Thursday, May 30, 2019

Whiskey Men with Multi-City Enterprises


Foreword:   Most whiskey men were willing to operate successfully one or at most two liquor stores in the same city, apparently not wishing to dissipate their time and talent in dashing among multiple locations.  For a few distillers and liquor dealers, however, building an “empire” of outlets was an attractive and attainable option.  The experiences of three such are recited briefly below. 


Before the concepts were common in American business, the M. Wollstein Company was a multifaceted conglomerate liquor dealership, as suggested above in an illustration that listed its various entities.  The management structure was presented in tree form, perhaps to resemble a sturdy oak.  Behind this multi-limbed enterprise was the mysterious figure of Theodore Wollstein. 


Throughout his life, Wollstein seemed to have avoided the U.S. Census taker.  He first surfaced in the public record operating a short-lived whiskey dealership in Chicago (1877-1878).  About 1880, he established a liquor business in Kansas City, Missouri, at 1070 Union Avenue that the company variously called “Main House” or “Station A.”  It is shown below.  The Wollstein liquor empire eventually would spread over four states.  

Ten in all, the additional stores were: M. Wollstein & Co., West Main Street, Sedalia, Missouri; M. Wollstein & Co., 1420 East 18th Street, Kansas City; H.  Brann & Co., 304 Main Street, Kansas City;  M. Glass & Co, 1625 W. Ninth Street, Kansas City;  M. Wollstein & Co., 222 North 16th Streets, Omaha; Chicago Liquor House, 222 16th Street, Omaha; M. Wollstein & Co., 522 South 13th, South Omaha; *M. Glass & Co., 224 North 10th Street, Lincoln, Nebraska; H. Brann & Co., 311 Larimer Street, Denver, Colorado;  M. Wollstein & Co., 535 Broadway,  Council Bluffs, Iowa.  

The Wollstein “tree” that looked so firm and healthy eventually suffered considerable damage  The company’s mail order sales were severely curtailed by Congressional action in 1913.  Five retail “limbs” were sawed off in 1916 as Colorado, Iowa and Nebraska all went “dry.”  During World War One and after, U.S. officials began hacking at the liquor empire trunk with accusations of German influence.  National Prohibition provided the final blow of the axe. The Wollstein empire “tree” toppled to the ground.  With its demise went all further traces of Theodore Wollstein, back into the mists of history. 

George H. Goodman, a whiskey man from Paducah, Kentucky, was described by a contemporary this way:  “He possess the power of scattering his energies without lessening their force.”   True words.  Goodman was amazing in his ability to keep his liquor business operating smoothly and profitably in no fewer than six widely scattered cities.  

In 1900 at the age of 24, Goodman borrowed $500 from his father to start a retail liquor business in Paducah.   As his enterprise became increasingly profitable, he branched out into mail order sales and began to open branch stores in a succession of cities.   They included Jackson, Tennessee; Evansville, Indiana;  Cairo, Illinois;  and Shreveport and New Orleans, Louisiana.  George called these “Branch Houses.”   At one point he also claimed to own the Early Times Distillery in Nelson County, Kentucky, but records fail to sustain the claim.  More likely he was buying all or most of the liquor produced at that facility to create his own brands of whiskey.  

Goodman’s multiple outlets were often recorded on the ceramic jugs he often used to hold his whiskey.  They display a variety of labels, in black and cobalt blue, that likely reflect the places from which they were shipped.  He also bottled his product in glass, once again with his far-flung houses mentioned.  The shot glass shown here lists Cairo, Paducah, Evansville and New Orleans.  

In his merchandising literature,  Goodman boasted that the combined business of his houses enabled him to place contracts with distilleries that insured the very lowest market prices. His many outlets, the folder claimed, allowed transport from one to three days earlier than his competition. A Goodman pamphlet, entitled “Our Success”  also asserted that in 1910 his firm realized a total of $800,000 in trade.  If true, the $500 from Goodman’s father  been had been multiplied 1,600 times in less than a decade.

In his later years, Goodman’s prominence was such that President Roosevelt named him as Kentucky State Administrator of the WPA, the Depression-era works organization.  He served in that position for at least the next four years.  He is shown here, second from left, front row, with a number of Democratic politicians.

