MURDER ON THE DUBUQUE"
Trial - Ellsworth Leonidas
by Georgeann McClure
and Sue Rekkas
Researcher Sue Rekkas
Davenport Daily Republican, Friday,
1903, page 6.
HOUSE OVERRULES THE MOTION.
Rules that both Mate Breen and Diamond Jo Line Must Appear.
Judge House has handed down an opinion in the case of P. W.
McManus, Administrator of the estates of Christopher and Ellsworth
Leonidas vs. the Diamond Jo Steamship Co., and Dan Breen, in which
the judge holds that the naming of both parties as defendants is
right and proper, and refuses the motion the defendant company that
the defendants be tried separately. This is a very important ruling
in the case and is considered in the light of being a great victory
for the plaintiffs, who were represented in the case by F. A. Cooper
and Letts & McGee.
The Davenport Daily Leader,
Thursday, June 11, 1903, page 8
WITNESS HAS BEEN SECURED
APPEAR IN SECOND TRIAL OF LEONIDAS'.
Suit Has Been Set to be Heard
in the Scott County District Court September 15th.
Charles Crary, the traveling man
who was wanted so badly in the last trial of the Leonidas case, has
been secured as a witness for the trial that has been instituted for
the son, Ellsworth Leonidas, against the Diamond Jo Steamer Co., and
has been ordered to appear in court September 15th.
The date for the hearing he trial
has been set for that time and the second battle will be taken up.
Crary is the man that the
attorneys for the plaintiff tried so hard to secure for the last
trial but were unable to locate. He is a traveling man and although
every effort was made to find him he could not be found until the
trial was nearly concluded and arrived in the city after the case
had gone to the jury.
Shortly afterwards he again
disappeared and it not until yesterday that he could be found.
Crary came to Davenport at that time and a subpoena was secured for
him and he was notified to appear in September.
There is every indication that
the case will be more hotly contested than the former one and with
the introduction of new evidence be prosecuted with renewed vigor.
The Daily Times, September 1,
1903, page 9.
GO TO ST.
LOUIS FOR DEPOSITIONS
CASE OF THE YOUNGER LEONIDAS
Davenport Attorneys Will Leave
Friday Morning to Take Witnesses' Testimony
Attorneys F. A. Cooper and F. D.
Letts, counsel for the estate of the late Ellsworth Leonidas, who
with his father, Christopher Leonidas, was shot on board the steamer
Dubuque a year ago last July by Mate Dan Breen, will leave for St.
Louis Friday morning to take the testimony of J. H. Swartz and H. E.
Stock, two men supposed to have been eyewitnesses of the affair.
With then will probably go William Chamberlin, N. D. Ely and Judge
Lenihan, attorneys for the defendants, the Diamond Jo company and
The case will come up for trial,
it is expected, during the November term of the district court. The
case will be remembered as one of the most interesting which has
been in the court here for many years. It arose from the killing of
the two men dressed as cowboys who boarded the steamer at
Davenport. The plaintiffs claimed that it was wanton murder while
the defense claimed that Breen shot the men in self defense. In the
case of the father, which came up for trial, last winter, the jury
returned a verdict for the defense.
The Davenport Democrat, September
16, 1903, page 6.
THE COURTS ARE
DOING LARGE BUSINESS
The Leonidas Case Again
This afternoon Messrs. Letts and
Cooper, and Chamberlin and Ely argued a motion for a new trial in
the case of the elder Leonidas estate (Christpher) vs. the Diamond
Jo line steamers. The case was tried before Judge House during the
April term of court and the jury found for the defendant. The
Parker claiments' case was postponed until the motion had been
argued. At. 3 o'clock Judge House had not announced his ruling.
Davenport Republican, Friday,
September 11, 1903, page 6.
ELDER LEONIDAS WILL NOT BE TRIED AGAIN.
