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)



Transcribed by Georgeann McClure
and Sue Rekkas

Researcher Sue Rekkas

The Davenport Daily Leader, Sunday, April 19, 1903, page 3




Subpoenas have been issued for the jury that was called by the coroner when the death of the Leonidas people was examined into at the time of the shooting and they will testify before the jury Monday.  The men who were on the jury were M. J. Eagal, W. D. Petersen and Ed Gifford and they, together with the coroner will be called into the trial now in progress to testify as to the statements that were made when the first inquiry into the death of the two men were made.

Dan Breen is still in the city and it is probable that he will be put on the witness stand Monday or Tuesday.  The testimony of the chief actor in the tragedy that is now being inquired into will be watched with the deepest interest by all and it is probable that some startling statements will be made.  The attorneys for the defense have not stated as yet that he will be placed on the witness stand at all but it seems to be the general opinion of all that he will be called upon to tell his story before the trial is over.

All of yesterday afternoon was spent in reading the depositions of the two men whose testimony was taken in St. Louis.
The men were H. E. Stock and Dr. J. M. Schwartz.  The statements made by these two men were to the effect that Breen had called attention to the cowboy hats they wore when they were boarding the boat and that the men had threatened to take care of him if he did not mind his business.  The testimony seemed to indicate that the Leonidas people were dangerous characters and that they would take a man's life with little provocation.

Saturday afternoon was consumed in the cross examination of Killeen.

The principal fact which the attorneys tried to gain was that Breen had plenty of time to get behind the boxes on the deck and that he did not need to shoot in order to save his life.

The defense has several other witness to introduce also and it is probable that the case will last the greater part of nest week.

Many congratulations are being given to Messrs. Letts and Cooper on the way they are handling the case and they are making everything out of the testimony that could possibly be done.

Messrs. Lenihan, Chamberlin and Ely are also fighting the case to the finish and no point in the mass of evidence that is pouring in, is being overlooked.


The Davenport Daily Leader, April 20,1903, page 8.



Matter That Was Wanted From Them Was In Regard to the Revolvers that Were Used in Shooting.

The coroner's jury consisting of M. J. Eagal, E. H. Gifford and W. D. Petersen were called to the witness stand to testify in regard to the Leonidas case this afternoon.

Mr. Eagal was placed on the stand first and was asked concerning the revolvers that figure in the shooting.

The defense was desirous of having him state as to whether the guns of the Leonidas people were loaded and what kind of guns they were but the question was overruled on the grounds that the guns themselves were the best testimony.

Mr. Eagal was then asked to state what he knew in regard to the revolver used by Mr. Breen and whether it was a nickel or silver barreled gun or whether it was a blue steel barrel.

The witness stated that it was of blue steel.  Mr. Gifford and Petersen were introduced and testified to practically the same thing.

The two guns that the men carried were also taken into court and introduced in the trial.


The Davenport Times, dated April 20, 1903, page 8.



Leonidas Case Continued After Sunday Recess--Coroner's Jurymen Testify.


The Leonidas case was resumed in the Scott county district court at 2 o'clock this afternoon.  The first witnesses to be called were M. J. Eagal and E. H. Gifford, who had served on the coroner's jury at the time of the inquest over the bodies of the Leonidas men.  These witness were followed by R. B. McCall, a pilot on a ferry boat, and Dan Breen, one of the defendants in the case.

R. B. McCall did not divulge any important testimony and the plaintiff did not cross examine him.

Breen takes Stand.

Breen took the stand a short time before 3 o'clock and the direct examination was begun by Attorney Ely.
One of the first questions asked Breen was as to whether or not he had ever shot a man before the shooting of the Leonidas men.  To the question he replied:
"No, never."

He was then questioned into the conduct and conversation of the Leonidas men upon their arrival on the boat and he said that they caused considerable trouble.

Breen then went on to show that the killing of the men was in self-defense and all of his testimony was delivered in a cool, deliberate tone of voice which fact may have some effect on the jury.


The Davenport Times, Tuesday, April 21, 1903.



Judge Had To Consult Statues--Breen Proves To Be Strong Witness


Mate Dan Breen had not been long on the stand as star witness for the defense in the Leonidas case before he was carried up in the description of the very quarrels which resulted in the fight, and was questioned as to the exact conversation and actions of both himself and the murdered men.

The latter questions served as good grounds for the introduction of an objection by Attorney Cooper for the plaintiff which is without precedent in the Scott county court; and before he would hand down any decision as to the merit of the motion, Judge House dismissed the jury for a recess and retired to his private office to consult the statues.

Breen had arrived at the point where he was telling the exact words as spoken by himself and the murdered men and before he had the opportunity to answer many of the questions put to him by Attorney Ely, Mr. Cooper was up and making the following objection:

"I object to the testimony of the witness in this case as being a direct transaction with a party who is since deceased."
The ground upon which Attorney Cooper based his objection was the fact that Breen could tell but one side of the story and that as the other parties in the transaction were deceased, their side of the story could not be learned.

Sustains Objection

Judge House looked up the law on the case and sustained the objection.

The attorneys for the defense made repeated attempts to introduce evidence of this character and Judge House made a final ruling to the effect that none of the conversation which was had with the elder Leonidas would be admissible.  However, as the younger man was not named in the first case parts of the conversation which Breen had with the younger man were recited by him.

The attorneys for the plaintiff consider the ruling as a decided victory and received many congratulations for the timely discovery of the ground upon which to base their objections.

On the other hand, the attorneys for the Diamond Jo company and Dan Breen say that the opposition did not do as they said they would were Breen put on the stand.  They say that in the early part of the trial they were told to put Breen on the stand and allow him to tell the whole story and now that they have done this they claim that the plaintiff will not listen to the evidence which he is able to give.

Breen's Testimony

Taken as a whole the testimony of Breen was strong and the manner in which he gave it was convincing to say the least.  He sat quietly in the chair and answered all questions in a slow, deliberate but never halting manner.  He seemed to describe positions and actions to a certainty and when he was repeating the expressions used by the younger Leonidas he was able to quote them directly.

