Trial - Christopher Leonidas
April 14, 1903
Transcribed by Georgeann McClure
and Sue Rekkas
Researcher Sue Rekkas
The Davenport Times, Tuesday,
1903, page 5
MAY BE SHY
OF PETIT JURORS
ONLY 25 ELIGIBLE ONES ON THE LIST
Case Against Diamond Jo Line Will Be Begun Tomorrow Afternoon
MAY BE SHY OF PETIT JURORS
are but 25 available jurors to form the petit jury panel and in
case any number of these fail to pass examination it may be that
the petit jury will be unable to resume work on Tuesday at 2
0'clock as per schedule. The reason for the lack of names is the
fact that a large number of the first who were notified have been
What will no
doubt prove the most important and hard fought case of the term is
slated for the hearing immediately after the jury has been
empanelled. It is of P. W. McManus, administrator, vs. The Diamond
Jo Co. and Mate Dan Breen. The first will be in behalf of the
estate of Christopher Leonidas and the evidence introduced will be
of no little importance in deciding the case which will follow
against the same defendants in behalf of the estate of Ellsworth
Leonidas. Each suit calls for damages in the sum of $15,000,
claimed to be due the estates on account of the killing of the men
by Mate Breen of the Diamond Jo line steamer Dubuque on the night
of July 8, 1902. The plaintiffs are to be represented by Letts &
McGee and F. A. Cooper while the case of the steamer line will be
conducted by W. M. Chamberlin. Ely & Bush will appear for Mate
Davenport Times, Tuesday, April 14, 1903, page 9
FAMOUS LEONIDAS CASE IS BEGUN
THE ATTENTION OF THE DISTRICT COURT
Start to Impanel a Jury This Afternoon--Little Progress is Made
jury was called this afternoon and the first case to be brought up
was that of P.W. McManus vs. Dan Breen and the Diamond Jo company,
arising from the killing of the two Leonidas men on the steamer
Dubuque last summer.
Cooper began examining the men as soon as they had taken their
customary oaths and the questioning continued until 2:20 o'clock.
The 12 men
who were first called by Clerk Noth were as follows: Benjamin
Anderson, S. Goos, Thomas Ketelsen, William H. Mennig, Fred Meier,
John McDonald, Scott McGaw, John Otten, Robert Rathmann,, Louis
Schultz, Charles Strubbs, Sam T. White, A. N. Westlund.
man to be excused was Scott McGaw, who was challenged on account
of being in the employ of W. M.
one of the attorneys for the defense. Christ Leper was summoned
to take the seat of McGaw.
Attorney Cooper had completed his examination of the jury,
Attorney Chamberlin began the second challenging. As a result of
the statement that he had formed an opinion which he did not
believe could be influenced by the evidence in the case, John
Otten was challenged and excused. P. N. Jacobsen, Sr., was
summoned in his stead.
Republican, Wednesday, April 15, 1903, page 8
CASE IS ON
FAMOUS DAMAGE SUIT STARTED IN DISTRICT COURT
All afternoon Consumed in Examination of Jury and One Not Secured
At Time Of Adjournment -
Great Interest Is Being Manifested in the Final Outcome of the
Famous Litigation Over Death Of Men.
The trail of the much-talked of Leonidas case in which the Diamond
Jo line steamers and Dan Breen are made joint defendants in a suit
for $15,000 for the death of Ellsworth (Christopher) Leonidas, P.
W. McNamus being the Plaintiff. The case promises to be hotly
contested. All yesterday afternoon was consumed in examining the
talismans of the petit jury, and it is not expected that the jury
will be secured without drawing an extra panel.
The Case is one of very especial interest on account of the world
wide interest taken in it at the time of the tragic death of
Ellsworth and his father, Christopher Leonidas, at the hands of
Dan Breen, mate of the Diamond Jo line, Dubuque, while just off
this city July 8th.
A number of witness from away have been served with subpoenas and
will be here to testify, while a great many people from this city
are witnesses. It is expected that the case will consume the
greater part of the rest of this week.
The Davenport Times, April 15, 1903, page 9
LEONIDAS CASE IS UNDER WAY
VENURE OF JURORS CALLED
Attorneys Gave Opening Arguments This Morning--A. D. Rydquist Is
It was necessary to call a special venure of 12 men to make up the
petit jury this morning and the Leonidas case was not commended
until about 10 o’clock. The examination of the first 25 men who
were called as jurors continued throughout the afternoon and as
the attempt to secure a panel from these men was unavailing the
work was continued today.
The men who
passed examinations, after a short recess, took their seats in the
jury box and listened to the petitions, the answers and the
addresses of the attorneys. They are William Brown, William F.
Finefield, Thomas Ketelsen, T. F Layden , Charles Lienhardt, John
McDonald, William Nagel, Carl Schllapkohl, Loius Schultz, Edward
Stacey, Thomas Willhort and Charles Strubbe.
The opening arguments of Attorney Cooper and Judge Lenehan
occupied considerable time and it was exactly 11 o’clock when A.
D. Rydquist, the first witness for the plaintiff, was called.
He claimed to have been an eye witness of the shooting. He
persisted in giving testimony as to the impressions which the
sight made on him, saying continually that he thought so and so,
and that he was impressed in such and such a manner.
Aside from this Rydquist bids fair to be a strong witness for the
plaintiff. He had a good view of the shooting and tells what
appears to be a straight story.
When asked by Attorney Letts as to what followed the order of Mate
Breen that the Leonidas remove their baggage, he replied that
Breen returned and shot the elder man.
He was questioned as to the conversation in which the men
indulged, but said that he did not understand the words used by
them but knew that they used profanity. An attempt was made to
secure the exact words that were used but the witness merely
answered that he could not answer in an exact way every question
of this kind.
He was asked if he had any conscientious scruples against the
repetition of profane words but the question was objected to and
the objection sustained.
that he had stood within eight or ten feet from the men when the
shots were fired, and said that he had taken particular notice of
the revolver holster which the elder Leonidas carried on his
belt. He stated that the flap over the holster had remained
closed and swore positively that the man had not removed the gun
from the case.
