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Life on the Rivers


(Part I)   (Part II)  (Part III)  (Part IV)  (Part V)  (Part VI)  (Photos)




July 10th 1902


Researcher Sue Rekkas  


July 10, 1902


Murder on “The Dubuque”


“Kills Two”


Double Tragedy on The

Steamer Dubuque


“Cowboys Shot”


They Attempt to Run Boat by Pulling their Guns With Threats


River Man Too Quick


Dead Mans bodies are brought to Davenport and the steamer and mate are held for the investigation


     A father lying dead by the side of his son each gasping cold revolvers in their hands while standing above them was Mate Dan Breen of the Diamond Jo Line was the awful sight which greeted the eyes of the passengers and employees of the boat as they rushed to the forward hatch on the main deck of the steamer Dubuque at noon today.  The double tragedy occurred just as the boat pulled away from the Davenport landing and was the result of a squabble which had been in progress for 15 minutes.  The men were known as Christopher Leonidas and son, and went under the title of “The Roving Cowboys.”  They had been plying their trade of venders of hair restorer in Rock Island but had evidently met with little success for they still had five days for their license to run and had booked for passage up the river.  They were apparently under the influence of liquor.


    The son died in the ambulance on his way to the station.


 How the Shooting Occurred


      The men, Christopher Leonidas and son, or Lee Leonidas and son, as they were booked on the steamers list boarded the boat at Rock Island.  They took seats on some boxes sitting over the forward hatch on the main deck.  The boat left Rock Island at about 11:40 and came directly across the river.  In this city the boat took on a small amount of freight and then backed out preparatory to going u the river.


      In the meantime trouble had been brewing.  The elder Leonidas a man of perhaps 60 years had left his seat and gone out on the open deck.  Both the men were dressed in proverbial western style with revolvers and knives showing plainly.  The elder Leonidas, on the deck, began to flash his long cowboy whip and make slashes at he legs of the colored employees of the boat.


     Mate Dan Breen accented trouble then and going to the clerk of the boat.  Morris Killeen, he borrowed that gentlemen’s revolver to be prepare for an emergency.  But as he returned to the deck with the gun the elder Leonidas had quieted down and presently returned to his son, a man of perhaps 25 years who had remained seated on the boxes.  A deck hand, Matt Nimmow, went to the main hatch to shift about some of the freight.  The cowboys objected.  Nimmow persisted and the younger man made a movement as to draw his gun, remarking at the same time that they had paid their passage and owned the d—d boat, and likewise the d—d captain until they got off.”  When the gun came into play Nimmow desisted in the argument and left.


     He went to Mate Breen and told him of the difficulty, Breen went below and over to where the men were.  He ordered them not to bother his men in the performance of their duties and said that when his men started to move the boxes they should do so in peace.  John Selectman, a colored Porter and John Breen, brother of the mate, and a deck hand on the steamer was close behind while always in the distance was clerk Morris Killeen.


They Drew Their Guns


  As Breen finished speaking the two drew their revolvers, which were hanging from holsters at their belts.  But quicker even they, Mate Dan Breen whipped the borrowed revolver from his pocket and opened fire.  Stories as to how many bullets he fired vary but most reports say that he shot five times with lightning rapidity.  The first shots were directed at the elder Leonidas, who seemed to be the principal cause of the trouble.  The first bullet struck him on the thigh.  He dropped the revolver and sank to the floor.  As he sank to the ground another well aimed, bullet struck him I the right side of the stomach. Piercing the liver.  He fell to the ground, dead.  Meantime the son, with the revolver still in his hand. Started to retreat toward the rear of the boat and Mate Breen turned his fire upon the son. Fearing an attack from that quarter.  A bullet, probably the second fired, struck him just above the crest of the left groin and he sank helpless to the deck.  The shooting was over.  Almost immediately the entrance to the deck swarmed with passengers and employees and the boat was stopped just after whistling for the bridge and put back to this city.


Arrest of Breen


  United States marshal George Christians of Des Moines happened to be on the boat, having just boarded it with his daughter for a pleasure trip to Clinton.  He rushed at once to the scene and found Breen still standing with the smoking revolver in his hand.  He had made no effort to escape.  Mr. Christians at once placed him under arrest, believing that the murder was committed in territory under the control of the government.  When the boat was back to the landing the ambulance was at once notified to come for the bodies and Marshall Christians with Breen went to the Commissioner Bush’s office.  Mr. Bush upon looking up the law decided that the case came under the supervision of the state of Iowa, so the man was accordingly turned over to the police.  He is now in a cell at the city jail.


Son Dies In Ambulance


  When the Ambulance arrived at the landing the younger of the two men was still alive, although only semiconscious.  The men were at once placed in the ambulance and started for the police station.  When the wagon arrived there it was discovered that the man had died on the trip and with the two dead men the ambulance turned back and took them to bodies undertaking parlors, where the bodies now lie.

  As soon as the bodies reached the undertaking rooms a crowd of men and women, filled only with a morbid desire to see the dead men, filled the rooms and it was with difficulty that the police were enabled to clear them again. Dr. Bowman arrived soon afterwards and made a hurried postmortem examination of the bodies.  The younger man was found to have but one wound.  A bullet from the revolver, apparently of a 38-caliber, had entered his stomach just below the crest of the left groin and was the direct cause of death.  The clothing of the older man was fairly soaked in his own blood.  A wound was found in which the bullet had passed through his  ---and had entered the body just below the lower ribs on the right side.  It had passed clear through the body, perforating the liver and the bullet was lying against his undershirt at his back.  The bullet must have been fired at close range and had not varied a half-inch in any direction while passing through.  His coat was burnt by the close contact of the revolver when fired.


Story the Letters Told


  A great quantity of business cards, bills and letters were found in the pockets of the elder Leonidas.  These would seem to indicate that they went under the sobriquet of the “Roving Cowboys” the letters also seemed to disclose the fact that they were selling a hair-restorer, the invention of the elder man.  Many of the bills showed that they used lithographed printed matter quite extensively.  A number of the letters were from M. A. Crawford of Girard, IA. And were apparently in regard to Crawford actins as their agent.  Other letters were in regard to businesses matters and came from Spring Grove. Minn.  A license to peddle in the city of Chicago and good from May 8, 1902, to June 18, was also found among their effects.  Likewise a permit signed by Mayor B. F. Knox of Rock Island dated July 8, and giving them permission to dispose of their goods on the streets without charge for the period of one week as they were to be handled by the local drug stores after that time.  The license had five days to run.


The Dead Men


  From papers found on the dead men nothing further concerning their identity could be learned than that their mail was all addressed to Christopher Leonidas and Son instead of Leo Leonidas and Son as he signed his name on the ship’s list.  The older man of the two, presumably Christopher Leonidas, wore a blue serge coat, a blue flannel shirt and black pants.  At the time of his death he wore a broad brimmed hat and from heavy leather bell strapped about his waist hung two large revolvers while a long bowie knife was suspended in a sheath on a cord about his neck.  The son was similarly attired.  Both had long hair of a light auburn color and almost as fine as a woman’s.  It was carefully braided and coiled about their head but each with a braid hanging loose, the father appears to be a man of possibly 60 years of age.  He wears a beard and mustache but otherwise his face is clean-shaven.  A great quantity of letters and bills were found on his person.  The son appears to be about 25 years of age, but his face appears to be almost devoid of a beard.  A rough brass badge was pinned at the collar of his shirt, which bears an Elk’s head and the letters B. P. Q. E. seeming to indicate that he is a member of the Elk’s lodge.


Their Career in Rock Island


 Christopher Leonidas and son had been in Rock Island three days and although they at all times wore their knives, revolvers and appeared on the street in the full cowboy attire they appeared peaceable and had never been noticed to be drunk or under the influence of liquor.  The mayor had given them the free permit with the understanding that their goods were to be placed in the local drug stores for sale but at the time of their leaving they had failed to make any such arrangements.  Their specialty was the hair restorer, said to be the manufacture of the elder and to have the ability to restore color to hair and to make hair grow, where it had long since ceased to exist.


Mate Dan Breen


  Dan Breen, mate of the steamer Dubuque upon which the tragedy occurred this noon, and who played such a prominent part is the affair, is an old river man and is about 55 years of age.  Up to the time of the present trouble he has always enjoyed a reputation as being exceptionally peaceable and his men say that he is exceedingly quiet.  He has a family living in Dubuque.  Mr. Breen has retained Attorney Bush to look after his interests in the case.  On account of the fact that the shooting happened at almost exactly noon most of the hands and nearly all the guests of the boat were at dinner so there were few witnesses to the affair.  The examination of the men’s baggage did not throw any additional light on the situation.   




 The Davenport Democrat

July 10, 1902


Packet Dubuque is Held up by Cowboys


   “Leonidas & Son comedy company, Admit One,” So read a ticket that bore the pictures of two men whose bodies lie in the Boles Undertaking rooms, and for whom life’s comedy is played out, turned in a –to tragedy on the deck of the steamer Dubuque this morning.

