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Lost & Found

At first glance, the 1854 house flying the French flag at 2306 Esplanade Avenue is unremarkable in a town teeming with antebellum homes trimmed with cast-iron galleries, but its story is far richer than most. Events within these walls rocked the international art world after a visit from Edgar Degas, the only nineteenth-century French Impressionist to ever work in America. “He drowsed in the vibrant sunlight until the carriage halted before the Musson home. Through bleary eyes, he admired a handsome, three-storied house with generous galleries and dependencies and, here and there, cousin Désirée’s promised sweet olive trees.” –Creole Son Degas (1834-1917) was born in Paris to a French father, Auguste Degas, and a New Orleans-born mother, Célestine Musson. In...

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Moonlight, Magnolias & Murder

One of Natchez’s smaller architectural gems, Glenburnie Manor was built in 1833. A handsomely proportioned, one-story raised cottage with a gracious, columned veranda, it was enhanced in the classic colonial style in 1904, just in time to welcome its most celebrated—and infamous—owner: Jane “Jennie” Merrill (1864-1932). As the daughter of cotton baron Ayres Merrill, Jennie boasted blood that was among the bluest in Mississippi. She was a newborn when her Unionist father took the family to New York to wait out the Civil War. Jennie was raised in luxury on Washington Square, and when her father was named Ambassador to Belgium by his friend President Ulysses S. Grant, Jennie was presented to Queen Victoria at the Court of St. James. It was said that the tiny monarch...

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The Mississippi Miser

Natchez has always been a world apart from the rest of Mississippi. As Harnett Kane duly observed in his book Natchez on the Mississippi (1941), “The situation bred idiosyncrasies- the dreamers out of touch with any reality. Years earlier, newcomers noticed that the Natchez plantation people were a small, tight group which grew smaller, tighter with the generations. Intermarriage had begun early; the same names still merged. Now oddities developed.” Intrigued by this menagerie of Southern eccentrics, I profiled Katherine Lintot Minor, the flamboyant Yellow Duchess (Yellow Fever, January, 2014), and now it’s time for Duncan Minor (1862-1939), a k. a. the Mississippi Miser. Related to most of Natchez’s oldest, most prominent families, Duncan was born into...

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