Judge House Overrules the
Motion for a New Trial
Judge J. A. House was in
Davenport yesterday and held a short session of court to hear the
arguments over the motion for a new trial in the case of P. W.
McManus, administrator of the estate of Christopher Leonidas vs Dan
Breen and the Diamond Jo company. F. D. Letts and C. A. Cooper,
attorneys for the plaintiffs in the suit, which was decided in favor
of the defense last spring moved for a new trial and after
considering the matter Judge House overruled the motion. The case
of the younger Leonidas, who was killed at the same time as his
father, will come up for trial during the present term of the
The Daily Times, September 10,
1903, page 9.
WILL NOT GET A NEW TRIAL
JUDGE HOUSE OVERRULES MOTION IN
Attorneys Asked for Another
Hearing in Suit For the Death of the Elder Leonidas.
A motion for a new trial in the
case of P. W. McManus, administrator for the estate of Christopher
Leonidas vs Dan Breen and the Diamond Jo company was overruled this
afternoon by Judge A. J. House before whom the motion was argued.
The trial was held during the spring and a verdict was brought in by
the jury for the defense. F. D. Letts and C. A. Cooper represented
the plaintiff and Ely & Bush, and Wm Chamberlin the defendants.
The trial of the case of the
younger Leonidas will come up during the present term of court.
The Davenport Democrat, September
11, 1903, page 7.
The Case Alleging Murder of the
Young Man Will Be tried, But the other is Denied a New Trial.
The motion for a rehearing in the
case of P. W. McManus, administrator of the estate of the elder
(Christopher) Leonidas vs. The Diamond Jo Line Steamers, which was
argued before Judge house in chambers Thursday afternoon, was
overruled that day. The case of P. W. McManus, administrator of the
case of the estate of the younger (Ellsworth) Leonidas vs. the
Diamond Jo Line steamers will be tried at this term of court.
1903, page 3.
NOVEMBER TERM OF COURT ON TUESDAY.
JURY REPORTS FOR DUTY TOMORROW.
Leonidas Case is Set for Trial at Once
petit jury will qualify for jury for the November term, and the
first case set for trial is that of P. W. McManus, administrator of
the estate of Ellsworth Leonidas vs. the Diamond Jo steamers and
Dan Breen. This is a damage case arising over the shooting by the
mate of the Dubuque of the two Leonidases, or Taggerts. The estate
asks for $15,000 damages.
Nov. 11, 1903
CASE IS BEING TRIED NOW
Evidence of the Prosecution going In.
is to show Shooting Without Proper Warrant of Action in Self
Defense-The Defense has Another Story
The taking of evidence in the case of P. W.
McManus administrator of the estate of Ellsworth Leonidas vs. the
Diamond Jo Line steamers, began shortly before 4 o’clock Tuesday
The jury was finally selected and sworn just
after 3 o’clock, and Attorney F. D. Letts for the plaintiff estate
made the opening statement of the case to the jury. He was followed
by N. D. Ely for the defense, after which the testimony taking
The personnel of the jury which is trying the
case is as follows:
J. Grill, Winfield township
J. Galvin, city
Matt Thompson, city
R. J. Tobin, Winfield township
Louis Hamann, city
Charles Keppy, city
Fritz Homann, Rockingham township
A.M. Dienier, city
L. W. Schwenke, city
H. J. Flint, city
Henry Litscher, Butler township
Paul Villian, city
Student Rydquest on stand
The first witness called was A. G. E. Rydquist,
a theological student of Augustana College, Rock Island. He
testified similarly to this evidence given in the case of the elder
Leonidas, heard last spring. He said he boarded the steamer Dubuque
at 11 o’clock on the forenoon of July 10, 1902. He shortly afterward
descended to inspect the machinery of the boat. As he went down his
attention was directed to a quarrel between Mate Dan Breen and the
elder Leonidas which was as far as he could learn was over the
disposition of baggage, which was piled up near the stairway.
