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Life on the Rivers


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





The First Trial - Christopher Leonidas

April 14, 1903

Transcribed by Georgeann McClure
and Sue Rekkas
Researcher Sue Rekkas


The Davenport Times, Tuesday,

April 14, 1903, page 5


Case Against Diamond Jo Line Will Be Begun Tomorrow Afternoon


There are but 25 available jurors to form the petit jury panel and in case any number of these fail to pass examination it may be that the petit jury will be unable to resume work on Tuesday at 2 0'clock as per schedule.  The reason for the lack of names is the fact that a large number of the first who were notified have been excused.

What will no doubt prove the most important and hard fought case of the term is slated for the hearing immediately after the jury has been empanelled.  It is of P. W. McManus, administrator, vs. The Diamond Jo Co. and Mate Dan Breen.  The first will be in behalf of the estate of Christopher Leonidas and the evidence introduced will be of no little importance in deciding the case which will follow against the same defendants in behalf of the estate of Ellsworth Leonidas.  Each suit calls for damages in the sum of $15,000, claimed to be due the estates on account of the killing of the men by Mate Breen of the Diamond Jo line steamer Dubuque on the night of July 8, 1902.  The plaintiffs are to be represented by Letts & McGee and F. A. Cooper while the case of the steamer line will be conducted by W. M. Chamberlin.  Ely & Bush will appear for Mate Breen.


The Davenport Times, Tuesday, April 14, 1903, page 9





Attorneys Start to Impanel a Jury This Afternoon--Little Progress is Made

The petit jury was called this afternoon and the first case to be brought up was that of P.W. McManus vs. Dan Breen and the Diamond Jo company, arising from the killing of the two Leonidas men on the steamer Dubuque last summer.
Attorney Cooper began examining the men as soon as they had taken their customary oaths and the questioning continued until 2:20 o'clock.

The 12 men who were first called by Clerk Noth were as follows:  Benjamin Anderson, S. Goos, Thomas Ketelsen, William H. Mennig, Fred Meier, John McDonald, Scott McGaw, John Otten, Robert Rathmann,, Louis Schultz, Charles Strubbs, Sam T. White, A. N. Westlund.

The first man to be excused was Scott McGaw, who was challenged on account of being in the employ of W. M.

Chamberlin, one of the attorneys for the defense.  Christ Leper was summoned to take the seat of McGaw.

After Attorney Cooper had completed his examination of the jury, Attorney Chamberlin began the second challenging.  As a result of the statement that he had formed an opinion which he did not believe could be influenced by the evidence in the case, John Otten was challenged and excused.  P. N. Jacobsen, Sr., was summoned in his stead.


Davenport Republican, Wednesday, April 15, 1903, page 8



All afternoon Consumed in Examination of Jury and One Not Secured At Time Of Adjournment -
Great Interest Is Being Manifested in the Final Outcome of the Famous Litigation Over Death Of Men.


The trail of the much-talked of Leonidas case in which the Diamond Jo line steamers and Dan Breen are made joint defendants in a suit for $15,000 for the death of Ellsworth (Christopher) Leonidas,  P. W. McNamus being the Plaintiff.  The case promises  to be hotly contested.  All yesterday afternoon was consumed in examining the talismans of the petit jury, and it is not expected that the jury will be secured without drawing an extra panel.

The Case is one of very especial interest on account of the world wide interest taken in it at the time of the tragic death of Ellsworth and his father, Christopher Leonidas, at the hands of Dan Breen, mate of the Diamond Jo line, Dubuque, while just off this city July 8th.

A number of witness from away have been served with subpoenas and will be here to testify, while a great many people from this city are witnesses.  It is expected that the case will consume the greater part of the rest of this week.



The Davenport Times, April 15, 1903, page 9




Attorneys Gave Opening Arguments This Morning--A. D. Rydquist Is First Witness


It was necessary to call a special venure of 12 men to make up the petit jury this morning and the Leonidas case was not commended until about 10 o’clock.  The examination of the first 25 men who were called as jurors continued throughout the afternoon and as the attempt to secure a panel from these men  was unavailing the work was continued today.

The Jurors

The men who passed examinations, after a short recess, took their seats in the jury box and listened to the petitions, the answers and the addresses of the attorneys.  They are William Brown, William F. Finefield, Thomas Ketelsen, T. F Layden , Charles Lienhardt, John McDonald, William Nagel, Carl Schllapkohl, Loius Schultz, Edward Stacey, Thomas Willhort and Charles Strubbe.

The opening arguments of Attorney Cooper and Judge Lenehan occupied considerable time and it was exactly 11 o’clock when A. D. Rydquist, the first witness for the plaintiff, was called.

He claimed to have been an eye witness of the shooting.  He persisted in giving testimony as to the impressions which the sight made on him, saying continually that he thought so and so, and that he was impressed in such and such a manner.
Aside from this Rydquist bids fair to be a strong witness for the plaintiff.  He had a good view of the shooting and tells what appears to be a straight story.

When asked by Attorney Letts as to what followed the order of Mate Breen that the Leonidas remove their baggage, he replied that Breen returned and shot the elder man.

He was questioned as to the conversation in which the men indulged, but said that he did not understand the words used by them but knew that they used profanity.  An attempt was made to secure the exact words that were used but the witness merely answered that he could not answer in an exact way every question of this kind.

He was asked if he had any conscientious scruples against the repetition of profane words but the question was objected to and the objection sustained.

Holster closed.

He swore that he had stood within eight or ten feet from the men when the shots were fired, and said that he had taken particular notice of the revolver holster which the elder Leonidas carried on his belt.  He stated that the flap over the holster had remained closed and swore positively that the man had not removed the gun from the case.

He said that the order from Breen telling the men to remove their baggage had been delivered in a threatening tone of voice and that during the time he was commanding them he had held his hand near his hip pocket.

