Just in time for summer reading, a newly published book about the events surrounding the murder of 13-year-old Liberty Township resident, Mary Secaur. Many from this area of Mercer County, Ohio, have heard and read about these events that occurred just east of Chattanooga, Ohio, in June 1872.
Even after nearly 150 years there is still an interest and many questions about that murder and the lynching that followed a few days later.
The most recent account of those incidents is the new book, Shadows of the Summer Solstice…A Legend about a Farmer and the Green Ribbon Murder, by Sharon Schaadt Cowen, ISBN13:978-0-578-46094-9, 294 pages, published by SSC Publishing, April 2019. It is available in paperback and Kindle edition at Amazon.com.
Most locals have heard about the murder of young Mary Arabelle Secaur and about the lynching of Absalom Kimmel and Alexander McLeod, two men who were accused of murdering her. Mary Secaur was murdered on her way home from church one Sunday, murdered a couple miles east of Chatt on Tama Road, near where the Farmer’s Picnic is held. Kimmel and McLeod were two of three men accused of murdering Mary and were being held in the Mercer County jail when a mob overcame the sheriff and took the prisoners from the jail. The mob took the men out of town and hung two of them east of where the murder occurred.
Author Sharon Schaadt Cowen has a special interest in this story. Four generations of her family lived east of Chatt and her great-grandparents, Fred and Kate Schaadt, were next-door neighbors to Mary Secaur and the Sitterleys on Tama Road. The families knew each other and the Schaadts were eye-witnesses and participants in the events that occurred after Mary’s murder. Those details have been passed down in the Schaadt family for four generations. Sharon herself grew up near Tama Road and tells the story as it was told to her by her father, Herb. Herb heard the story from his father Lewis, as was told to him by Fred Schaadt himself. Although Cowen tells her family’s version of the incident, she says that the bones of her story come from J.H. Day’s account, Lynched.
I enjoyed the way Cowen tells this sad and tragic story. In her book, set in about 1932, old Duck Legs Phil Kromer, who was a real person, narrates the story from his room at the county home. With his colorful language he recalls the details of the events that summer, nearly sixty years before, and how those events affected the community and how the local people reacted.
One of my favorite things about this book is how Cowen’s personal and local connection makes the characters come to life. Cowen gives the characters real personalities and tells how they dealt with this tragedy. The book also provides a glimpse of what everyday life was like in rural Mercer County in the 1870s. Of course, having grown up in the Chatt area, the names and places were familiar, which added to my reading enjoyment. I know the story, but the book was still hard to put down.
After nearly 150 years, parts and details of the story will likely always remain a mystery. Although there are several theories about what really happened and who was guilty and who was not, there are just some things we will never really know for sure.