A third multi-city liquor enterprise involved a family — the Sprinkles of whiskey.  Shown here with his wife, Martha, is the progenitor of three generations of whiskey men, Hugh Sprinkle of Liberty Township, Yadkin County, North Carolina.  Following his return from the Civil War Hugh distilled whiskey on his farm for decades, eventually taking two sons, Benjamin and Hugh C. Sprinkle into his operation.  Benjamin in turn passed the skills down to his three sons — Benjamin Jr., James T., and Henry L.   After North Carolina voted “dry” in 1909, the family spread out to several locations in the South.  

The H.L. Sprinkle Distilling Company -- named for Henry L. “Hence” Sprinkle —was incorporated in 1912 in the town of Girard (now Phoenix City),  located in Russell County, Alabama.  The purpose of the business, as recorded with the state was the: “manufacture, purchase & sale of whiskey.”  During this period the Sprinkles also operated a distillery in or near Pensacola, Florida and had a retail outlet in Jacksonville. 

As shown here, much of the Sprinkles' whiskey was sold in glass gallon jugs with the embossed motto, “Sprinkle Whiskey Wants Your Business.”  As shown here, the three cities appeared on each bottle.  After Alabama went dry,  the Sprinkles moved their Girard retail outlet to Monroe, Louisiana. That city subsequently was embossed on the company’s gallon jugs. 


With the passage of the Volstead Act in 1919,  the Sprinkles were forced to shut down their distillery and sales offices.  According to descendants, the family had a stock of liquor when America went dry and members booked passage on ships and took their whiskey to sell in countries abroad.

Note:  More complete vignettes on each of the whiskey outfits treated here can be found on this website.   Wollstein, December 3, 2014;  Goodman, May 5, 2012; and Sprinkle, April 22, 2014.




















Sunday, May 26, 2019

“Mose” Littleton: A Life in Full Measure

                  
Working from the premise that every bottle “has a story,” the whiskey jug at left provides a pathway into the story of Moses Luna “Mose” Littleton, a man who began life without formal education in Tennessee, struggled in the whiskey trade in Texas, learned the law in New York City, and eventually became Assistant District Attorney of Dallas.

Mose was born in 1864 in one room log cabin in hardscabble mountainous Roane County, Tennessee, below.  At the time his father was serving in the Union Army during the Civil War, a lieutenant in the First Tennessee Voluntary Infantry.  Although much of the state was secessionist, Thomas Jefferson Littleton originally was from Indiana and did not own slaves.  Shown here, he served for four years and survived hot combat from the Battle of Mill Springs to the Siege of Atlanta and Sherman’s March to the Sea.


With the end of the fighting, Lt. Littleton returned to his Tennessee farm and began to raise hogs and father more children.  When Mose was seven, his mother, Hannah B. Ingram Littleton died at the age of 38.  His father married again within a year and in total sired nineteen children.  The family was desperately poor, unable to send the children to school.  In the 1880 federal census, Mose and three brothers, including an eleven year old, were listed working as farm laborers.   Their father and an older sister taught the others to read using the Bible and the few books the family owned.

In 1881 T. J. Littleton, seeking better opportunities, moved his family 870 miles west to Weatherford, Texas, a town not far from Fort Worth.  The Littletons came via the Texas & Pacific Railway that had arrived at Weatherford a year earlier and spurred the town’s economy as an agricultural, banking and commercial center.  The railroad also opened up national markets for local cotton and watermelons.

At the time of the move, Mose Littleton was 17 and, as shown here, growing into a handsome young man with wavy brown hair and regular features.  His first decade in Texas has gone unrecorded but his early years likely were spent in farming and later he appears to have gravitated to the liquor trade.  

In 1892 at the age of 27 Littleton married Eva Esther Smith in Weatherford, a woman five years younger than he. Eva was a native born Texan, whose father was a Texan married to a Mississippi women.  The couple is shown here in one of the formal poses that photographers fancied in those days. The first of the couple's five children, a girl, would be born two years later.   

Family responsibilities appear to have set Littleton seeking more lucrative opportunities.  A 1894 Dallas business directory listed him as a traveling salesman for the M. T. Bruce & Co., located at 217 Elm Street.  Owned by Maynardier T. Bruce, this was a firm specializing in wholesale liquor, wine and cigars.   By 1900, however, Littleton had moved on to Waco, Texas, 95 miles south of Dallas, where he was running a saloon located at 322 Austin Street, the major commercial avenue shown below. The jug that opened this vignette was the product of that period.  Littleton was buying whiskey by the barrel and decanting it into jugs with his label promising a “full measure.” 