Taken as a whole the testimony which Rydquist gave in the morning was damaging for the defense.  He spoke in a deliberate manner and was concise in the majority of his statements.

Wife is Here.

Mrs. Nancy Taggert, the wife of the elder Leonidas, is in the city having come to Davenport yesterday from her home at Peoria, Ill.  She will remain in Davenport during the trial.  Mrs. Taggert is accompanied  by her brother, Robert Cathran of Peoria.

Leonidas, it will be remembered, was not the right name of the man who was shot on the steamer Dubuque last summer.  He went under that name with the other man who was with him and who was shot for advertising purposes.

Mate Dan Breen of the steamer Dubuque, about whom the principal interest in the case centers is present in the court room today.  Captain Walter A. Blair took the stand for the plaintiff and the defense this afternoon.  His evidence was not material.  Rydquist took the stand again for awhile, giving about the same testimony as he did in the morning.


The Davenport Democrat, April 15, 1903, page 7



Jury Was Finally Empanelled at 9:45 O’clock This Forenoon

Theological Student Testified Before Noon-Today’s Proceedings.

A. D Ryquist, a theological student of Augustana College Rock Island, was the first witness to testify in the case of P. W. McManus, administrator of the estates of Christopher and Ellsworth Leonidas vs. the Diamond Jo line steamers and Dan Breen.

The case is one wherein damages in the sum of $15,000 are asked for because of the alleged unwarranted shooting of the two medicine men on board the steamer Dubuque about noon of July 8, 1902, just off the Davenport shore.  Witness Ryquest was a passenger on board the boat and  had been holding conversation with the two Leonidases before Mate Dan Breen ordered them with profane language, as he testified, to remove their baggage to another part of the lower deck.  He described the altercation on the boat which led up to the tragedy wherein the two medicine men lost their lives.  The direct examination was not conducted at the time of the noon adjournment.

The Drawing of the Jury.

The case was opened at 2 o’clock Tuesday afternoon.  The plaintiff is represented by Frank A. Cooper and Letts 7 McGee and the defendants by Hurd, Lineman & Kiesel of Dubuque, Ely & Bush and Wm. M .

Chamberlin.  Judge Linehan is present at the trial, but none of the officers of the Diamond Jo Line steamers nor Mate Dan Breen were in attendance this morning.

The regular panel of the April jurors was exhausted in the selection of the 12 men, and a special venire of 12 was ordered drawn at 5 o’clock.

The jury was not finally impended until 9:45 o’clock this morning when Deputy Clerk McFarland swore the panel in.

The Opening Statement.

At 9:55 o’clock Attorney Frank A. Cooper began the opening statement  for the plaintiff.  He spoke until 10:20 o’clock and outlined the facts which he said the plaintiff would prove.

These were that the Leonidases were passengers holding tickets, and therefore, were entitled to the courtesies of the boat; that they were not riotous, but peaceable, and that their shooting was entirely unwarranted.

Judge Linehan of Dubuque followed Mr. Cooper in his opening statement and spoke until 11 o’clock.  He declared the act of the mate to be justifiable, and alleged that the clothing and actions of the two Leonidases wee calculated to strike terror into the hearts of the other passengers.  He said the defense would prove that they were dangerous men, and that their fate was deserved.

The first witness, Rydquist, was interrogated by F. D. Letts on the direct examination.

There are many witness subpoenaed in the case, and these are excluded from the court room.

Captain Blair on Stand.

Student Rydquist was not placed on the stand at 2 o;clock.  He gave way to Captain Walter A. Blair, master of the Young, who gave testimony as to the duties of the mates of vessels, and bore witness to the reputation of Dan Breen as a peaceable and law abiding citizen.

The Captain was anxious to get through with his testimony in time to go down the river with his boat, and therefore he was placed  on the stand immediately after dinner.

He said he met Dan Breen every two weeks during the river season for the past 10 years, and had known him for 15 years.  He said the mate’s reputation was good and that he could positively say that he had never heard him use profane language.

At 3 o’clock Student Rydquist was again called to the witness stand to under go the cross- examination which was conducted by Attorney N. D. Ely.

Dan Breen in Court.

This afternoon defendant Dan Breen appeared in the court room.  He was seated beside Judge Linehan and appeared much at ease.

The court room was fairly crowed at this afternoon’s session.


The Davenport Daily Leader, Wednesday, April 15, 1903


Officials Sent Out Last Night to Summon Twelve Extra Men After Regular Panel Was Exhausted.


The jury who is to render a decision in the famous Leonidas case has been secured.

The last man was secured this morning after nearly a day had been consumed in a selection and after the sheriff was ordered to summon twelve extra talismen, the regular panel being exhausted.

The jurors who will set on the case are Wm. Brown, Wm. F. Finefield, Thomas Ketelsen, T. F. Layden, Chas. Lienhardt, John McDonald, Wm. Nagel, Carl Schlopkohl, Louis Schultz, Edward Stacey, Thomas Wilhart and Chas. Strubbe.

The list of jurors is unique in the fact that for probably the second time in the history of the Scott county bar a colored man has been selected as one of the jurors.  In a case several years ago a Negro was chosen one time and occupied the panel but not since that time has the thing occurred.

The man who enjoys this distinction is Wm Brown and he is in the employ of the C. N. Roberts Co. and hauls expressage from the depot to the St. James hotel.  He seems to be an intelligent man and as capable of rendering a fair and impartial verdict as any of those who occupy the jurors box with him.

In the city also is the widow of the elder Leonidas, Mrs. Nancy Taggert.  She came to Davenport yesterday from Peoria where she resides at the present time and accompanying her is Robert Cothran, an uncle, whose home also is in Peoria.
Dan Breen, the mate, is not yet in the city but it is expected that he will be present when the time comes for him to take the stand for the defense.

