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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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The Siren Call

Natchez’s celebrated treasure trove of antebellum architecture, unlike that of most historic Southern cities, was largely built by a society seeking to be, as F. Scott Fitzgerald put it, “rich together.” Imitating the English gentry who maintained townhouses as well as country homes, the region’s phenomenally wealthy cotton barons escaped the ennui of rural plantation life via city homes where they could socialize with their peers. Sometimes modest, usually grandiose, these houses bloomed in the heart of Natchez and in park-like settings, some as large as eighty acres, on the outskirts of town. Arguably the oldest surviving “suburban villa,” as the style came to be known, is Gloucester. Its most famous occupant–and a highly unlikely candidate for the...

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