Mr. Rydquist testified that the younger of the
two men attempted to stop the quarreling, but his services were of
no avail. The mate left them and went upstairs. He appeared to be
very angry. He later returned to the lower deck, and carried his
hand concealed under his coat. The student heard him demand the
removal of the baggage. Suddenly two shots ran out, in rapid
succession, and the old man fell on his knees beside the boxes. Then
the younger man advanced toward the mate with outstretched hands
saying, “Don’t shoot my papa.”
The student testified that Breen fired one shot
at the younger man, which missed him. Then the young man turned
around toward the left, and another shot was fired, striking him in
Neither of the two men, according to Rydquist’s
testimony, made any movement toward drawing their revolvers. The
holster straps were buckled.
The examination of Rydquist was not completed
Tuesday afternoon, and was resumed this forenoon. He was subjected
to a crossfire fully as severe as that which he underwent when he
testified in the case tried last spring.
Dr. J. Raphaelson
Dr. J. Raphaelson, a Davenport physician, who
was on board the steamer Dubuque on July 10, 1902, and who saw the
shooting also testified this morning.
He saw the quarrel and the shooting, and heard
the younger Leonidas plead for his father’s life before he himself
was shot down. He said the mate had ordered the removal of the
baggage but that the Leonidases did not make any movement toward
obeying him. His evidence was a corroboration of the testimony of
About 10:30 o’clock the reading of the
depositories of Dr. J. Stark of St. Louis, who was a passenger on
board the Dubuque at the time, was begun, lasting until the noon
hour, N. D. Ely, for the defense, began the reading, and continued
until the time of adjournment.
The deposition disclosed the scene of the
shooting as it appeared to the St. Louisan, and did not differ very
materially from the testimony of the two verbal witnesses, save in
that it tended to show that the Leonidases threateningly felt of the
holsters containing their revolvers.
The interruption of the qualifying of the grand
jury necessitated the calling of the case a half an hour later this
The reading of the depositions of Dr. Stocks of
St. Louis, and of a Mr. Schwarz of the same city, had not been
concluded, but by permission of the defense the plaintiff was
allowed to place Mrs. Nancy Taggert of Peoria, Ill., a small, rather
deaf woman, with a crippled right hand, on the witness stand.
The woman testified that Ellsworth Leonidas,
whose estate is suing, was her stepson, and that he was in his 19th
year when shot. She said she was married to his father, Harrison
Taggert, alias Christopher Leonidas, and that he boy had helped his
father, who sold pop corn, horse radish, fished and made and
disposed of medicine, and a hair cure, during his life time. The
woman was still testifying when this report was closed.
Mrs. Taggert, wife No. 1, of Christopher
Leonidas, was accompanied by a boy about 10 years old, presumably
Every indication points toward the prolongation
of the case until the end of the week, and possibly until next week.
There isn’t much interest shown in the case.
There were only a few auditors in the courtroom during the day.
Captain Killeen of the Diamond Jo Line steamers
was noticed in the courtroom this afternoon and Dan Breen, the mate
of the Dubuque is in the courtroom. He looks the same as he did when
here last spring, and is none the worse for his injuries sustained
in the recent steamboat fire.
G. E. Rydquist, a theological student at
Augustana college, Rock Island, was the first witness called
yesterday by the attorneys for the plaintiff case of P. W. McManus,
administrator for the estate of Ellsworth Leonidas, vs. the Diamond
Joe line steamers and Dan Breen for $15,000 damages for the shooting
and killing of Leonidas upon the steamer Dubuque on July 10, 1902,
Judge Wolfe is hearing the case.
Rydquist testified that he saw the shooting and
was a witness to the quarrel before the boat left the shore.
