Adams Co, MS Genealogical and Historical Research is an independent,
not-for-profit site brought to you as a public service in the interest of *free* genealogy.  
It is not a part of Ancestry Community.

If you arrived here via a paid site or in frames, you've been ripped off.

Click Here to break out of frames and see what you're missing.


The Goat Castle Murders
Dr. Nutt of Longwood
The Ghost of Kings Tavern


There was blood, and the mistress of Glenburnie was nowhere to be found, that hot August night in 1932 - but there was no corpse. Bloodhounds were brought in to assist police and a large search party of prominent Natchez citizens. Finally, early in the morning, the bullet-ridden body of Jane SUGET MERRILL, Miss Jennie to locals, was found in a thicket about 100 yards from the house.

Miss Jennie was the town recluse and eccentric. Born in 1864 to a wealthy and prominent Natchez family, Miss Jennie spent her early years as a popular socialite in Natchez, New York, and France. In 1904, using a portion of the one-quarter-million-dollar estate left to her, by her father, Miss Jennie purchased the old estate of Glenburnie, and from then on became more and more of a recluse.  She refused to update her house, never installing electricity. She did buy an old Model T, but while she could be seen puttering around town in the old car, she would not enter or shop in the local stores. Instead, she would tap the horn, and a saleslady would come out to the car.

Miss Jennie was 68 years old at the time of her murder. She had never married, and only allowed one person to enter Glenburnie during the 28 years she lived there. That one person was her cousin, the equally eccentric Duncan C. MINOR, who visited Miss Jennie every evening. It was thought that Duncan was the mysterious caller who notified police of the blood, and disappearance of Miss Jennie, that fateful August night. It was also rumored that Miss Jennie and Duncan had been in love, perhaps lovers, for years. But no one knows, and the secret was buried with them.

Duncan was not much of a suspect, but Miss Jennie's neighbors were. Richard "Dick" DANA and his companion, friend, and caregiver, the spinster Octavia DOCKERY, were immediate suspects.  Dick Dana, once a popular figure in Natchez, had suffered declining mental health, over the years, and depended upon Octavia to care for him.  Octavia was herself, something of an eccentric. Neither had any source of income, so Octavia began raising farm animals on the grounds of their old house, Glenwood, which had been inherited by Dick, from his parents. Chickens, geese, and goats roamed about the yard, sometimes finding their way to the porch of the old structure that was badly in need of repair. And so it was that Glenburnie became known as The Goat Castle.

Sometimes the goats ventured next door, to the flower beds belonging to Miss Jennie. At one point, Miss Jennie purchased a rifle and a handgun, and it is thought she shot and killed several goats as they enjoyed lunch. Duncan tried to help.  He made plans to purchase The Goat Castle, by paying the back taxes, so he could evict Octavia and Dick. However, Octavia had Dick declared insane, and as such, Dick could not be forced to leave his home. The couple remained, the goats remained, and the house continued to deteriorate, inside and out.

Another suspect was John GEIGER, a tenant who lived in a shack, on the Dana property, called the Skumk's Nest, . His overcoat was found in The Goat Castle, supposedly left as collateral for back rent. However, when fingerprints belonging to both Octavia and Dick were found at Miss Jennie's home, the poverty-ridden couple was arrested.

Miss Jennie had left a will. Her entire estate, consisting of $250,000 in cash, Glenburnie, and two large plantations in Louisiana, was left to Duncan. Only one notation was made, in the will: "I am sure he [Duncan?] will carry out my wishes."

Octavia and Dick both loudly proclaimed their innocence. They reported hearing loud noises coming from the Glenburnie residence, on the night of the murder. Police were not convinced, and so Octavia and Dick were arrested, and taken to jail.

For the first time in years, outsiders entered The Goat Castle. Visitors were aghast at the filth and squalor. The once-beautiful mansion had become home to the hordes of chickens, ducks, geese, and goats that had been allowed to roam at will, making themselves comfortable among the magnificent furnishings. A leather-bound set of books, and several manuscripts, once belonging to the likes of Robert E. LEE and Jefferson DAVIS, had been chewed to pieces. Wallpaper had come loose, and was left to hang from the walls. Bedding and upholstered furniture had become moldy. Neither Octavia nor Dick slept in the fine four-poster beds, preferring filthy mats that had been placed on the floor in their respective bedrooms. The police thought sure they had the murderers.

