, 1921 that “The Blocker boys came to Greenville (from Holland) a few years ago, with youth and energy their only capital; and by good judgment and untiring energy made a great success of their dairy business building it up to great proportions. They are honorable, upright men and we regret to lose them as citizens of our county to (Oktibbeha County). However, Mr. (R. P.) Saunders (of Starkville) is a man of splendid character, a true Mississippian and will take his place at once as a broadguaged citizen. We welcome him to our town and county.”
Adriaan Blokker was a Dutch boy who dreamed of seeking his fortune in America but knew that he could not leave his mother. John Pronk, a friend of Blokker’s found an advertisement in the newspaper seeking two Dutch boys who desired to work, milking cows in Greenville shortly after the death of Adriaan’s mother. The advertisement was the sign for which Adriaan had been waiting.
One-way tickets were sent to Adriaan and John in 1912 by Mr. Darnell, a fellow countryman living in Greenville, Mississippi. By train, the two boys made the journey from Ellis Island, New York through New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Tennessee and Mississippi. Along the rural countryside they saw so much poverty that was extremely different from their native land.
When arriving in America, Adriaan was advised to become more American by changing his name to Adrian Blocker and to learn more English. This, he accomplished by reading a Dutch/English translation of the Bible. In the Dutch tradition, the boys were advised to save their money for the future. By 1915, both brothers owned their own business. John moved to Florida and became a nurseryman.
Adrian with his savings and a loan from Mr. Kretschmar at the bank, bought a six-cow dairy located next to the Greenville Cemetery. One year later, he received a letter from the bank. When he arrived at the bank, Mr. Kretschmar offered him a cigar and chided him. We need your 4% interest. You pay back your loan too fast.” Blocker promply said, “Okay. Just lend me more money, and I can double my herd.”
Adrian Blocker compounded his assets in five years to ninety-two acres of land with seventy-five cows, mules, equipment, barns and daily milk route. He delivered bottled milk to some three hundred customers. His dairy was located north of Greenville on Broadway Extended and stretched from the levee east to include Delta Memorial Gardens Cemetery which was just outside the protection levee. The Delta Democrat Times is located on the old Blocker Dairy land. On the foundation where the dairy barn with its big gamble roof stood, is a long yellow apartment house visible at a slight angle to Broadway.
Blocker’s favorite expression was “keeping a cat at every rat hole.” He lived by this creed for he was always making ends meet to feed all those animals. He grazed the levee, cut his hay off the fairground’s parking lot (Hardy Park), and used gin trash for fertilizer. He had five brothers, a sister and a father who arrived each year to work for free.
It was about 1922 that three of the Blocker brothers bought land of their own and began the nearby Blocker Brothers’ Dairy, which continued for about 22 years. It was during this time that many small dairies (less than 200 cows) folded due to modern regulations. Pasteurization was the largest and most expensive innovation during this time. Large milk cooperatives began to bottle or carton milk and sell in stores. Home delivery was no longer efficient or necessary due to home refrigerators, which had come on the scene.
Foreseeing these changes and desiring to enlarge his holdings, Adrian Blocker made contracts to exchange his complete dairy in Greenville for about 3000 acres of land in Oktibbeha County. Timber had already been removed from his new land. All the neighbors said, “That foreigner will be broke in a year or so.” But they did not know Dutch ethics would succeed beyond dreams. It did not take Blocker but a few years to be a leading and well-respected farmer. He served on commercial and civic boards of directors in Oktibbeha County. It was in his pasture with some of his prime cows that he died of a heart attack in 1966 at the age of 78. His son, Fred, and grandson, Larry Blocker, carry on the tradition of “keeping a cat at every rat hole” by improving their land and cattle operation.
On the tenth anniversary of his death, on June 20, 1976, the friends, neighbors and family petitioned the supervisors to name an unnamed road in the Oktoc Community which Mr. Blocker envisioned, donated land, built bridges and fences and labored diligently to construct. The unnamed road began at the south end of Bethel Road and runs east for two and one-half miles to a junction with the Robinson Road, a very historic road in Mississippi. The road was named Blocker Road remembering the honor and dignity that Adrian Blocker brought to the community.
For more than 70 years, his son, Fred Blocker, has raised beef cattle on the farm established by his father, Adrian, in 1920. Fred, like his father is very involved in the community and farming.
Fred’s house is on a hill overlooking acres of pasture land that stretches into the far distance with pastures filled with 300 or more Black Angus cattle. All the land was uncleared swampland when his father bought it. It was cleared using only mules and tenant labor. Using oxen, he then built the road that divides the pastures. The farm then supported about fifty families and even survived the Depression.
During the hard times, there was always a crib full of corn and a yard full of hogs. Each fall his father would give away several sows to tenant farmers, expecting them to return half the pigs born in the spring.
His corn cribs were full because he would loan it out to tenants in winter, when corn was scarce, for grinding into meal and to feed livestock. Come the next harvest, he expected a return of one and one-half times as much. All these things helped people and helped the Blockers. The Blockers were very innovative.
Fred Blocker was an only child who learned from his father. He is a graduate of MSU with a degree in agriculture. He married that same year and built a house, joined the Mason and went into partnership with his father.
He genetically improved the cattle herds each year by separating the best heifer calves and raising them for breeding. He cleared up persistent drainage problems on the farm, which were a threat and danger to cattle by building ditches in the low-lying former swampland. He had the same ingenuity and innovation as his father. His barn and work areas contain and are surrounded by broken farm implements, machines and odds and ends, all neatly organized. He used these readily available items to fix or make whatever he needed, which saved him a lot of time and money. For instance, he used steel school bus frames to build bridges across ditches on his land and a truck bed was turned into a farm trailer.
Fred has had many hobbies through the years. To name a few, he has finely displayed collections of barbed wire, locks and keys, antique tools, foreign money, and has also been quite an amateur photographer through the years. His mother gave him a “Brownie” camera, which got him started. He also was appointed by the Board of Aldermen to serve as director of the Oktibbeha County Museum which he did for several years.
He has always had a fascination with the Dutch homeland of his father and even visited there twice. He has also done genealogy research for several families. He is still considered the local historian for the Oktoc Community, maintaining records of all meetings of the Oktoc Community Club since 1927.
Fred Blocker organized the Oktibbeha County Cattleman’s Association and served as its president from 1960-1970. Through these years he turned aside most association attempts to present him awards, but in 1992 he decided to accept one as a tribute to his immigrant father and himself. That year, he was recognized as the “Outstanding Cattleman of the Year.”
The farm Adrian Blocker carved out of the Oktibbeha County swamp rivaled the mid-1800s plantations once common in the area. Fred Blocker said, “Daddy came here 100 years later and since his time, I have done all I can to preserve and improve on all the things he started. I’ve built bigger and better fences and barns, etc. Agriculture has changed a lot since I graduated 62 years ago. I have carried on a tradition, which my son, Larry Blocker, continues today.