Attorney Cooper made the opening argument for the plaintiff and he occupied the attention of the jury for about three-quarters of an hour.

Mr Cooper first read the original petition and then the answers of the defendants and then made a clear and concise statement of the case from the plaintiff's point of view.

Judge Lenehan of Dubuque opened the case for the defendants and his arguments were brief and to the point.

The first witness that was called in the case was A. D. Rydquist, a student at Augustana college.

Mr. Rydquist appears for the plaintiffs and he claims to have been an eyewitness to the shooting.

His testimony was to the effect that he saw the Leonidas people get on the boat at Rock Island and that the baggage was placed on the lower deck.

Mr. Rydquist testified that when the men came on the boat they both carried guns and they were held in holsters in belts that the men wore around their waist.  He also stated that the elder Leonidas carried a knife that fitted in a case by his side.

Mr. Rydquist stated that the men both staid close to their baggage and that they did not associate with any other people on the boat nor had they spoken to any one since they had taken passage.

He also stated that he saw Breen come down from the upper deck and that he ordered the men to remove their baggage or stated that it had to be removed.  The witness testified that the order was delivered in a stern tone of voice and he also stated that when Breen came down stairs he carried his hand to his side as if he was keeping it in close proximity to his revolver.

Witness said that after the order had been given concerning the baggage he heard a shot fired and saw the elder Leonidas fall to the deck of the boat.  He also testified to a very important fact, namely that he saw the holster of the elder Leonidas afterward and that the holster where he kept the revolver was closed.  This goes to prove the plaintiff's theory that there is no evidence of justifiable shooting.


The Davenport Daily Leader, Wednesday, April 15, 1903, page 4


Here To Take Part in the Famous Case Against the Diamond Jo People.


Dan Breen, the mate against whom the suit is directed, is in Davenport and at the court house this afternoon.  He arrived unexpectedly from Dubuque this noon and went immediately to the county building where he is listening intently to the testimony.

Captain Blair, of the W. J. Young, was called to the witness stand this afternoon.  He was wanted principally to define the duties of a mate on the boat and also to testify in regard to Breen's general reputation.  Mr. Blair swore that as far as he knew Breen's reputation was good and that he did not know him to be a man of bad character or habits.

After the attorney's had finished with the captain, A. D. Rhyquist was again called to the stand and the cross examination was begun.


Davenport Republican, Thursday, April 16, 1903, page 8




F. A. Cooper made the opening
address to the jury for the plaintiff.  He stated that the plaintiff expected to show that the defendant, Christopher Leonidas, came to his death from a bullet fired by Dan Breen, mate of the Diamond Jo liner Dubuque, and that at the time of the act the dead man did not have his revolver drawn, nor any means of defense--against the mate's revolver.

Judge Lenihan followed with the opening address for the defense.  He said that the defense would prove by numerous witnesses that the Leonidas had their revolvers drawn on four different occasions and that by threatening the roustabouts on the boat with their guns, they induced them to dance.  He further stated that the defense expected to prove that at the time of the shooting the Leonidases had their revolvers drawn from their holsters and were holding them in a threatening attitude.

Rydquist on the Stand.

AT 11 o'clock the plaintiff placed its first witness upon the stand.  He was A. G. E. Rydquist, a theological student from Augustana college, in Rock Island.  He testified that on July 10th, 1902, he was a passenger on the steamer Dubuque, having boarded the boat at Rock Island.  In substance his testimony was as follows: That he first noticed the Leonidases on account of their grotesque attire, that of Western cowboys, but that immediately upon boarding the boat he ascended to the upper deck, while the two men were on the lower deck.  Shortly afterwards he descended again to the lower deck for the purpose of looking after his baggage, and he immediately became aware of a quarrel between the mate, Dan Breen, and the elder Leonidas.  He did not pay much attention to the quarrel at first, and after assuring himself that his baggage was all safe, he interested himself in watching the preparations for the voyage, and viewing the scenery.  As he stood there the quarrel became more heated and he heard a good deal of profane language exchanged between the two men.

They Came Together.

He testified that as he watched the progress of the quarrel the two men started to come together, and the younger man pulled at the coat sleeve of his father and told him to sit down, which the elder man did.  Then the witness testified that he saw Breen ascend the stairs and when he returned he noticed that he carried his right hand under his coat, and apparently resting upon his right hip.  He testified that Breen approached the two Leonidases and again addressed a command at them and when they refused him, he pulled a revolver from his pocket and shot twice at the elder Leonidas.  As the first shot was fired the younger Leonidas, who had retreated towards the boilers of the boat, at the sight of the gun, started back, imploring the mate not to shoot his father.  As the boy turned back, testified the witness, Breen turned the gun upon him and shot, the boy turned and started to run, but the second shot caught him in the back and he pitched headlong into the open door of a coal breaker.

Never Had Guns Out.

The witness testified that during the whole affair the Leonidases never once drew, nor offer to draw, their revolvers, and that they never even made a motion to draw their guns.  He was aware, all the time, that there was trouble between the men over the disposition of the baggage, and several times he heard the mate order the men to relinquish their baggage to the porters, which they each time refused to do.  He said that at all times the guns of the two men were plainly distinguishable in their holsters, under their short blouses.

In the course of the cross examination of the witness by Attorney W. M. Chamberlin for the defense, the witness spoke of the bad language which passed between the men and in response to a question stated that his memory was at fault as to the exact words uttered and their sequence, but he mentioned one of the words used most frequently.  It called forth the question from Attorney Chamberlin:  "What is your definition of profanity."

The theological student looked puzzled a moment and then replied: "The use of any words that are unclean."