One thing which was noticeable was his use of ship vernacular and all of the different positions and directions he described in sailor language, such as aft, forward, starboard and others.

Breen said that he was given due provocation for his act and that he believed his life to be in danger at the time that he shot the men.  He said that they had not only told him to his face that they would kill him but that the porter came to him and warned him that the cowboys intended to take his life.

He said that the first time that he had seen the men was at the time they was boarding the boat on the Rock Island side of the river.  He did not take particular notice of them at that time, he said, and had no trouble with them until they landed in Davenport.

When they had anchored at the Davenport wharf he said that he noticed that the freight was not being removed and that he went over to ascertain the reason for the delay.  He stated that one of the freight handlers informed him that the cowboys would not let them carry the stuff over their baggage, and that one of them had pulled a gun on him.
Breen said that he had told the men then to leave his men alone and that they acted surly.  He added that he had not talked in a disrespectful manner to them and that he had uttered no threats.  Matters were finally arranged and the removal of the freight proceeded.

After the first talk with the men he had entered into conversation with Dr. Schwartz who was on board the boat at the time and had asked him if he had ever seen cowboys, with whips and guns who did not have horses.  He claimed that this was said in a joking way and that he then began to ask the Doctor about a prescription for some stomach trouble that he experienced.  The doctor said that he would give him this and that  he then returned to the front of the boat.

When he turned to leave the doctor he said that he noticed the younger Leonidas standing within a distance of four or five feet from them and that when he left, the latter asked the doctor what that blank of a blank had told him.

What They Said

The doctor repeated the conversation to the fellow and the next thing that Breen saw of him was when he walked up to him and with his hand on the butt of his revolver said:
"This is the kind of medicine that you need."

Breen claims that he simply replied that he did not want any of that kind of medicine, and walked away.

As to the conversation immediately preceding the shooting, the following is alleged to have been uttered. (He had the whole sentence uttered before objection could be made by the plaintiff's attorneys):
Younger Leonidas--"There comes that ---- --------- now."
Elder Leonidas--"Yes, and we'll kill him and throw him overboard."

Breen stated that they made some passes and that he then shot them, firing all of the shots in a period of about 30 seconds.

He alleges that each of the men had attempted to draw their guns and that the younger man had his weapon half out of the holster before he had killed the elder one.  He denied that the former had held out his arms and begged him not to shoot his father.

Explains Position

Breen was given the belt and revolver of the younger man and explained to the jury the exact position of the gun when he had shot the man.

The testimony was introduced to impeach the testimony of A. G. E. Rydquist, who swore that neither of the men had attempted to withdraw their weapons from the holsters and that the straps were fastened over the butt ends of both of them.

During the cross examination Attorney Letts endeavored to fix two other murders on Breen but the fact was stoutly denied by him and he swore he had never shot or attempted to shoot a human being prior to the shooting of the Leonidas men.

The grounds upon which the questions were based were the rumors which are current to the effect that Breen shot and killed a man while acting as mate on a boat in the Yukon river and also of having shot a negro on the lower Mississippi.  As a result of the questioning he went into the details of his life in the Klondike and also of his experiences on the lower Mississippi.

The defense also sought to establish the fact that he was naturally a bully and that he had much trouble during his life, but he also entered a stout denial of all the accusations of his character.

Regarding the language that he was alleged to have used in his conversation with the men, he established a good alibi by stating that it was against the rules of the company for one of the officers on a boat to use profane language and that had he used it he would have been liable to discharge.


Davenport Republican, Tuesday, April 21, 1903, page 8.



Gives Graphic Account of the Proceedings Which Led Up to and the Shooting of the Medicine Men by Himself Upon the Steamer Dubuque--Says the Younger Man Had Drawn His Revolver.


Dan Breen, mate of the Diamond Jo liner Dubuque, and slayer of Christopher Leonidas and his son Ellsworth, was placed on the stand yesterday afternoon by the defense in the notable case of P. W. McManus, administrator of the estate of Christopher Leonidas, deceased, vs. the Diamond Jo line steamers and Dan Breen.  He was on the stand for nearly two hours and during that time the defense brought out the mate's complete version of the shooting of the two men on the steamer Dubuque, the fatal afternoon of July 10, 1902.--According to the testimony of Breen the shooting was done in self-defense and the act was egged on  by the actions of the men.

Story of the Shooting.

Breen testified that he saw the men come aboard and that trouble began to result over the storage of the baggage owned by the two medicine men.  They had several packages, among which were boxes, trunks, and a tent, along with two bicycles, and a large dog. 

He said that when it became evident that there was going to be trouble he went to the clerk of the boat and procured the revolver.

Young Man Draws Gun.

Breen testified that as he returned down the stairway the younger man exclaimed to his father:  "Here comes that ------ of a mate again."- and started to draw his gun.  The mate testified that before he had secured his own weapon the young man had his weapon entirely out of the holster and the old man had his nearly out when he shot him.  He testified further that the young man made a move to shoot before he shot him.  He said that he used his left hand in the shooting, while Rydquest said Breen used his right hand.



The Davenport Daily Leader, Tuesday, April 21, 1903, page 8.



Dan Breen Is Asked If He Recognized the People and Stated He Did That Of the Elder One


The photographs of Christopher and Ellsworth Leonidas were introduced in the trial this morning and they were given to Dan Breen and he was asked if he recognized them.

When he gazed at the picture of the elder Leonidas Breen paused a moment as he scanned the features closely and then remarked "Yes, I recognize the picture to my sorrow."  The photograph of the younger man was taken several years ago and represented a delicate boy rather than the full grown man that he was when shot.

Attorney Letts, for the plaintiff, took one of the belts and the guns worn by the two men and strapped to his waist and he than asked Breen to show the jury how far the revolver was drawn from the holster, which the latter did.

The position of the men after the shooting and what occurred later were also fully discussed.

When the shooting occurred there was a story to the effect that Breen had shot a man before, in fact that he had shot a negro in the south and had taken the life of a man in the Klondyke.

