ON “THE DUBUQUE”
Researcher Sue Rekkas
July 10, 1902
Murder on “The Dubuque”
Double Tragedy on The
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
They were looking for trouble, and a steamboat isn’t a bad place to
go when you’re dying for a fight.
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.
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.
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.
United States Marshall Christian was on the boat and placed the mate
The Dead Men
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.
“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?”
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.”
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.”
“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.
July 11, 1902
MATE IS ACQUITTED
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
CORONER’S JURY SET CLERK BREEN FREE
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
“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.”
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.
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
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.”
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
CHRISTOPHER AND ELLSWORTH LEONIDAS
The Davenport Daily Republican dated July 12, 1902 on page 7 read:
MANY VIEW THE REMAINS
WOMEN AND GIRLS EXHIBIT MORBID CURIOSITY
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 &
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
“’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.
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.
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
Disposition CHANGED BY TRIP TO THE YUKON
Conditions That Drove Dan Breen’s Companions
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
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
Times dated July 17, 1902
PROF. LEONIDAS WAS ON HIS WAY TO HIS WEDDING
Heart’s Secret of Rough Man Was Revealed by Letters On His Person at
“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
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
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.
Republican for Friday, July 18, 1902 on page 7 carried the story
MRS. GIBBS WRITES AND SAYS SHE WAS
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.
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.
LEONIDAS WAS WICKED
TWO MEN KILLED BY BREEN HAD UNSAVORY RECORD.
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
“Mate Breen shot in defense of himself and the passengers aboard
“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
“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.
“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
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
Republican, dated July 25, 1902, on page 5 and was written to
explain about the elder man that was killed by Dan Breen.
September 18, 1902.
MAY SUE DIAMOND JO
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
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.
NOVEMBER TERM OF COURT ON TUESDAY.
PETIT JURY REPORTS FOR DUTY TOMORROW.
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.
Nov. 11, 1902
CASE IS BEING TRIED NOW
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 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
Litscher, Butler township
Paul Villian, city
Rydquest on stand
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. 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.
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
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
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
ANOTHER WIDOW APPEARS
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.
CHANGE LEONIDAS ACTION TO ONE IN TORT
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
"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
DAN BREEN MOVES HIS NAME BE STRICKEN
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.
JUDGE HOUSE OVERRULES THE MOTION.
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.
Nov. 11, 1903
STUDENT IS A WITNESS
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
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
“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.
Nov. 12, 1903
Tells of Leonidas Affair
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
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
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
MATE DAN BREEN WAS ON THE STAND TODAY
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.
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.
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 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
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.
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.
Nov. 13, 1903
He is here to testify in the Leonidas Damage
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
Tells Story of
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
ARGUMENTS ARE ON IN LEONIDAS CASE
Traveling Man Crary Testified Thursday
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
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
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
The Daily Times
Nov. 14, 1903
GETS VERDICT IN LEONIDAS CASE
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.”
Nov. 15, 1903
JURY FINDS A VERDICT.
Plaintiff gets the Award
Leonidas Case Settled in Court
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.
HEARING OF DIAMOND Jo Case
Davenport Democrat & Leader
Dec. 23, 1904
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
LEONIDAS CASE IS DISMISSED IN DISTRICT COURT
P. W. M’Manus Will Not Be able to collect
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
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
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