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Life on the Rivers

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




The Second Trial - Ellsworth Leonidas

Transcribed by Georgeann McClure
and Sue Rekkas
Researcher Sue Rekkas

The Davenport Daily Republican, Friday,

June 9, 1903, page 6.


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








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.








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 Dan Breen.


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 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.








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 district court.




The Daily Times, September 10, 1903, page 9.








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.





The Davenport Democrat,

November 9, 1903, page 3.




Leonidas Case is Set for Trial at Once

 Tomorrow the 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




The Evidence of the Prosecution going In.


The Trend is to show Shooting Without Proper Warrant of Action in Self Defense-The Defense has Another Story


The taking of evidence in the case of P. W. McManus administrator of the estate of Ellsworth Leonidas vs. the Diamond Jo Line steamers, began shortly before 4 o’clock Tuesday afternoon.


The jury was finally selected and sworn just after 3 o’clock, and Attorney F. D. Letts for the plaintiff estate made the opening statement of the case to the jury. He was followed by N. D. Ely for the defense, after which the testimony taking began.


The Jury


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 the back.


Neither of the two men, according to Rydquist’s testimony, made any movement toward drawing their revolvers. The holster straps were buckled.


The examination of Rydquist was not completed Tuesday afternoon, and was resumed this forenoon. He was subjected to a crossfire fully as severe as that which he underwent when he testified in the case tried last spring.


Dr. J. Raphaelson


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 student Rydquist.


About 10:30 o’clock the reading of the depositories of Dr. J. Stark of St. Louis, who was a passenger on board the Dubuque at the time, was begun, lasting until the noon hour, N. D. Ely, for the defense, began the reading, and continued until the time of adjournment.


The deposition disclosed the scene of the shooting as it appeared to the St. 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.


Afternoon Proceedings


The interruption of the qualifying of the grand jury necessitated the calling of the case a half an hour later this afternoon.

The reading of the depositions of Dr. Stocks of St. Louis, and of a Mr. Schwarz of the same city, had not been concluded, but by permission of the defense the plaintiff was allowed to place Mrs. Nancy Taggert of Peoria, Ill., a small, rather deaf woman, with a crippled right hand, on the witness 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 her son.

Every indication points toward the prolongation of the case until the end of the week, and possibly until next week.

There isn’t much interest shown in the case. There were only a few auditors in the courtroom during 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.  




Davenport Republican

Nov. 11, 1903




Gives first Testimony


G. E. Rydquist, a theological student at Augustana college, Rock Island, was the first witness called yesterday by the attorneys for the plaintiff case of P. W. McManus, administrator for the estate of Ellsworth Leonidas, vs. the Diamond Joe line steamers and Dan Breen for $15,000 damages for the shooting and killing of Leonidas upon the steamer Dubuque on July 10, 1902, Judge Wolfe is hearing the case.


Rydquist testified that he saw the shooting and was a witness to the quarrel before the boat left 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 work.


The elder of the two cowboys was sitting on the boxes. The younger man tried to stop the quarreling between the elder and the mate, but it was no use. The mate turned and went up stairs, looking angry.


Ryudquist next saw the mate come down stairs with his hand under his coat, and heard him demand the removal of the baggage. Then followed two shots; the old man fell to his knees on the boxes, and the younger man advanced toward the mate, holding out his hands in a supplicating manner, and 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 this morning.





Tells of Leonidas Affair

Says that 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.




The Davenport Democrat

Nov. 12, 1903




Testified as to Shooting The Two Leonidases


Mate Dan Breen of the steamer Dubuque was on the witness stand today, in the trial of the big damage suit against the Diamond Jo company growing out of his shooting the two Leonidases. He was called at 10 o’clock this afternoon, following Walter Payne, one of the deck hands, who was a witness to the shooting.


Breen told his story, as he knew it. The Democrat told the facts at the time of the shooting just before noon on July 10, 1902, and Mate Breen’s version does not in the least depart from it.


He says the two Leonidases got on board the Dubuque at Rock Island, holding deck passage tickets to McGregor, IA. Their baggage consisted of boxes, canvases, a large dog and several whips. The latter they flourished about, striking at the heels of the deck hands. Thoroughly intimidating them.