  The men boarded the Diamond Jo boat Dubuque when it reached Rock Island this morning and ticketed themselves and effects to Macgregor.  They were wore brimmed sombreros, had knives and revolvers in their belts and were as tough appearing a pair as one meets in these days when side artillery is not as conversation as formerly.


Looking for Trouble


  They were looking for trouble, and a steamboat isn’t a bad place to go when you’re dying for a fight.

  Before the boat had reached the Davenport side the men had one fight with the mate, arising from the disposal of their baggage or some other trivial matter.  The noise and cursing of the men could be heard on the upper deck, and Captain Simmons went down to try to quiet them. 

  After the boat left Davenport the men got after the mate again.  The boat had whistled for the draw when workers on the Davenport levee heard the shouting on the boat, saw the wheel stop its revelations, and turned the boat coming back to shore.

  When the boat arrived one of the man who had been looking for trouble was carried off, dead, and the other was drawing nearly his last breath before the decision was made to take him to the hospital had been made the death struggle ended all and the undertakers became the proper destination for both.  They were taken to the Boles undertaking establishment followed by hundreds of the curious.


The mate arrested


  United States Marshall Christian was on the boat and placed the mate under arrest


The Dead Men


  Papers on the persons of the dead men showed that they were patent medicine dealers traveling with a tent and making themselves the Leonides & Son comedy Company.  They wore marksmen medals and big revolvers and each had a bowie knife. The younger one was of especially villainous impressions. His hair hung in braids three feet long, from under his big sombrero. The other wore a beard and his hair also hung into his shoulders in braids, perhaps 18 inches long.


The Mates Story


  “It was my life or their’s.” said Mate Breen to a Davenport reporter who interviewed him in his cell shortly after his arrest.  “They were bad men, and had called the captain down, and were after me too.  I never saw too uglier men, and when they drew their guns I knew it was kill or be killed.  How are they now?”

“Both are dead,” said the newspaperman.

  “Is that so, Well, I’m sorry, but I couldn’t help it.  They were bound to make trouble, and I had to shoot.  They had their guns out, and one of them shot, but it went wild, It was about 20 feet aft of the forward gang that the trouble came to its climax.”

  “They wanted to run the boat we couldn’t have that.

  “I have been steamboating for 26 years, and I have been on the Dubuque since spring.  I was never in any trouble before.”


A Passengers Conclusion


  “I was on the lower deck and saw the pair shortly after they got on.”  Said one of the passengers to a Democrat reporter this afternoon.  “I was about to remark to the younger one, in a jocular way, “I didn’t know there were cowboys around here any more.” But he looked at me in so ugly a manner that I concluded I would leave him alone.  They were tough customers.”


Captain Simmons Story


  “I heard the men in an argument with the mate,” said Captain Simmons, “and went down and told them to quit, and that they could have their fare back and leave he boat if they weren’t satisfied.  Then I went up stairs and the first thing I knew I heard shooting.”


Inquest This Afternoon

  An Inquest is being held in the Boles Undertaking rooms.  Coroner Lembach and County Physicians E. S. Bowman were soon there, examined the men’s wounds, and the coroner compelled a jury for an investigation of the affair.  Ely & Bush are looking after the interests of the mate and Schmidt & Vollmer appear for the Diamond Jo Company.




Davenport Times

July 11, 1902

Pg. 4




Coroner’s Jury says Justifiable Homicide


  The coroners jury in the case of Dan Breen, mate on the Diamond Jo steamer Dubuque, charged with shooting and killing Professor Christopher Leonidas and son last evening returned a verdict completely exonerating Breen from blame.  This jury in the case retired at 6 o’clock and the verdict was arrived at after three quarters of an hour consideration. Mate Breen together with 16 of the passengers and crew of the boat who had remained or been detained after the departure of the boat: one account of the inquest, left over the “Q” for Clinton. Where they joined the boat again.

  Nine witnesses were examined during the inquest and several of these were eyewitnesses of the affair.  Their stories of the affair differed considerably in minor points but all were cossisive in the statement that the father and son had their weapons ready for immediate use and that Mate Breen told them to put up their weapons before he began shooting.

  Captain John Simmons, commander of the Dubuque was the first witness.  Captain Simmons testified as to the appearance of the men who were killed: of his ordering the boat back to Davenport after the shooting and of the previous good character of the mate.  He said that the two men held tickets for McGregor.


Man Who Owned the Gun


  Clerk Morris Killeen of the steamer Dubuque was the next witness.  Mr. Killeen testified as to heaving lent his revolver to Mate Dan Breen but a few minutes before the shooting fray he said that Breen often borrowed the gun when he has especially troublesome men to deal with.  Killlen heard the mate remark as he went down the deck stairs that there would be trouble.  Thereupon he followed him and saw the shooting.  Before Breen fired, Killeen says that he told the medicine men to put away their guns.  Killeen said that he had known Breen for six years and always as a peaceable man.  Dr. J. R. Swats, a practicing physician of St. Louis was sitting on the steps landing from the boiler deck to the supper deck when the shooting occurred.  Just before, he told the jury, he heard the medicine men say that if the mate tried to run his bluff they would fix him.  After the first shot was fired the doctor sought safer quarters on the hurricane deck.

  L. G. Stock, traveling salesman for a St. Louis dry goods house, was enjoying a pleasure trip on the boat.  He was also on the stairs at the time of the shooting but instead of running away he stayed and watched the developments.  He testified to the fact that the medicine men had their revolvers ready for action and that the quarrel had been more intense by the fact that the mate had asked him if he ever saw cowboys before with whips and no horses.


John had Trouble


  John Selectman, colored porter on the boat and eyewitness of the shooting, was the next witness.  He proved the stellar attraction of the inquest and kept the jury and crowd laughing.  He derailed the trouble over the moving of the medicine men’s baggage and remarked rather disconsolately that he was between two fires and really did not know who he was working for.  The mate ordered him to do one thing and the medicine men ordered the other preceding.  The medicine men held the trump cards in the shape of guns and whips and he rather guessed that they were the balance of power.  When the shooting started John seems to have again been between two fires.  He graphically described the triangle in the center of which he stood and how he squeezed his 200 odd pounds of meat up against the hatchway to escape the flying bullets.  He was very uncertain as to the number of shots fired but said that it seemed like a dozen or more were going.  He had come disgusted with the whole affair early in the game and told the mate that he would have nothing to do with the prisoner’s baggage.


Other Witnesses Examined


  A number of other witnesses were examined, John Breen, brother of the mate, testified that both men had drawn their guns.  He did not stay to see the shooting.  Breen is a deck hand on the steamer.  Frank Breen cabin boy and son of the mate testified that while the shooting was in progress the younger cowboy pointed his gun square at the mate.  All the witnesses testified that other men had examined the bodies while the boat was putting back. 


A Real Sensation


  The real sensational evidence of the afternoon was that offered by Detective Mundt, the first officer to take the wounded men in charge.  He testified that when he found them the flaps of the holsters in which their revolvers were carried were securely buttoned.


  Dr. Hender testified as to the results of the findings of the two men.  His testimony was substantially in regard to the wounds as that told yesterday in The Times, except that he said that the bullet striking the younger man had entered the hip near the back and described an upward course going out on the side just above the crest of the left groin.  It was at first supposed that the bullet entered there.  The younger man must have been standing with his back almost to the mate when the fatal shot was fired.  Death in his case was due to the cutting of a large artery.  The bullet was picked up in his pants leg.


Came from Central City


  It is a decided fact that the men came from Central city, Col. And although no provisions for their burial have yet been made, nor have any arrangements been made for the disposal of their luggage, which is quite extensive, consisting of a trunk, three tent boxes, tent poles, valances, and other boxes, together with two bicycles and a huge blood hound, dog, yet it is quite likely that they will be sent to Colorado City, if any relatives there can be found.  Telegraphic queries have been sent there to expose any fact possible about their lives. It is not believed that the older man is married or that the younger man posing as his son, is really his son.  The supposition is advanced that the boy is a distant relative or a ward.

  The men were well known in Chicago where they frequently exhibited and where they were known as the longhaired medicine men.  From time to time they have exhibited themselves in a Clark street museum.  In writing of the affair the Chicago chronicle says:


  Leonidas and his son had been familiar figures about Chicago most of ten years.  The father was known by the appellation (?) of “Old Hermit.”  He was very reticent and revealed but little of his past. It is thought by those who knew him best that the thwarting of some early ambition embittered his life. 


Landlord’s Tale


  Confiding in his landlord M. L. Lattling, 489 Wabash avenue, with whom he lived the last five months of his stay in Chicago, Leonidas said last Monday when about to depart for Rock Island that he came from Texas and he expected that his boy, who would soon be 21 years old, would come into possession of $20,000 as a result of litigation in a Michigan court.