On the stand he was asked in regard to both of these reports and positively denied them.  Not only that but he stated that he was never in the habit of carrying a revolver and that he had been more free from troubles of that kind than the ordinary.


The Davenport Times, Tuesday, April 21, 1903, page 11.



Second Mrs. Taggart Introduced by Defense in Leonidas Case--Has Son by Him.


Shortly before the convening of district court in the Leonidas case this afternoon a mysterious little woman in black entered the room and took a seat inside of the rail.  Women in black are usually brought in during the progress of big murder cases, but the entrance of the woman today sent a pall over the whole room--spectators and attorneys alike who had flocked to the court to hear the windup of the big case were taken by surprise.

The surprise was increased when the woman was announced as a wife of the deceased Christopher Leonidas.  And when she took the stand a sigh passed over the vast throng, which had gathered to hear the testimony.

Mrs. Taggart, as she gave her name is widow number two to appear and claim that she is the wife of the murdered medicine man.  The former wife is the plaintiff in the case by her guardian, Mr. McManus, and the introduction of the second wife is the greatest blow the the plaintiff could receive.

She gave her name as Angeline. and claimed she was married to the deceased man in Denver in 1891.  She had with her her son, aged 12 years, whom she said was a son of her husband, Charles Taggart, alias Christopher Leonidas.

The photograph of the man which had been given Breen for identification this morning was given to her and she said that it was the likeness of her dead husband.  She also carried a photograph of him which he had given her and the likenesses coincided.

Mrs. Taggart No. 2 presented the marriage certificate which bore the name of Charles Taggart, and swore that the wedding had been solemnized in Denver.

Another blow which she offered to the testimony of the first Mrs. Taggart was the statement to the effect that he did not make much money.   She said that he had given her a small sum of money when she met him in Quincy and another sum at a later date and that was all that she received him.   She also met him at Hannibal, Mo.  She claimed that he was unable to earn much money and her statement does not agree with that of Mrs. Leonidas, the first, to the fact that he was capable of earning on the average of $75 a month.  There was little she could tell about the man in late years but she gave the impression that he was a worthless fellow.

Mrs. Taggart is living at Griggsville, Ill., but her relations with the elder Leonidas were not revealed until this afternoon.
Taken as a whole, the introduction of Mrs. Taggart is a very dangerous act for the plaintiff.  The suit is brought in the behalf of the first woman and it was thought that she was the only wife that the man had possessed.

Captain Osborn Takes Stand

Captain Osborn, the local agent of the Diamond Jo line, took the stand after Mrs. Taggert.  His testimony in the main regarded the number of shots that was fired, the time of the shooting and the position and location of the boat at the time that he heard the shots.

Hender On Stand

Dr. A. B Hender was introduced by the defense in the Leonidas case this morning and occupied the stand for a few moments  He carried a manikin of the abdominal regions by which he sought to show the jury the positions in which  Leonidas was standing, according to the position in which the bullet entered the body.  No effort was made to prove the fatality of the shot.

Dr. Hender was introduced at about 10 o'clock, and the cross-examination of Defendant Breen was discontinued on order to allow the doctor to finish his testimony and leave the court.

The only damaging statement from the cross examination of Breen was that , instead of telling the Leonidas men to return their guns to the holsters, as has been understood, he had told them to take their guns up and leave then with the clerk. This statement he said he made while he had the revolver which he had secured from the clerk, in his pocket.  That fact is damaging against his plea of self-defense, for the reason that it tends to show that the men had not removed their revolvers from their receptacles as he has already sworn.  If they had taken the guns from their holsters, the attorneys for the plaintiff claim that he would not ask them to take them to the clerk.


Davenport Republican, Wednesday, April 22, 1903



Defense In big Damage Suit Introduced Mrs.  Angeline Taggart On Witness Stand -- Says She Married Leonidas in Denver in '91--Captain Osborne Says Boat Was on Illinois Side When Shooting Occurred


After the noon recess the first real genuine sensation of the defense's case was sprung in the introduction upon the stand of Mrs. Angeline Taggart, of Griggsville, Ill.  Mrs. Taggart testified that she was the wife of a man known as Charles Taggart, a traveling medicine vendor.  She testified that she was married to him in Denver Colo., in 1891, and had lived with him for some time, and that a child was born of the union  and is stilll living.  She professed ignorance of any other living wife and identified Christopher Leonidas -- positively as Charles Taggart through a photograph of the dead man which was shown to her.  She acknowledged that she had written to the police here for information concerning the death of the Leonidas, saying that she has heard that her husband was traveling under that name.

While the witness had said that her name was Angeline, no one would guess it to look at her.  She is a tall, slim, rangy person with a racuous voice and not exactly inviting countenance.  She appeared to be about 50 years of age and said that that was her age.

Guns Were Loaded.

At the conclusion of the evidence of Mrs. Taggart Detective William Mundt of the police force was recalled to the stand by the defense.  He testified that when he examined the revolvers which he took from the holsters of the dead men he found them both loaded in every chamber of the magazine.

W. C. North, clerk of the district court, took the stand to identify the list of effects of the dead Christopher Leonidas, filed with him in the probate matter.  The list was then introduced as evidence and showed that Christopher Leonidas owned a half interest in all the baggage and money to the amount of $7.69, his son Ellsworth, owning the other half interest.

On Illinois side.

The next witness called by the defense, and the last, was Captain James Osborne, local agent for the Diamond Jo company.  He testified to having been at his office on the river front on July 10th, the day of the shooting of the Leonidases, and of having stood in the doorway after the Dubuque left the landing.  He said that he watched the boat swing out into the channel and that just after she whistled for the draw of the government bridge he heard the shooting.  He swore positively that the boat was at that time closer to the Illinois shore of the river than to the Iowa shore. Upon cross examination he said that he thought the boat was to the south of the regular channel.  Immediately after the shooting, he testified , the boat whistled for landing and put back.  At the conclusion of Captain Osborne's testimony the defense rested its case.

Dr. Bowman Testifies.