He said that the order from Breen telling the men to remove their
baggage had been delivered in a threatening tone of voice and that
during the time he was commanding them he had held his hand near
his hip pocket.
Taken as a whole the testimony which Rydquist gave in the morning
was damaging for the defense. He spoke in a deliberate manner and
was concise in the majority of his statements.
Mrs. Nancy Taggert, the wife of the elder Leonidas, is in the city
having come to Davenport yesterday from her home at Peoria, Ill.
She will remain in Davenport during the trial. Mrs. Taggert is
accompanied by her brother, Robert Cathran of Peoria.
Leonidas, it will be remembered, was not the right name of the man
who was shot on the steamer Dubuque last summer. He went under
that name with the other man who was with him and who was shot for
Mate Dan Breen of the steamer Dubuque, about whom the principal
interest in the case centers is present in the court room today.
Captain Walter A. Blair took the stand for the plaintiff and the
defense this afternoon. His evidence was not material. Rydquist
took the stand again for awhile, giving about the same testimony
as he did in the morning.
The Davenport Democrat, April 15, 1903, page 7
LEONIDAS CASE ON TRIAL BEFORE JURY
BIG DAMAGE SUIT BEGAN AT 11 O’CLOCK
Finally Empanelled at 9:45 O’clock This Forenoon
Theological Student Testified Before Noon-Today’s Proceedings.
A. D Ryquist,
a theological student of Augustana College Rock Island, was the
first witness to testify in the case of P. W. McManus,
administrator of the estates of Christopher and Ellsworth Leonidas
vs. the Diamond Jo line steamers and Dan Breen.
The case is
one wherein damages in the sum of $15,000 are asked for because of
the alleged unwarranted shooting of the two medicine men on board
the steamer Dubuque about noon of July 8, 1902, just off the
Davenport shore. Witness Ryquest was a passenger on board the
boat and had been holding conversation with the two Leonidases
before Mate Dan Breen ordered them with profane language, as he
testified, to remove their baggage to another part of the lower
deck. He described the altercation on the boat which led up to
the tragedy wherein the two medicine men lost their lives. The
direct examination was not conducted at the time of the noon
Drawing of the Jury.
The case was
opened at 2 o’clock Tuesday afternoon. The plaintiff is
represented by Frank A. Cooper and Letts 7 McGee and the
defendants by Hurd, Lineman & Kiesel of Dubuque, Ely & Bush and
Wm. M .
Judge Linehan is present at the trial, but none of the officers of
the Diamond Jo Line steamers nor Mate Dan Breen were in attendance
panel of the April jurors was exhausted in the selection of the 12
men, and a special venire of 12 was ordered drawn at 5 o’clock.
The jury was
not finally impended until 9:45 o’clock this morning when Deputy
Clerk McFarland swore the panel in.
o’clock Attorney Frank A. Cooper began the opening statement for
the plaintiff. He spoke until 10:20 o’clock and outlined the
facts which he said the plaintiff
These were that the Leonidases were passengers holding tickets,
and therefore, were entitled to the courtesies of the boat; that
they were not riotous, but peaceable, and that their shooting was
Judge Linehan of Dubuque followed Mr. Cooper in his opening
statement and spoke until 11 o’clock. He declared the act of the
mate to be justifiable, and alleged that the clothing and actions
of the two Leonidases wee calculated to strike terror into the
hearts of the other passengers. He said the defense would prove
that they were dangerous men, and that their fate was deserved.
The first witness, Rydquist, was interrogated by F. D. Letts on
the direct examination.
There are many witness subpoenaed in the case, and these are
excluded from the court room.
Captain Blair on Stand.
Rydquist was not placed on the stand at 2 o;clock. He gave way to
Captain Walter A. Blair, master of the Young, who gave testimony
as to the duties of the mates of vessels, and bore witness to the
reputation of Dan Breen as a peaceable and law abiding citizen.
The Captain was anxious to get through with his testimony in time
to go down the river with his boat, and therefore he was placed
on the stand immediately after dinner.
He said he met Dan Breen every two weeks during the river season
for the past 10 years, and had known him for 15 years. He said
the mate’s reputation was good and that he could positively say
that he had never heard him use profane language.
At 3 o’clock Student Rydquist was again called to the witness
stand to under go the cross- examination which was conducted by
Attorney N. D. Ely.
Dan Breen in Court.
This afternoon defendant Dan Breen appeared in the court
room. He was seated beside Judge Linehan and appeared much at
The court room was fairly crowed at this afternoon’s session.
The Davenport Daily Leader, Wednesday, April 15, 1903
JURY SECURED IN LEONIDAS CASE
WAS NECESSARY TO CALL IN EXTRA JURORS
Officials Sent Out Last Night to Summon Twelve Extra Men After
Regular Panel Was Exhausted.
The jury who is to render a decision in the famous Leonidas case
has been secured.
The last man was secured this morning after nearly a day had been
consumed in a selection and after the sheriff was ordered to
summon twelve extra talismen, the regular panel being exhausted.
The jurors who will set on the case are Wm. Brown, Wm. F.
Finefield, Thomas Ketelsen, T. F. Layden, Chas. Lienhardt, John
McDonald, Wm. Nagel, Carl Schlopkohl, Louis Schultz, Edward
Stacey, Thomas Wilhart and Chas. Strubbe.
The list of jurors is unique in the fact that for probably the
second time in the history of the Scott county bar a colored man
has been selected as one of the jurors. In a case several years
ago a Negro was chosen one time and occupied the panel but not
since that time has the thing occurred.
The man who enjoys this distinction is Wm Brown and he is in the
employ of the C. N. Roberts Co. and hauls expressage from the
depot to the St. James hotel. He seems to be an intelligent man
and as capable of rendering a fair and impartial verdict as any of
those who occupy the jurors box with him.
