IAGenWeb Project

 Iowa History

       An IAGenWeb Special Project


Join the IAGenWeb Team



Life on the Rivers


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






The Leonidas Suit


Transcribed by Georgeann McClure and Sue Rekkas

Researcher Sue Rekkas


The Davenport Times, dated July 21, 1902, page 2



P. W. McManus Appointed Administrator of Estate of Men Killed On Dubuque


The first legal steps looking toward the clearing up of all hazy facts in connection with the killing of Christopher and son Leonidas on the steamer Dubuque on Thursday, July 10, were taken in the district court of Scott County this morning when P. W. McManus was appointed administrator of the estate of the two dead men.  Colonel McManus has taken immediate steps looking toward the clearing of the mystery surrounding the whole affair.

Attorneys Frank Cooper and the firm of Letts and McGee have been appointed to institute suit against the Diamond Jo steamer line, proprietors of the Dubuque, on which the killing occurred.  The papers of the suit have not yet been filed but it is understood that the suit will be for big damages and that it will be fought to the end.


The Davenport Times, dated July 24, 1902, page 9



The Denver Post yesterday published a very complete account of the past life of Leonidases, who were killed on the steamer Dubuque, while off this city, on July 10.  The Post says that while they were in that city the elder Leonidas ran a cheap dance hall, but that he with his son suddenly disappeared from view and that nothing further was ever heard of them.  The Post does not deal with the son in the article at all, presumably because at that time the boy was too young.  At that time the elder Leonidas went under the name of Taggart.



The Davenport Republican, Friday, July 25, 1902 page 5.




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 en route 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 theater 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 long-haired, 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 Davenport Times, August 12, 1902, page 9.



Writes the Police As "Friend" of Murdered Men But Other Theories Are Strong


Chief Martens of the Davenport police force received a letter this morning from Peoria which will in all probability prove the method of discovering a living daughter of Christopher Leonidas, and a brother of Ellsworth, the medicine men killed on the steamer Dubuque on Thursday noon, July 10.  It is also expected to have the effect of unraveling the veil of mystery in which the lives of these two men were enclosed.  The letter will give the police a clue upon which they and the administrator of the estate of the two men, P. W. McManus, will be enabled to work in clearing up the past history of the men, whether or not Ellsworth Leonidas was the heir to a fortune as is accredited to him, whether they had other funds than those which were found in their possession at the time of their tragic death at the hands of Mate Dan Breen.

Letter Comes From Peoria

The letter received this morning by chief Martens is from Peoria, Ill., and is written in a hand plainly feminine but uneducated and a poor scribe.  The epistle is brief and is signed Nannie Taggart.  The address given is 511 Chester street.  But  it is in the name, Nannie Taggart that the magic lies.  There is no longer any doubt but that Taggart was the right name of the Leonidases.  It was under this name that they went when they lived in Denver, Colo.  Under the names of Taggart they became famous there when Denver was a rough mining city.

The letter is brief  Its asks for information relative to the manner in which Christopher Leonidas and his son, Ellsworth, met their death, and as to the disposition made of their effects, and lastly as to what was done with the bodies of the dead men.  The letter will be answered giving all particulars asked for and an effort will be made to ascertain the exact relationship and knowledge held of the dead men by Nannie Taggart.

There can be but little doubt but that she is a near relative and people who have taken a close interest in the case say that there is but little doubt but that she is a daughter, as the elder Leonidas was known to have had a daughter at one time.

Will Solve the Mystery

If Nannie Taggart be a daughter of Christopher Leonidas, or James Taggert, as he was known in the earlier days, then the mystery which has hung over the past of these men will be lifted and the truth concerning them and their lives will be known to the public.  Her request as to knowledge concerning the disposal of their bodies is regarded as indicative of a desire by her to either mark their burying place or else to transplant the bodies to some spot sacred through the presence of other relatives, possibly a wife.  It is regarded as by all means the most substantial find unearthed since the tragic death of these men.