Dr. E. S. Bowman, one of the surgeons who performed the post-mortem examination upon the bodies of the dead men, was placed on the stand by the prosecution in rebuttal. He testified that he examined the bodies and when questioned as to the particular location and course of the wounds upon the older man he said that one bullet had entered the pit of the stomach about five inches above and one inch to the left of the navel bone, and had perforated the liver and left the body about an inch to the left of the spine.  He said that the course pursued was almost straight through, veering possibly an inch downward in its course.  The other bullet had entered the front of the left thigh.  Dr. Bowman's testimony tended to contradict evidence that had been introduced by the defense to the effect that the elder man was turned to one side when the shooting occurred in an effort to draw his revolver.

Henry Nagel on Stand.

Ambulance driver Henry Nagel was placed on the stand, also in rebuttal.  He testified to having driven to the Dubuque as it lay at the landing on the day of the shooting, and described the positions of the dead men when he went to them.  He said that both were alive, although the younger man was breathing heavily and appeared to be about to die.  Both were unconscious, he said, and while the younger man lay on his back the older man was in a kneeling position with his head resting on a box in front of him.  He testified that the holsters in which their revolvers were buttoned down tight and that the holster of the younger man was twisted on his belt, away around to his back, so that he lay squarely upon it and it was necessary to turn him over to reach it.

Layton R. Ackley was the next witness in rebuttal.  He testified that on July 10th he was assistant at the undertaking establishment of M. V. Boles & Co., where the bodies were taken, and that he examined the wounds of the men.  He described them practically as did Dr. Bowman.  He also produced the bullet which entered the stomach of the elder Leonidas and came out at the back.


The Davenport Democrat, April 22, 1903, page 5.



Defense Rested at 4:30 O'clock Tuesday Afternoon and the Rebuttal Evidence Began for the Plaintiff--Case Reaching its conclusion.

The second startling development in the Leonidas case occurred Tuesday afternoon when Captain James Osborn, agent for the Diamond Jo line steamers, dropped into the jury box the matter of the jurisdiction of the court.  On the stand he testified that the steamer Dubuque had left the landing and swung into the channel headed for the bridge.  She had whistled for the draw, and headed straight away for it on the south side of the channel, the Illinois side, when he heard the two shots fired, after which the Dubuque swung around again and whistled for her landing here.  When she landed he had his first intimation of the tragedy which had been enacted.

The testimony of the agent of the Diamond Jo line had an electric effect.  It attacked directly the jurisdiction of the court in the case.

This morning, Messers. Rydquist, who had previously been on the stand, C. W. Jones, who took the notes of the inquest, and Walter Petersen, who was clerk of the grand jury that partially considered the case of the State vs. Dan Breen, gave evidence.

The Arguments Begun.

After a short recess the arguments were begun at 11:30 o'clock.  Attorney Frank A. Cooper opening for the plaintiff.  He spoke until the noon adjournment resuming his argument again at 2 o'clock.

This afternoon Frank Cooper resumed his argument at 2 o'clock.  He paid attention to student Rydquist whom he styled a standard witness, whom no one dared assail, and stated that those who did not corroborate his evidence stood impeached.  Mr. Cooper was still talking when these forms were closed, and is not expected to conclude before adjournment.  He will be followed by N. D. Ely for the defense.


Davenport Republican, Thursday, April 23, 1903





F. A. Cooper For Prosecution Makes Opening Plea to Jury and Is Followed by N. B. Ely for Defense-- Case Will Go to Jury Today--The Prosecution Attempts to Prove That Breen Shot a Negro in 1896


Shortly before the noon recess yesterday the taking of evidence in the case of P. W. McManus, administrator of the estate of Christopher Leonidas, deceased, vs. the Diamond Jo line steamers and Dan Breen, was concluded and the arguments of the attorneys to the jury were begun.  F. A. Cooper, of the counsel for the plaintiff, made the opening plea at the time of the adjournment of court at 5 o'clock yesterday afternoon.  This morning Mr.Ely will resume his arguments and will be followed by Judge Lenihan, also for the defense.  F. D. Letts will close for the plaintiff and after receiving the instructions of the court the case will go to the jury.  Yesterday morning the prosecution offered four more witnesses in rebuttal and at the conclusion the defense placed two witnesses on the stand in rejoinder.  The evidence they gave was quite interesting.

The 75 Cent Transaction.

Constable Byron Rumsey was the first witness placed upon the stand in the morning by the plaintiff.  He testified that he was the constable in charge at the inquest over the dead Leonidases, and that he had gone to the office of the Diamond Jo Line steamers in this city on the morning after the shooting for the purpose of removing the baggage of the dead men.  He further testified that when he came to take the effects Captain Osborne, the agent in charge, demanded 75 cents as fees upon it.  He testified that Coroner Lambach, who was with him, had paid this and the baggage was removed.

In order to secure the admission of this evidence the prosecution was obliged to call Captain Osborne to the stand to show that he had authoridy to collect moneys for the Diamond Jo Line.  The captain testified that he has such authority and stated that the 75 cents charges were due the porter for checking the baggage, which had the checks of the company attached.

Mabry on Character.

John T. Mabry, city scavenger, was the next witness.  Mr. Mabry testified that some years ago he met the two Leonidases when they were in the show business, and that with the balance of a band of colored musicians to which he belonged he had played in the show and street parade for some little time.  He said that the old man always treated him very kindly as well as the rest of the employees, and that his reputation was that of a sober and peaceful man.  He said that when they had concluded working for him the old man gave them a farewell supper.

Did He Kill a Man.

The next witness on the stand was of rather surprising character to the defense.  He was John McKensie, a Negro well known about this city and a salon porter by vocation.  McKensie testified that in 1896 he was a roustabout on the Tennessee river and worked under Dan Breen, as mate.  The prosecution attempted to show that on that summer Mate Breen shot and killed a Negro roustabout on the boat, but upon objections of the defense the answers were not allowed.  A character question, however, brought forth the reply that McKensie thought that the reputation of Mate Breen at that time was bad.