The mate interfered in the cause of peace, and was quite roundly scored and cursed. When he commanded them to remove their baggage in an other part of the boat the old man refused, stating that he had bought the boat, and was going to run it as it pleased him.”


The Leonidases took umbrage at this remark, and when again asked to remove their baggage and have themselves, became very ugly, the elder man drawing a revolver and threatening to shoot the mate.


It was then that Mr. Breen went upstairs and borrowed Morris Killeen’s revolver with which the deadly work was done later on.


The witness stated that when, after securing the gun, he attempted to enforce order and compel the two Leonidases to move their baggage, his life was threatened by an attempt made by the two supposed cowboys to reach their arms.

But the mate was too quick. Before his right to live, and his authority as master of the lower deck, he thought the right to life, and the self-arrogated authority of the Leonidases lapsed. Therefore he shot true, and the coroner’s jury exonerated him from blame.


Now it has become known that the twain were only masqueraders indulging in braggadocio. But to the mate, according to his testimony, it was a matter of stern reality-a matter of life for himself or of a funeral for two cowboys who tried to run the boat.


At noon Dan Breen had just completed his testimony on the direct examination. The cross fire was reserved for the afternoon.


The Widow and Brother


When the Democrat went to press on Wednesday evening it left Nancy Taggert of Peoria, and alleged widow of Christopher Leonidas, (alias Harrison Taggert) horse radish, popcorn, fish and hair-oil peddler, on the witness stand. Her testimony referred solely to the antecedents of the deceased, and to her connections with him.

Following her came Fred Taggert, the 10 year-old son of Mrs. Nancy Taggert, alleged to be the son of Christopher Leonidas and stepbrother of Ellsworth Leonidas. His evidence was immaterial.


Dr. A. B. Hender


The next witness was Dr. A. B. Hender, who testified as to the wound found in the side of the younger Leonidas. It 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 conclusively.


M. J. Eagal, W. D. Petersen, and Ed. Gifford, the original coroner’s jurors in the case, who released Mate Breen upon their investigation, were then examined.


Capt John Simmons of St. Louis who had charge of the Dubuque on that fateful day, came next. His evidence was corroborative of the story told afterward by Mate Dan Breen.


Matt Nimmow


The best witness heard on Wednesday afternoon was Matt Ninnow of St. Louis, who testified as to the acts of the two Leonidases in the worrying of the deckhands. He stated that the twain pitched their drover’s whips 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.


Maurice Killeen


Maurice Killeen of St. Louis, clerk of the Dubuque, was the man who loaned Breen the revolver with which he did the deadly work. He stated that when the mate got the gun he suspected trouble and followed him. He saw the shooting. Both of the Leonidases started to reach for their guns, and he heard the mate tell them to put them away. He testified that the younger man (Ellsworth) had reached for his gun before the mate shot him.

The evidence of yesterday concluded with the clerk’s testimony.


Walter Payne, Deckhand


Walter Payne, deckhand, was placed on the stand this morning at 9 o’clock and remained there until 10 o’clock, when Dan Breen was called to testify. Mr. Payne’s home is in St. Louis. He corroborated the story of deckhand Nimmow and could not be shaken upon the cross fire upon any important point. He saw the teasing of the crew, their threatening with guns, and heard the braggadocio, or whatever it may be called whereby they communicated to the crew the idea that they owned the boat. He saw the shooting and saw that the two alleged cowboys had attempted to pull their guns before they were shot by Dan Breen. At 10 o’clock this morning came the testimony  which was rendered by Dan Breen the boat's mate, the substance of which is recounted above.


  Afternoon Proceedings

At 2 o’clock this afternoon the cross was begun and Mate Breen was subjected to as rigid a counter examination as ever witness was subjected to. The mate was still on the stand when the report was closed, just before 3 o’clock.

The plaintiff will furnish testimony in rebuttal, and it is likely to be of a character which, will be surprising. A bench warrant has been issued for the Burlington witness, who failed to appear for the rendition of his testimony until too late, at he last trial. The plaintiff will make sure of him this time.


Researched  by Sue Rekkas

and transcribed by

Georgeann McClure  & Sue Rekkas


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