Mose’s attempt to run his own saloon were short-lived.  What happened to his enterprise and why he left Waco is unclear, but by 1901 he had moved his family 55 miles northeast to Corsicana, Texas.  There business directories listed him as the manager of the Benjamin H. Allen saloon and liquor store.  Not only was his life in the liquor trade seemingly going nowhere, he was watching his younger brother, Martin, carve out a spectacular career as a highly-paid, successful lawyer in New York City.

Martin Wiley Littleton, a man with a lengthy Wikipedia biography, shared the same upbringing as Mose but from childhood was attracted to the law.  Offered a job as both clerk and janitor at the Weatherford courthouse, Martin took it, studied law on his own time, passed the Texas bar exam at the age of 20, and then set his sights on New York City.  His success in the Big Apple was meteoric.

Shown here, Martin was retained by multi-millionaire Harry K. Thaw as chief defense counsel in Thaw's second trial for the high-profile murder of prominent architect Stanford White after Thaw learned of White's past relationship with Thaw's wife, Evelyn Nesbit.  The transplanted Texan also defended controversial movie producer-director D. W. Griffith in Congressional hearings and industrialist Harry Ford Sinclair on charges related to the Teapot Dome Scandal.  Time magazine called Martin “one of the world’s richest lawyers.”

Seeing his brother’s struggles to make a living in Texas, Milton invited Mose to come to New York, study the law under his tutelage, and become an attorney.  Likely encouraged by Eva, Mose uprooted his family and moved to Brooklyn where Milton had his offices.  Despite the drastic change of venue, Mose learned the law, passed the New York bar exam, and by 1907 was listed in city directories in a practice with his brother.  Whether the Littleton brothers had a falling out or by agreement in 1912 Mose left his direct association with Martin and was in a solo law practice renting space in a skyscraper at 44 Court Street, Brooklyn, shown above. 



Perhaps because of his or Eva’s becoming homesick for Texas, by 1921 the family had returned to Dallas where they lived in a modest home at 718 South Story Street, shown above as it looks today.  Mose hung out his shingle at Rooms 217-218 of the Slaughter Building, shown right and conducted there what he called “a general practice.”  He subsequently was appointed to the prestigious post as the Assistant District Attorney of Dallas. Ironically, one of the former saloonkeeper’s duties in that post would have been prosecuting individuals caught violating the laws against selling alcohol.

As to Mose’s attitude on issues of the day, I have been able to glean only one public statement.  In the summer of 1920 Littleton was quoted in a national anti-women’s suffrage publication called “One Woman Patriot.”  It quoted him opposing the right of women to vote, writing:  “May your message awaken the old mountain patriots to a realization of the imperialism that threatens the rights of the States and the individual liberty of the citizens.”  Then he threw in a seeming non-sequitur:  “The National Government is now trying to regulate the price of ice in Dallas.

Mose continued to practice law into his later years, dying in 1934 at the age of 69.  He was buried in Weatherford adjacent to other family members in a plot in the city’s Greenwood Cemetery.  His gravestone is shown below.  Eva would survive him by more than two decades, dying at 90 years of age in 1959. 


Beginning in utter poverty and having no formal education, floundering in the liquor business, attaining skills as a lawyer, and finally appointed Assistant District Attorney of a major city, Mose Littleton — reflecting the motto on his whiskey jug — had experienced a “full measure” of life.

Note:  The Littleton jug that opens this post likely was issued only during the short time that Mose operated his saloon in Waco, a matter of months. The jug sold at auction on eBay in May 2019 for $332.77.
















Wednesday, May 22, 2019

David Nicholson’s 1843 Whiskey Inspiration

Memorialized recently as among the 100 Who Helped Shape St. Louis,” David Grace Nicholson has been hailed as a grocer who broadened the palate of the local citizenry, the developer of a notable downtown building, an outspoken Union patriot in a divided Missouri, and even the author of “a high order of verse.”  Yet the single accomplishment that has kept Nicholson’s name alive before the American public was that inspired day in a back room of his store when he created the recipe for an historic whiskey, known ever after as “David Nicholson’s 1843.” 