C. W. Jones, who reported, in shorthand, the proceedings of the coroner's jury, was placed on the stand and testified that Maurice Killeen, clerk of the Dubuque, had testified before that he came down the steps after the first shot was fired and witnessed the rest of the shooting.  In his testimony  before the jury in the present case Killeen testified that he witnessed the whole of the shooting.  At the conclusion of Mr. Jones' examination the prosecution rested its case.

Never On Tennessee.

In rejoinder the defense placed Mate Breen upon the stand once more.  He testified that he never steamboated on the Tennessee river in 1896, as testified to by McKensie, nor any other time.


After examining Walter Petersen, clerk of the grand jury at the time of the inquiry of that body into the Leonidas affair, with regard to the testimony of Ambulance driver Nagel, the defense also rested.  Mr. Petersen testified that the evidence of Mr. Nagel was taken down in substance with what Mr. Nagel said.

Arguments Are Started.

Upon motion of the prosecution Judge House ruled that each, the plaintiff and the defense, have the privileges of addressing the jury twice only, and it was accordingly fixed that F. A. cooper and F. D. Letss speak for the prosecution and N. D. Ely and Judge Lenehan for the defense.

Mr. cooper made the opening address.  He laid particular stress upon alleged discrepancies in the evidence given by different of the witnesses for the defense, and reviewed all the evidence produced.  He sopke for an hour and 30 minutes.  N. D. Ely, for the defense followed.  Mr. Ely represents Dan Brown in the case and spoke particularly for his client, leaving the Diamond Jo Line out of the accounting.  He began speaking at 3:30 o'clock and had not concluded when court adjourned at 5 o'clock. 



The Davenport Democrat, April 23, 1903, page 7.



N. D. Ely Pleads For Dan Breen and Tells the Jury That a Verdict For the Plaintiff Would Charge Him With Murder.


The suits for damages against the Diamond Jo Line, on behalf of the estates of the two dead Leonidases, running in this court this week, are drawing to a close.  They reached the argumentative  stage Wednesday afternoon, and there is hope of a verdict by tomorrow.

At 4 o'clock  Wednesday evening Attorney N. D. Ely opened for the defense.  He paid particular attention to Dan Breen, the mate of the Dubuque, whose acts in the shooting of the Leonidases involved the Diamond Jo people in the present $15,000 damage suit.  Mr. Ely defended Mr. Breen before the coroner's jury, and there secured a verdict of exoneration.  He grew eloquent today in praise of the mate's character and his long years of service on the river.

"Those lines on his face," said the attorney, "are lines of care."  He has a wife and family at Dubuque.  Several months ago he lost his 8-year-old child, and the mother is half distracted over the result of this trial.  I am here to defend Dan Breen of the charge of murder, because if you find one dollar of against the Diamond Jo line you fail to justify the act of the mate; and damages if that isn't justified he is a murderer."

Mr. Ely this forenoon talked until 10:15 o'clock.  He dwelt on the shiftlessness of the Leonidases and the citizenship of Breen in a telling manner.

When he ceased his argument the court took a brief recess, and at 10:30 Judge Linehan began his summing up of the evidence which was not completed at the hour of the noon adjournment.

By arrangement Wm M. Chamberlin will not present an argument.  Judge House suggested that, in view of the plaintiff having but two arguments, that of F. A. Cooper, and F. Dickinson Letts, it would be fair for the defense  to confine itself to only two speeches.  This was agreed to.  N. D. Ely as the attorney of Mr.  Breen, and Judge Lenehan, as senior counsel of the defense, was therefore selected for that duty.

At 2 o'clock this afternoon Judge Linehan resumed his arguments.  He will be followed by Attorney F. Dickinson Letts for the plaintiff, who will probably consume the remainder of the afternoon.

Judge Linehan is a pleasing speaker, and his summing of the evidence was masterly.  Mr. Letts promises something interesting in his maiden speech before a jury, and the court room is crowded to hear it.

The Instructions.

From a perusal of the instructions, or charge to the jury, which Judge House has prepared, The Democrat gathers that he will instruct the panel to report a verdict for the plaintiff unless self-defense isn't proven, not beyond a reasonable doubt, but by a preponderance of the testimony and evidence.  The instructions, under the evidence submitted, seem to favor the defense.



The Davenport times, April 23, 1903, page 8




Attorney Letts is Now Before the Jury--Judge's Instructions--Jury Departs

From present outlook the Leonidas case will get to the jury before court adjourns this evening.  Attorney Letts who is delivering the closing argument for the plaintiff, is at present well along in his talk and bids fair to conclude his remarks today.

Attorney Ely for the defense followed Attorney Frank Cooper and concluded his talk this morning.  He was followed by Judge Lenehan, who finished this afternoon, and then the closing arguments was begun.

The question which is being argued by the two sides is as to whether or not the act of Mate Breen was justified, or common murder.  The defense base their arguments on the first topic and claim that he was given necessary provocation for the act, while the plaintiff's attorneys say that the Leonidas men uttered no threats and in no way did they give sufficient cause for their murder.

In the course of his argument Attorney Ely said that if the jury brought in a verdict of $1 against Breen they would brand his act as common murder and that fact would prove that it was not done in self-defense.


The Davenport Democrat, April 24, 1903, page 5.


Leonidas Case Got Past the Arguments This Forenoon.

The Leonidas case went to the jury about 11 o'clock this morning.

The argument of Attorney F. Dickinson Letts for the plaintiff did not close for the estate and the Leonidases before that hour.  He took up his argument at 4 o'clock Thursday afternoon.

The judge read his instructions about 10:40 o'clock and at noon the jury which will deliberate upon the verdict went to dinner.  It is not probable that a verdict will be reached before late this afternoon, and likely not until during the night.
Mr. Letts in his argument laid particular stress upon the fact that a public carrier must look after its recognized passengers, and preserve them from hurt, and he endeavored to connect this fact with the Diamond Jo steamers and his two clients, the Leonidases.



Davenport Republican, Friday, April 24, 1903, page 7


Case Will Not Get to the Jury Before This Noon at the Earliest.

Judge's instructions

As soon as arguments are finished the charge of Judge House to the jury will be read and the jury will retire to it deliberations.  It is understood that the weight of the Judge's instructions will rest upon the assertion contained therein that the burden of proof rests upon the defense to prove to the jury that the shooting of the elder Leonidas was an act of self-defense.