  Leonidas made and sold a “cure all” and also a hair-restorer which he and his son sold through the country.  The first week in May the old man was on exhibition at a Clark street museum, posing as “The Lone Fisherman.”  The father and son had saved a considerable sum of money, it is said, and had made known their intention to Sidney Clark, 442 West Chicago avenue, of purchasing a boat and gong down the Mississippi, giving exhibitions and selling medicine.  Those who knew Leonidas here said that at times he appeared to be partially insane.

  Leonidas was writing a story based on his career and the manuscript was in his trunk when he left Chicago.  He said the book was nearly ready for publication.  Curiously enough, he had planned to have the story and with the shooting of the hero, who was patterned after the writer.  


Were Peaceable


   In an interview with the same man the Tribune, Chicago has the following, which would seen to show that the general reputation of the two men was one of peace.  Therefore the theory that the men had been drinking rather heavily gains credence.  The tribune’s story is as follows:


   N. K. Latting, proprietor of the rooming house at 489 Wabash avenue, said last night: “Christopher Leonidas and his son roomed here for about four months prior to last Monday, when they left, Both sold medicine when they left.  Both sold medicine fro house to house- a hair-restorer and a salve- and dressed in freakish fashion revolvers having long hair and knives in their belts constantly.  The father was about 55 years old and the son about 20.  They roomed with me.  Leonidas told me he was to come into the possession of about $50,000 through a decision of a Texas court about property left by his mother’s side.  Leonidas said it was their intention to go to some point on the Mississippi river and there buy a boat in which they could float down to New Orleans and sell medicine on the way.  They were very peaceable and not at all given to boisterous conduct.” 




The Davenport Democrat

July 11, 1902



Decided Cowboys were killed in self-defense


  By verdict of a coroner’s jury consisting of W. D. Peterson, M. J. Easger and E. H. Gifford, the killing of Christopher Leonidas and son by Mate Breen of the steamer Dubuque was declared an act of self defense, and in accordance with the verdict the mate was liberate Thursday evening and took the train for Clinton to catch the steamer


Juror’s Statement


  “There was no question in our minds, from the evidence submitted to the jury.”  Said one of the jurors this morning “that the dead men were looking for trouble, that they had threatened the mate, and made a move toward heir weapons.  In such a case it becomes the right of the other party to shoot first if he can, and Breen was entitled to that right.”


Street Talk


  There has been some comment today to the effect that the mate was hasty with his gun, and the jury hasty in letting him go, but this is based upon the fact that the medicine men willed when the mate called their bluff, and jupon the stories of a passenger or two who have said they failed to hear the altercations testified to before the jury.  But these passengers took good care not to testify.  In fact, one or more hurried out of town just to escape the complications and delay to which appearing as witnesses at the inquest and possible trial might subject them.  The testimony before the jury, therefore, was most of it one-sided, and showing that the mate acted with provocation and in self defense. 


Imitation Cowboys


  The dead men paid the penalty for putting up a bluff that they couldn’t carry out.  Dressed, armed and acting like rough and desperate men, the mate took them to be what they seemed.  If neither intended any damage, and if one started to run a soon as bullets began to fly, there seems to have been no reason to suppose that this would happen before the gun play occurred.


  The records of the two dead men do not seem to hear out the actions that resulted in fatally for them.  In rock Island and Chicago they seem to have credit for quiet and peaceable dispositions, although one paper suggests that the older man was sometimes though demented.


  Mayor Knox of Rock Island states that the older man applied to him for a license on Wednesday; that the men appeared quite gentlemanly, and said they only carried their pistols loaded at night, and that their sidearms and make-up was for advertising purposes.


  While the postmortem tributes to the medicine men make them appear a quiet and peaceable pair, Mate Breen is not lacking bouquets, either.  The river papers express surprise at the incident and comment on Mr. Breen’s kindly and considerate ways, which seem to have been quite remarkably developed for a steamboat mate.


  “Mr. Breen is one of the best acting mates I have seen on the river,” said Agent James Osborn this morning.  “He comes in here every time the boat comes to Davenport, in directing the loading and unloading.  I don’t believe I ever heard him swear.  He is a quiet man when they are short handed, he takes hold and lends a hand himself.  He is no coward.  The company telegraphed here that whatever bond was demanded for him should be furnished, which indicates their opinion of him.”


Dog and Luggage here


   The big dog, said to be a bloodhound, that the men brought on the boat with them, took no particular notice of the shooting.  He was chained to a box near by.  A trunk was run in front of him to hinder any demonstrations he might make when the men were taken away, but he made none.  He was very lean, and apparently wasted little affection on the men.  One of them struck at him with a blacksnake whip and hit a nigger by mistake, according to a witness at the inquest.  After the dog and luggage were moved into the Diamond Jo warehouse, the animal made friends readily with all who paid any attention to him, but arose and quietly watched anyone who got very near the goods.  He has been placed in good hands, until claimed by someone who can show a right to him.


  The remains of the men, and their effects, are at he Boles undertaking rooms, and their bodies will probably be buried here, by tomorrow at the latest, if friends or relatives are not heard from.


Died From Hemorrhage


  At the post mortem examination over the bodies of Leonidas and his son, it was decided by the doctors.  





The Davenport Daily Republican dated July 12, 1902 on page 7 read:



That Further Investigation by the Authorities Into the Killing of the Two Men Would Not be Amiss,

is an Opinion Generally Expressed

--J. T. Mabry Once worked for Leonidas & Son.


  The bodies of the two men shot by Mate Breen of the steamer Dubuque are still at the Bois undertaking rooms, where they were viewed yesterday by hundreds of men, women and children, all intent upon seeing the faces of the singular persons who met death in so tragic a manner.  The morbid curiosity that many people have in regard to the bodies of slaughtered persons could be studied by any one that sat in the office of the undertaking establishment and saw the little girls and the women of all degrees of apparent intelligence and refinement enter the street door and ask the question:

  “Can we see the dead men?”

The first impression the observer of the procession received was one of amazement, which tapered down to mild astonishment when he found the question repeated by hundreds and discovered that such manifestations of curiosity were not confined to a few individuals nor to any one class of people.

  The death of the men and the act of the mate in shooting the two medicine men was the topic of a good deal of talk about the city during the day and while the verdict of the coroner’s jury was generally commended as being the proper thing in view of the evidence at the inquest, and wholly a reasonable view to take of the occurrence, many persons expressed themselves as being in favor of further action by the state in looking into the matter of the records of the Leonidas men and of the mate at whose hands they died, and into the facts of the killing, as they may be shown by testimony that was not available for the inquest.

A Common Opinion.

  As it was put by a gentleman yesterday the coroner’s inquest is designed to get testimony as nearly on the spot and immediately after the occurrence as possible and must, by its very nature be imperfect as an investigation, such as it takes time and careful study to make.  The inquest in the present case served its purpose well and no one can have complaint about the verdict, which was approved by most of those who listened to the testimony, but of course an inquest is not the same sort of investigation as might be conducted by the state authorities and the grand jury, and the finding in one might be different from that in the other.  Although the preponderance of the evidence in the inquest was in favor of the theory that the medicine men were drawing their revolvers upon Mate Breen, when he shot them, such preponderance might not exist after a further inquiry and the securing of other eyewitness to give testimony.  Then there are serious contradictions in the testimony as it was submitted at the inquest in regard to the actions of the father and son just before they were shot.  The story of their words with the mate and his words to them was rather hazy and Detective Mundt’s statement that the hoisters were buttoned up over the revolvers when he took them from the belts of the dying men is strangely at variance with what a number of the witnesses said, when they testified that the two drew their weapons part way out of their holsters just before or during the shooting.

Worked for Leonidas

  J. T. Mabry, the city scavenger, is one of the Davenporters that knew Mr. Leonidas and his son.  In fact, Mr. Mabry was in the employ of Leonidas for a month or more in 1896, when the long-haired man and his boy were showing in the opera houses of central Illinois mining towns, giving a sort of vaudeville entertainment and traveling as “Leonidas & son, The Hermits.”  In the year mentioned Mr. Mabry was digging dusky diamonds for good wages and by organizing a band of colored musicians showed the enterprise he displayed later in a more signal manner.  It was as the business manager of this band, that the future city scavenger of Davenport had dealings with the men destined to meet their death at the hands of the mate on a Mississippi river steamer.  When Mr. Mabry was interviewed yesterday with regard to his impression of Christopher Leonidas he said he remembered the older man as being very kind in his treatment of every one and the young man as being a quiet lad.

Mr. Mabry Talks.

  “They were not in the medicine business but were wholly in the amusement line, playing to good houses in the …  He gave up a supper after the performance in which our band was a principal feature.  He made money so long as he played in places near enough to our places of work that we could fill engagements with him and continue to hole down our jobs in the mines.  When the nearby towns were exhausted, we had to part company with him.  He gave us a supper after the performance the last night we were with him.  He was always on the square and was a man with a keen appreciation of the humorous.  One of his sketches he and his son put upon the stage was the representation of a hermit’s cave, with the older man in the role of the hermit and appearing on the stage as the curtain went up.  Presently the young man made his entrance and a dialogue occurred somewhat like this:

  “’Who art thou?’ the young man would cry at the sight of the uncouth and crouching figure of the hermit.