In the city also is the widow of the elder Leonidas, Mrs. Nancy
Taggert. She came to Davenport yesterday from Peoria where she
resides at the present time and accompanying her is Robert Cothran,
an uncle, whose home also is in Peoria.
Dan Breen, the mate, is not yet in the city but it is expected
that he will be present when the time comes for him to take the
stand for the defense.
Attorney Cooper made the opening argument for the plaintiff and he
occupied the attention of the jury for about three-quarters of an
Mr Cooper first read the original petition and then the answers of
the defendants and then made a clear and concise statement of the
case from the plaintiff's point of view.
Judge Lenehan of Dubuque opened the case for the defendants and
his arguments were brief and to the point.
The first witness that was called in the case was A. D. Rydquist,
a student at Augustana college.
Mr. Rydquist appears for the plaintiffs and he claims to have been
an eyewitness to the shooting.
His testimony was to the effect that he saw the Leonidas people
get on the boat at Rock Island and that the baggage was placed on
the lower deck.
Mr. Rydquist testified that when the men came on the boat they
both carried guns and they were held in holsters in belts that the
men wore around their waist. He also stated that the elder
Leonidas carried a knife that fitted in a case by his side.
Mr. Rydquist stated that the men both staid close to their baggage
and that they did not associate with any other people on the boat
nor had they spoken to any one since they had taken passage.
He also stated that he saw Breen come down from the upper deck and
that he ordered the men to remove their baggage or stated that it
had to be removed. The witness testified that the order was
delivered in a stern tone of voice and he also stated that when
Breen came down stairs he carried his hand to his side as if he
was keeping it in close proximity to his revolver.
Witness said that after the order had been given concerning the
baggage he heard a shot fired and saw the elder Leonidas fall to
the deck of the boat. He also testified to a very important fact,
namely that he saw the holster of the elder Leonidas afterward and
that the holster where he kept the revolver was closed. This goes
to prove the plaintiff's theory that there is no evidence of
Davenport Daily Leader, Wednesday, April 15, 1903, page 4
COMES TO DAVENPORT
To Take Part in the Famous Case Against the Diamond Jo People.
the mate against whom the suit is directed, is in Davenport and at
the court house this afternoon. He arrived unexpectedly from
Dubuque this noon and went immediately to the county building
where he is listening intently to the testimony.
Captain Blair, of the W. J. Young, was called to the witness stand
this afternoon. He was wanted principally to define the duties of
a mate on the boat and also to testify in regard to Breen's
general reputation. Mr. Blair swore that as far as he knew
Breen's reputation was good and that he did not know him to be a
man of bad character or habits.
After the attorney's had finished with the captain, A. D. Rhyquist
was again called to the stand and the cross examination was begun.
Davenport Republican, Thursday, April 16, 1903, page 8
STORY OF SHOOTING
THEOLOGICAL STUDENT GIVES ACCOUNT OF AFFAIR
F. A. Cooper made the opening
the jury for the plaintiff. He stated that the plaintiff expected
to show that the defendant, Christopher Leonidas, came to his
death from a bullet fired by Dan Breen, mate of the Diamond Jo
liner Dubuque, and that at the time of the act the dead man did
not have his revolver drawn, nor any means of defense--against the
Lenihan followed with the opening address for the defense. He
said that the defense would prove by numerous witnesses that the
Leonidas had their revolvers drawn on four different occasions and
that by threatening the roustabouts on the boat with their guns,
they induced them to dance. He further stated that the defense
expected to prove that at the time of the shooting the Leonidases
had their revolvers drawn from their holsters and were holding
them in a threatening attitude.
AT 11 o'clock the plaintiff placed its first witness upon the
stand. He was A. G. E. Rydquist, a theological student from
Augustana college, in Rock Island. He testified that on July
10th, 1902, he was a passenger on the steamer Dubuque, having
boarded the boat at Rock Island. In substance his testimony was
as follows: That he first noticed the Leonidases on account of
their grotesque attire, that of Western cowboys, but that
immediately upon boarding the boat he ascended to the upper deck,
while the two men were on the lower deck. Shortly afterwards he
descended again to the lower deck for the purpose of looking after
his baggage, and he immediately became aware of a quarrel between
the mate, Dan Breen, and the elder Leonidas. He did not pay much
attention to the quarrel at first, and after assuring himself that
his baggage was all safe, he interested himself in watching the
preparations for the voyage, and viewing the scenery. As he stood
there the quarrel became more heated and he heard a good deal of
profane language exchanged between the two men.
that as he watched the progress of the quarrel the two men started
to come together, and the younger man pulled at the coat sleeve of
his father and told him to sit down, which the elder man did.
Then the witness testified that he saw Breen ascend the stairs and
when he returned he noticed that he carried his right hand under
his coat, and apparently resting upon his right hip. He testified
that Breen approached the two Leonidases and again addressed a
command at them and when they refused him, he pulled a revolver
from his pocket and shot twice at the elder Leonidas. As the
first shot was fired the younger Leonidas, who had retreated
towards the boilers of the boat, at the sight of the gun, started
back, imploring the mate not to shoot his father. As the boy
turned back, testified the witness, Breen turned the gun upon him
and shot, the boy turned and started to run, but the second shot
caught him in the back and he pitched headlong into the open door
of a coal breaker.
Never Had Guns Out.
The witness testified that during the whole affair the
Leonidases never once drew, nor offer to draw, their revolvers,
and that they never even made a motion to draw their guns. He was
aware, all the time, that there was trouble between the men over
the disposition of the baggage, and several times he heard the
mate order the men to relinquish their baggage to the porters,
which they each time refused to do. He said that at all times the
guns of the two men were plainly distinguishable in their
holsters, under their short blouses.
In the course of the cross examination of the witness by Attorney
W. M. Chamberlin for the defense, the witness spoke of the bad
language which passed between the men and in response to a
question stated that his memory was at fault as to the exact words
uttered and their sequence, but he mentioned one of the words used
most frequently. It called forth the question from Attorney
Chamberlin: "What is your definition of profanity."