The Davenport Times, Friday, April 25, 1903, page 9




At a Late Hour Had Returned no Verdict--Court Adjourned Until Tuesday

After the jury had received short instructions from Judge House, they retired to the jury room to decide upon a verdict.  The jury received the case at exactly 11 o'clock this morning and at a late hour this afternoon had not reported.


Davenport Republican, Saturday, April 25, 1903, page 8



Shooting of Elder Leonidas By Mate Dan Breen of the Diamond Jo Line Is Justified by Jury in the District Court Who After Six Hours' Deliberation Find For the Defense.

After deliberating six hours over the evidence offered in the case of P. W. McManus, administrator of the estate of Christopher Leonidas, deceased, vs. the Diamond Jo line steamers and Dan Breen, the jury in the case at 5:30 o'clock yesterday afternoon returned a verdict for the defendant, assessing the costs of the case upon the plaintiff.

F. D. Letts, for the plaintiff, concluded his arguments shortly before 11 o'clock yesterday morning, and Judge House delivered his instructions to the jury immediately following.  They were brief and conclusive, the whole hinging upon the clause in his charge which said that it was incumbent upon the defendants to prove that the shooting of Christopher Leonidas by Mate Dan Breen of the Diamond Jo liner Dubuque was an act of self-defense.

Almost immediately after retiring to their deliberations the jury was taken to dinner and upon returning they commenced  balloting for a verdict.  It is understood that a large number of ballots were necessary before a verdict was arrived at.  The nature of the verdict is such as to legally relieve Mate Dan Breen of any guilt in the killing of the elder Leonidas on July 10th, 1902, as it shows that in the opinion of the jury the act was one of self-defense.  There was a great deal of conflicting testimony in the case to be shifted down.


The Davenport Times, dated April 25, 1903, page 3.





Attorney Letts announced this morning that he would most assuredly ask for a new trial of the Leonidas case and that the verdict of the jury for the defense was not final with him.  He said that the plea would not doubt be made Monday.  As to what grounds the plea for a new trial would be based on he was not prepared to say and said that that would not be decided upon for some time.

The verdict of the jury has caused a sea of comment to pass around the city this morning and it is the topic of much discussion.  The sentiment seems to be divided and while many are saying that in their opinion the plaintiff should have received the verdict, others are satisfied with the finding and say that they were confident such would be the decision of the jurors.

At exactly 5:30 o'clock Friday evening the petit jury walked into the court room and Foreman John McDonald announced that they had a verdict in the Leonidas case.  The verdict was in favor of the defendants, the Diamond Jo steamship line and Dan Breen, and held that the affair was justifiable homicide and assessed the costs against the plaintiff.

There were very few persons in the court room at the time, and with the exception of the bailiff and one or two attorneys, the foreman talked to empty seats.

It took exactly five and one-half hours for the men to reach an agreement, and during this time they cast just 10 ballots.  The first poll was taken shortly after they entered the jury room.  At that time the vote stood 8 to 4.  They were then taken to dinner and after their return took nine additional ballots.  The men who had stood for a judgment at first were won over to the other side in a gradual way and it took nine ballots to secure the six men who had stood for a judgment at the start.


The Davenport Democrat, April 26, 1903, page 6.




Finding Exonerated Mate Dan Breen of Murder in So Far As the Killing of the Elder Leonidas is Concerned--Finale of the Cause Celebre.

The cause celebre, P. W. McManus, administrator of the estate of Christopher Leonidas vs the Diamond Jo Line company, wherein damages in the sum of $15,000 for alleged unlawful killing were asked for, came to an end at 5:30 o'clock Friday afternoon, when the jury reported a verdict for the defendant.

The arguments in the case were concluded shortly before 11 o'clock Friday forenoon after which Judge House instructed the jury, concluding as 11:30 o'clock.  Six hours later, during which time the panel had dinner, the verdict was reached.
John McDonald was foreman for the panel.  Ten ballots were taken before a decision was reached.  The first stood six for the plaintiff and six for the defense.  The jury then went to dinner, and after nine more ballots the 12 men had their verdict.

The case opened on Tuesday afternoon of the week before last, and was stubbornly fought on both sides.  The plaintiff, ably championed by F. A. Cooper and Letts & McGee, pleaded negligence on the part of the Diamond Jo line in not giving the Leonidases safe conduct, according to the tickets which they had purchased from Rock Island to McGregor, Ia., and alleged that the act of the mate was unjustifiable.

The defense, represented by Messrs. Hurd, Lenihan & Kiesel of Dubuque and Wm M. Chamberlin, for the Diamond Jo line, and Ely & Bush for Dan Breen, who did the shooting argued that the act of the mate was justifiable and that the Leonidases brought their doom upon themselves because they sought to terrorize the crew, and assert and arrogate to themselves the control of the steamboat on which they were mere passengers.

The arguments were opened Wednesday afternoon.  Attorney Frank A. Cooper began for the state and made a plea to the jury which deserves much compliment.  He was followed by N. D. Ely, Dan Breen's particular attorney and the man who defended him and secured his exoneration, for the defense.  His plea was pathetic.

Judge Lenihan followed him in a characteristic speech which was particularly in defense of the Diamond Jo line.  He argued that the Leonidases, by their actions, conduct, and terrorizing of the crew, forfeited their rights as passengers, and in his eloquent summoning up of the evidence showed that the mate was acting in pure self defense and therefore was justified in the killing.  His argument doubtless impressed the jury, as shown by the verdict.

F. Dickinson Letts closed for the plaintiff and made a speech which was marked with fine diction and able argument.  He sought to show that the mate exceeded his authority and that therefore the Diamond Jo line was liable for damages to the estate.

More May Follow.

