Book about 1872 Murder Near Chatt

Most everyone who grew up in the Chatt area has heard about the murder of 13-year-old Mary Secaur in June 1872 and of the lynching of the two men who were jailed for her murder, Absalom Kimmel and Alexander McLeod.

Mary Arabelle Secaur was murdered on her way home from church one Sunday, murdered east of Chatt on Tama Road, nearly across the road from where the Farmer’s Picnic is held. Kimmel and McLeod were accused of murdering Mary and were being held in the Mercer County jail when a mob overcame the sheriff, took the prisoners from the jail, and hung two them.

I have read a little about this incident but have never really delved into it.

This past Monday Joe and I attended the program at the Shane’s Crossing Historical Society, to hear the speaker David Kimmel, an English professor at Heidelberg University in Tiffin, Ohio, who is also a descendant of one of the Secaur murder suspects. He spoke about the book he recently wrote and published, Outrage in Ohio: A Rural Murder, Lynching, and Mystery, which was released just a few weeks ago.

Outrage in Ohio, by David Kimmel, 2018.

A good number of people from the Chatt and Rockford area were also there Monday night to hear Kimmel, some of them Secaur descendants, some of them Kimmel descendants.

David Kimmel, author of Outrage in Ohio. (2018)

Monday evening Kimmel told about the families involved, discussed the murder and the lynching, and told why and how he used some of his own narrative in the book. Afterward, several members of the audience shared their thoughts and theories about the event. It was good program and Kimmel is an interesting speaker.

I purchased a copy of Kimmel’s book Monday evening and started reading it right away. It looks to be very interesting and informative.

Outrage in Ohio is an extensively-researched account of this murder and the events afterward. It appears that he has performed a “reasonably exhaustive search,” as we call it in genealogy research. He has searched through numerous sources in many places, talked to relatives and other individuals, and visited the area several times. There is a long list of end-notes at the back of the book that show his sources of information.

He has tried to learn and tell about the people living near the Secaurs and Kimmels as well. Something we call the FAN Club Principle in genealogy—researching someone’s Friends, Associates, and Neighbors. You can learn a lot by researching these other people.

David Kimmel puts all this information together in his book, with a bit of historical fiction writing, giving you an idea of what the people may have been doing and thinking and feeling at the time.

This may be the only recently-compiled account of this incident. The facts and details are all in one book.

I know that Kimmel was looking for anything related to this incident and the people involved. A couple years ago he contacted me and asked to look through the 1842 Liberty Township Estray Book. He was looking for any information about the families involved and their neighbors. He told me about the book he was writing and I had been looking forward to its publication and reading it ever since.

Out of curiosity I looked up their death records and see that Mercer County Probate Deaths record the deaths of Mary A. Secaur, Absolem Kimmel, and Alex McLeod all on the same page, one after another: [1]

Columns: Number/Name/Date of Death/Married, Single, Widowed/Age/Place of Death/Place of BirthColumns: Occupation/Father/Mother/White, Colored/Cause of Death/Residence/By Whom Reported

After 146 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, there are just some things we will never really know for sure. And I think this mystery is one of them.

Karen with author David Kimmel (2018) (David is just a little taller than me!)


[1] “Ohio, County Death Records, 1840-2001,” database with images, FamilySearch
( : viewed 20 Sep 2018), Mary A. Secaur, 23 Jun 1872; Liberty Township, Mercer Co., Vol. 1:42; FHL microfilm 914954.


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    • Kenneth on September 21, 2018 at 8:30 am
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    I remember reading about this in either the Mercer County historical book or else a combined Mercer County and Van Wert County book?I think it was a version older than the one your dad posted in.

    1. Yes, there have been several accounts written over the years. Such a shocking event for our little community.

    • Deb Reichard on September 21, 2018 at 11:34 am
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    I googled the name Absalom Kimmel and got several sites. I read the one Strange Fruits and Spanish Moss.


    • Sharon Cowen on September 23, 2018 at 12:54 pm
    • Reply

    It was good to be there and to meet you, even briefly, Karen. I’ve followed Karen’s Chatt for quite a while now, and thank you for all you do to keep us informed.

    My great grandparents, John Frederick (Fred) and Kate Schaadt, lived directly across the road (Tama Road) from the Sitterley’s (the family who took in Mary Secaur after the death of her mother and who made her the heir to their estate). And yes, the story was passed down in our family. I, too, have written about it but am not published, and am the one who voiced a theory about Mcleod’s (or McCloud’s) handkerchief being a prime piece of evidence since Mcleod claimed the blood on his clothing was due to excessive nosebleeds, yet his handkerchief only had specks on it.

    Who knows what truths may still surface in the Chatt Community?! Thank you for giving this story a voice. I would love someday to meet with any descendants from the Tama Road/Chatt area who also has memories to share about what they were told about what happened. Maybe someday the story can be put to rest, or something good can grow from it.

    Sharon Schaadt Cowen (Herb and Eda’s daughter)

    1. It was nice to meet you, too! I would love to hear your family stories about the event sometime. I see what you mean about the blood-stained handkerchief. So much we will never know for sure… Thanks for writing.

    • Larry Fast on November 6, 2022 at 1:09 am
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    I grew up on a farm located between Rockford & Celina, Ohio. Chatt is located a few miles west of that farm near the Indiana state line. That account was well known in that vicinity.

    My dad was a farmer & an auctioneer. I helped him a lot until I graduated from Parkway High School in Rockford in 1966, Sometime during that time he conducted an auction of a physician in Celina. Included in that auction was a skull. He was told that the skull was that of one of the Kimmel boys unjustly hung for killing that girl, He brought the skull home, sat it on the TV cabinet & put a cigar in its mouth. My mom always complained about the skull but my dad, being the jokester that he was, kept it there. Sometime after he died in 1980 my mom gave the skull to my sister, a nurse. I was told by my brother, my sister’s twin brother, that her son now has that skull. He lives near L.A.

    I could get you in touch with him. Perhaps a dna sample could be taken from the skull to see if it matches yours. Larry Fast

    1. Thank you for this interesting (and unusual) story and the information. I have heard stories about the selling and auctioning and passing around the skeleton and bones of some of the people involved in the Secaur murder, but have not heard this story. I am going to pass this information on to the two authors who have recently written books about the Secaur murder, in case they don’t see your comment here. The skull would be a very unique item. Thanks for writing!

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