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Visitors solve whodunit at Black House
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Screams heard coming from an upstairs window at the historic Black House on W. Main Street might have frightened some people Saturday, but others were enthralled by the scene unfolding. The screams were part of a play, “Murder Mystery at the Black House,” held as a way to raise money for upkeep and routine maintenance of the house.
Black House representative Jeanette Lowery said there was a large turnout for their mystery performance held Saturday. She said over 200 adults and several children toured the house and interacted with characters.
“Everyone seemed to enjoy it,” said Lowery. “People are asking when we will be open again because they are wanting to know more about the history of the house. We are thinking about doing something around Christmas time. We aren’t sure if we will be able to, but we are considering the idea.”
Guests were treated to a four-part drama at the home of Dr. Thomas Black which began in the back courtyard with Bill, a groundskeeper, Tizzie, a housekeeper, and Ben Marbury, a retired cowhand, telling guests what had recently happened.
Dr. A.F. Claywell had just been found dead in an upstairs bedroom. Tizzie informed the guests she found the dead body and she also saw a bottle of “tonic” or poison on the bedside table.
Guests entered the dining room and were introduced to Meriweather Black, bother of Dr. Black, Emma Jean Black, wife of Dr. Black, and Josephine Houchens, neighbor of the Blacks. Meriweather and his wife, Julia, were visiting his brother’s home for a few days. Josephine came over after hearing screams from the upstairs bedroom.
The tour continued into the upstairs bedroom where guests were introduced to Dr. Thomas Black and his sister-in-law, Julia Black. Guests learned Julia was from Nashville where her uncle owned Cotton’s Pharmacy. Julia acted suspiciously and the stories she told seemed unbelievable.
The final act was held downstairs in the conservatory. Guests met “Dad” Lively, local photographer, and Maggie Miller, a visitor to McMinnville. Maggie kept saying Julia looked very familiar to her but she couldn’t place where they had met. Both seemed to think Julia had been acting suspiciously since Dr. Claywell had been found dead.
Guests were given chances to interact with the characters and ask any questions during the play.
The solution told the back story of Julia Cotton Black. Julia overheard Dr. Claywell saying that possible treasure was hidden in the Black family home located in McMinnville. Julia befriended Meriweather Black, and married him, all with the intent on finding the family fortune.
When Julia visited her brother-in-law’s home and unexpectedly found Claywell staying there, she thought Claywell would find the treasure before she could. Julia poisoned his afternoon snack but forgot to remove the bottle of poison before it was noticed by Tizzie, the housekeeper.
Lowery said about 60 percent of guests correctly identified Julia as the murderer. Correct answers were deposited into an empty bin and winners were drawn from correct answers.
Winners were:
• Samantha White - $90 cash
• Stephanie Stantz - Microwave oven
• John Ross Rasori - Craftsman tool box
• April Murphy - Bowl and candle Set
• Licia Rasori - $25 Hastings gift card
• Mary Oaks- Wilma Jean’s Kitchen meal for 2
• Joey Rasori - Toaster
• Marilyn Emery - Coffee pot
• Morgan Dyer - Copy of “The History & Mystery of the Black House.”
• Natina Alexander, Mike Cox, Tiffany Warner and Wil Lowe - Captain D’s meals
Among those volunteering their acting skills were Hannah Connell, Maya Denning, Mary Lou Ecker, Summer Forsythe, Steve Grayson, Bryan Keith, Nikki Kinslow, Tim Prater, Cody Prince and Victoria Warner.