The theological student looked puzzled a moment and then replied:
"The use of any words that are unclean."
Attorney Chamberlin asked him if he made any distinction between
obscene and profane language and the witness replied that he did
not make much distinction.
Capt. Blair Testifies.
Capt. Blair, a witness for the plaintiff, testified during the
time in the afternoon which he had before his boat, the W. J.
Young, Jr., departed on the trip south, Mr. Rydquist being excused
in the interim. Capt. Blair testified as to the rules governing
the conduct and powers of mates on river boats. He testified that
the power of the mate was supreme on the lower deck, over the deck
hands and the deck passengers.
The Davenport Times, Thursday, April 16, 1903
CASE YET IN INFANCY
SMALL PART OF TESTIMONY HAS BEEN TAKEN
in Court Room--Other Witness Examined
The progress of the Leonidas case is very slow and it is
probable that it will not be ready for the jury before the end of
the week. The plaintiff is still examining its witnesses and as
yet only one has been finally dismissed. They still have several
witnesses to put on the stand and will examine some of those who
have already been up for a second time. In addition to this the
defense will put on numerous witnesses and it is possible that
Mate Dan Breen will go on the stand in his own behalf later in the
into court yesterday afternoon and has been in attendance at the
trial since that time. He sits near his attorneys and takes
careful notice of all that is going on about him as well as
listening to every word of testimony that is given.
hats which the murdered men had worn and the belts on which hung
their revolvers were brought into court this morning he fastened
his gaze on them and studied them for some time.
The second witness to be put on the stand this morning was J. H.
Raphealson of 218 Brady street. Mr. Raphealson was a passenger on
the boat and overheard remarks which he stated were made by the
mate regarding the personal appearance of the two Leonidas men.
damaging bit of his testimony was the following statement, which
he heard Breen make to several parties near whom he was standing.
In substance, it was:
two cowboys on, who think they are in the west, but they will find
out different before they get off."
stated that this was said in a sneering way and savored somewhat
of a threat.
Letts subjected Dr. Raphealson to a severe cross examination but
the witness refused to become rattled and retold the story in the
Mundt, a police officer, who stated that he accompanied the
ambulance to the dock after the shooting, was the next witness to
be called. The plaintiff sought to show by his testimony the
position which the men occupied and after having downed several
objections, were able to get the description from him. He was not
examined further in the matter and was dismissed without cross
Plaintiff then introduced M. E. Bowling, the undertaker, who had
embalmed and buried the bodies of the murdered men.
which it was claimed the men wore were exhibited at this time and
witness swore that they had been brought to his rooms with the
bodies. He could not state, however, as to which hat belonged to
which on account of the fact that the hats were not on the heads
of the men when he first saw them.
Letts wished to ascertain which man had worn the hat which was
pierced near the crown on the rim, but the witness could not swear
to the fact.
as to what disposition had been made of the wearing apparel of the
men he stated that it had been burned, as is customary with
clothing that is covered
FORMER TESTIMONY CONTRADICTED
His testimony might be taken as a victory for the defense for
the reason that it was contradictory to that of Police Officer
Mundt, who had preceded him on the stand. The latter had
testified that he was not called to the landing until after 12
o'clock, and when he arrived there the dead bodies were lying in
their original positions. Bowling, however, said the bodies had
arrived at his undertaking parlors on Brady street at about 11
The attorneys for the defense made full notes on this answer, but
did not use the question as a cross examination. It is probable
that they will endeavor to impeach the testimony by introducing
these statements to the jury when they make their final arguments.
After the dismissal of Bowling the plaintiff's attorneys announced
that Mrs. Nannie Taggert would next appear as a witness for them.
Davenport Daily Leader, Thursday, April 16, 1903, page 8
LEONIDAS PLACED ON STAND
TESTIFIES TO LIFE OF HER HUSBAND AND HIS OUTSIDE AFFAIRS
Stated That She was Married in 1888 and That the Man's Real Name
was Clarence Taggert
Mrs. Anna Taggert, who claims to be the wife of Christopher
Leonidas, was the principle witness that was introduced in the
trial of the Leonidas case today.
Mrs. Taggert lives at Peoria, Ill., and she is supposed to be one
of the numerous wives of the dead man, or at least one of those
who claim that they were his wife.
Mrs. Taggert has also established a fairly good claim. The woman
stated that she was thirty-nine years of age but she looks
considerably older. She is dark complected, dressed in dark
clothes and is a cripple, her right arm being cut off about half
way between the elbow and wrist.
The woman is not particularly attractive but she is not what one
would call coarse. She gave the testimony asked for in a
straightforward way and was very cool during the cross
Mrs. Taggert stated that the real name of Leonidas was Clarence
Taggert, or at least that was the name that he called himself when
he married her. She stated that she was married to Leonidas in
1888 and that the wedding took place at Quincy, Ill.. Later she
stated that she moved with her husband to to Mt. Sterling, Ill.,
and that her husband was engaged in the popcorn business there
where he earned about $75 a month. From this she stated that he
engaged in the fish business and earned the same amount. Later
and about five years ago she stated that he started in the show
business and that he continued in this until the time that he was
She stated that Leonidas was about forty years of age when she
married him, which would have made him a man of fifty-five when he
The attorneys for the defense asked the woman several questions in
regard to the man's pecuniary habits and evidently tried to make
the point that Leonidas was of a shiftless disposition and that he
saved little money or did little towards the support of his
They also tried to bring out as to why the men adopted the name of
Leonidas when he went into the show business but this was
overruled by the judge as not being material.
The woman also testified that there was a son thirteen years of
age still living. The woman was then excused until afternoon.