Attorney Chamberlin asked him if he made any distinction between obscene and profane language and the witness replied that he did not make much distinction.

Capt. Blair Testifies.

Capt. Blair, a witness for the plaintiff, testified during the time in the afternoon which he had before his boat, the W. J. Young, Jr., departed on the trip south, Mr. Rydquist being excused in the interim.  Capt. Blair testified as to the rules governing the conduct and powers of mates on river boats.  He testified that the power of the mate was supreme on the lower deck, over the deck hands and the deck passengers.


The Davenport Times, Thursday, April 16, 1903





Breen is in Court Room--Other Witness Examined

The progress of the Leonidas case is very slow and it is probable that it will not be ready for the jury before the end of the week.  The plaintiff is still examining its witnesses and as yet only one has been finally dismissed.  They still have several witnesses to put on the stand and will examine some of those who have already been up for a second time.  In addition to this the defense will put on numerous witnesses and it is possible that Mate Dan Breen will go on the stand in his own behalf later in the week.

Attended CourtBreen

Breen came into court yesterday afternoon and has been in attendance at the trial since that time.  He sits near his attorneys and takes careful notice of all that is going on about him as well as listening to every word of testimony that is given.

When the hats which the murdered men had worn and the belts on which hung their revolvers were brought into court this morning he fastened his gaze on them and studied them for some time.

Raphealson Heard Threat

The second witness to be put on the stand this morning was J. H. Raphealson of 218 Brady street.  Mr. Raphealson was a passenger on the boat and overheard remarks which he stated were made by the mate regarding the personal appearance of the two Leonidas men.

The most damaging bit of his testimony was the following statement, which he heard Breen make to several parties near whom he was standing.  In substance, it was:
"There are two cowboys on, who think they are in the west, but they will find out different before they get off."
The witness stated that this was said in a sneering way and savored somewhat of a threat.

Attorney Letts subjected Dr. Raphealson to a severe cross examination but the witness refused to become rattled and retold the story in the same manner.

William Mundt, a police officer, who stated that he accompanied the ambulance to the dock after the shooting, was the next witness to be called.  The plaintiff sought to show by his testimony the position which the men occupied and after having downed several objections, were able to get the description from him.  He was not examined further in the matter and was dismissed without cross examination.

The Plaintiff then introduced M. E. Bowling, the undertaker, who had embalmed and buried the bodies of the murdered men.

The hats which it was claimed the men wore were exhibited at this time and witness swore that they had been brought to his rooms with the bodies.  He could not state, however, as to which hat belonged to which on account of the fact that the hats were not on the heads of the men when he first saw them.

Attorney Letts wished to ascertain which man had worn the hat which was pierced near the crown on the rim, but the witness could not swear to the fact.

When asked as to what disposition had been made of the wearing apparel of the men he stated that it had been burned, as is customary with clothing that is covered with blood and torn.


His testimony might be taken as a victory for the defense for the reason that it was contradictory to that of Police Officer Mundt, who had preceded him on the stand.  The latter had testified that he was not called to the landing until after 12 o'clock, and when he arrived there the dead bodies were lying in their original positions.  Bowling, however, said the bodies had arrived at his undertaking parlors on Brady street at about 11 o'clock.

The attorneys for the defense made full notes on this answer, but did not use the question as a cross examination.  It is probable that they will endeavor to impeach the testimony by introducing these statements to the jury when they make their final arguments.

After the dismissal of Bowling the plaintiff's attorneys announced that Mrs. Nannie Taggert would next appear as a witness for them.


The Davenport Daily Leader, Thursday, April 16, 1903, page 8



Stated That She was Married in 1888 and That the Man's Real Name
was Clarence Taggert


Mrs. Anna Taggert, who claims to be the wife of Christopher Leonidas, was the principle witness that was introduced in the trial of the Leonidas case today.

Mrs. Taggert lives at Peoria, Ill., and she is supposed to be one of the numerous wives of the dead man, or at least one of those who claim that they were his wife.

Mrs. Taggert has also established a fairly good claim.  The woman stated that she was thirty-nine years of age but she looks considerably older.  She is dark complected, dressed in dark clothes and is a cripple, her right arm being cut off about half way between the elbow and wrist.

The woman is not particularly attractive but she is not what one would call coarse. She gave the testimony asked for in a straightforward way and was very cool during the cross examination.

Mrs. Taggert stated that the real name of Leonidas was Clarence Taggert, or at least that was the name that he called himself when he married her.  She stated that she was married to Leonidas in 1888 and that the wedding took place at Quincy, Ill..  Later she stated that she moved with her husband to to Mt. Sterling, Ill., and that her husband was engaged in the popcorn business there where he earned about $75 a month.  From this she stated that he engaged in the fish business and earned the same amount.  Later and about five years ago she stated that he started in the show business and that he continued in this until the time that he was shot.

She stated that Leonidas was about forty years of age when she married him, which would have made him a man of fifty-five when he was killed.

The attorneys for the defense asked the woman several questions in regard to the man's pecuniary habits and evidently tried to make the point that Leonidas was of a shiftless disposition and that he saved little money or did little towards the support of his family.

They also tried to bring out as to why the men adopted the name of Leonidas when he went into the show business but this was overruled by the judge as not being material.

The woman also testified that there was a son thirteen years of age still living.  The woman was then excused until afternoon.

Raphelson Called

Dr. J. Rahelson, of 218 Brady street, was also called to the stand.  He testified to having taken passage to Le Claire on the boat that day and to having heard the shots fired but otherwise he knew little about the case and he was on the stand but a few moments.

Mundt Testifies

Detective Mundt, who was the first officer to arrive on the scene when the boat landed, was called on the stand testified as to the removing of the bodies and the position in which they lay on the boat.

He stated that the elder man was lying straight out near the box that contained their luggage and that the son was doubled up resting on his hand and knees with his head bent double under his body.