  “’I am Leonidas, the hermit,’ would be the response in sepulchral tones.  Then the youth would rush forward and exclaim in a voice of delight:

  “’And I am the son of Leonidas, the hermit.’

  “’My son, my son, my long lost son,’ the older man would then say between sobs, and would clasp the form of his offspring in his arms, while the curtain was descending amid deafening applause on the part of the house.  A few seconds later the two would respond to a curtain call, coming before the lights hand in hand.” 

  Mr. Mabry goes to Ft. Madison in a day or two to attend the meeting of the grand lodge of colored Odd Fellows and he expects, while there, to meet a number of the former members of the band that played for Leonidas and Son.  He thinks some of them may know something of the recent history of the dead men.


Letter Never Mailed.

  Examination of the contents of the trunks and packages of the two men conducted under the direction of the coroner yesterday did not result in any startling discovery or even in determining the place which the father and son were accustomed to call home.  A letter written by the older man in Rock Island a few hours before he took the boat and never mailed was found to be directed to a woman at Waterville, Iowa.  From the tone and statements of the letter and from letters received from the woman it was evident that marriage was contemplated and that MacGregor, Ia., where the Leonidas men intended from the Dubuque, was to be the scene of the nuptial knot tying at an early date.  The letter, penned in Rock Island and never mailed, contained assurances of love and said the young man would bring the woman to MacGregor, where, if all proved satisfactory, the wedding bells would ring.

Known in

  According to the Chicago papers of yesterday morning the Leonidases were familiar figures in that city, sometimes appearing as vendors of salves and hair ointments and again as freaks in dime museums, posing as hermits captured in the far West.  The Tribune prints the following interview with N. K. Latting, proprietor of the rooming house at 489 Wabash avenue:

  “Christopher Leonidas and his son roomed here for about four months prior to last Monday, when they left.  Both sold medicine from house to house-a hair restorer and a salve--and dressed in freakish fashion, having long hair and wearing revolvers and knives in their belts constantly.  The father was about 55 years old and the son about 20.  They had often been in Chicago before they roomed with me.  Leonidas told me just before he left that his son had come into $20,000 through a decision of a Texas court about property left by the young man’s grandfather on his mother’s side.  Leonidas said it was their intention to go to some point on the Mississippi river and there buy a boat in which they could float down to New Orleans and sell medicines on the way.  They were very peaceable and not at all given to boisterous conduct.”




The Davenport Daily Republican

July 17, 1902

Pg. 6




Conditions That Drove Dan Breen’s Companions Insane Changed


   The important part that Mate Breen played in the terrible tragedy on the steamer Dubuque at the Davenport levee last week ahs caused surprise among his fellow rivermen the entire length of the river, for Mr. Breen has always been known as one of the quietest and most peaceable men that ever held the position of mate on a Mississippi packet.  From his disposition it was believed that Mate Breen would have gone to almost any length to have avoided the killing of two fellow beings, not that he is a coward, but that his quiet nature would not allow such deeds.


  But a very well known riverman, who knows Mate Breen like a book, comes forward with the statement that the Dan Breen who recently returned from the Yukon river is not the same Dan Breen who recently returned form the Yukon river is not the same Dan Breen who went to the far Northwest a couple of years ago.  It is believed that life in the rugged solitude of Alaska has changed the disposition of the man until the nature that once would have rebelled against pouring lead into the body of a fellow being now has no scruples against exterminating lives under such extenuating circumstances as existed on the steamer Dubuque that fatal Thursday. Some have advanced the theory that the mate was so frightened that he did not realize what he was doing.  But the riverman mentioned has an entirely different theory.


  In the party of 18 that left the Mississippi for the Yukon several years ago, five became so morose and melancholy as to be mentally unbalanced, some of them being stark insane.  The loneliness of the region, the long winter tie-ups and the distance from home were blamed for these conditions.  While the riverman who advances this theory does not intimate that Dan Breen’s mind was at any time unbalanced he argues that the same causes that drove others insane had their effect in changing the nature and disposition of the man who killed Christopher Leonidas and son Ellsworth.


The article below was printed on page 9 of the
Davenport Times dated July 17, 1902




Heart’s Secret of Rough Man Was Revealed by Letters On His Person at Death

  “May God bless us all and spare.”  So closed a letter teeming with terms of affection and written to Christopher Leonidas by Mrs. M.M. Gibbs, of Girard, Iowa, his betrothed bride.  The letter was only one of many but this little sentence written at a date only two weeks since is so full of feeling and of a woman’s fordoing of something which might come between her loved one and herself that it can be graven forever on the hearts of all who read it.

  When Christopher Leonidas, cowboy and medicine man, was shot dead at noon yesterday by Mate Dan Breen of the steamer Dubuque, he was on his way to Girard, Ia., there to wed the woman he loved, Mrs. M.M. Gibbs.  He had left Rock Island with strong hopes of again settling down to a happy domestic life, filling in his bosom.  And his son Ellsworth Leonidas, was happy too.  With his stepmother he was to find a stepbrother, Harry Gibbs, while all his life he had known no relatives, nor heard any loving words, save from his rough father.  Harry Gibbs is a lad about the age of Ellsworth, the dead boy, and both father and son looked forward to the coming event with every joyous anticipation.  The “Old Hermit”, as Leonidas ‘the elder’ was called, was no longer to be a hermit.  The lad was to find the loving care of a mother, something which he had never known in the whole roving course of his life. 

Letters Tell a Story

  The letters which were found on the person of Christopher Leonidas tell a story incomplete in its details, but a story where love is uppermost through all the channels, a story made tragically pathetic in the untimely end of both father and son, now stretched cold in death on rude shutters at the morgue while up in a farm Home near Girard there wait’s a woman and her expectant son.  The woman is planning the little details of the trousseau, which is to grace her early wedding to the man whom she loves, while the lad is thinking of the happy days he is to spend among the fields and woods with his new brother.  They do not know, yet that down on the broad Mississippi which flows such a short distance from their home, a terrible tragedy has been enacted and that their loved ones have passed beyond recall.

  At one time Mrs. M. M. Gibbs, a hard-working widow, operated at Watertown, a little hotel.  Watertown is not a large city.  Its residences are small and are bounded within 10 blocks while the rolling Iowa prairies are on every side.  One day last year there came to that town two men in picturesque attire.  They were medicine men, the “Roving Cowboys,”  they called themselves, and they sold a wonderful hair restorer and a salve warranted to cure all the ills to which human flesh is heir.  They registered at the little hotel over which Mrs. Gibbs presided as Christopher Leonidas and son.  That evening they gave an exhibition on the streets and the whole town came to see them and to wonder at their marksmanship.  Among the spectators was Mrs. Gibbs and her son Harry.  Returning to the hotel the quartet became better acquainted and gradually during their stay a feeling of love for this lonely widow woman began to brighten the heart of the elder man and his lonely son looked on with approval.  Their stay in Watertown was extended through a week longer than was originally intended and when the Leonidases finally departed there was a widow left behind who was happy in the thought that she was engaged to the man she loved.  They kept up a constant correspondence.  The fact that the man was sincere is shown through the great bulk of her letters which he treasured up in his pockets.  They were all teeming with the sincerest verbal evidence of affection.  Although couched in the rough and uncouth terms of the uncultured yet the heart that was behind them rung as clear and true as though the writer had been a past master of the art of expression
“May God Spare Us”

  One of the most recent of these letters is dated from Girard on June 27, and is mailed from the McGregor post office, over rural route No. 1 on June 30 and is addressed to Professor Leonidas and son, general delivery, Chicago.  It teems with terms of affection and bears strongly on the fact that they are soon to be together never to part: sends a kiss to the “boy who is soon to be mine” and sends “love from  Harry.”  But the close is the most pathetic feature.  After signing her name she writes in the margin:  “May God bless us all and spare us to get together soon.”  Poor woman.  God, in His all seeing purpose, devined otherwise.

  Other letters date back as far as December 24, 1901, when the writer is still running the hotel at Watertown.  She expresses the wish that she may be soon away from the hotel for all time and that their marriage day may not be far away.  Just before Christmas she writes again  wishing Merry Christmas to father and son and bemoaning the fact that she has nothing to send to them, and then on January 1, 1902, there is still another letter wishing the returns of a Happy New Year and trusting that ere the year ends they may be married.

  From January 1 the letters are very frequent.  They always refer to some letter just received and answer questions asked in them.  Their correspondence must have run at the rate of about two letters a week during the whole time.

