Jane Surget Merrill............1864-1932
If you've been reading this blog for any length of time,
you know I am truly fascinated by the life and death of
Jennie Merrill of Natchez! I love history, a good mystery
and Natchez and this woman's story involves all three.
As I've said before, I got interested in Jennie through The Goat
Castle Murder story in Harnett T. Kane's 1947 book "Natchez".
In 2000, I spoke with a lady named Karlyn Richie from Natchez
who voluntarily sent me the paperback book " The Goat Castle Murder"
by Carolyn Vance Smith and Sim C. Callon. After reading it, I was
hooked and knew someday I wanted to tackle a fact based historical
fiction novel on Jennie Merrill's life. I put it on the back burner.
In 2006 I started doing research, visited the locations, although I did not
meet any of the home owners nor see the inside of three remaining
homes. I visited and took photos of all four of the persons involved graves.
I couldn't seem to get the information I needed though. I could find no one
who'd really known any of the four or the answers to why these people
became eccentric after showing so much promise in their youth.
2009! It all comes together! Starting with all of you bloggers interest in
the story, the fact that all three remaining houses were on Pilgrimage Tour
and reading a hatchet job book based on the case, my NEED to write this
Now here's the part that fascinates me. All the owners invited me back to share what they know.
I met a woman 103 years old who did know Jennie and she invited me back to talk about it! I have ordered several out of print non-fiction books about this era in Natchez to help me capture the feel of this time frame. Last night while reading one of those books I was "blown" away!!
The book is a memoir of a woman from Natchez. It is a very interesting and
vividly descriptive work.It was written in 1950. She was friends with Jennie
Merrill, Duncan Minor, Octavia Dockery and Dick Dana! She wrote a 5 page chapter
on them and the murder. I was not expecting this, and I sat straight up in the bed
and said; Oh My God!
The really " strange part" is I had come to some of my own conclusions about
why Jennie and Duncan became reclusive, her conclusions matched mine!
I believe that Dick Dana was schizophrenic, so did she! I had reservations about why
Duncan Minor's mother was against him marrying Jennie. Kay the owner of Oakland,
Duncan's family home, and I discussed this when I was there. This book told me the reason!
The author's brother was also the attorney of both Jennie and Duncan!
I cannot tell you how exciting it is to have this book. Apparently not even the owners of these homes know about this book! I can't even tell you how I discovered this book and ordered it!
Am I destined to write a book about Jennie Merrill? Did I get help from beyond? Is it all a
matter of coincidence or is my imagination in overdrive? What do you think?