Then, a twist to the story. Several miles away, in Arkansas, a man named George PEARLS had been shot and killed by Pine Bluff police. Pearls had brandished a .32 caliber gun, the same type of gun that had been used to murder Miss Jennie. Natchez townspeople began to wonder, and their questions soon turned to sympathy for Octavia and Dick. A jury could not be formed, and with the help of Ed RATCLIFF, a prominent Natchez attorney, Octavia and Dick were released from jail.

Finally there was a confession. Emily BURNS, a Natchez resident who owned a rooming house, admitted that she and George Pearls had visited Miss Jennie in an attempt to obtain a loan. Miss Jennie, angry over the intrusion, had drawn her pistol. It was then than Pearls shot her. Other evidence collaborated the story, and Emily was convicted and sent to prison.

Emily Burns spent less than eight years, in prison, obtaining a pardon by Gov. Paul B. JOHNSON, Sr., in 1940.

Duncan Minor accepted his inheritance, bought a new car, and traveled. At his death, money remaining from the inheritance was left to Miss Jennie's family, presumably in accordance with her wishes.

And what about Octavia and Dick? Their lives took a definite turn for the better.  For a fee of .25, visitors could tour the grounds; for another .25, visitors could actually enter The Goat Castle. Dick, who once held a promising musical career, took a bath, shaved, and entertained guests by playing a borrowed piano.

Dick Dana died in 1948, a few months before Octivia's death in April, 1949. The Goat Castle was left to out-of-town cousins who auctioned off most of the furnishings. The house was abandoned, and finally torn down in 1955.

Glenburnie, the home of Miss Jennie, was eventually restored and updated.

The Goat Castle Murders by Sim C. Callon and Carolyn Vance Smith, Plantation Publishing Company, Natchez, Mississippi, 1985
Natchez on the Mississippi by Harnett T. Kane, Bonanza Books, New York
Return to Index


"I had a choice. I could allow Dr. Nutt to scare me away from Longwood, or I could let him know who was boss."

Several stately homes were built, in Adams County, during the early to mid-1800's. Longwood, the largest octagonal house in America, was one of them. In 1860, Dr. Haller Nutt, a wealthy cotton plantation owner, began construction on an estate for his beloved wife, Julia, on the old Longwood plantation located at the southern edge of Natchez. War was approaching, but, foolishly, Dr. Nutt did not delay construction. He was a Unionist, and did not believe there would be a war. He was wrong. War began, and upon hearing the news, laborers immediately ceased work on the building, and left for their northern homes. Many costly supplies never arrived, or were sent back.

The unfinished mansion at Longwood was the talk of Natchez, and quickly became known as "Nutt's Folly," as the family settled in the "basement," or first floor, of the large structure. Falling into disparity over huge financial losses, Dr. Nutt died before war's end. Some say he died of pneumonia; other's say he died of a broken heart. A few say he never died at all, and still resides at the unfinished home of his dreams.

Longwood - "Nutts Folly"
Photo by Dale Woosley, Natchez, MS - 1997
Julia Nutt continued to live in Longwood, with the children, until her death many years later. The building remained in descendant hands until 1970, when it was presented to the Pilgrimage Garden Club. Since then, Dr. Nutt, and indeed, his wife Julia, have made their presence known.

Scores of people have witnessed strange aberrations, odors, and noises, over the years. A maid, busy dusting, saw a lady in a hoop skirt.  The maid was unable to see the face, however, and then suddenly the figure disappeared. A groundskeeper spied Dr. Nutt, in period clothing, standing under a tree. Others have noticed the sudden appearance of localized perfumed odors, presumably carried by Julia. A grandson, of the current resident director, once observed Dr. Nutt sitting in a chair. Another grandson saw Julia Nutt standing on the stairs. Thinking the lady was an employee dressed in period costume, the grandson thought nothing of it, until he realized that the lady he had seen looked just like the portrait of Julia Nutt. An investigation failed to reveal any employees dressed in costume.

Dr. Nutt appears to be particular about information imparted by the tour guides. Sandra Frank, a former guide, always knew when she had made an error, because the lights blinked. If she diliberately tried to insert misinformation, Dr. Nutt would remain quiet. Otherwise, he blinked the lights - but only in the room in which Sandra was standing.

Louise Burns, the Resident Director at Longwood for over 20 years, experienced perhaps the most frightening encounter. Awakened in the dead of night, Mrs. Burns found her head lifted and held off the pillow by........ No one was there. Mrs. Burns tried unsuccessfully to extricate herself, and felt a moment of fear. As she related the story to this author: "I had a choice. I could allow Dr. Nutt to scare me away from Longwood, or I could let him know who was boss." Suddenly her head was released.