Had Started to Meet Her

 Among the effects is a letter dated July 8, from Girard and signed by M. A. Crawford, with whom Mrs. Gibbs and her son were staying, telling Leonidas and son that he had been requested by Mrs. Gibbs to write to them and tell them that he would meet them at the train any day they choose to name, to drive them to his farm, six miles south of South McGregor.  It was in answer to this letter that Christopher Leonidas and his son, whose name proves to be Ellsworth, from the letters, started when they became involved in the quarrel which ended their lives.

Little Else Shown

 Thorough investigation of the effects of the dead men disclose few other things not already familiar to the public save that the bills show that they have been traveling for years.  A gaily lithographed band made to surround one of their boxes of Roving Cowboy Salve, states their permanent address to be Colorado City, Co.  An old ticket among their effects reads “Professor Leonidas and Son Comedy Co. Admit one.”

Their Baggage searched

 The baggage of the dead men was searched by Coroner Lambach and Constable Rumsey, but nothing was found to further ferret out the mystery of their lives. 

Imputations on Breen

 Stories are current today of the previous had record of Mate Dan Breen, who did the shooting.  One of the steamer hands told a police officer yesterday that Breen had killed three men before in the past two years, in fights.  These stories cannot be substantiated.


Davenport Republican for Friday, July 18, 1902 on page 7 carried the story below.



Woman Whom Christopher Leonidas Was to Marry.

 The Bergman Collection agency of this city has received a letter from Mrs. M. M. Gibbs of Girard, Ia., asking that inquiry be thoroughly made into the matter of the killing of Christopher Leonidas and his son by Mate Breen of the steamer Dubuque.  Mrs. Gibbs is the woman to whom the elder Leonidas was engaged to be married, and she writes that the news of the death of the father and son came to her as a great shock.  She is unable to furnish the names of any of the relatives of the deceased and instructs the Bergman agency, through its legal department, to take steps to ascertain where the heirs are if there are any.

  Meantime, however, County Attorney Lischer, in whose hands the matter really rests, has taken steps to secure more complete testimony from eye-witnesses to the shooting of the two men, and is proceeding with the matter as speedily as possible under the circumstances.  He may be trusted to probe the matter to the bottom and to take such steps as the available testimony warrants.


The article below was printed in the Davenport Republican, dated July 25, 1902, on page 5 and was written to explain about the elder man that was killed by Dan Breen. 





Christopher Leonidas’ Real name was Joseph Taggert and He Was Charged With Murdering a Young Mexican Girl, but was Turned Loose Because of Want of Evidence Against Him-Denver Post’s Story

 The first inside information regarding the past history of Christopher and Ellsworth Leonidas, the men killed on the steamer Dubuque, off Davenport, a few weeks ago, comes from the Denver Post.  The article shows up Christopher Leonidas to have been really worse then believed.  The article was published in the Post in connection with a photograph of  Leonidas and son taken about ten years ago, and says Leonidas was driven East after being tried for the murder of a young girl.  The article follows:

  “The two ‘medicine men’, Christopher Leonidas and son, who were shot and killed by Dan Breen on the Diamond Jo Liner Dubuque, plying between St. Paul and St. Louis, last Thursday, recalls most vividly the erratic career of this misguided father and penitent son in Denver.

  “Mate Breen shot in defense of himself and the passengers aboard the Dubuque.

  “He had to shoot quick and he shot unerringly.  He is a brother of Peter Breen, once Colorado’s state treasurer, and a colleague of John D. Morrissy at the particular time when Morrissy was ‘Diamond Jo’ Reynold’s manager of mining interests at Leadville.

  “Leonidas and his son, at the time of the killing, were enroute from Chicago to Texas, plying their hypocritical vocations of ministers of the gospel and doctors.

  “They had ‘faked’ every corner of the business portion of Chicago, and their rendezvous was at the house of H. J. Latting, 489 Wabash avenue.

  “At Davenport they had, according to report, done a good day’s grafting and got drunk.

  “When they boarded the boat they went to the clerk and registered ‘Christopher Leonidas and son, the long-haired medicine men.’  To part of their baggage was tied a bloodhound, which growled and, on account of the accouterments of warfare they carried the passengers were timid and kept close to their cabin.

  “They intimidated the clerk by telling him they were ‘man killers’ from Central City, Col.  They wore sombreros and belts filled with revolvers and bowie knives.  With blacksnake whips they lashed the negro roustabouts.  Finally they quarreled with the crew, and Mate Breen stepped in the fracas and demanded silence.  Both father and son made movements to pull their revolvers.  Breen was too quick, firing five shots, two of which took effect in the father and one in the son.  Both men had fatal wounds.  In falling to the deck coats fell apart and their breasts were covered with metals for alleged rifle and revolver marksmanship.  The son was speechless while the father cursed.  Before the shots were fired Mate Breen had begged them to take off their belts and arms, but they cursed him roundly for his admonitions.  The boat Dubuque returned to the wharf at Davenport.  In conveying the wounded men from the boat they died on the gangplank.  Within an hour a coroner’s jury exonerated Mate Breen.  The Dubuque then proceeded to her destination.

A Checkered Career.

  “The elder Leonidas has a checkered career in Colorado.  Denver was the scene of his operations off and on for many years, and the victims of his successful fakes include some of the leading businessmen and clergymen of the city.  John H. Taggert was his real name.  He was born in Missouri, and he first came to this state in 1871.  He had many escapades, but he did not tarry long at that time, as he found a more fruitful field in Mexico.

  “He spent some time in Chihuahua and from there went to Jesus Maria, where he became a ‘penitent.’  His long, flowing hair, reaching to his waist, his erect commanding figure and a soft effeminate face, together with his silver-tongued manner, brought him at once into popularity among the religiously inclined.

  “He professed supernatural power, and crowds flocked to hear him speak and to receive from him the ‘laying on of hands.’  He got to be such a craze among the people of that section of the country that miners left the mines in idleness and women neglected their homes to follow him and the religion in which he professed belief.

Met Francis Schlatter.

“It was in Jesus Maria that Taggert met Francis Schlatter, the ‘healer’ who created such a furor in Denver in 1894.  In fact, it is said that Taggert, as early as, 1889, was urging upon Schlatter the idea of taking up his abode in Denver.  Taggert himself came back here in 1890 as an attraction at Schetts’s Wonderland theatre in Curtis Street.

  “Sackett advertised him as a Persian hermit, and as belonging to a religious order that conversed only by signs.  One of his professions of belief was that the hair of a man should not be cut because it was ungodly to do so.  He drew well at the museum, and Manager Sackett fairly coined money on the ‘Persian hermit.’

  “After he had his course as a museum freak, Taggert was employed by a local clothing firm and he daily made a tour of the streets attired in the costume of a Tyrolese mountaineer and carrying a placard.

Invented Hair Tonic.

  “His next venture was to start in business and place on the market an alleged hair restorer.  Many drug stores and barber shops were induced to sell it, and as he was supposed to be a walking example of what the tonic would do for a person, the trade flourished for some time, though the preparation was found by purchasers to be a bunco game pure and simple.  The longhaired, long-bearded inventor of the tonic exhibited himself in drug store windows.  The same year Taggert turned up as a ‘soul-saver.’  He succeeded in interesting some prominent clergymen in an evangelistic scheme with surprising results from a financial standpoint.

Charged With Murder.

  “With the money he collected Taggert started a dance hall on Blake street.  One of his leading attractions was Alois Kuhene, a 17-year-old girl of good family from Mexico, Mo.  His duplicity being exposed in 1891, Taggert was virtually driven out of Denver.  He faked around for a while in Central City, Idaho Springs and other towns, and finally landed in Cheyenne.  He took the Mexican girl with him and one morning the girl was found murdered.  Taggert was arrested and charged with the crime, but no direct evidence was secured against him and he was turned loose.  From that time Taggert completely dropped out of sight as far as Colorado was concerned, and the next heard of him was his tragic end on the steamer Dubuque the other day.  When the ‘Leonidas brothers’ left Chicago to take the boat at St. Paul they said their destination was Texas, where the courts a week ago decreed that Leonidas was the rightful owner of an estate valued at $200,000, which had for more than three years been tied up in litigation.”

  The above article was printed in the
Davenport Republican, dated July 25, 1902, on page 5 and was written to explain about the elder man that was killed by Dan Breen. 



Davenport Times 

September 18, 1902.


Uncle of Alleged Wife of Leonidas in the City For That Purpose A Mr. Cathran of Peoria, Ill., claiming to be an uncle of Mrs. Taggart, who in turn claims to be the wife of the elder Leonidas, who was shot by Mate Breen of the steamer Dubuque last summer, is in Davenport consulting with attorneys as to entering a suit against the Diamond Jo company.  It will be remembered that Mrs. Taggart wrote to the city some time ago, claiming that she was the lawful wife of
Leonidas and asking for information in regard to his death.  Attorneys Frank cooper and Letts & McGee took the matter up and are investigating it for Mr. Cathran.


The Davenport Democrat,

November 9, 1902, page 3.



