Annual Natchez cemetery tour features new cast of characters in 15th season



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NATCHEZ, Mississippi — Famed Natchez residents will have their stories told during this year's production of Angels on the Bluff.

The annual event slated for Thursday through Saturday is in its 15th year, and actors will portray people buried in the Natchez City Cemetery.

Sam Jones will portray Duncan G. Minor, a suspect in the "Goat Castle Murder," which involved Jennie Merrill as the victim. Jones has been participating in Angels on the Bluff for years, portraying numerous characters in the cemetery, such as a 120-year-old confederate veteran and a one-armed general.

As Jones prepared to take on the role of Minor, research was required, and Jones gave much credit to the Historic Natchez Foundation's Executive Director Mimi Miller for assisting him.

"Mimi (Miller) has hundreds of letters that were written by Duncan to Jennie every night, during his time," Jones said. "The letters date back to 1884."

Minor was in love with Merrill, despite being one of her first cousins.

According to Jones, Minor would ride on his horse each night to see Merrill, but their love was forbidden.

In August 1932, Minor discovered Merrill was killed and became a suspect of the crime, but for a short period of time.

"The love of his life was murdered, and she left all of her riches to him," Jones said.

Jones said there are many appealing stories at the Natchez Cemetery.

"The characters in the cemetery are better than characters you would find in any other book," Jones said. "Duncan will be a fantastic character to play. He was a handsome guy who could have had any woman he wanted, but his heart belonged to Jennie."

Annette Holder, who serves on the cemetery board, chooses the characters whose stories deserve to be told. After developing the research, Holder, along with Paula Estes, assign the characters an actor.

"We have some interesting ones this year," Holder said.

Holder said everyone buried in the cemetery has a story to tell, but some are more interesting than others.

"You have to look into things that they did," Holder said. "They were breaking ground here."

The evening will begin at the Natchez Visitor Reception Center where attendees will board a bus at their reserved ticket time. Haunting melodies will play throughout the cemetery by professional bagpiper Darrin Parkhill, a former member of the Royal Canadian Pipers.

An Angels on the Bluff audio tour CD is available and can be rented or purchased at the visitors' center, or purchased at Mrs. Holder's Antiques.

"You can get the CD and ride thorough the cemetery, while letting it play, Holder said. "The CD will let you know when to move on through the cemetery."


Information from: The Natchez Democrat, http://www.natchezdemocrat.com/

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