The plaintiff will fine a motion for a rehearing, and if this is denied the matter will be appealed to the Supreme court, to which tribunal it will be carried in any event.
There still remains to be tried the case of P. W. McManus administrator of the estate of Ellsworth Leonidas, the younger man, vs. the Diamond Jo Line.  This is a case wherein $15,000 in damages is also asked for.
The witnesses will doubtless be the same as in the trial just concluded, with the possible additional evidence of a man named Cleary from Burlington whose testimony will corroborate that of student Rydquist in reference to the shooting.
In the case just ended the court ruled out all spoken words of the younger Leonidas as being immaterial, and in the second suit this will be admitted, and may possibly affect the result of the trial.  It is not known whether the second case will be called for trial during the present term of court.


There seems to be general surprise that a verdict was reached.  Most people, it appears, expected that the jury would fail to reach a verdict.

this expectation was based on the fact that there is so vast a divergence of opinion regarding the course a person may properly take when confronted by circumstances such as those in which Dan Breen was placed on the 10th day of last July.  Here there is a man who regards Mr. Breen as having acted hastily, but the next man you met asks how long a man is expected to stand inactive when another is threatening his life with a deadly weapon, and insist that if Breen wanted to save his life he had to act in haste.  There was not a second to be lost.  One man says that the two dead men were only a couple of harmless cheap medicine fakirs, and windy bluffers, who might make a great show of their artillery, but who never had the slightest intention of making their threats good.  The next man points to such terrors as Bill, The Kid, the famed terror of Arizonia, who was always regarded as harmless in just that way till one day he made the very sort of bluff that the Leonidases were making, and was forced to make it good, whereupon he entered upon a career of crime and bloodshed with few parallels in this country.  Says the man who takes this side of the argument, "you never can tell when the man who is showing a gun may take a notion to use it.  If you want to be safe with him when he is threatening your life you will manage to shoot first, and straight."

There is a large disposition on the part of the average citizen, not versed in the law to believe that our criminal code is more severe on the man who shoots or cuts in defense of his life than it is on the man who makes a murderous assault.  Naturally there is opposition to this view by persons who think that there is too great a disposition on the part of many men to resent insults, to take offense, and to fly to arms, when a soft answer on their part might turn away the rising wrath.  Between these extremes there are all shades and variegation of honest opinion.  There was reason to expect a hung jury.


The Davenport Daily Leader, Sunday, April 26, 1903, page 6.




Verdict was Returned for the Defendant After the Jury Had Been Out Over Five Hours.


The jury in the Leonidas case returned a verdict in favor of the defendant Friday evening.  The verdict was returned at five o'clock after the jury had been in session six hours. 

The decision in this case does not affect the damage suit to recover for the son however and the attorneys for the plaintiff have stated that this will be tried in the September court unless something happens to stop the procedure of the law.  The attorneys figure that they have a much stronger case in that of the son than they did in the one of the father and they are confident that they will win out in the matter.

A motion for a new trial will also be filed in the case that was decided Friday and the attorneys are confident that this will be granted.  The motion will be based on the allegation that one of the attorneys for the defense introduced remarks about a traveling man that was to be used by the plaintiff and wanting to know why he was not present when as a matter of fact the attorneys say that no such person existed.  It is also claimed that there were other irregularities that will be basis for a new trial.  The motion for a new trial will be filed the first of the week and will be argued at this term of court.



The Davenport Daily Leader, Tuesday, April 28, 1903, page 5


Arrived Shortly Before Noon Upon Her First Trip of the Season--Mate Dan Breen on Deck.

The steamer Dubuque arrived at the Davenport levee shortly before noon today, on her way to St. Louis, after coming out of her winter quarters at Dubuque.  The arrival at the port of the Davenport levee was the opening of the Diamond Jo season here and Captain James Osborne is correspondingly happy.

The Dubuque obtained a fair passenger list and a better freight list, for the initial trip of the season.  A conspicuous figure observed upon the boat's deck was Mate Dan Breen, who last summer shot the two Leonidas' while in midstream opposite the Davenport levee.


The Davenport Daily Leader, Tuesday, April 28, 1903, page 5




John Flechtmann Died at 2 O'Clock this Afternoon at St. Luke's Hospital--Had Consumption.

John Flectmann, the colored porter of the steamer Dubuque of the Diamond Jo line, who collapsed in the court room during the recent trial of the Leonidas case and was taken to St. Luke's Hospital, died at that institution at 2 o'clock this afternoon, having never recovered from the shock that he received while in the witness chair being subjected to a cross examination.

The deceased was thirty years of age, being a resident of St. Louis and  had worked upon the Diamond Jo boats for a number of years.

When brought to Davenport to testify at the late trial, Flectmann was far from being a well person.  The excitement of the trial proved too much for his weakened condition and he was taken from the court direct to the hospital where he now lies a corpse.  He was a victim of consumption.

The superintendent of the Diamond Jo furnished bonds last night.  In regard to the disposition of the remains and it is probable they will be shipped to St. Louis for interment.


The Davenport Democrat, April 28, 1903, page 5.



At St. Luke's hospital, at 2 o'clock this afternoon John Selectman died.  He was a colored man, about 30 years of age, and for some time in the employ of the Diamond Jo line.  He is the unfortunate man who was sent here as a witness for the Diamond Jo line company in the recent trial of the Leonidas case, and who was so ill when he came that he was unfit to go on the stand, and who was taken from the court room to the hospital, which he did not live long enough to leave.  The poor fellow never knew how he had been slandered by the publication in a Davenport paper of the insinuation that his breakdown on the stand was due to his inability to stand up under a burden of perjured testimony.  Agent James Osborne of the Diamond Jo line has advised the company of Selectman's death, and his remains will probably be forwarded to St. Louis.



 The Davenport Democrat, dated April 28, 1903, page 7




Judge Accused  of Being Absent from the Court Room During the Arguments--Leonidas Case Cost the County $900 in Settlement of Costs


The case of P. W. McManus, administrator of the estate of Christopher Leonidas vs. The Diamond Jo line, has been settled so far as the jury is concerned.

Today it was made a matter for the court to decide whether or not there shall be a re-trial upon the representations made by F. A. cooper and Letts & McGee, in their motion for a new trial filed with the clerk this morning.  The motion alleges misconduct on the part of Judge Lenihan and W. M. Chamberlin for the defense, and Judge House, for his absence from the court room during the arguments, as also false testimony given by M. M. Killeen and Dan Breen, together with an alleged expression of an opinion on the part of one of the jurors.

