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Iron Maiden

The splendid Natchez home called Elms Court began life in 1837 as a simple two-story frame house with a central portico. Nestled amid 29 forested acres south of town, it was purchased 16 years later by wealthy cotton baron, Frank Surget, who offered it to his daughter Jane and her husband, Ayres Merrill, a Harvard-educated lawyer with money of his own. Once ensconced, the pair set about making their new home more reflective of their lofty social station. Accustomed to the best, the Merrills engaged celebrated architect Thomas Rose and assigned him the task of making Elms Court one of the brightest stars in Natchez’s galaxy of early-19th-century homes. Because the town had more millionaires per capita than any city except New York, men who had peppered the...

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