Dr. J. Rahelson, of 218 Brady street, was also called to the
stand. He testified to having taken passage to Le Claire on the
boat that day and to having heard the shots fired but otherwise he
knew little about the case and he was on the stand but a few
Detective Mundt, who was the first officer to arrive on the scene
when the boat landed, was called on the stand testified as to the
removing of the bodies and the position in which they lay on the
He stated that the elder man was lying straight out near the box
that contained their luggage and that the son was doubled up
resting on his hand and knees with his head bent double under his
The officer testified to calling the patrol and aiding in removing
the two men to the wagon where it was decided to take them to the
hospital but afterward to the undertaking rooms.
Deputy McFarland also produced the two guns and the belt and knife
that was taken from the persons of the dead men and the officer
identified these as the ones that were worn by the Leonidas people
at the time they were sot.
Merton C. Bowling, who runs the Boies undertaking rooms, was also
summoned and brought the two hats worn by the Leonidas' and stated
that the hats were brought up with the people when they were
placed in the parlors.
Republican, Friday, April 17, 1903
PROSECUTION CONCLUDES TAKING OF ITS EVIDENCE.
Defense in Leonidas Case Will Start First Thing This Morning,
Probably Introducing Clerk Morris Killeen As Their First Witness--
Mrs.Nannie Taggart, Wife of the Dead Man, On the Stand.
0'clock last evening at the adjournment of district court for the
day, the prosecution in the case of P. W. McManus, administrator
vs. the Diamond Jo line and Dan Breen announced that it rested its
case, and unless Judge House sustains a motion of the defendants
to take the case from the hands of the jury, the defense will
commence the introduction of evidence this morning. Yesterday was
replete with good incidents in the trial. Mrs. Nannie Taggart,
who says she is a widow of Christopher Leonidas was on the stand
for several hours and testified as to her life with her Husband.
Withal the general impression , when the prosecution rested was
that it had made a case which it will take a great deal of
contradictory evidence upon the part of the defense to shake.
a surprise was sprung in the case when yesterday morning the
prosecution introduced upon the stand, Mrs. Nannie Taggart,
reputed widow of Christopher Leonidas. Mrs. Taggart is 38 years
old, short, and rather stout. In an accident some years ago she
lost her left hand and left limb, and her appearance does not
denote any oppressive amount of financial prosperity. She
testified at length upon the direct examination and was held on
the stand for almost two hours on the cross examination. Her
testimony was interesting though the fact that it brought out
things concerning the past life of Christopher Leonidas which have
not before been made public and show the man rather as a prosaic
dealer in horse radish and popcorn than as a wild and woolly
product of the Western prairies. In substance Mrs. Taggart's
testimony was as follows: When 24 years of age she was married to
Clarence Taggart at Quincy, Ill. That was August 19th, 1888.
They lived for a year in Quincy, immediately following the
marriage and during that time Taggart conducted a popcorn stand
and retailed horse radish from door to door, later engaging in the
ice cream business. At the expiration of a year or eighteen
months of time she and her husband removed to Mt. Sterling, Ill.,
where her husband went into the business of a fish peddler.
During all this time there was living with them Ellsworth Taggart,
a son of the old man by a former marriage.
Good Earing Powers.
testified that during the time her husband was in the habit of
earning about $75 per month and was never at any time given to
dissipation of any character.
this time he was experimenting, more or less, with various
medicines and had gotten together a mixture which he touted as
being great to make hair grow where none had grown before. At
last, satisfied that there was a fortune awaiting his coming with
his medicines, he with his son, Ellsworth, started on the road to
benefit mankind. Their outfit consisted of a Punch and Judy show,
a goodly stock of medicines, a tent and lots of self confidence.
The old man had accumulated a bunch of songs and recitations in
his cranium and both the boy and his father could make the man
that came to them look sick when it came to divorcing a guitar
from its music.
testified that when the plans for the trip were complete the fact
was discovered that the name of Taggart was distressingly awkward
for the dispensing a really scientific cure for falling hair and
obnoxious tape worms so that they adopted to be their own the more
classical name "Leonidas." Thus fully equipped they started out
about eighteen months before their tragic death. During their
absence she testified that she had not heard directly from them.
In answer to a question upon cross examination she said that she
was the second wife of Clarence Taggart but that his first wife,
Evangeline Taggart, had died some time before his marriage to
her. The defense here introduced as evidence a letter purported
to be from Mrs. Evangeline Taggart and addressed to M. E. Bowling
of M. V. Boles & Co., enquiring after the death of Christopher
Leonidas and stating in the letter that the writer was a wife of
the dead man. Mrs. Taggart said that she did not write the letter
and did not know who did.
He Knew Taggart.
William Cochran, of Peoria, testified to a previous acquaintance
with Christopher Leonidas. He said that he is a carpenter by trade
and knew Christopher Leonidas, or Clarence Taggart, at Quincy both
previous to and immediately following his marriage to Nannie
Taggart. He testified that at that time Leonidas was a pop corn
merchant and peddled horse radish on the side but that he was
dabbling in medicine all the time. He said that Taggart had
frequently told him about his business and showed him his books so
that he knew that Taggart was earing upwards of $75 per month. He
testified that in his acquaintanceship with Taggart he had never
known him to touch a drop of intoxicating liquor and had always
found him to be quiet and unobtrusive.
Motion to Dismiss Case.
Shortly before 5 o'clock the defense, though Mr. Chamberlin,
made a motion that the judge take the case from the jury and
dismiss at the cost of the plaintiff. This was argued for fully
an hour. The defense held that the testimony showed that in
shooting the two Leonidases Mate Dan Breen entirely exceeded and
stepped without his authority as mate on the boat to commit the
act and that the Diamond Jo Line could not therefore be made a
joint defendant with Dan Breen. The plaintiff opposed this motion
on the grounds that the mate was in full control over the storage
of baggage on the lower deck, and over all the lower deck and deck
passengers, as brought out in the testimony of Capt. W. A. Blair.
The fact was brought out, however, that rules on different lines
of steamers are different. At the close of the arguments Judge
House announced that he would take until the opening of court this
morning to announce his decision but that unless he changed his
mind he would overrule the motion.
