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Episode 13: Goat Castle Murder of Natchez

Historian, Karen L. Cox, is the author of Goat Castle: A True Story of Murder, Race, and the Gothic South. Karen discusses the 1932 murder of Jenny Merrill, the eccentric couple who were arrested and charged with murder and the innocent African American woman who went to jail for the crime.

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This is the first of four episodes in The Mysteries, Myths and Legends of Natchez, Mississippi series

In 2016 Natchez, Mississippi celebrated its 300th birthday. Visit Natchez describes the city as follows:

Established by French colonists in 1716, Natchez was one of the oldest and most important European settlements in the Lower Mississippi Valley. Named after the Natchez Indians, Natchez spent periods of time under British and Spanish colonial rule before becoming part of the United States with the establishment of the Mississippi Territory in 1798 and later served as the first capital for the new State of Mississippi in 1817.

Located high above the mighty Mississippi River, Natchez did not hold a strategic position during the Civil War and was spared much of the damage other cities suffered. As a result, more than 600 examples of antebellum architecture remain — more than any other city in the South. These historic homes and buildings, dozens of African-American heritage sites, along with churches and other historic landmarks make Natchez a rare find for history buffs.

Jennie Merrill
Photo: LSU Libraries Special Collections and Historic Natchez Foundation

Natchez is truly a city that’s a haven for history and architecture lovers. But it’s also a city that’s seen it’s share of mysteries and scandals and interesting characters. Like the long forgotten story of the people whose lives intersected in Natchez when Jennie Merrill was murdered on August 4th of 1932

Octavia Dockery and Dick Dana as pictured on the day of their jailhouse interview when they were charged with the murder of Jennie Merrill.
Photo: LSU Libraries Special Collections and Historic Natchez Foundation

Karen Cox is a professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and the author of Goat Castle: A True Story of Murder, Race, and the Gothic South. I was honored to speak with Karen about the book and the true story of the Goat Castle Murder.

Emily Burns (second row, far left) is the only person who went to jail for the 1932 murder of Jane Surget Merrill, despite evidence that others were involved.
Photo: Karen L Cox

Episode Sources
Goat Castle: A True Story of Murder, Race and the Gothic South
Goat Castle Timeline and Infographic
More about Karen L. Cox

Music Credits
Theme Song: “Dark & Troubled” by Panthernburn. Special thanks to Phillip St Ours for permission for use

Additional Music
Southern Man by “Southern Man” and “Devastation and Revenge” by Kevin MacLeod, Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution

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