Leonidas Case is Set for Trial at Once

 Tomorrow the petit jury will quality for jury for the November term, and the first case set for trial is that of P. W. McManus, administrator of the estate of Ellsworth Leonidas vs.  the Diamond Jo steamers and Dan Breen.  This is a damage case arising over the shooting by the mate of the Dubuque of the two Leonidases, or Taggerts.  The estate asks for $15,000 damages.




The Davenport Democrat

Nov. 11, 1902




The Evidence of the Prosecution going In.

The Trend is to show Shooting Without Proper Warrant of Action in Self Defense-

The Defense has Another Story


    The taking of evidence in the case of P. W. McManus administrator of the estate of Ellsworth Leonidas vs. the Diamond Jo Line steamers, began shortly before 4 o’clock Tuesday afternoon.

  The jury was finally selected and sworn just after 3 o’clock, and Attorney F. D. Letts for the plaintiff estate made the opening statement of the case to the jury.  He was followed by N. D. Ely for the defense, after which the testimony taking began.


The Jury


  The personnel of the jury which is trying the case is as follows:


J. Grill, Winfield township

J. Galvin, city

Matt Thompson, city

R. J. Tobin, Winfield township

Luis Hamann, city

Charles Keppy, city

Fritz Homann, Rockingham township

A.M. Dienier, city

L. W. Schwenke, city

H. J. Flint, city

Henry Litscher, Butler township

Paul Villian, city


Student Rydquest on stand


 The first witness called was A. G. E. Rydquist, a theological student of Augustana College, Rock Island.  He testified similarly to this evidence given in the case of the elder Leonidas, heard last spring.  He said he boarded the steamer Dubuque at 11 o’clock on the forenoon of July 10, 1902.  He shortly afterward descended to inspect the machinery of the boat.  As he went down his attention was directed to a quarrel between Mate Dan Breen and the elder Leonidas which was as far as he could learn was over the disposition of baggage, which was piled up near the stairway.

  Mr. Rydquist testified that the younger of the two men attempted to stop the quarrelling, but his services were of no avail.  The mate left them and went upstairs.  He appeared to be very angry.  He later returned to the lower deck, and carried his hand concealed under his coat.  The student heard him demand the removal of the baggage.  Suddenly two shots ran out, in rapid succession, and the old man fell on his knees beside the boxes.  Then the younger man advanced toward the mate with outstretched hands saying, “Don’t shoot my papa.”

  The student testified that Breen fired one shot at the younger man, which missed him.  Then the young man turned around toward the left, and another shot was fired, striking him in the back.

  Neither of the two men, according to Rydquist’s testimony, made any movement toward drawing their revolvers.  The holster straps were buckled.

  The examination of Rydquist was not completed Tuesday afternoon, and was resumed this forenoon.  He was subjected to a crossfire fully as severe as that which he underwent when he testified in the case tried last spring.


Dr. J. Rephaelson


  Dr. J. Raphaelson, a Davenport physician, who was on board the steamer Dubuque on July 10, 1902, and who saw the shooting also testified this morning.

  He saw the quarrel and the shooting, and heard the younger Leonicas plead for his father’s life before he himself was shot down.”  He said the mate had ordered the removal of the baggage but that the Leonidases did not make any movement toward obeying him. His evidence was a corroboration f the testimony of student Rydquist.

  About 10”30 o’clock the reading of the depositories of Dr. J. Stark of St. Louis, who was a passenger on board the Dubuque at the time, was begun, lasting until the noon hour, N. D. Ely, for the defense, began the reading, and continued until the time of adjournment.

  The deposition disclosed the scene of the shooting as it appeared to the St. Luoisan, and did not differ very materially from the testimony of the two verbal witnesses, save in that it tended to show that the Leonidases threateningly felt of the holsters containing their revolvers.


Afternoon Proceedings


  The interruption of the qualifying of the grand jury necessitated the calling of the case a half an hour later this afternoon.

  The reading of the depositions of Dr. Stocks of St. Louis, and of a Mr. Schwarz of the same city, had not been concluded, but by permission of the defense the plaintiff was allowed to place Mrs. Nancy Taggert of Peoria, Ill., a small, rather deaf woman, with a crippled right hand, on the witness stand.

  The woman testified that Ellsworth Leonidas, whose estate is suing, was her stepson, and that he was in his 19th year when shot.  She said she was married to his father, Harrison Taggert, alias Christopher Leonidas, and that he boy Had helped his father, who sold pop corn, horse radish, fished and made and disposed of medicine, and a hair cure, during is life time.  The woman was still testifying when this report was closed.

  Mrs. Taggert, wife No. 1, of Christopher Leonidas, was accompanied by a boy about 10 years old, presumably her son.

  Every indication points toward the prolongation of the case until the end of the week, and possibly until next week.

  There isn’t much interest shown in the case. There were only a few auditors in the courtroom during the day.

  Captain Killeen of the Diamond Jo Line steamers was noticed in the courtroom this afternoon and Dan Breen, the mate of the Dubuque is in the courtroom.  He looks the same as he did when here last spring, and is none the worse for his injuries sustained in the recent steamboat fire.




The Iowa Recorder from Green, Iowa

November 12, 1902 on page 6 ran the following article.


Another woman, who says she is the wife of Christopher Leonidas, the medicine man from Chicago, who with her son, was shot and killed by Mate Breen on the steamer Dubuque near Davenport last July, has appeared.  She has written a letter to the Chief of Police at Davenport, stating she was the wife of the murdered man, but unlike the other woman, says she is glad her husband has been killed and that he got just what he deserved.  She wants to know about his effects, and for this reason has written to the chief.  Her letter was written at the Nicholas hotel, at Jeffersonville, Indiana.



Davenport Republican for Tuesday,

November 25, 1902, page 5.


Estate of Younger Man Increases Its Demand to $15,000.

  Frank A. Cooper and Letts & McGee, the Attorneys for P.W. McManus, administrator of the estates of the two Leonidas men, father and son who were shot and killed on the deck of the Dubuque, of the Diamond Jo Line last summer, have filed an amendment to one of the damage suits they filed against the diamond Joe Line steamers and Mate Dan Breen, who did the fatal shooting.  The original petition in the case of the younger Leonidas asked for $10,000 damages on account of breach of contact to give the deceased a safe passage from Rock Island to McGregor, Ia.  The amendment changes the suit so that it becomes an action for compensatory and exemplary damages instead of a suit for breach of contact.  Ten thousand dollars are asked on the one ground and $5,000 as exemplary damages.  The action in the case of the younger man, Ellsworth Leonidas, has been thus changed to an action wholly in tort.  Part of the amendment filed yesterday is as follows:

  "That the aforesaid abuses, insults, ill-treatment and the shooting of Ellsworth Leonidas, were malicious acts and were the joint, willful, wrongful and negligent acts of the defendants, joined herein, and were committed without fault or negligence on the part of Ellsworth Leonidas.



The Davenport Daily Republican, Friday,

December 5, 1902, page 7


His Attorneys Allege He is Not Properly a Defendant.

 A motion was filed in the district court yesterday by Ely & Bush on behalf of Dan Breen, one of the defendants in the suits of the estate of the two Leonidas men, father and son, who were shot and killed on the steamer Dubuque last summer, against the Diamond Jo steamers and Mate Dan Breen of the boat just named.  The motion filled by the Davenport lawyers asks that all the part of the petition of the administrator of the estate relating to Dan Breen be stricken, for the
reason he cannot properly be joined with the steamboat company in an action on a contact between the company and the men who were killed.

  A motion of the same sort was made by the Diamond Jo Line, some weeks ago, when they asked that the name of Breen be stricken.  The purpose is said to be to eliminate Breen, who is a resident of Iowa and leave the steamboat company, which is not an Iowa corporation, as the sole defendant in the matter, so that the trial of the case can be taken into the federal courts on the ground of the non-residence of the steamboat Co.



The Davenport Daily Republican, Friday,

June 9, 1903, page 6.


Rules that both Mate Breen and Diamond Jo Line Must appear.

  Judge House has handed down an opinion in the case of P. W. McManus, Administrator of the estates of Christopher and Ellsworth Leonidas vs. the Diamond Jo Steamship Co., and Dan Breen, in which the judge holds that the naming of both parties as defendants is right and proper, and refuses the motion the defendant company that the defendants be tried
separately.  This is a very important ruling in the case and is considered in the light of being a great victory for the plaintiffs, who were represented in the case by F. A. Cooper and Letts & McGee.




Davenport Republican

Nov. 11, 1903




Gives first Testimony



    G. E. Rydquist, a theological student at Augustana college, Rock Island, was the first witness called yesterday by the attorneys for the plaintiff case of P. W. McManus, administrator for the estate of Ellsworth Leonidas, vs. the Diamond Joe line steamers and Dan Breen for $15,000 damages for the shooting and killing of Leonidas upon the steamer Dubuque on July 10, 1902, Judge Wolfe is hearing the case.