In case the motion is overruled the defense will start at once
with the introduction of evidence. Their first witness will
probably be Morris Killean, clerk on the boat at the time of the
shooting who lent to Mate Breen the revolver with which the
shooting was done.
The Davenport Times, Friday, April 17, 1903
PLAINTIFF RESTS IN LEONIDAS CASE
Defense Asks Case Taken From Jury But Motion Is
defense introduced their first witness this morning they made a
motion, asking that the case be taken from the jury. The move met
with considerable opposition from the attorneys for the plaintiff
and for a time a warm fight waged. Judge House finally brought
the arguments to a close by overruling the motion and the jury
retained the case.
necessary for two motions to be filed on account of the fact that
two defendants are named in the petition but Judge House held the
pleas are the same and identical and his ruling affected both
John Simmons, who was captain of the steamer Dubuque at the time
the Leonidas men were murdered was the first witness to take the
stand for the defense.
He stated that at the hour of the shooting he was eating his
dinner and that the boat was in charge of Mate Breen. He was
asked as to the reputation of the mate and testified to the effect
that it was good. When questioned as to his knowledge of whether
or not Breen had murdered a negro in the south and one in the
Klondyke, he said that he had not heard of it.
The defense secured from him the nature of the duties of a mate
and as to the duties of that officer on the Dubuque.
Colored Porter Takes Stand.
The second witness called by the defense was John Sleckman the
colored porter of the ship.
He stated that he had carried the baggage of the murdered men to
the different parts of the boat as directed.
He also testified that the men--Leonidas-- had used a generous
amount of profane language and created no little merriment, when
he was asked to repeat the words they used. He covered his face
with his hands and said in a rather embarrassed and foolish way:
"I doan wan' to say the things they said."
The defense sought to show by his testimony as well as that of
Captain Simmons that the Leonidas men were surly and disagreeable
and that Breen shot them in self defense.
Sleckman is the individual who testified before the coroner's jury
and told a tale of rapid transit in which he said that at the time
the first shot was fired he was within three feet of the men; but
was three hundred feet distant when the second shot was fired.
The cross examination of Sleckman was begun by Attorney Letts and
continued for some time this afternoon.
The porter was unable to give a detailed account of the positions
of the men and appeared to be somewhat shaken up by the cross
examination. The questioning continued for some time in the
afternoon, with Bob Payne the captain of the watch on the Dubuque
as the next witness to be introduced by the defense.
The Davenport Democrat, April 17, 1903, page 3.
DEFENSE BEGUN IN LEONIDAS CASE.
PORTER ON THE BOAT TELLS OF THE SHOOTING.
Judge House Overruled the Motion to Take the Case from the
Jury--Evidence for the Defense Now Being Submitted.
This morning at 9 o'clock Judge House announced that he had
overruled the motion which Mr. Chamberlin argued Thursday
afternoon to take the Leonidas case from the jury. Therefore the
defense put its witness on the stand.
The first witness was Captain John Simmons of St. Louis, the man
in charge of the Dubuque at the time of the shooting. He
testified to the disorderly conduct of the two Leonidases as also
to the fact of the shooting.
John Selectman, the porter of the Dubuque, followed him upon the
stand. The Negro testified to the incidents leading up to the
shooting. He said that the elder Leonidas had threatened to kill
the mate, and this threat he repeated to Dan Breen. The men had
been terrorizing the crew on the deck while the boat was on its
way to Davenport from Rock Island, making the roustabouts dance
under revolver threats. The mate had told them to move their
baggage which they refused to do, and when he had left they told
the porter that they would shoot him full of holes if he bothered
The Negro testified that he was three feet away from the
Leonidases when the mate fired the fatal shots, and confessed to
being quite "shakey" when the killing was done. The mate drew his
revolver from his left coat pocket and held the weapon in his left
hand when he did the shooting.
The witness denied that the younger Leonidas begged the mate not
to shoot his father, but testified to the younger fellow saying
after he had been shot: "Don't shoot my papa."
Judge Lenihan did the interrogating of the porter, and at almost
every question the plaintiff's counsel interposed objections. At
11 o'clock a recess was taken after which the porter was subjected
to a rapid cross examination which lasted until the noon
At 2 o'clock
this afternoon John Selectman, the Negro porter of the boat was
again placed upon the stand to undergo the cross examination.
This developed nothing of importance however, and shortly before 3
o'clock he gave way to a colored roustabout who at press time was
testifying to his dancing at the threat of the elder Leonidas.
The Davenport Daily Leader, Friday April 17, 1903, page 8.
TAKE CASE FROM JURY
MOTION ENTERED TO THAT EFFECT BY ATTORNEYS FOR DEFENDANTS
Defense Introduce Its Several Witness and Testimony is Heard
During Remainder of Day
The first witness that was called for the defense this morning was
Captain John Simmons, who had charge of the boat Dubuque at the
time the shooting took place.
The principal part of his testimony was relative to the character
of Breen, which Mr. Simmons said was good. He also made some
statements in regard to the official capacity of the mate and
stated that he had charge of the boat when the captain was away.
saw nothing of the shooting as he was at dinner at the time it
occurred and all that he knew about the matter was the hearing of
the shots and the confusion that followed immediately after the
shooting took place.
The second witness introduced was John Sleckmann who was a porter
on the boat at the time.
Sleckmann was an eye witness to the tragedy and he was kept on the
stand during the greater part of the day.
He testified that he loaded the baggage of the Leonidas people on
the boat and that it was taken to the upper deck. He stated that
the Leonidas' then ordered him to bring the baggage to the lower
deck and that he complied with this. After bringing it down, he
stated that they ordered him to put it in a certain place but that
he told them he could not disobey the officers of the boat.
He said that the elder Leonidas then swore and made a remark to
the effect that he would perforate his black hide with bullets if
he did not place the baggage where he was directed.
Sleckmann then testified that he notified the mate and he stated
that the Leonidases afterward used violent language in referring
to the mate and swore that they would blow him full of holes and
throw him to the hogs.