The officer testified to calling the patrol and aiding in removing the two men to the wagon where it was decided to take them to the hospital but afterward to the undertaking rooms.

Deputy McFarland also produced the two guns and the belt and knife that was taken from the persons of the dead men and the officer identified these as the ones that were worn by the Leonidas people at the time they were sot.

Merton C. Bowling, who runs the Boies undertaking rooms, was also summoned and brought the two hats worn by the Leonidas' and stated that the hats were brought up with the people when they were placed in the parlors.


Davenport Republican, Friday, April 17, 1903



Defense in Leonidas Case Will Start First Thing This Morning, Probably Introducing Clerk Morris Killeen As Their First Witness-- Mrs.Nannie Taggart, Wife of the Dead Man, On the Stand

At six 0'clock last evening at the adjournment of district court for the day, the prosecution in the case of P. W. McManus, administrator vs. the Diamond Jo line and Dan Breen announced that it rested its case, and unless Judge House sustains a motion of the defendants to take the case from the hands of the jury, the defense will commence the introduction of evidence this morning.  Yesterday was replete with good incidents in the trial.  Mrs. Nannie Taggart, who says she is a widow of Christopher Leonidas was on the stand for several hours and testified as to her life with her Husband.  Withal the general impression , when the prosecution rested was that it had made a case which it will take a great deal of contradictory evidence upon the part of the defense to shake.

Mrs. Taggart Testifies.

Somewhat of a surprise was sprung in the case when yesterday morning the prosecution introduced upon the stand, Mrs. Nannie Taggart, reputed widow of Christopher Leonidas.  Mrs. Taggart is 38 years old, short, and rather stout.  In an accident some years ago she lost her left hand and left limb, and her appearance does not denote any oppressive amount of financial prosperity.  She testified at length upon the direct examination and was held on the stand for almost two hours on the cross examination.  Her testimony was interesting though the fact that it brought out things concerning the past life of Christopher Leonidas which have not before been made public and show the man rather as a prosaic dealer in horse radish and popcorn than as a wild and woolly product of the Western prairies.  In substance Mrs. Taggart's testimony was as follows:  When 24 years of age she was married to Clarence Taggart at Quincy, Ill.  That was August 19th, 1888.  They lived for a year in Quincy, immediately following the marriage and during that time Taggart conducted a popcorn stand and retailed horse radish from door to door, later engaging in the ice cream business.  At the expiration of a year or eighteen months of time she and her husband removed to Mt. Sterling, Ill., where her husband went into the business of a fish peddler.  During all this time there was living with them Ellsworth Taggart, a son of the old man by a former marriage.

Good Earing Powers.

Mrs. Taggart testified that during the time her husband was in the habit of earning about $75 per month and was never at any time given to dissipation of any character.

During all this time he was experimenting, more or less, with various medicines and had gotten together a mixture which he touted as being great to make hair grow where none had grown before.  At last, satisfied that there was a fortune awaiting his coming with his medicines, he with his son, Ellsworth, started on the road to benefit mankind.  Their outfit consisted of a Punch and Judy show, a goodly stock of medicines, a tent and lots of self confidence.  The old man had accumulated a bunch of songs and recitations in his cranium and both the boy and his father could make the man that came to them look sick when it came to divorcing a guitar from its music.

Changed Their Name.

Mrs. Taggart testified that when the plans for the trip were complete the fact was discovered that the name of Taggart was distressingly awkward for the dispensing a really scientific cure for falling hair and obnoxious tape worms so that they adopted to be their own the more classical name "Leonidas."  Thus fully equipped they started out about eighteen months before their tragic death. During their absence she testified that she had not heard directly from them.  In answer to a question upon cross examination she said that she was the second wife of Clarence Taggart but that his first wife, Evangeline Taggart, had died some time before his marriage to her.  The defense here introduced as evidence a letter purported to be from Mrs. Evangeline Taggart and addressed to M. E. Bowling of M. V. Boles & Co., enquiring after the death of Christopher Leonidas and stating in the letter that the writer was a wife of the dead man.  Mrs. Taggart said that she did not write the letter and did not know who did.

He Knew Taggart.

William Cochran, of Peoria, testified to a previous acquaintance with Christopher Leonidas. He said that he is a carpenter by trade and knew Christopher Leonidas, or Clarence Taggart, at Quincy both previous to and immediately following his marriage to Nannie Taggart.  He testified that at that time Leonidas was a pop corn merchant and peddled horse radish on the side but that he was dabbling in medicine all the time.  He said that Taggart had frequently told him about his business and showed him his books so that he knew that Taggart was earing upwards of $75 per month.  He testified that in his acquaintanceship with Taggart he had never known him to touch a drop of intoxicating liquor and had always found him to be quiet and unobtrusive.

Motion to Dismiss Case.

Shortly before 5 o'clock the defense, though Mr. Chamberlin, made a motion that the judge take the case from the jury and dismiss at the cost of the plaintiff.  This was argued for fully an hour.  The defense held that the testimony showed that in shooting the two Leonidases Mate Dan Breen entirely exceeded and stepped without his authority as mate on the boat to commit the act and that the Diamond Jo Line could not therefore be made a joint defendant with Dan Breen.  The plaintiff opposed this motion on the grounds that the mate was in full control over the storage of baggage on the lower deck, and over all the lower deck and deck passengers, as brought out in the testimony of Capt. W. A. Blair.  The fact was brought out, however, that rules on different lines of steamers are different.  At the close of the arguments Judge House announced that he would take until the opening of court this morning to announce his decision but that unless he changed his mind he would overrule the motion.

In case the motion is overruled the defense will start at once with the introduction of evidence.  Their first witness will probably be Morris Killean, clerk on the boat at the time of the shooting who lent to Mate Breen the revolver with which the shooting was done.