On the other hand the letter may be a fake, pure and simple.  Some one with a knowledge of the past life of these men may desire to thus obtain their estate which is worth $200 or $300 as it stands in this city in the shape of tents, clothing, etc.  But the police do not hold by this pessimistic view of the case.

Leonidas & Son

The tragic death of Christopher Leonidas and son, Ellsworth, on board the packet Dubuque Thursday noon, July 10, is still fresh in the minds of most people.  Becoming involved in a dispute over the removal of certain pieces of their luggage by the deck hands, they were shot and killed by Mate Dan Breen.  The coroner's inquest speedily acquitted the mate of the crime, finding a verdict of justifiable homicide.  In the meantime it was discovered that the two men were on their way to Girard, near McGregor, where the elder Leonidas was to be married to Mrs. M. M. Gibbs, a widowed lady.  The tragic elements surrounding the scene aroused comment in the papers throughout the country and the Denver Post looked up the record of the elder Leonidas in that city and discovered that he had lived there for several years, going by the name of of James Taggart, undoubtedly his true name.  The name of Leonidas is thought to have been one assumed for the purposed of his business, that of selling a corn cure and hair restorer of his own manufacture.

Later Mrs. Gibbs of Girard engaged the Bergman Collection agency of this city to look up evidence for her in the case.  They secured a great number of affidavits from witnesses connected with the crime and these have been duly forwarded to her.  What steps she will take in the matter are as yet unknown.

But it is in this latest discovery of the probable daughter of the late Christopher Leonidas that the interest of the case now centers and it is believed that ere the matter is entirely cleared up the whole truth concerning them and their affairs will be known.




The Davenport Times, August 19, 1902, page 9








M. E. Bowling is Working on the Case And Hopes to Find Some Proof.



There is much interest being shown in discovering who Christopher Leonidas, murdered on the Dubuque, really was.  M. E. Bowling of the M. V. Boles Undertaking company, has received a letter from Edward Yates, a lawyer of Pittsfield, Ill., into whose hands Mrs. Taggart, the woman claiming the murdered Christopher Leonidas as her husband, has put her case.


The Letter


The letter seems to be conclusive proof of her rightful marriage.  It reads as follows:


Pittsfield, Ill., Aug 16, 1902.

M. V. Boles & Co., Davenport, Ia.


Gentlemen-- Mrs. Charles Taggart of Griggsville, Ill., called at my office today concerning the death of her husband, Charles Taggart, on a boat near your city.  Her marriage certificate shows that she was married to Taggart in Denver, Colo., Jan 17, 1891, by Rev. A. E. Chase of Hyde Park Presbyterian church.  The witnesses to the marriage are living and all identify the picture of Taggart and son as published in newspapers.  This woman and Taggart lived together occasionally.  She has one child by him--a boy, 10 years old.  Her proof is conclusive of marriage.  If he had any estate at time of death she would like to know it, and whatever articles of value he had on his person.  Any information you can give will be of great interest to her.  Respectfully,

                                                             Edward Yates.


Looking For Information


Mr. Bowling is doing his best to discover any information that will show who Christopher Leonidas and son really were.  He will give Mrs. Taggart all the proof he has as he wishes to see the rightful heirs get the property of the dead man.




Davenport Republican, Wednesday, August 20, 1902, page 7.








Griggsville Woman Possesses Certificate Purporting to show Her Marriage at Denver to the Long haired Medicine Man Who Was Shot to Death by Mate Dan Breen of the Steamer Dubuque.



It now appears that the woman at Griggsville, Ill., who makes the claim to be the wife of the long-haired medicine man, who, with his son, was shot to death on the steamer Dubuque, by Mate Dan Breen of that vessel, may indeed be the widow of the so-called Christopher Leonidas, whose real name, according to this woman and to the Denver papers, was Joseph Taggart.  The Colorado reports are to the effect that Taggart was an eccentric character, who lived for some time as a hermit and later exhibited himself as a representative of those who live by themselves in lonely places, making their homes in caves and in huts in the seclusion of unfrequented forests.


