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Sher Hogue | all galleries >> Galleries >> Natchez City Cemetery...Natchez, Mississippi (Includes Prints for Sale) > Octavia Dockery
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From the Archive Sher Hogue

Octavia Dockery

Natchez, Mississippi

Shots rang out on a hot August night in 1932. Jane Surget Merrill (Miss Jennie) had been murdered. When Miss Jennie's bullet-ridden body was found the next morning, the prime suspects were Octavia Dockery and her companion, Dick Dana.

In earlier years, the three were good friends. Born in 1864 into an aristocratic lifestyle, Miss Jennie was a society darling. When her father died, she used part of her inheritance to purchase the Glenburnie estate. She became a recluse and it's said that in the 28 years she lived there the only other person she allowed in the house was her cousin (and suspected lover), Duncan Minor.

Octavia Dockery was a budding poet and Richard "Dick" Dana was a promising concert pianist. An accident that crushed Dick's hands cut short his career and forced Octavia to become his sole caregiver. They moved into an estate that Dick had inherited from his parents, Glenwood, neighboring Miss Jennie's home. Because they had no income, Octavia began raising farm animals on the estate. As Octavia and Dick became more and more eccentric, the animals began taking over the house. The public soon began referring to Glenwood as The Goat Castle. When the goats started venturing into Miss Jennie's garden, she shot and killed several of them.

Octavia and Dick professed their innocence in the murder but they were arrested and taken to jail. While they were in jail, the public got it's first glimpse into Goat Castle. They were shocked at the filth from the chickens, ducks and goats that were allowed to roam the house. Manuscripts and leather bound books once belonging to Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis were chewed to pieces and exquisite furnishings were used as nests.

When another murder was commited in Arkansas, the town began having their doubts about Octavia's and Dick's guilt. Sympathy replaced suspicion and a jury could not be formed. With the help of a prominent Natchez attorney, the couple was released from jail.

Finally, a confession was made by Emily Burns, a local woman who ran a boarding house. She and a friend, George Pearls, had gone to see Miss Jennie about obtaining a loan. When Miss Jennie became angry and drew a pistol, Pearls shot her.

After being released from jail, Octavia and Dick went back to Glenwood and started charging the public 25 cents for a tour of the home. Dick would entertain them by playing the piano. They lived at Glenwood until their deaths. The house was willed to relatives but it was eventually abandoned and was torn down in 1955. Miss Jennie's home of Glenburnie was updated and remodeled and is now a beautiful Bed and Breakfast.

It's said that at night, in the woods between the houses, the ghostly sound of Dick Dana's piano can be heard and it is accompanied by Miss Jennie's death moans.

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Steffan 08-Mar-2008 03:39
A compelling photo and an equally compelling story from a fascinating piece of history in old Natchez. As a professional photographer, artist and writer, I have an interest in antique tales as well as the photos that illustrate them. Is anyone aware of extant photos of Dick Dana, Octavia or Nydia Dockery, Miss Jenny or Duncan Minor?
Susie 16-Mar-2004 18:27
I really like this image. You did a good job capturing its spirit. I enjoy looking at headstones and I really like the unique ones. The fact that you told the story behind the headstone makes it all the better. Great job.
John Buffin15-Mar-2004 22:51
Another great story with an equally great image.
Guest 14-Mar-2004 18:01
Another very interesting story with this very nice capture. Well done.
RodTO14-Mar-2004 02:25
Very nice picture, I love the mood in it. And Octavia is my namesake, my middle name is Otavio! :)