Text of the Motion.

A portion of the text of the motion for a new trial, containing the allegations of misconduct is as follows:
1. For misconduct of the prevailing party in this; that D. J. Lenihan, one of the counsel for the defendant Diamond Jo line, during his argument made the statement to the jury that the plaintiff had had a traveling man here in the city at the time of the trial, who was present on the steamer Dubuque at the time of the shooting, and that the plaintiff was afraid and dare not place said traveling man on the stand to testify and further, that said Lenihan in his argument, challenged the counsel for the plaintiff to take the stand to be sworn and deny his assertion, if he dared.  That the exact words used by Lenihan are not known to this plaintiff, but were in substance as above stated.  That said remarks were entirely outside of the evidence.  That there is no evidence to sustain the said allegations of said Lenihan, and that said conduct and language of said Lenihan was gross misconduct and abuse of discretion and prejudicial by which plaintiff was prevented from having a fair trial.

2. For misconduct of W. M. Chamberlin, one of the counsel for the defendant, in that contrary to the rulings of the court, denying said Chamberlin the right to address the jury, said Chamberlin did, knowing the same to be untrue, in the absence of the presiding judge, during the argument of F. D. Letts, one of the counsel for the plaintiff, remark and announce to the jury that they, the defendants, had secured  information from the Iowa Steam, Heating and Plumbing company, regarding the traveling man, and that he had been here in the city and was brought here by this plaintiff, and although in the city at the time of trial, this plaintiff was afraid and dared not place said traveling man on the stand to testify, etc. ***That said Chamberlin at this time told Mr. Bush, who was about to call the court, that it was not necessary to call the court.  Acting on said suggestion, said Bush neglected to so call the court.***


3. For misconduct of the court in this, that the court was not present at the time of argument of F. D. Letts and that during said time of the misconduct of the defense the absence of the court occurred.***

6. For misconduct on the part of D. Lenihan, one of the counsel for the defendant, the Diamond Jo line, in this, that during his argument said Lenihan, referring to the witness McKensie, stated to the jury that the plaintiff had been compelled to scour the county jail for their witness.

7. That false testimony was given on the part of the defense by one M. M. Killeen, in substance and to the effect that he stated while on the witness stand that he was present at the time of the shooting, and before the shooting occurred., and that Dan Breen did the shooting with his left hand, while said Killeen has before and since sworn on oath that he was not present until after the first shot was fired.

8. That false testimony was also given by Dan Breen, one of the defendants, to the effect that he shot with the revolver in hiss left hand, which is not true, and H. E. Stock,  A. G. E. Ryquist, and Charles Cleary will testify that Dan Breen used his right hand.

9. That one of the jurors expressed an opinion and stated before the case was submitted to said jury that he would remain out one week before a verdict would be brought in against Diamond Jo Line steamers.

The cost of the recent Leonidas trial to Scott County, which in the absence of wealth to the estate, will have to settle the bills, will approximate $900 if not $1,000.

The trial of the administrator of the estate of Ellsworth Leonidas the younger man, will next be called.  This case will cost fully as much as the one just disposed of.  Were Dan Breen to be tried under an indictment, there could scarcely be a conviction, and the county would be involved nearly $7,000 in the trial of the case.


The Davenport Weekly Leader, Friday, May 1, 1903, page 2.





In the Statement Filed it is charged That the Attorneys Were Guilty of Misconduct as Was Also the Court.

A motion for a new trial was filed in the Leonidas case last night in which some sensational charges are made.
In the statements made, it is charged that the attorneys were guilty of misconduct in several instances and it also states that the court misconducted itself in that it was absent at the time the controversies were going on and therefore not able to rule on the questions itself.

The statement is also made that one of the jurors had expressed an opinion and had made the statement to the effect that the Steamer company was to have a verdict if the jury was to staid out for a week.  Judge Lenihan is taken to task first and the motion states that a motion for a new trial should be granted for misconduct of the prevailing party in this, that D. J. Lenihan, one of the counsel for the defendant, Diamond Jo Steamers, during his argument made the statement to the jury that this plaintiff had a traveling man here in the city at the time of trial, who was present on the steamer Dubuque at the time of the shooting and that the plaintiff was afraid and dared not place said traveling man on the stand to testify and further that said Lenihan in his argument challenged the counsel for the plaintiff to take the stand to be sworn and deny his assertion if they dared.

Attorneys for the plaintiff deny that there was any evidence to sustain this assertion and claim that it was a gross misconduct on the part of Lenihan.

It is also claimed that W. M. Chamberlin, one of the attorneys for the defendant, after the court had denied him the right to address the jury, did in the absence of the judge and during the argument of Mr. Letts, state to the jury that information had been received from the Iowa Steam Heating and Plumbing company regarding the traveling man and that he had been here in the city and was brought here by the attorneys for the plaintiff, but though he was in the city at the time of the trial the plaintiff was afraid and dared not place him on the stand to testify.  It is also states that Mr. Chamberlin to Mr. Bush who was about to call the judge that it was not necessary and acting on this suggestion it was not done.

The court is also charged with misconduct in that it was absent during arguments of Mr. Letts and during the time the statements alleged above were made by attorneys for the defendants.

Mr. Lenihan is also charged with misconduct in that he stated when McKensie testified that the plaintiff had been obliged to scour the county jails for witnesses.

It is also stated that M. M. Killeen gave false testimony in that he was present at the time of the shooting while he has stated before and after that he was not.

It is stated that there was an error in that Dan Breen testified that he shot with his left hand while H. E. Stoek, A. G. E. Rydequist and Chas. Crevy stated that he shot with his right hand.

The last reason stated is that one of the jurors had an opinion and had made the statement that he would hold the jury a week before he would bring in a verdict against the Steamer company.


Researched  by Sue Rekkas

and transcribed by

Georgeann McClure  & Sue Rekkas


back to History Index