It will be recalled that Me. E. Bowling, manager of the Boles Undertaking parlors in this city received a letter from the Griggsville woman over a week ago.  She then asked for information with regard to the effects of her alleged husband and details of the manner of his death.  Mr. Bowling has now received a letter from a lawyer representing this woman, who called her alleged husband Joseph E. Taggert.  The lawyer speaks of the dead man as Chas. Taggart.  This may be a clerical error, or a mistake on the part of the lawyer, or it could be the woman has just found out the real name of her supposed husband.  The letter from her Attorney, Edward Yates, provides proof of her marriage and inquires about any estate held by her husband at the time of his death and whatever articles of value he had on his person.


The property of the Leonidases found with them at the time of their death consisted of seven dollars in money, a camping outfit, several trunks full of bottled rubbish and a big dog of mongrel breed.




The Davenport Democrat, August 22, 1902, page 6.








Chief Martens Receives Another Letter From the Pittsfield, Ill. Attorney

Mr. Yates Had Heard the Body Had Been Sold.



The Leonidas matter will not down.  Despite the fact that Undertaker M. E. Bowling had sent him a schedule of the effects found upon the persons of the two men, Attorney Edward Yates, of Pittsfield, Ill., writes to Chief Martens under date of Thursday as follows:


Pittsfield, Ill., Aug 21, 1902,--Dear Sir:  A few weeks ago Chas. Taggert and son Harry (alias "Leonidas") were killed on a steamboat near your city.  One of Taggart's widows resides in this county (Pike) at present.  An undertaking firm in your city, at 318 Perry street had charge of the remains so I am informed.


"Information has reached me to the effect that the bodies were sold.  Please send me the name of the sexton of the cemetery in which they would be buried, if they were buried.


"Any information you can give me concerning the Taggarts, dead or alive, will be appreciated.  The widow thinks he had valuables on his person when killed, and that he has an estate in Texas. 

Very respectfully,


Edward Yates.




The Davenport Times, August 22, 1903, page 9.







Says He Represents "One of the Wives" of Leonidas and Asks Chief Martens About It

Chief Henry Martens of the Davenport police department has a letter from Lawyer Edward Yates of Pittsfield, Pike county, Illinois, which asks the chief to make inquiries for him regarding the disposition of the bodies of Leonidas and son, Ellsworth, who were killed on the packet Dubuque, July 10.  Lawyer Yates says that he represents the interests of "one of the widows" of the late Leonidas or Taggart and that he understands that that gentlemen had some few valuables on his person at the time and that, likewise, he had an estate in Texas.  He wishes to know about these statements.  He also says that he understands the bodies of the two men where sold.  He wishes the chief to inform him of the name of the sexton in the cemetery where the bodies were buried, if, indeed, they were buried at all.  His inquiries have aroused the police to an investigation of what really became of the bodies.  They are supposed to have been buried in Pine Hill cemetery.




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 dated September 22, 1902, page 8.




Sheriff Steiner of Dubuque is in the city, summoned to attend the session of the grand jury, which resumed its criminal investigations this afternoon.  It is thought that his presence here has something to do with the Leonidas inquiry.




The Davenport Democrat, September 30, 1902, page 8.





Case of Dan Breen Passed Until the Next Term.


The case of the State vs Dan Breen was referred to the next grand jury.

One of the cases which the panel left open for further investigation was that of Dan Breen, who has been charged with the murder of the two Leonidases, Christopher and Ellsworth.  This case was partially inquired into during the session of the grand jury, but as further evidence is desired the case has been left open



The Davenport Democrat. October 23, 1902, page 6





The Leonidas Again


The ghosts of Christopher Leonidas and son will not down.  The victims of the tragedy on our river on July 10, 1902, like Banquo's ghost arise as the accusers of  Mate Dan Breen and the Diamond Jo company.