The Davenport Times, Friday, April 17, 1903


Defense Asks Case Taken From Jury But Motion Is Overruled--Testimony Today.


Before the defense introduced their first witness this morning they made a motion, asking that the case be taken from the jury.  The move met with considerable opposition from the attorneys for the plaintiff and for a time a warm fight waged.  Judge House finally brought the arguments to a close by overruling the motion and the jury retained the case.

It was necessary for two motions to be filed on account of the fact that two defendants are named in the petition but Judge House held the pleas are the same and identical and his ruling affected both motions.

Captain Simmons Testifies.

John Simmons, who was captain of the steamer Dubuque at the time the Leonidas men were murdered was the first witness to take the stand for the defense.

He stated that at the hour of the shooting he was eating his dinner and that the boat was in charge of Mate Breen.  He was asked as to the reputation of the mate and testified to the effect that it was good.  When questioned as to his knowledge of whether or not Breen had murdered a negro in the south and one in the Klondyke, he said that he had not heard of it.
The defense secured from him the nature of the duties of a mate and as to the duties of that officer on the Dubuque.

Colored Porter Takes Stand.

The second witness called by the defense was John Sleckman the colored porter of the ship.

He stated that he had carried the baggage of the murdered men to the different parts of the boat as directed.
He also testified that the men--Leonidas-- had used a generous amount of profane language and created no little merriment, when he was asked to repeat the words they used.  He covered his face with his hands and said in a rather embarrassed and foolish way:
"I doan wan' to say the things they said."

The defense sought to show by his testimony as well as that of Captain Simmons that the Leonidas men were surly and disagreeable and that Breen shot them in self defense.

Sleckman is the individual who testified before the coroner's jury and told a tale of rapid transit in which he said that at the time the first shot was fired he was within three feet of the men; but was three hundred feet distant when the second shot was fired.

The cross examination of Sleckman was begun by Attorney Letts and continued for some time this afternoon.

The porter was unable to give a detailed account of the positions of the  men and appeared to be somewhat shaken up by the cross examination.  The questioning continued for some time in the afternoon, with Bob Payne the captain of the watch on the Dubuque as the next witness to be introduced by the defense.


The Davenport Democrat, April 17, 1903, page 3.



Judge House Overruled the Motion to Take the Case from the Jury--Evidence for the Defense Now Being Submitted.

This morning at 9 o'clock Judge House announced that he had overruled the motion which Mr. Chamberlin argued Thursday afternoon to take the Leonidas case from the jury.  Therefore the defense put its witness on the stand.
The first witness was Captain John Simmons of St. Louis, the man in charge of the Dubuque at the time of the shooting.  He testified to the disorderly conduct of the two Leonidases as also to the fact of the shooting.

John Selectman, the porter of the Dubuque, followed him upon the stand.  The Negro testified to the incidents leading up to the shooting.  He said that the elder Leonidas had threatened to kill the mate, and this threat he repeated to Dan Breen.  The men had been terrorizing the crew on the deck while the boat was on its way to Davenport from Rock Island, making the roustabouts dance under revolver threats.  The mate had told them to move their baggage which they refused to do, and when he had left they told the porter that they would shoot him full of holes if he bothered them again.
The Negro testified that he was three feet away from the Leonidases when the mate fired the fatal shots, and confessed to being quite "shakey" when the killing was done.  The mate drew his revolver from his left coat pocket and held the weapon in his left hand when he did the shooting.

The witness denied that the younger Leonidas begged the mate not to shoot his father, but testified to the younger fellow saying after he had been shot: "Don't shoot my papa."

Judge Lenihan did the interrogating of the porter, and at almost every question the plaintiff's counsel interposed objections.  At 11 o'clock a recess was taken after which the porter was subjected to a rapid cross examination which lasted until the noon adjournment.

This Afternoon.

At 2 o'clock this afternoon John Selectman, the Negro porter of the boat was again placed upon the stand to undergo the cross examination.  This developed nothing of importance however, and shortly before 3 o'clock he gave way to a colored roustabout who at press time was testifying to his dancing at the threat of the elder Leonidas.


The Davenport Daily Leader, Friday April 17, 1903, page 8.


Defense Introduce Its Several Witness and Testimony is Heard During Remainder of Day

Captain Called

The first witness that was called for the defense this morning was Captain John Simmons, who had charge of the boat Dubuque at the time the shooting took place.

The principal part of his testimony was relative to the character of Breen, which Mr. Simmons said was good.  He also made some statements in regard to the official capacity of the mate and stated that he had charge of the boat when the captain was away.

Mr. Simmons saw nothing of the shooting as he was at dinner at the time it occurred and all that he knew about the matter was the hearing of the shots and the confusion that followed immediately after the shooting took place.

Negro called

The second witness introduced was John Sleckmann who was a porter on the boat at the time.

Sleckmann was an eye witness to the tragedy and he was kept on the stand during the greater part of the day.

He testified that he loaded the baggage of the Leonidas people on the boat and that it was taken to the upper deck.  He stated that the Leonidas' then ordered him to bring the baggage to the lower deck and that he complied with this.  After bringing it down, he stated that they ordered him to put it in a certain place but that he told them he could not disobey the officers of the boat.

He said that the elder Leonidas then swore and made a remark to the effect that he would perforate his black hide with bullets if he did not place the baggage where he was directed.

Sleckmann then testified that he notified the mate and he stated that the Leonidases afterward used violent language in referring to the mate and swore that they would blow him full of holes and throw him to the hogs.

Sleckmann gave an account of the shooting much the same as has been told before but stated that both father and son had their hands on their revolvers when they were shot.

Witness Taken ILL

Sleckmann the colored man who on the witness stand all day was was taken suddenly ill this afternoon and the trial was adjourned for some time.