He stated that he boarded the Dubuque at
Davenport at about 11 o’clock on the 10th of July. Before the boat
left the shore he had a desire to inspect the machinery on the lower
deck in the rear of the boat. As he went down stairs toward the rear
of the boat his attention was attracted by the quarreling of the
mate and two men dressed as cowboys. The mate, Dan Breen, ordered
the men to remove their baggage which was piled up near the steps to
some other part of the boat where it would not interfere with the
The elder of the two cowboys was sitting on the
boxes. The younger man tried to stop the quarreling between the
elder and the mate, but it was no use. The mate turned and went up
stairs, looking angry.
Ryudquist next saw the mate come down stairs
with his hand under his coat, and heard him demand the removal of
the baggage. Then followed two shots; the old man fell to his knees
on the boxes, and the younger man advanced toward the mate, holding
out his hands in a supplicating manner, and saying:
“Don’t shoot my papa.”
According to Rydiquist’s recollection Breen
fired one shot at the younger Leonidas and missed; then as the young
man tuned toward the left he fired another shot, which sent him
reeling back upon the boxes.
He stated that as far as he could see neither
man had made a move toward their revolvers, and the strap which
fastened the holsters down was apparently fastened.
Letts & McGee and Frank Cooper are the
attorneys for the plaintiff, and Ely & Bush, W. M. Chamberlin and
Judge Lenihan of Dubuque represent the defendants.
At 8 o’clock yesterday afternoon the jury for
the case was secured, and F. D. Letts and Judge Lenehan made the
opening statements. Following is a list of the jury hearing the
case: Arthur M. Diener, H. J. Flint, J. Galvin, J. Drill, Louis
Haman, Fritz Hamann, Charles Keppy, Henry Litscher, R. J. Tobin, Mat
Thomsen, J. W. Schwenke and Paul Villain.
Further testimony from Rydiquist will be heard
Father and son were to blame.
Yesterday the examination of witnesses in the
Leonidas case was continued before judge Wolfe. The first witness
called in the afternoon was Dr. Hender, who testified as to the
course of the bullet through the younger man’s body. One hip,
according to his statement, was raised higher than the other as
though he were reaching for his gun at the time of the shooting
Nancy Taggert and Fred Taggert, the alleged wife and son of the
elder Leonidas were put upon the stand, but their testimony added
little that was competent or material.
Matt Nimman, one of the deck-hands on the boat,
testified that the elder man was worrying the negroes on the boat by
snapping a whip at them as they passed by, and that when he
demonstrated with him for his acts was ordered off at the point of a
gun. He also testified as to the profane and indecent language used.
He saw the captain come down the steps and tell the man to stop
their noise, and heard the answer that they owned the boat and the
d—captain, too. After that he said he kept out of their way; that he
wasn’t scared to death but wasn’t going to stay in their vicinity.
He told Breen of the gun episode.
BREEN WAS ON THE STAND TODAY
as to Shooting The Two Leonidases
Mate Dan Breen of the steamer Dubuque was on
the witness stand today, in the trial of the big damage suit against
the Diamond Jo company growing out of his shooting the two
Leonidases. He was called at 10 o’clock this afternoon, following
Walter Payne, one of the deck hands, who was a witness to the
Breen told his story, as he knew it. The
Democrat told the facts at the time of the shooting just before noon
on July 10, 1902, and Mate Breen’s version does not in the least
depart from it.
He says the two Leonidases got on board the
Dubuque at Rock Island, holding deck passage tickets to McGregor,
IA. Their baggage consisted of boxes, canvases, a large dog and
several whips. The latter they flourished about, striking at the
heels of the deck hands. Thoroughly intimidating them.
The mate interfered in the cause of peace, and
was quite roundly scored and cursed. When he commanded them to
remove their baggage in an other part of the boat the old man
refused, stating that he had bought the boat, and was going to run
it as it pleased him.”
The Leonidases took umbrage at this remark, and
when again asked to remove their baggage and have themselves, became
very ugly, the elder man drawing a revolver and threatening to shoot
It was then that Mr. Breen went upstairs and
borrowed Morris Killeen’s revolver with which the deadly work was
done later on.