Sleckmann gave an account of the shooting much the same as has
been told before but stated that both father and son had their
hands on their revolvers when they were shot.
Witness Taken ILL
Sleckmann the colored man who on the witness stand all day was
was taken suddenly ill this afternoon and the trial was adjourned
for some time.
ill with consumption and he is evidently a very sick man.
Hageboeck was summoned to the court room where the sick man was
Davenport Republican, Saturday, April 18, 1903, page 6.
SELECTMAN WAS SICK
OF DEFENSE ILL ON THE STAND.
Colored Porter, Who Was One Of The Principal Factors In the
Leonidas Tragedy Is Deserted Of Strength Wile Under Fierce Cross
Examination And Is Removed In Dying Condition To St. Lukes
Weakened physically by two months illness, and tired through three
hard hours on the witness stand yesterday, John Selectman, colored
porter on the Diamond Jo liner Dubuque last summer, and the star
witnesses for the defense in the famous Leonidas case, broke down
under a fierce cross examination by Attorney F. D. Letts for the
prosecution and, faltering upon a question, suddenly clapped his
hand over his heart and began to weep like a child. He was
assisted into the judge's private rooms and there every simple
remedy available was tried, but without success, and as the man
became steadily worse the police ambulance was telephoned for and
he was removed to St. Luke's hospital, where, at a late hour last
evening, it was reported that he was slightly improved in health,
but that it would be impossible for him to return to the witness
stand within the next few days. He is suffering from heart
trouble, which set in upon him about two or three months ago and
which in that time has reduced him in weight a full 60 pounds,
giving him a changed appearance, indeed, from the darky who was a
principal witness before the coroner's jury in the Leonidas case
last summer, and was as fat as butter. It is said that the memory
of the shooting fray and the terrible fright which he encountered
there are responsible for his present condition, and Dr. Hageboeck,
who was called to attend the man, said last evening that the
fellow is liable to die at any moment.
Was Willing Witness.
Selectman, whose home is in St. Louis, was placed on the stand
yesterday morning at 10 o'clock. People who remembered him as
they had seen him at the corner's jury gazed in open-eyed wonder
at the change that had taken place.
He was thin and peaked as to his features and he was far from
being the same man that in his childish fright had convulsed the
auditors at the inquest with laughter every time he answered a
question as to how he dodged the fire of the mate directed at the
two Leonidases. His testimony in the direct examination was of an
uneventful nature, being practically the same as that which he
gave at the corner's inquest. He told his story practically as
follows: He had noticed the two Leonidases when they boarded the
steamer at Rock Island on July 10th, and from the number and size
of their guns and knives he had conceived an instant respect for
them. Shortly the mate ordered him to remove a portion of their
personal property, which came under the heading of baggage, but
the Leonidases objected very strenuously and resorted to the ever
ready revolvers to dissuade him from taking the baggage. Their
argument was very good and he appealed to the mate. After a short
dispute the mate went and borrowed Clerk Killeen's revolver, and
shortly after his return the shooting began. Selectman was in
close range and a good witness of the proceedings and he declared
that both the Leonidases made every effort to get their guns out.
On cross-examination, however, he was not so confident and tripped
himself so repeatedly that all the nerve left to him gave way and
he broke down and had to be removed from the court room on a
stretcher-to the police ambulance, as stated above.
Leonidas a Drunkard.
Something in entire opposition to any evidence hereto given by
any witness, or developed in any manner, was that in the testimony
of Bert Hendrickson, who said that he was an attorney from Wankon,
Iowa. He testified that Leonidas and son lived during the summer
of 1901 and winter of 1902 near Hyteman, a village about 40 miles
from Waukon, and that he saw them twice in the time. He said that
their general reputation was bad; that they lived in a fisherman's
hut, and that semi-periodically the elder Leonidas went out on
awful sprees, and wanted to annihilate everybody with whom he came
into contact; that the young Leonidas was as quarrelsome as his
father, and was considered a very warm proposition in a fight. He
was so willing to tell what he knew that when he got started
telling of the many sinful characteristics of the elder Leonidas
he traveled over the ground so rapidly that Judge House brought
him to a halt with the question. "You said you were an attorney,
didn't you?" The witness replied in the affirmative and the judge
said: "Well, then answer the question and stop there."
As a result of objections upon the part of the prosecution that
the evidence was irreverant, immaterial and unsubstantiated by any
previous evidence that Breen had known anything of the character
of the Leonidases, all of the answers of the witness were stricken
out except those directly bearing upon the reputation of the elder
Leonidas. When he had finished the witness went to the chair
where Mate Breen was sitting, shook his hand cordially and then
sat down by him and remained with him the balance of the
Told to Leave Them Alone.
Captain John Simmons of the liner Dubuque was the first witness
introduced in the morning by the defense. Captain Simmons
testified to the events leading up to the shooting and upon
cross-examination admitted that he had told Mate Breen to "Leave
the two men alone and go about his work."
Walter Paine, a colored stevedore employed on the boat, testified
that the Leonidases drew their guns as he was passing them and
ordered him to dance. He told them he was busy and they excused
Mathew Nimmons, a deckhand on the steamer, testified that he had
encountered trouble when he undertook to move the property of the
Leonidases and said that they abused the mate when he asked them
to be gentlemen. He said that Breen's reputation was that of a
peaceful, law-abiding citizen.
Morris Killeen of Dubuque, chief clerk on the boat, testified that
the revolver that he lent Breen was a blued steel barrel affair
instead of a nickel plated gun in direct variance with the
testimony of A. G. E. Rydequist.
Davenport Republican, Sunday, April 19,1903, page 7.
EVIDENCE OF H. E. STOCK AND DR. SCHWARTZ IN.