  Rydquist testified that he saw the shooting and was a witness to the quarrel before the boat left the shore.

  He stated that he boarded the Dubuque at Davenport at about 11 o’clock on the 10th of July.  Before the boat left the shore he had a desire to inspect the machinery on the lower deck in the real of the boat.  As he went down stairs toward the rear of the boat his attention was attracted b the quarreling of the mate and two men dressed as cowboys.  The mate, Dan Breen, ordered the men to remove their baggage which was piled up near the steps to some other part of the boat where it would not interfere with the work.

  The elder of the two cowboys was sitting on the boxes.  The younger man tried to stop the quarreling between the elder and the mate, but it was no use.  The mate turned and went up stairs, looking angry.

  Ryudquist next saw the mate come down stairs with his hand under his coat, and heard him demand the removal of the baggage.  Then followed two shots; the old man fell to his knees on the boxes, and the younger man advanced toward the mate, holding out his hands in a supplicating manner, and saying:

“Don’t shoot my papa.”

  According to Rydiquist’s recollection Breen fired one shot at the younger Leonidas and missed; then as the young man tuned toward the left he fired another shot, which sent him reeling back upon the boxes.

  He stated that as far as he could see neither man had made a move toward their revolvers, and the strap which fastened the holsters down was apparently fastened.

  Letts & McGee and Frank Cooper are the attorneys for the plaintiff, and Ely & Bush, W. M. Chamberlin and Judge Lenihan of Dubuque represent the defendants.

  At 8 o’clock yesterday afternoon the jury for the case was secured, and F. D. Letts and Judge Lenehan made the opening statements.  Following is a list of the jury hearing the case: Arthur M. Diener, H. J. Flint, J. Galvin, J. Drill, Louis Haman, Fritz Hamann, Charles Keppy, Henry Litscher, R. J. Tobin, Mat Thomsen, J. W. Schwenke and Paul Villain.

  Further testimony from Rydiquist will be heard this morning.




Davenport Republican

Nov. 12, 1903



Tells of Leonidas Affair

Says that Father and son were to blame.



  Yesterday the examination of witnesses in the Leonidas case was continued before judge Wolfe.  The first witness called in the afternoon was Dr. Hender, who testified as to the course of the bullet through the younger man’s body. One hip, according to his statement, was raised higher than the other as though he were reaching for his gun at the time of the shooting

  Nancy Taggert and Fred Taggert, the alleged wife and son of the elder Leonidas were put upon the stand, but their testimony added little that was competent or material.

  Matt Nimman, one of the deck-hands on the boat, testified that the elder man was worrying the negroes on the boat by snapping a whip at them as they passed by, and that when he demonstrated with him for his acts was ordered off at the point of a gun.  He also testified as to the profane and indecent language used.  He saw the captain come down the steps and tell the man to stop their noise, and heard the answer that they owned the boat and the d—captain, too.  After that he said he kept out of their way; that he wasn’t scared to death but wasn’t going to stay in their vicinity.  He told Breen of the gun episode.




The Davenport Democrat

Nov. 12, 1903




Testified as to Shooting The Two Leonidases



  Mate Dan Breen of the steamer Dubuque was on the witness stand today, in the trial of the big damage suit against the Diamond Jo company growing out of his shooting the two Leonidases.  He was called at 10 o’clock this afternoon, following Walter Payne, one of the deck hands, who was a witness to the shooting.


  Breen told his story, as he knew it.  The Democrat told the facts at the time of the shooting just before noon on July 10, 1902, and Mate Breen’s version does not in the least depart from it.


  He says the two Leonidases got on board the Dubuque at Rock Island, holding deck passage tickets to McGregor, IA.  Their baggage consisted of boxes, canvases, a large dog and several whips.  The latter they flourished about, striking at the heels of the deck hands. Thoroughly intimidating them.


  The mate interfered in the cause of peace, and was quite roundly scored and cursed.  When he commanded them to remove their baggage in an other part of the boat the old man refused, stating that he had bought the boat, and was going to run it as it pleased him.”


  The Leonidases took umbrage at this remark, and when again asked to remove their baggage and have themselves, became very ugly, the elder man drawing a revolver and threatening to shoot the mate.


  It was then that Mr. Breen went upstairs and borrowed Morris Killeen’s revolver with which the deadly work was done later on.


  The witness stated that when, after securing the gun, he attempted to enforce order and compel the two Leonidases to move their baggage, his life was threatened by an attempt made by the two supposed cowboys to reach their arms.


  But the mate was too quick.  Before his right to live, and his authority as master of the lower deck, he thought the right to life, and the self-arrogated authority of the Leonidases lapsed.  Therefore he shot true, and the coroner’s jury exonerated him from blame.


  Now it has become known that the twain were only masqueraders indulging in braggadocio.  But to the mate, according to his testimony, it was a matter of stern reality-a matter of life for himself or of a funeral for two cowboys who tried to run the boat.


  At noon Dan Breen had just completed his testimony on the direct examination.  The cross fire was reserved for the afternoon.


The Widow and Brother


  When the Democrat went to press on Wednesday evening it left Nancy Taggert of Peoria, and alleged widow of Christopher Leonidas, (alias Harrison Taggert) horse radish, popcorn, fish and hair-oil peddler, on the witness stand.  Her testimony referred solely to the antecedents of the deceased, and to her connections with him.


  Following her came Fred Taggert, the 10 year-old son of Mrs. Nancy Taggert, alleged to be the son of Christopher Leonidas and stepbrother of Ellsworth Leonidas.  His evidence was immaterial.


Dr. A. B. Hender


  The next witness was Dr. A. B. Hender, who testified as to the wound found in the side of the younger Leonidas.  It speared from doctor’s testimony that one of the muscles of the back near the waist had been perforated by the bullet, which showed he thought, that the muscle had been stretched at the time as though the younger man had been reaching for his revolver.  The perforations to his mind showed this conclusively.


  M. J. Eagal, W. D. Petersen, and Ed. Gifford, the original coroner’s jurors in the case, who released Mate Breen upon their investigation, were then examined.


  Capt John Simmons of St. Louis who had charge of the Dubuque on that fateful day, came next.  His evidence was corroborative of the story told afterward by Mate Dan Breen.


Matt Nimmow


  The best witness heard on Wednesday afternoon was Matt Ninnow of St. Louis, who testified as to the acts of the two Leonidases in the worrying of the deckhands.  He stated that the twain pitched their drover’s whips their heels and when he, Minnow, objected the elder Mandrew his revolver, and threatened him. This action he reported to the mate.  The Leonidases then told him that6 they owned the boat, captain and all.


 R. B. McCall was the next witness.  He furnished evidence of a general order, which was corrobative of the evidence of the man Minnow.


Maurice Killeen


  Maurice Killeen of St. Louis, clerk of the Dubuque, was the man who loaned Breen the revolver with which he did the deadly work. He stated that when the mate got the gun he suspected trouble and followed him.  He saw the shooting.  Both of the Leonidases started to reach for their guns, and he heard the mate tell them to put them away. He testified that the younger man (Ellsworth) had reached for his gun before the mate shot him.

The evidence of yesterday concluded with the clerk’s testimony.


Walter Payne, Deckhand


  Walter Payne, deckhand, was placed on the stand this morning at 9 o’clock and remained there until 10 o’clock, when Dan Breen was called to testify.  Mr. Payne’s home is in St. Louis.  He corroborated the story of deckhand Nimmow and could not be shaken upon the cross fire upon any important point.  He saw the teasing of the crew, their threatening with guns, and heard the braggadocio, or whatever it may be called whereby they communicated to the crew the idea that they owned the boat.  He saw the shooting and saw that the two alleged cowboys had attempted to pull their guns before they were shot by Dan Breen. At 10 o’clock this afternoon came the testimony this morning which was rendered by Dan Breen the boats mate, the substance of which is recounted above.


Afternoon Proceedings


  At 2 o’clock this afternoon the cross was begun and Mate Breen was subjected to as rigid a counter examination as ever witness was subjected to.  The mate was still on the stand when the report was closed, just before 3 o’clock.

  The plaintiff will furnish testimony in rebuttal, and it is likely to be of a character which, will be surprising.  A bench warrant has been issued for the Burlington witness, who failed to appear for the rendition of his testimony until too late, at he last trial.  The plaintiff will make sure of him this time.






The Times

Nov. 13, 1903


He is here to testify in the Leonidas Damage suit


Tells of His thrilling Experience During the Burning of the Steamer St. Louis Oct. 30 at St. Louis



   Mate Breen, the man who shot the two Leonidas brothers in the affair on the Dubuque here two years ago arrived in Davenport yesterday and will remain in the city several days to testify in the damage suit of the administrator of the estate of the younger Leonidas against the Diamond Jo steamboat company.