On Wednesday Sheriff McArthur served notice upon the corporation and upon Mate Breen, an individual, advising them that Colonel P. W. McManus, administrator of the estate of Christopher Leonidas, had brought suit against them to recover damages in the sum of $10,000 for the killing of the elder Leonidas, Christopher, while en route from Rock Island to McGregor, Ia.


The petition, which revives the story of the tragedy, alleges that on the 10th day of July of this year the defendant, the Diamond Jo company, a corporation was acting as a common carrier, and operating a steamboat named the Dubuque on the Mississippi river, and that Dan Breen was employed as mate, and agent of that company on board the steamboat.

It is further alleged the said Christopher Leonidas had purchased and paid for his passage from Rock Island to McGregor, Ia., and was therefore entitled to safe transportation and carriage.  That, after taking passage as aforesaid, the said Christopher Leonidas delivered his ticket to the clerk of the boat who retained it.


It is also alleged that Dan Breen of Dubuque," acting in the capacity of mate of the boat, insulted, abused and ill-treated the deceased passenger, and that he, and others, made remarks, jeered and threatened in words substantially as follows: They are tough men; they think they are out West, but might be mistaken; we'll fix them; they are cowboys without horses," etc., etc., and jerked the box from under said deceased, and did order, threaten, and compel said  deceased to move his baggage, and otherwise bully him, thereby provoking a quarrel, and that later the said defendant, Dan Breen, procured a revolver from the clerk of said boat, and ordered the said deceased to move his baggage, and upon his refusal did without provocation, fire the contents of his pistol or revolver two or three times into the body of the said deceased, after which the deceased did lie down upon the box and did die there shortly afterwards.


Wherefore the plaintiff, acting as administrator of the estate alleges that the aforesaid abuses, insults, ill treatment, shooting and killing of Christopher Leonidas, and the failure of the defendants to afford protection to their passengers, were wrongful, unlawful and negligent acts, and constituted a breach of the defendant company's contact for the safe transportation for the said Christopher Leonidas.  Therefore judgment for $10,000 damages is asked for.  Frank A. Cooper and Letts & McGee appear for the administrator.


The suit was filed with the clerk of the district court today, and still another one in the same amount on behalf of the estate of the son, Ellsworth Leonidas, will be filed on the morrow.


The elder Leonidas is alleged to have a widow resident in Illinois who goes by the name of Taggert, which is supposed to be the real name of the victims of the tragedy on board the Dubuque at noon July 10th, 1902.




The Davenport Times, October 24, 1902, page 9











Case is Brought By Administrator McNanus and is a Result of the Tragedy Which Occurred Last Summer.



Notices have been served on Mate Breen of the Diamond Jo lines Dubuque  and on the Diamond Jo company for a suit of $10,000 to be instituted by P. W. McManus, administrator for the estate of Christopher Leonidas who was killed on board of the steamer Dubuque last summer.  The notices were served on Mate Breen last week and on Agent Osborn of the Diamond Jo company yesterday.


F. A. Cooper and Letts & McGee are attorneys for the administrator and the suit will be filed with the county clerk the later part of the week.  The petition sets forth account of the death of the elder Leonidas, claiming that it was not though any fault of Leonidas and was the fault to Mate Breen.


Another suit will probably be made out soon for a like amount for the death of the younger Leonidas, the son of Christopher.  The matter has been in the hands of Administrator McManus and Attorneys Cooper, Letts & McGee for some time and they have been busy gathering evidence for the suit.


The case, if it will be remembered, is the result of the killing of Leonidas on the steamer Dubuque last summer just after the boat left Davenport and was out in the river.  The two Leonidas, father and son got on the boat at Rock Island and with their baggage were on the lower deck.  They had been peddling patent medicines in that city and though the country.  They were pronounced to be peaceful and quite citizens, although for the purpose of advertising their wares which were of a Mexican and Indian make, they had attired themselves in cowboy outfits.  They wore revolvers at their belts and looked quite formidable.


