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Chriss Biogrophies
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Biographical Sketches
Village of Newton and Wade Township
Page 493-494
J. M. Catt (married to Francis E. Chriss)

J. M. Catt was born in 1838, in Jasper County, Ill., was reared a farmer, and educated in the common schools. He enlisted, August 2, 1861, in Company K, Thirty-Eighth Illinois Infantry, commanded by William T. Carlin, and served in the Department of the Cumberland in the Atlanta campaign and fought in the battles of Fredericktown, MO., Shiloh, Perryville, KY, Stone River, Murfreesboro, Nolensville, Chickamauga, Mission Ridge, Lookout Mountain, Buzzard's Roost, Resaca, Pine Mountain, where Rebel General Polk was killed; Peach Tree Creek, siege of Atlanta, Bald Knob, Marietta, Jonesboro, Lovejoy Station, Nashville and Franklin (where ten rebel Generals were killed). After a service of four years and seven months he returned home, and in 1868 was joined in marriage with Miss Margaret E. Chambers, daughter of Rev. George and Mary (Perey) Chambers. The result of the union was five children, viz: Milton C., Flora, Jobe W., Martha E. and Jacob M. He is father of two other children by a former marriage, George J. and Joseph A. His father, Job Catt, was a German descent, born in Pennsylvania, and removed to Ohio in an early day, where he married Mary Stout, daughter of Joseph Stout. They reared a family of nine children, as follows: Margaret, Mary, John, Charles, Rachel, Catharine, Josiah, Elizabeth, J. M., four others, not named died in infancy. He was one of the early pioneers of Jasper County and was here when the Indians were yet numerous. 

Off to Hang Oscar - written by Jack McDaniel in 1981
(this is only a small portion - we do have the entire story)

**Note - Oscar Garrett was married to Lydia Ann Chriss

It was late Sunday afternoon on April 23, 1882 in St. Omer. The sun was about to disappear on the western horizon. This day had been much the same as other Sundays in the Indiana springtime, here in this small town of less than two hundred souls. 

The Arnold brothers had run the "Charter Oak" Saloon for a number of years, and some of the characters that frequented this drinking establishment, were hardly desirable. There seemed to be a gang that ran over the countryside with little regard for the rights of anyone. 

A number of houses and other buildings were burned in rapid succession, and most of these dark deeds have been traced to the same head center that did the other deviltries. The first of January, Mary French who worked as a housekeeper in the John Walton residence, was beaten to death and her clothes set on fire. Then a week later John Walton was shot and killed while sitting in his front room. A Negro, by the name of Aaron Frazier admitted that he shot Walton, but claimed he had been hired to do so by Oscar Garrett, who was on real cozy terms  with Walton's wife, Ellen. It was ell known that Garrett and Ellen Walton had been secretly seeing each other for years, but the killing of Walton was just a little too much. 

Ellen Walton's younger brother, Adolphus Arnold, who ran the Saloon where Garrett hung out, got into an argument with Garrett one afternoon over his intimacy with Arnolds sister, and Arnold hit him, nicking Garrett off his chair and was about to hit him again when Garrett pulled out his revolver and shot Arnold dead. Garrett was not charged in Arnold's death, because the grand jury said it was a case of self defense.

Walton's death and the admission of guilt by Frazier, brought the sheriff from Greensburg, and Garrett, Frazier and Mrs. Walter were arrested, and taken to the Decatur County Jail, where they were held without bond. Garrett got his case venued to Jennings County, and before the end of March, the trial was over and Garrett found not guilty. 

During the trial Garrett had unwittingly made some confessions concerning the burning of the Willis House located on the Walton farm. The day after the trial ended he was arrested on an arson charge by Decatur County authorities, and placed back in jail at Greensburg. After his acquittal at Vernon, he boasted that he was on top now and would shoot any man who crossed his path. 

Soon after Oscar Garrett was found not guilty, which was less than a month ago, some of the men who had been directly affected by his criminal activity, began to discuss the possibility that the arson charges against Oscar, might not be too strong, and there was another chance that he would be turned out to terrify the neighborhood again. It was decided to form a small, select group of trustworthy men, and plan to take the law into their own hands, and eliminate Garrett. 

Bob Thompson had been threatened by Garrett, several times. Young Walton at 22, had seen his father die after being shot by the Negro, Frazier, who Garrett had hired to shoot him. Bill Arnold's brother had been shot and killed by Garrett five years ago. Garrett's wife Mary had been mistreated by Oscar for many years, and she was very bitter about it. Everyone knew that there was no doubt that Oscar having killed Mary French. It was speculation, but he probably was the one who robbed old Col. Pearce, who lived nearby, the death and disappearance of a stranger by the name of Schromm was contributed at least in part to him, because he had bragged that he could walk within three feet of where Schromm was buried. Garrett was instrumental in the burning of Mr. Willis' house, and who could guess if Oscar was involved in the many other fires that had occurred in the past 10 years, in and around the St. Omer Community. 

Everything went like clockwork. Bill knocked on the jail door, and Toothman, the jailer, finally came to the door, thinking the city officers were bringing in someone they had arrested. Before he could hardly get the door open, three men rushed in and demanded the key to Garrett's cell. He protested and was brought upstairs by the lynch mob. A rope was placed around his neck, his wife interceded in the meantime, begged them to break down the doors and do not implicate them. With two swift blows from a sledge hammer, the clasp and lock were kicked off the door and 4 men overpowered Garrett after a terrific fight. 

He was dragged down the stairs to the first landing, where the rope was put around his neck. The mob dragged him out the front door and handed the end of the rope to Frank Walton who was quickly up the tree and threw the rope over the limb in a double loop and securely tied the knot. The mob quickly and quietly moved out in the buckboards, while the four mounted gang members stood by a few moments to be sure no one came out of the jail. 

One of the gang tied a placard to his feet, before leaving which read:

"Fiat Justitia Ruat Coelum"
"Gone to Meet Jesse"
"Decatur sends greetings to Jennings"

The first line means, let justice be done through the heavens should fall. The second line referred to Jesse James who had been killed only two weeks before this, and the third line referred to Jennings County, where the jury had found Garrett not guilty. 

** Note - This is just one story, written by Jack McDaniels, there are other versions. 

There is another story in the Greensburg Daily News its the first part to a 5 part story on Oscar Garrett written by Pat Smith, Daily News Columnist. She wrote a new part to the story each week for 5 weeks. She used mostly actual documentation to write her story. we have a copy of this. 

  • This Information kindly shared by: Sue Hunt

Copyright 1998-2004 - My Family's Heart Genealogy All information contained within these pages are the personal property of Ruth Ann (nee McGinnis) Gauthier and Tonya Rena (nee Gauthier) Kellum. We kindly ask that you please not take anything from these pages without our written consent first. Much of this information was generously shared with us by other researches and has been so noted. That information is being used with their permission. Thank you kindly!!