 When seen by a Times reporter Mate Breen was at the local Diamond Jo office talking to Captain James Osborne.  When questioned about the trial and the shooting affair he said: “Well when two fellows come on your boat and bother you for nearly an hour making threats and telling you what they are going to do and then pull their guns and tell you they are going to give you some of their medicine you can’t be blamed for trying to protect your life.  I wish to God that some one else had done it, but I simply had to shoot, or be shot.”


  Breen expects to be in Davenport, for a week, as the trial will probably last that length of time.  The trial of the case of the elder Leonidas, which was decided in favor of the steamboat company lasted eight days and it is said that the evidence in the present trial will be very much the same.”


Tells Story of Fire


  Mate Breen told a thrilling story of the burning of the steamer St. Louis a week ago that Friday at St. Louis in which he nearly lost his life.


  “I was mate of the St. Louis” said Breen,” and we had come up the river from New Orleans with a big load and had landed at St. Louis.  The boat needed some slight repairs and we took her down to the ways about five miles below St. Louis and tied up.


  “How the fire started we were not able to discover, but it must have broken out somewhere in the stern on the boat.  There were five men on the boat beside myself and we all escaped except the bartender, who was burned to death in his stateroom.  The fire was well started before we found it out and the captain and myself got everyone off except the bartender.  When we saw that he was missing we went back on the burning steamer to look for him.  We found his stateroom and as the door was locked we broke in the door but he was not inside and by this time the fire had become so hot that we were compelled to get off the boat or be burned to death.”


  “The bartender must have been sleeping in one of the staterooms and have been burned to death where he lay.  The St. Louis was one of the biggest boats on the river.  She was 305 feet long and had a 99 foot beam so that you can see when she was all ablaze she made a terrible fire.  After we left the boat the heat became so intense that we could not get within a hundred feet of the shore. The stacks fell over shortly after we left her and it was only a matter of a few minutes till she was burned to the waters edge.”





The Davenport Democrat

Nov. 13, 1903




Traveling Man Crary Testified Thursday Afternoon



  When the Democrat closed its report of the Leonidas case on Thursday afternoon, Dan Breen, the mate of the Dubuque who shot the two Leonidases, was on the stand undergoing the rigors of the cross examination.


The mate was followed by Charles Crary, a traveling man, who had arrived too late to testify in the case of the elder Leonidas.  Fearing that he would fail to appear this time a resort was had to a bench warrant but it was not needed.’


  Crary reported in person at 2 o’clock in the afternoon and followed Breen upon the witness stand. On the direct examination he testified that he was directly behind the mate at the time of the shooting.  He saw the elder Leonidas draw his gun just before the mate shot.  He heard the elder man swear, and testified that the younger man did not plead for his father’s life, but pulled or attempted to pull a gun just before the mate shot him.


  Detective Mundt followed the traveling man on the stand.  He testified that the holsters of the guns were buckled at the time the bodies of the two men were removed form the boat.


  Frank Nagel, ambulance driver, testified to the same thing after which attorney Frank Cooper was made a witness to prove that the traveling man Crary had told him in his (Cooper’s) office that the mate had done the shooting with his right hand.


  Shortly after 3:30 o’clock the arguments began, Attorney F. Dickinson Letts speaking for the plaintiff.  This morning N. D. Ely, Wm. M. Chamberlin, and Judge Lenehan of Dubuque, made the arguments for the defense.  Attorney Cooper will close for the plaintiff and the case will doubtless be submitted to the jury this evening.




The Daily Times

Nov. 14, 1903

Pg. 4




Jury Awards Plaintiff thousand Dollars


  “One thousand dollars for the plaintiff was the verdict brought in at 9:45 o’clock this morning in the Leonidas case after the jury ahd been out since 4;30 o’clock yesterday afternoon.  This means a victory for the paointiff after a long and hard fight.  The killing of the two Leonidas men occurred a year ag last July and the matter has been in the courts most of the time since the.


The title of the suit was P. W.  McManus administrator of the estate of Ellsworth Leonidas vs. the Diamond Jo line of steamers and Dan Breen, mate.  The verdict as returned this morning was.


  “We the jury find for the plaintiff, P. W., McManus, administrator and assesses the amount of its recovery at ($1,000), one thousand dollars.”

Signed Arthur M Diemer.


  After the finding of the jury, considerable discussion arose as to what subsequent action might be.  It is thought by osme that the matter will be taken up by the grand jury and indictment may be brought against Breen for the killing of the two men or at least one of them.”




Davenport Republican

Nov. 15, 1903




Plaintiff gets the Award

Leonidas Case Settled in Court


  “We the jury, and for the plaintiff, P. W. McManus, administrator, and assess the amount of the recovery at $1,000 (one thousand dollars Signed Arthur Diemer



“A coroner’s jury exonerated Breen, but P. W. McManus was appointed administrator of the estate left by the two men, and he engaged Letts and McGee and F. A. Cooper as his attorneys to bring suit against the Diamond Jo lone steamers and Dan Breen for $10,000.


 A verdict for the defendant was given in the case of the elder Leonidas, tried before the spring term of court, there being evidence in favor of Breen, but in the case of the young man, who, according to some of the testimony given, was asking at he time that his father’s life be saved.


  What the subsequent action of the defendants will be is at present unknown.  They have the privilege of appealing the case.  It is thought by many that Breen will be taken before the grand jury to answer to the charge of murder.  William Chamberlin, Ely & bush of Davenport and Judge Lenehan of Dubuque appeared as attorneys for the defendant.





The Daily Times

Nov. 17, 1904


BREEN Asks for Another Trial

CLAIMS VERDICT AND Instructions at Fault.


   Dan Breen, one of the defendants in the Leonidas case, ahs filed a motion for a new trial through his attorneys, Ely & Bush, claiming that the verdict was not sustained by the evidence or by law, that the court erred in its instructions and that the jurors were prejudiced.


  It is claimed that the court erred in ruling that Breen could not answer as to the conversation which took place between him and the two Leonidases prior to the shooting and that it was an error not to allow evidence of Breen’s good character and the quarrelsome disposition of the two Leonidases.  It is further claimed that on the face of the verdict it shows that it was a compromise and that the same was a result of prejudice and passion.






Davenport Democrat & Leader

Dec. 23, 1904

Pg. 6


Ellswoth Leonidas Verdict Sought to Be Collected by Plaintiff


   The hearing of the issues between P. W. McManus administrator for the estate of the late Ellsworth Leonidas who was shot to de4ath by Mate Breen upon the lower deck of the steamer Dubuque at the Davenport levee in July, 1902, and the Diamond Jo company, began in chambers.  Judge House’s court at 2 o’clock this afternoon.


  Messsars. G. W. Kreitringer, M. Gallager and Jr. J. Rooney of the firm of Gretzinger , Gallagher and Rooney of Chicago, arrived this morning to look after the defense of the case, in conjunction with Chambers & Petersen, Frank A. Cooper and D. Letts will appear for the plaintiff who secured the verdict for $1,000 the local court, upon the trial of the case.


  The books and papers of the Dickey Grain co. which is alleged to be the same company jointly with the old Diamond Jo Reynolds concern, which the federal court adjudicated as sold under bankruptcy proceedings, were produced in court this afternoon.  These had to be hauled to the court house in the St. James bus, and consisted of half a dozen dress suit cases filled with books and documents.  




Tri City Star

Dec. 23, 1904




 P. W. M’Manus Will Not Be able to collect damages


Transfer Was Legal One.


The case of P. W. McManus against Diamond Jo Line Steamers, et al., which was up for hearing before Judge House yesterday, was dismissed by the court for want of equity.  P. W. McManus, administrator of the Leonidas estate, brought action against the Diamond Jo line steamers at the time of the killing of Christopher Leonidas and Ellsworth his son, on the steamer Dubuque, Mr. McManus received a judgment for damages to the amount of $1,000, but the fine has never been paid  Mary Reynold’s was the former owner of the Diamond Jo line steamers, but upon her death Jay Morton, a brother, was appointed executor of the estate and upon taking up the affairs of the company he found that they were in debt many thousands of dollars and bankruptcy proceedings were begun.  The company was declared bankrupt in the circuit court for the northern district of Illinois.


A new company was then organized and they took control of all the stock of the old company, everything being transferred to the new organization. 


This left no way open for the collection of the judgment that had been rendered against the diamond Jo line steamers.


The case just dismissed was one wherein the plaintiff, P. W. McManus, was endeavoring to show that the transfer of the property of the old Diamond Jo Line steamers to the new company was only a fraud, in which case the judgment could be collected.


The Case Dismissed shows that the court holds after the hearing of the testimony that the transfer of the property to the new company was legal and holds good.


E. M. Dickey was before the court yesterday explaining the indebtedness of the old company by means of the books of that concern.


Frank A. Cooper and Finger & Letts were attorneys for the plaintiff, and Chamberlin & Petersen, Krezinger, Gallager and Rooney were attorneys for the defendants.







Researched  by Sue Rekkas

and transcribed by

Georgeann McClure  & Sue Rekkas


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