Some altercation arose between them and Mate Breen of the boat and Breen shot at both of them, killing them.  It was claimed in his behalf that the killings was in self defense, that the two men had been unruly and that they had attempted to draw their revolvers on him.  The bodies were brought back to Davenport and at the inquest Breen was discharged from criminal liability in the deaths.  The bodies of the men, no relative claiming them, were in accordance with the law sent to the state university to be used for dissection.


After the story of the death of the two men had spread and with it, false accounts as to their wealth, there were many letters received from people claiming that the men were related to them.  These dropped off in time and about the only claimant now is a Mrs. Taggert of Peoria, Ill.  She is said to be an invalid and to have papers, certificates and witness to substantiate her claim of being the wife of Christopher Leonidas.


The case will probably come up at the November term of the district court and some interesting developments are expected to come up in the case.




The Davenport Democrat, October 24, 1902, page 6








Allegations Are That He Was Acting as the Peacemaker When He Was Shot in the Back by the Mate of the Dubuque.


This afternoon there was filed in the office of the clerk of the court the second big damages suit growing out of the homicide which occurred July 10 on the steamer Dubuque, and wherein Christopher and Ellsworth Leonidas lost their lives.


F. A. Cooper and Letts & McGee; the same attorneys who filed the suit on behalf of P. W. McManus, administrator of the estate of Christopher Leonidas, have filed it on behalf of the estate of Ellsworth Leonidas, his son..


The petition is similar in text to the one previously filed, in its allegations pertinent to the Diamond Jo company, being a common carrier, and that, under the law, when it accepted the ticket of Ellsworth Leonidas it obligated itself to give him safe passage from Rock Island to McGregor, and to protect him from abuse and insult while in route.


It differs, however, from the Christopher Leonidas suit in that it alleges that the said Ellsworth Leonidas was acting as a peace maker at the time he was killed; that when his father was shot he implored the mate Dan Breen not to shoot any more, but that the mate did shoot while the said Ellsworth Leonidas was running away, and while his back was turned, so that the lad was hit in the back and so injured that he died soon afterwards.


Wherefore judgment in the sum of $10,000 as damages is asked.


Notices of the filing of these two suits for damages have been served upon the Diamond Jo company as also Mate Breen, who now resides in Dubuque, and where the service upon him was made.


Mr. Cooper states that the second wife of Christopher Leonidas survives him at Peoria.  She is paralyzed in the left hand.  She will be one of the chief claimants of the estate before the court.  A younger son and brother of the second Leonidas reside with her.  Mr. Cooper received a letter from her this morning. 




The Davenport times, Tuesday, November 4, 1902, page 12








Writes Chief Martens Concerning the Dead Man's Estate and Promises Him a Share



Another missing wife of the murdered Leonidas, who was killed on the boat Dubuque, last July, has shown up and wants to know about her departed husband.  Like the rest the waiting widow seems more anxious to know about the estate of the dead man but this one comes out in big bold letters and says that he got just what he deserved.  Not only this but she wants to thank the man who did the deed.


The communication from the latest Mrs. Leonidas came this morning and was addressed to the chief of police.  The communication was written on paper bearing the letter-head of the St. Nicholas hotel, Cincinnati, and the envelope also had the same head.  The letter bore a post-mark from the same place and so it evidently was written by some woman there.


Mrs. Leonidas, number last, takes the chief into her confidence and promises him that if he will aid her in securing the estate of her husband that he shall be fixed out all right and that his pockets will be made the heavier for the job.   She also states that her home was in Jeffersonville before she was married and that her maiden names was Sutton.  The letter was written by a person who evidently never had any  great number of years of schooling and there is an utter abandon of capitals, periods, etc., that makes it  rather hard to decipher.  The meaning is there all right, however,  and the one drift of the entire epistle is the estate of the dead man.  The chief, contrary to the demands of the writer, turned the letter over to the newspaper men and a copy is attached.  For the convenience of the readers the letter is capitalized and punctuated somewhat.




Davenport Republican, Wednesday, November 5, 1902, page 7.








