The story today begins with the birth of Stella Bates on June 12, 1872 in Grafton, Illinois…or does it. Our German Family Tree says that she was born on June 12th, but after doing plenty of research on this story, I discovered that her gravestone and death certificate indicate that her birthday was on July 12th, not June 12th. However, I had too much invested in this story, so that is what you are getting.
Stella was the daughter of William and Mary (Abbott) Bates. In the 1900 census for St. Louis, Missouri, we find Stella living with her new husband, Joseph Zimmerer, and her father.
The zeros behind the marital status column indicate that this couple was married for zero years.
On June 10, 1902, a child was born into this family. Her name was Josephine. Here is a St. Louis birth record for her.
Sometime before 1914, Stella’s husband must have died. This 1914 St. Louis city directory lists Stella as Joseph’s widow.
For some unknown reason, Stella and Josephine moved to Wittenberg around 1916 because two events took place involving them during that year. First of all, in April of that year, Josephine married Paul Lorenz. Here is the marriage license for this couple.
These two were married by a Justice of the Peace in Jackson, Missouri on April 19, 1916. According to my reckoning, Josephine had not even reached her 14th birthday when this wedding took place. Paul Lorenz was 20 years old. This form notes that her mother, Stella, gave her consent.
During that same year, Stella married again. Her second husband was Roy Garris. These two were married on September 16th. Here is their marriage license.
This wedding was conducted by a different Justice of the Peace in Jackson. When this marriage took place, Stella was 42 years old, and Roy was 21 years old. Roy was the son of Louis and Sally (Strickland) Garris. Here is a photo of Roy’s parents.
We also have this photo of Roy with a Strickland family. Roy is the one in the back holding the gun.
We also have this photo of Roy’s mother, Sally, and his younger brother, Louis, Jr.
In 1917, both Paul Lorenz and Roy Garris filled out World War I draft registrations. Here is the one for Paul. A child had been born in this family in April of 1917, and that is indicated on this form which was submitted in June.
This one was Roy’s.
Both of these young men were shown working as tie makers at T.J. Moss Tie Company. I will say more about that company later. Roy and Stella had just one child who was born in April of 1918. Her name was Cathaleen Garris, and her baptism record is one of the few Garris records in our German Family Tree.
It is said that when a hotel was built by the company that owned the swing factory in Wittenberg in 1919 that Stella and her daughter, Josephine, were the first ones to run that hotel. This hotel housed men who were working at the swing factory. Here are some photos of that hotel taken during a flood. You can click on these photos to enlarge them.
The building says Perfection Fur. Mfg Co on it, but that is not a fur company. Fur. is an abbreviation for furniture.
Here is the 1920 census showing the Garris family. Roy is said to be a section hand for the Frisco railroad.
Stella and Josephine must not have run the hotel for very long, because the 1920 census shows that Ida Buenger was operating it. The 1930 census shows the Garris family still living in Wittenberg. Roy was a fireman for the railroad.
When the 1940 census was taken, we find an unusual situation. Roy is a boarder in Chester, Illinois and working on a W.P.A. government project.
Meanwhile, Stella can be found living in Elsah, IL, a town very near where she was born.
On Roy’s census form, the “M” for married is crossed off and another notation is made there that I cannot read. Stella’s marriage status is listed as a widow. The last record I could find for Roy was his World War II draft card. He was still living in Chester and working for the W.P.A.
Roy was married again to Irene Vessel in 1942. I found this marriage license from Perryville, Missouri.
This must be the Irene Garris that is shown on the draft card. A Social Security record says that Roy died in March of 1957. His death certificate says he died in St. Louis.
Later in her life, Stella is pictured with other people in her family
Stella must have returned to Perry County later in her life because that is where she died. She died in 1959. Here is her death certificate.
She is buried in the St. Paul’s Lutheran Cemetery in Wittenberg. Here is her gravestone.
To sum up, the Garris surname seems to be one of those names that showed up in Perry County during the time that the railroad was being constructed at around the turn of the century. It is a surname that showed up in the Wittenberg area for a while. Like other people that lived in this area who worked on the railroad construction, these folks probably were not able to speak any German. That may have been the biggest factor to keep these folks from being involved in the Lutheran churches here. On the other hand, the influx of primarily English-speaking people into Wittenberg certainly led to the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church being the first congregation in this area to move to having church services done in English.
I have saved one of the most fascinating episodes in the Garris history which is connected to the Lutheran church. Take a look at this record we find in the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church books.
When she was in her 60’s, Stella was baptized. Many years earlier, she had had her own daughter baptized at this church, but now she herself was being baptized in 1934. Please note that her daughter and son-in-law were her sponsors. Then, two weeks later, on April 1st, Stella was confirmed at St. Paul’s.
This was no ordinary Sunday. It was Easter Sunday. Here is her confirmation verse:
“Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you.” Isaiah 54:10
I just have to include a little information about the T.J. Moss Tie Company. That company was one of the largest suppliers of railroad ties in America at the time. I ran across a video showing the tie-making process as it occurred during the time period when Wittenberg was getting its railroad built. These original movie clips were made by the T.J. Moss Tie Company. The video shows some pretty amazing black-and-white footage. The video is 23 minutes long, but if you do not have the time for it all, it is possible to watch just portions. I found it particularly interesting to see individual workers carrying railroad ties on their shoulders as they loaded boxcars. I was in awe.
East Perry County’s largest business these days is the lumber industry. Many local folks are still employed in the business of taking logs and sawing them into useful shapes.