When asked if she ever became lonely during the long evenings at Longwood, Mrs. Burns replied, "Not at all. I have my dog Miss Scarlet, the Lord, and four ghosts to keep me company."

Ghosts! Personal Accounts of Modern Mississippi Hauntings, by Sylvia Booth Hubbard; Copyright, 1992, by Sylvia and Robert Hubbard.
Natchez on the Mississippi by Harnett T. Kane, Bonanza Books, New York.
The Scully & Bauer Families of Natchez, Mississippi, by Ellen Jane Allen Pack; Copyright, 1996, by Ellen Jane Allen Pack.


Return to Index


On any given evening, the popular Natchez restaurant, Kings Tavern, will be filed with smiling diners, bustling waitresses, busboys, chefs, and all the sounds that accompany a busy dining establishment. But there are others present - unseen - but they are there.

Kings Tavern is thought to be the oldest building in Natchez, perhaps in Mississippi. Constructed of rough brick, hand-hewn cypress, and ships timbers, the three storied structure was built before 1789, during the time when the Spaniards occupied the area. The first U.S. mail to Natchez was delivered, by an Indian runner, to Kings Tavern.

The first known owner of Kings Tavern was Richardo King, a New Yorker who had migrated first to the Kingston area south of Natchez. Ricardo operated the old tavern, which served as a gathering and resting place for weary Natchez Trace travelers, and a fortress against the wilderness.. Bullet holes are still embeded in the heavy front door. Notable guests were Aaron Burr, and Andrew Jackson. Ricardo sold the tavern in 1817. Eventually the Postlewaite family of Natchez acquired the property, and made it their home for several generations.

Eventually, the years caught up with the old structure, and in about 1930 repairs had to be made to one of the chimneys. That's when the three bodies were found, encased in the old bricked-up downstairs fireplace. A jeweled dagger was also found, not far from the bodies.

It was impossible to identify the skeletons, two male and one female, but one is believed to have been that of Madeline, the young mistress of Richardo King. Was the jeweled dager the murder weapon? It's posssible, and it is also thought the murderer was Mrs. King, Richardo's wife.

What is known is that someone resides in Kings Tavern today. Scores of witnesses have seen images of a young female, so the ghost is believed to be that of Madeline, the slain mistress. She appears at odd times, and is sometimes prankish. She knocks jars off of shelves; she pours water on the brick floor; she turns on lights, and breaks glasses. Some have wittnessed tables vibrating. Chains, hanging on the walls, begin swinging back and forth. Footsteps, where there are no people, can be heard constantly. Water taps turn off and on with no human assistance.


Kings Tavern - Third floor bedroom available for the brave.
Photographs by Dale Woosley, Natchez, MS - 1997
There is also a male ghost occupying the tavern. Several witnesses have reported seeing a male image - no face - just a male form, sometimes wearing a red hat. Others have seen an Indian. And then there are the cries of a baby, frequently heard, even when there is no baby on the premises. Legend maintains that these are the cries of an infant that was murdered by the notorious outlaw known as Big Harpe. Big Harpe was a guest at the tavern when, irritated by a baby's crying, he hurled the helpless infant into a brick wall.

Perhaps there are no ghosts. Perhaps all of the stories lie in the imagination of suceptable individuals. Would you like to find out for yourself? The third floor, of Kings Tavern, contains a rustic bedroom which can be rented for the night. Dinner is served early in the evening, but not breakfast. Few people are still there, come morning.

Bibliography -
Ghosts! Personal Accounts of Modern Mississippi Hauntings, by Sylvia Booth Hubbard; Copyright, 1992, by Sylvia and Robert Hubbard.
Natchez on the Mississippi by Harnett T. Kane, Bonanza Books, New York.
The Majesty of Natchez, by Reid Smith and John Owens; Paddle Wheel Publications, 1969


Return to Index

Copyright Notice:

All files and graphics on this site are copyrighted by their creator. They may be linked to but may not be reproduced electronically or otherwise without specific permission from the county host and/or the contributor. Although public information is not in and of itself copyrightable, the format in which they are presented, the notes and comments, etc., are. It is however, quite permissable to print or save the files to a personal computer for personal use ONLY.


Unless otherwise indicated, written permission
by the webmaster is necessary in order to
download files and/or graphics.

Copyright 1996 -2006 Ellen Pack All Rights Reserved.