She Says She Heard Her Husband Had a Blond Woman With Him When He Was Shot-Declares She Will Pay Mate Breen for Giving Her Spouse What He Deserved to Have.



If a week passes when Chief Martens does not learn of a letter from a person declaring herself to be the only genuine wife of the late Christopher Leonidas, who met his death by shooting at the hands of Mate Breen of the steamer Dubuque last summer, the head of the police department is inclined to think something must be wrong.  This week is all right in this respect, for the fourth woman to assert her right to the title of Mrs. Leonidas has written.  Following is the missive from the fourth alleged wife of the deceased medicine man.  It is addressed to Ed Noth.


"St. Nicholas Hotel Cincinnati, Nov. 1.-Edward N. Noth.  Kind Sir:  Will you tell me what description Christopher Leonidas had?  What did he have? Long dark red hair, hazel colored eyes and where did they take his body or who claimed him?  Tell me all, I will make everything O. K. with you.  I want you to help me out.  I am coming in on his estate.  I am the one that all belongs to.  He has got a mother and brother staying with me, and you will let me know if he had anything with him.


"I heard there was a blond woman with him, and that Mr. Greene shot him.  I am going to pay him for doing the work.  He (Leonidas) got what was just.  I can prove my way all through.


"You let me know, and keep this to yourself, for his friends aim to get everything.  Hope I will hear from you soon.  From Lovine De Valor.


P. S.-That is the name  he married me by.  Address St. Nicholas Hotel.  My name when he married me was Lovine Sutton, Jeffersonville, Ind.  If you want to find out about me, you write to William Pfau, druggist at Jeffersonville.  What I say I do, I will do.  Help me and I will help you."  




The Davenport Times, November 18, 1902, page 9








Extra Report of Scott County Inquisitors State They Believe Killing Was Justifiable



Dan Breen, the mate on the steamer Dubuque, who shot Christopher Leonidas and his son last June (July), cannot be held responsible for their death.


The Scott County grand jury in its report to the November term of court today returned, among those against whom no bills were found, the name of Dan Breen with the following explanation: "In the case of the State of Iowa vs. Dan Breen, we wish to report that we have given the evidence a very careful examination, calling all witness who we thought could aid us in arriving at a correct conclusion and giving the minutes of the coroner's inquest a careful examination and although there is some conflicting testimony we are of the opinion and have found no bill in the case."


Dan Breen's connection with the Leonidas affair is well remembered.  He was the man who pulled the gun and shot the father and son, but claimed that he shot them in self-defense as they were about to attack him.  Breen was afterward arrested and the case has been hanging fire until the present time.




The Davenport Democrat, November 18, 1902, page 7.





The grand jury made its final report at 11 o'clock this forenoon.  There were 4 "no bills", among them being that of the State vs. Dan Breen, whose case was investigated most thoroughly during the September and the present court terms.

The grand jury which reported today was composed as follows:  Lois Hinz of Blue Grass township, L. W. Pope of Princeton township, Thomas J. Bawden of Rockingham township, John Greve of Allen's Grove township, Charles Koch of Sheridan township, R. S. Whyte of Buffalo township, Henry Lau of Lincoln township.  Louis Hinz was foreman of the panel and Ed. J. Dahms, clerk.




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 Times, January 10, 1903








Attorneys Waiting to See Whether Defendants Will Take Last Ruling to Supreme Court



A new move was made in the suit being brought against the Diamond Jo line of steamers and Dan Breen, the mate ,this morning, when a substituted petition was filed asking for $10,000 compensatory damages and $5,000 exemplary damages.

The petition recites that Dan Breen acting in the capacity of mate of the steamer Dubuque on which the Leonidas people had taken passage, insulted, abused and ill treated the two Leonidases and immediately afterward shot them with a gun, from the effects of which they both died.

The petition also stated that the acts were malicious and without provocation and damages to the amount of $15,000 is asked for.