Depositions Taken at St. Louis Cast Much Blame for
of the Leonidases Upon the Men Themselves
young Man's Threat--
Papa, Take Him Away"
Defines His Business.
fifth day of the trial of the case of P. W. McManus, administrator
of the estate of Leonidas, deceased vs. the Diamond Jo line
steamers and Dan Breen, was one of the dullest in the five, as it
was devoted almost entirely to the reading of the depositions
taken at St. Louis from Herbert E. Stock and Dr. Schwartz. These
depositions were strong pieces of evidence in favor of the defense
and were damaging to the cause of the plaintiff. Morris Killeen,
chief clerk of the steamer Dubuque was on the stand, under
cross-examination at the opening of court yesterday morning and
about an hour's time was consumed in completing his examination.
The prosecution endeavored to shake his testimony in regard to the
position in which he stood at the time of the shooting, he having
sworn that he was behind a pile of boxes, having taken refuge
there when Mate Breen began his fusillade of shots. Nothing of a
sensational nature was brought out in his testimony.
examination of witness Killeen had been completed Attorney N. D.
Ely, for the defense, introduced in evidence the deposition of
Herbert E. Stock, an eye witness of the killing of the Leonidases.
Mr. Stock is a clerk in a St. Louis dry goods store and was taking
a vacation trip upon the Dubuque at the time of the shooting. His
disposition brings out a version of the affair much different from
any hitherto given and the story he tells is substantially as
He had become aware that trouble was on between the Leonidases and
the mate and had descended the steps of the hatchway stairs, until
he was about two-thirds of the way down, so that his feet were
about on a level with the mate's head. As he looked over the
railing he saw the elder man reach for his gun and the mate start
firing. As the mate started to fie he stepped back, to the other
side of the steps, which are about six or eight feet wide, and did
not again look over until there was a stop. As he stepped back
and again peered over he saw the young man reach for his revolver
and turn to his left and try to run under the steps of the
hatchway. He was unable to get under there, according to the
deponent, and was shot while he was turned with his left side
towards the mate. Unable to get under the hatch the deponent
states that the young man turned and started to run to the stern
of the boat, when the second shot was fired by the mate. The only
evidence in the Stock disposition that is the least damaging to
the cause of the defense is that when the younger man turned to
run he called to his father, exclaiming: "Papa, Papa, take him
The deposition of Dr. Schwartz, also of St. Louis was next
taken up by Attorney Ely, and read. This was considered damaging
to the prosecution in that it showed an expressed threat against
the mate by the younger Leonidas. Dr. Schwartz was not an eye
witness of the shooting, having been upon the upper deck at the
time but while the run between the two cities was being made, he
was standing with Mr. Stock on the lower deck listening to the
altercation in progress between the Leonidases and the crew of the
boat. The mate approached them and indicating the Leonidases,
addressed Dr. Schwartz saying: "Doc, did you ever see any cowboys
with whips before, that didn't have horses?" The doctor replied
that he never had and the conversation changed, the mate asking
the doctor for advice concerning a stomach trouble which he
contacted in the Klondike. Shortly the mate was called to another
part of the boat, and the younger Leonidas approached the two men
and asked what the mate had said about himself and his father.
Dr. Schwartz did not make any reply but Mr. Stock told him that
the mate had said that they looked like cowboys. The deponent
states that as a younger fellow turned away he had muttered,
"Well, we'll fix him."
What His Business Was.
Such a case as the one now on trial before Judge House is always
likely to have a little humor hidden away in it some place or the
other. The Leonidas case is no exception to the rule. Friday
afternoon the defense introduced upon the stand Walter Payne, a
colored Stevedore of the Dubuque who was on the boat at the time
of the shooting and who came up from St. Louis to testify. Payne
had spent some time in the witness room before coming on the stand
and while alone there he had evidently passed away the time before
the ordeal in straightening the story out in his mind and getting
his answers fixed firmly in his mind. When he was called he was
perceptibly nervous but he made a good start, and everything was
lovely until Judge Lenehan of the counsel for the defense put the
"What is you business."
The colored man edged forward in the chair, and with wide open
"My business is to tell, truthfully, everything which I know of
the shooting of the two Leonidas by Mate Dan Breen on the steamer
Dubuque on the 10th day of July, 1902." And he drew himself back
in his chair with a self-satisfied sign.
He had rattled the answer off too fast for interruption and the
effect on the court was instantaneous. Everyone laughed,
including Judge Lenehan. The witness was straightened out,
however, and things went smoother when the routine questions were
passed and he got to telling the story of the shooting, with which
he was a great deal more familiar.
The Davenport Democrat, April 19, 1903, page 6.
THE LEONIDAS CASE ALMOST A FINALITY.
be a rebuttal
o'clock Saturday afternoon the court was adjourned, to allow Judge
House to go to his Maquoketa home over Sunday.
Cooper, attorney for the administrator, was seem by a Democrat
reporter after the hour of adjournment on Saturday afternoon. He
added that, if possible the colored porter,--Selectman,--would be
put on the stand, for cross-examination on Monday afternoon, and
that he and others would be used on the rebuttal testimony which
will be introduced during the early portion of this week.
Selectman is a sick man, suffering from tuberculosis and heart
disease. His testimony was vital in the case because he was an
eye witness of the killing. He reported to the mate the threats
of the two Leonidases, because his locker was located beneath the
staircase leading from the upper deck to the forecastle of the
boat, and he was present at the time of the threats.
The defense has not placed Dan Breen, one of the co-defendants, on
the stand. Mr. Cooper desired that he should have been, and there
is no telling but that he will be subpoenaed for the defense, if
at all available.
Some of the
papers having made the error of ascribing Selectman's fainting
spell Friday to fright, with a suggestion that he was not telling
the truth from the witness stand, the following paragraph from the
letter to Agent Osborn that preceded him here, concerning the
arrival and quartering of the witnesses in the case will throw
some light on the matter: "There will be only one colored man,
the porter, John Selectman, who is quite sick now, and I have told
him that we would give him good comfortable quarters, especially
if we have to keep him over night; so please see that he is
comfortably cared for, as he is a good boy, and is not all well
now, and really is not able to make the trip. Yours truly,
I. P. Lusk, G.F. & P.A.