The witness stated that when, after securing
the gun, he attempted to enforce order and compel the two Leonidases
to move their baggage, his life was threatened by an attempt made by
the two supposed cowboys to reach their arms.
But the mate was too quick. Before his right to
live, and his authority as master of the lower deck, he thought the
right to life, and the self-arrogated authority of the Leonidases
lapsed. Therefore he shot true, and the coroner’s jury exonerated
him from blame.
Now it has become known that the twain were
only masqueraders indulging in braggadocio. But to the mate,
according to his testimony, it was a matter of stern reality-a
matter of life for himself or of a funeral for two cowboys who tried
to run the boat.
At noon Dan Breen had just completed his
testimony on the direct examination. The cross fire was reserved for
The Widow and Brother
Democrat went to press on Wednesday evening it left Nancy Taggert of
Peoria, and alleged widow of Christopher Leonidas, (alias Harrison
Taggert) horse radish, popcorn, fish and hair-oil peddler, on the
witness stand. Her testimony referred solely to the antecedents of
the deceased, and to her connections with him.
came Fred Taggert, the 10 year-old son of Mrs. Nancy Taggert,
alleged to be the son of Christopher Leonidas and stepbrother of
Ellsworth Leonidas. His evidence was immaterial.
Dr. A. B. Hender
witness was Dr. A. B. Hender, who testified as to the wound found in
the side of the younger Leonidas. It apeared from doctor’s testimony
that one of the muscles of the back near the waist had been
perforated by the bullet, which showed he thought, that the muscle
had been stretched at the time as though the younger man had been
reaching for his revolver. The perforations to his mind showed this
M. J. Eagal,
W. D. Petersen, and Ed. Gifford, the original coroner’s jurors in
the case, who released Mate Breen upon their investigation, were
Simmons of St. Louis who had charge of the Dubuque on that fateful
day, came next. His evidence was corroborative of the story told
afterward by Mate Dan Breen.
witness heard on Wednesday afternoon was Matt Ninnow of St. Louis,
who testified as to the acts of the two Leonidases in the worrying
of the deckhands. He stated that the twain pitched their drover’s
whips at their heels and when he, Minnow, objected the elder Man
drew his revolver, and threatened him. This action he reported to
the mate. The Leonidases then told him that they owned the boat,
captain and all.
R. B. McCall
was the next witness. He furnished evidence of a general order,
which was corrobative of the evidence of the man Minnow.
Killeen of St. Louis, clerk of the Dubuque, was the man who loaned
Breen the revolver with which he did the deadly work. He stated that
when the mate got the gun he suspected trouble and followed him. He
saw the shooting. Both of the Leonidases started to reach for their
guns, and he heard the mate tell them to put them away. He testified
that the younger man (Ellsworth) had reached for his gun before the
mate shot him.
of yesterday concluded with the clerk’s testimony.
Walter Payne, Deckhand
deckhand, was placed on the stand this morning at 9 o’clock and
remained there until 10 o’clock, when Dan Breen was called to
testify. Mr. Payne’s home is in St. Louis. He corroborated the story
of deckhand Nimmow and could not be shaken upon the cross fire upon
any important point. He saw the teasing of the crew, their
threatening with guns, and heard the braggadocio, or whatever it may
be called whereby they communicated to the crew the idea that they
owned the boat. He saw the shooting and saw that the two alleged
cowboys had attempted to pull their guns before they were shot by
Dan Breen. At 10 o’clock this morning came the testimony which was
rendered by Dan Breen the boat's mate, the substance of which is
o’clock this afternoon the cross was begun and Mate Breen was
subjected to as rigid a counter examination as ever witness was
subjected to. The mate was still on the stand when the report was
closed, just before 3 o’clock.
will furnish testimony in rebuttal, and it is likely to be of a
character which, will be surprising. A bench warrant has been issued
for the Burlington witness, who failed to appear for the rendition
of his testimony until too late, at he last trial. The plaintiff
will make sure of him this time.