Changes Action

The last suit that is filed changes the action from one of breach of contract to that of tort and puts an entirely new condition of affairs surrounding the suit.

The matter was much simplified in the decision handed down by Judge House the other day denying the defendants' right to separate the two parties in the action and the attorneys for the plaintiff are now anxiously awaiting to see whether the attorneys for the defendant will take exceptions to the ruling.

May Go to Supreme Court

If it is the pleasure of the defendants in the case an appeal could be taken on the motion decided by Judge House and the matter could be carried to the supreme court.  In case this happened it is a question as to whether the matter would come up for an immediate hearing or would have to wait its turn.

If the latter case proved true it would delay the hearing of the suit for a year or more as it would take that time to get the matter before the judge.

The attorneys for the plaintiff will make every effort to get the case ready for trial in the April term but it may be delayed longer.

List of Questions

In the petition filed this morning the plaintiffs put certain questions to the defendants which are to be answered as required in the statute.  The question pertains to the duties of the company and as to whether the two men who were shot were regular passengers and had purchased their fare.  The questions are as follows:

1.  State your name, age, occupation and in what capacity you are connected with the Diamond Jo steamers.

2.  You may state whether or not the Diamond Jo line of steamers is a corporation, and if not, what it is.

3.  You may state whether or not the Diamond Jo line of steamers is a common carrier of passengers and freight on the Mississippi river between St. Louis, Mo., and St. Paul, Minn., and whether or not its boats are licensed for that purpose.

4.   You may state whether or not the Diamond Jo line of steamers owns property and has an office or agency situated therein for the transaction of its business in the City of Davenport.

5.  You may state whether or not a man known as Ellsworth Leonidas, deceased, purchased a ticket from your agent for passage from Rock Island to McGregor, Ia., on or before July 10, 1902, and if so, you may state whether said ticket was received by the officers and employees on the steamer Dubuque and accepted for transportation on July 10, 1902.

6.  You may state whether or not one Dan Breen, the defendant therein, was acting in the capacity of first mate of the steamer Dubuque on July 10, 1902.

7.  You may state in full the duties of the first mate of the steamboats operated by the Diamond Jo line of steamers, as to their relations to the passengers and their baggage.

8.  You may state what the duties of the captain of the steamboats operated by the Diamond Jo line of steamers are and in particular as to their duties in cases of quarrels between passengers or between passengers and members of the crew or employees.

9. You may state what the duties of the clerk of the steamboats operated by the Diamond Jo line of steamers are and particularly as to their duties in case of quarrels between passengers or between passengers and members of the crew or employees.




The Davenport Times, February 20, 1903, page 4.








Decision on the Arguments Will Bind or Relieve Steamer Company From Case



Judge House will come to Davenport Feb. 25, to hear the arguments on another motion in the Diamond Jo case, which is one of the most important factors in the case.


The attorneys for the defendants have asked that, in the petition, the words in regard to Dan Breen, which it states that he was acting in the capacity of mate be stricken out.


This would mean that Breen was acting on his own responsibility when he committed the act and would relieve the Diamond Jo Steamer company from all liability in the matter.


It has been requested that the words "in the scope of his employment" be used-but even if the sentence was changed to this it would mean the limitation of the case for the plaintiffs and lessen the chance of recovery.  The Diamond Jo company is using every effort to get the two causes of action separated and the attorneys for the plaintiff are just as persistent in keeping them both united.  What will be the effect of the Steamer company going into the hands of a receiver, in the case is not yet known but it is thought by the attorneys for the plaintiffs that in case a judgment is secured that it will be considered as one of the liabilities of the company and they will come in on the percentage with the other creditors.


Should the motion to strike out the words asked for be granted the Steamer Co. will be released from further liability and the plaintiffs will have recourse only to the mate, Dan Breen.  This would lessen the value of the judgment to a great extent and the arguments on the motion will be hotly contested.      


Researched  by Sue Rekkas

and transcribed by

Georgeann McClure  & Sue Rekkas


back to History Index