Sleckmann is ill with consumption and he is evidently a very sick man.

Dr. Hageboeck was summoned to the court room where the sick man was attended to.


Davenport Republican, Saturday, April 18, 1903, page 6.



Colored Porter, Who Was One Of The Principal Factors In the Leonidas Tragedy Is Deserted Of Strength Wile Under Fierce Cross Examination And Is Removed In Dying Condition To St. Lukes Hospital.

Weakened physically by two months illness, and tired through three hard hours on the witness stand yesterday, John Selectman, colored porter on the Diamond Jo liner Dubuque last summer, and the star witnesses for the defense in the famous Leonidas case, broke down under a fierce cross examination by Attorney F. D. Letts for the prosecution and, faltering upon a question, suddenly clapped his hand over his heart and began to weep like a child.  He was assisted into the judge's private rooms and there every simple remedy available was tried, but without success, and as the man became steadily worse the police ambulance was telephoned for and he was removed to St. Luke's hospital, where, at a late hour last evening, it was reported that he was slightly improved in health, but that it would be impossible for him to return to the witness stand within the next few days.  He is suffering from heart trouble, which set in upon him about two or three months ago and which in that time has reduced him in weight a full 60 pounds, giving him a changed appearance, indeed, from the darky who was a principal witness before the coroner's jury in the Leonidas case last summer, and was as fat as butter.  It is said that the memory of the shooting fray and the terrible fright which he encountered there are responsible for his present condition, and Dr. Hageboeck, who was called to attend the man, said last evening that the fellow is liable to die at any moment.

Was Willing Witness.

Selectman, whose home is in St. Louis, was placed on the stand yesterday morning at 10 o'clock.  People who remembered him as they had seen him at the corner's jury gazed in open-eyed wonder at the change that had taken place.

He was thin and peaked as to his features and he was far from being the same man that in his childish fright had convulsed the auditors at the inquest with laughter every time he answered a question as to how he dodged the fire of the mate directed at the two Leonidases.  His testimony in the direct examination was of an uneventful nature, being practically the same as that which he gave at the corner's inquest.  He told his story practically as follows: He had noticed the two Leonidases when they boarded the steamer at Rock Island on July 10th, and from the number and size of their guns and knives he had conceived an instant respect for them.  Shortly the mate ordered him to remove a portion of their personal property, which came under the heading of baggage, but the Leonidases objected very strenuously and resorted to the ever ready revolvers to dissuade him from taking the baggage.  Their argument was very good and he appealed to the mate.  After a short dispute the mate went and borrowed Clerk Killeen's revolver, and shortly after his return the shooting began.  Selectman was in close range and a good witness of the proceedings and he declared that both the Leonidases made every effort to get their guns out.

On cross-examination, however, he was not so confident and tripped himself so repeatedly that all the nerve left to him gave way and he broke down and had to be removed from the court room on a stretcher-to the police ambulance, as stated above.

Leonidas a Drunkard.

Something in entire opposition to any evidence hereto given by any witness, or developed in any manner, was that in the testimony of Bert Hendrickson, who said that he was an attorney from Wankon, Iowa.  He testified that Leonidas and son lived during the summer of 1901 and winter of 1902 near Hyteman, a village about 40 miles from Waukon, and that he saw them twice in the time.  He said that their general reputation was bad; that they lived in a fisherman's hut, and that semi-periodically the elder Leonidas went out on awful sprees, and wanted to annihilate everybody with whom he came into contact; that the young Leonidas was as quarrelsome as his father, and was considered a very warm proposition in a fight.  He was so willing to tell what he knew that when he got started telling of the many sinful characteristics of the elder Leonidas he traveled over the ground so rapidly that Judge House brought him to a halt with the question.  "You said you were an attorney, didn't you?"  The witness replied in the affirmative and the judge said: "Well, then answer the question and stop there."

As a result of objections upon the part of the prosecution that the evidence was irreverant, immaterial and unsubstantiated by any previous evidence that Breen had known anything of the character of the Leonidases, all of the answers of the witness were stricken out except those directly bearing upon the reputation of the elder Leonidas.  When he had finished the witness went to the chair where Mate Breen was sitting, shook his hand cordially and then sat down by him and remained with him the balance of the afternoon.

Told to Leave Them Alone.

Captain John Simmons of the liner Dubuque was the first witness introduced in the morning by the defense.  Captain Simmons testified to the events leading up to the shooting and upon cross-examination admitted that he had told Mate Breen to "Leave the two men alone and go about his work."

Walter Paine, a colored stevedore employed on the boat, testified that the Leonidases drew their guns as he was passing them and ordered him to dance.  He told them he was busy and they excused him.

Mathew Nimmons, a deckhand on the steamer, testified that he had encountered trouble when he undertook to move the property of the Leonidases and said that they abused the mate when he asked them to be gentlemen. He said that Breen's reputation was that of a peaceful, law-abiding citizen.

Morris Killeen of Dubuque, chief clerk on the boat, testified that the revolver that he lent Breen was a blued steel barrel affair instead of a nickel plated gun in direct variance with the testimony of  A. G. E. Rydequist.


Davenport Republican, Sunday, April 19,1903, page 7.



Depositions Taken at St. Louis Cast Much Blame for

Shooting of the Leonidases Upon the Men Themselves

--The young Man's Threat--

"Papa, Papa, Take Him Away"

Witness Defines His Business.

The fifth day of the trial of the case of P. W. McManus, administrator of the estate of Leonidas, deceased vs. the Diamond Jo line steamers and Dan Breen, was one of the dullest in the five, as it was devoted almost entirely to the reading of the depositions taken at St. Louis from Herbert E. Stock and Dr. Schwartz.  These depositions were strong pieces of evidence in favor of the defense and were damaging to the cause of the plaintiff.  Morris Killeen, chief clerk of the steamer Dubuque was on the stand, under cross-examination at the opening of court yesterday morning and about an hour's time was consumed in completing his examination.

The prosecution endeavored to shake his testimony in regard to the position in which he stood at the time of the shooting, he having sworn that he was behind a pile of boxes, having taken refuge there when Mate Breen began his fusillade of shots. Nothing of a sensational nature was brought out in his testimony.

Stock's Deposition.

After the examination of witness Killeen had been completed Attorney N. D. Ely, for the defense, introduced in evidence the deposition of Herbert E. Stock, an eye witness of the killing of the Leonidases.  Mr. Stock is a clerk in a St. Louis dry goods store and was taking a vacation trip upon the Dubuque at the time of the shooting.  His disposition brings out a version of the affair much different from any hitherto given and the story he tells is substantially as follows:
He had become aware that trouble was on between the Leonidases and the mate and had descended the steps of the hatchway stairs, until he was about two-thirds of the way down, so that his feet were about on a level with the mate's head.  As he looked over the railing he saw the elder man reach for his gun and the mate start firing.  As the mate started to fie he stepped back, to the other side of the steps, which are about six or eight feet wide, and did not again look over until there was a stop.  As he stepped back and again peered over he saw the young man reach for his revolver and turn to his left and try to run under the steps of the hatchway.  He was unable to get under there, according to the deponent, and was shot while he was turned with his left side towards the mate.  Unable to get under the hatch the deponent states that the young man turned and started to run to the stern of the boat, when the second shot was fired by the mate.  The only evidence in the Stock disposition that is the least damaging to the cause of the defense is that when the younger man turned to run he called to his father, exclaiming:  "Papa, Papa, take him away."

Schwartz' Deposition.

The deposition of Dr. Schwartz, also of St. Louis was next taken up by Attorney Ely, and read.  This was considered damaging to the prosecution in that it showed an expressed threat against the mate by the younger Leonidas.  Dr. Schwartz was not an eye witness of the shooting, having been upon the upper deck at the time but while the run between the two cities was being made, he was standing with Mr. Stock on the lower deck listening to the altercation in progress between the Leonidases and the crew of the boat.  The mate approached them and indicating the Leonidases, addressed Dr. Schwartz saying:  "Doc, did you ever see any cowboys with whips before, that didn't have horses?"  The doctor replied that he never had and the conversation changed, the mate asking the doctor for advice concerning a stomach trouble which he contacted in the Klondike.  Shortly the mate was called to another part of the boat, and the younger Leonidas approached the two men and asked what the mate had said about himself and his father.  Dr. Schwartz did not make any reply but Mr. Stock told him that the mate had said that they looked like cowboys.  The deponent states that as a younger fellow turned away he had muttered, "Well, we'll fix him."

What His Business Was.

Such a case as the one now on trial before Judge House is always likely to have a little humor hidden away in it some place or the other.  The Leonidas case is no exception to the rule.  Friday afternoon the defense introduced upon the stand Walter Payne, a colored Stevedore of the Dubuque who was on the boat at the time of the shooting and who came up from St. Louis to testify.  Payne had spent some time in the witness room before coming on the stand and while alone there he had evidently passed away the time before the ordeal in straightening the story out in his mind and getting his answers fixed firmly in his mind.  When he was called he was perceptibly nervous but he made a good start, and everything was lovely until Judge Lenehan of the counsel for the defense put the ordinary question: 
"What is you business."

The colored man edged forward in the chair, and with wide open eyes answered:
"My business is to tell, truthfully, everything which I know of the shooting of the two Leonidas by Mate Dan Breen on the steamer Dubuque on the 10th day of July, 1902."  And he drew himself back in his chair with a self-satisfied sign.
He had rattled the answer off too fast for interruption and the effect on the court was instantaneous.  Everyone laughed, including Judge Lenehan.  The witness was straightened out, however, and things went smoother when the routine questions were passed and he got to telling the story of the shooting, with which he was a great deal more familiar.


The Davenport Democrat, April 19, 1903, page 6.


There will be a rebuttal

At. 3 o'clock Saturday afternoon the court was adjourned, to allow Judge House to go to his Maquoketa home over Sunday.


Frank Cooper, attorney for the administrator, was seem by a Democrat reporter after the hour of adjournment on Saturday afternoon.  He added that, if possible the colored porter,--Selectman,--would be put on the stand, for cross-examination on Monday afternoon, and that he and others would be used on the rebuttal testimony which will be introduced during the early portion of this week.  Selectman is a sick man, suffering from tuberculosis and heart disease.  His testimony was vital in the case because he was an eye witness of the killing.  He reported to the mate the threats of the two Leonidases, because his locker was located beneath the staircase leading from the upper deck to the forecastle of the boat, and he was present at the time of the threats.

The defense has not placed Dan Breen, one of the co-defendants, on the stand.  Mr. Cooper desired that he should have been, and there is no telling but that he will be subpoenaed for the defense, if at all available.

Selectman's Condition.


Some of the papers having made the error of ascribing Selectman's fainting spell Friday to fright, with a suggestion that he was not telling the truth from the witness stand, the following paragraph from the letter to Agent Osborn that preceded him here, concerning the arrival and quartering of the witnesses in the case will throw some light on the matter:  "There will be only one colored man, the porter, John Selectman, who is quite sick now, and I have told him that we would give him good comfortable quarters, especially if we have to keep him over night; so please see that he is comfortably cared for, as he is a good boy, and is not all well now, and really is not able to make the trip.  Yours truly,
I. P. Lusk, G.F. & P.A.


Researched  by Sue Rekkas

and transcribed by

Georgeann McClure  & Sue Rekkas


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