Nicholson was born December, 1814, in the Scottish village of Foster Wester, County Perth, into a family of modest means.  After rudimentary schooling and largely self-educated, he became a grocer’s apprentice in Glasgow, and later in Oban, the West Highlands.  About 1832 Nicholson emigrated to Canada, landing at Montreal, proceeding to Ottawa.  Unsuccessful in finding employment, he learned the carpenter’s trade and as an itinerant traveled to a number of Canadian towns and eventually found his way to the United States. 


Beginning in Erie, Pennsylvania, moving to Chicago and ultimately on to St. Louis,  Nicholson plied the carpenter’s trade.   An 1883 biography commented:  “Physically strong and mentally quick, he was…noted for rapid and superior workmanship.  Some of the finest ornamental woodwork in St. Xavier’s Church, St. Louis, was his work….”   Although a devout Presbyterian, in later years Nicholson often referred with pride to his labor for the Jesuits.

In St. Louis, David met Jane McHendrie, an immigrant from Scotland who was 10 years his junior.  They wed about 1840.  Their marriage would produce six children, three boys and three girls. Nicholson settled his family in a large home, shown here.  An imposing structure it had 84 feet of frontage on Garrison Street near the corner of Franklin.  Later the home would be presented by grateful St. Louis citizens to Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman for his service to the Nation during the Civil War.  As a passionate pro-Union partisan, the grocer must have been delighted.

In 1843 at the age of 29, Nicholson gave up carpentry to join with a fellow Scotsman and wine merchant to form a specialty grocery and liquor dealership.  With a genius for business, David flourished, moving several times as the volume of customers increased.  Shown here is an illustration of one of his early stores.  As a wholesaler, Nicholson did a brisk trade helping to supply wagon trains with food and drink as they headed west from St. Louis.  As the ad below demonstrates, he also was doing business in the East from a sales office in New York City.  

After several moves Nicholson in 1870 settled into a large building at Nos. 13 and 15 North Six Street between Market and Chestnut, one constructed on his own specifications.  Shown here, the structure featured five floors, each 50 by 135 feet.   He employed 50 clerks to deal with the constant customer traffic.


Nicholson was the first St. Louis grocer to import foreign comestibles, sometimes chartering ships and loading them with cargoes from abroad.  Said a biographer:  “He did more than any other man in the St. Louis trade to educate the community in the importance of purchasing superior goods, and to induce the consumption of commodities hitherto unknown in this market.”

One previously unknown commodity of Nicholson’s doing was his recipe for whiskey.  Whether in 1843, as he started in business, or later, he developed  recipes for bourbon and rye that found ready acceptance from the drinking public in Missouri and across the Mississippi River in Illinois.  For more distant sales in places like New York, he also seems to have emphasize nationally known brands, like “Old Crow.”   

In naming Nicholson as one of the 100 people who shaped the city, the St. Louis Magazine commented:   “Where would we be without David Nicholson, the only distiller who didn’t leave town after the Whiskey Ring scandal.”  Nicholson, however,  was not a distiller but rectifier, that is, someone blending whiskeys purchased from distillers, of which Missouri had many.  Shown here is a separate warehouse Nicholson kept to store for liquor.  My assumption is that his company “master blenders” also operated there, producing “David Henderson’s 1843.”  Many St. Louis rectifiers had been caught up in the crimes of the Whiskey Ring, however, and Nicholson’s honesty became his hallmark:  According one biographer: “He had great contempt for the ‘sharp practices’ common in the trade and despised those who were guilty of them,”

Characterized as sometime gruff and outspoken, Nicholson also was portrayed as “tender as a woman” with a gift for poetry.  According to the biographer: “In his early days he wrote numerous compositions in verse that were of a high order of merit, and during the Civil War wrote several patriotic odes that were characterized by unusual poetic inspiration and fervor.”

As he aged, Nicholson involved other relatives in his busines. He brought his wife, Jane, into the firm as an officer.  His nephew Peter Nicholson, who had trained as a grocer in England, came to the U.S. in 1852 and was hired immediately by his uncle.  Starting as a clerk, Peter proved to have exceptional energy and mercantile acumen. The customer base was said to reach “gigantic” proportions as Peter increasingly was given management responsibilities.  Among the company’s prime profit centers was David Nicholson 1843 whiskey.

Nicholson died in November 1880 at the age of 65.  He was buried in Block 167/168 of Lot 2344 in the Bellefontaine Cemetery of St. Louis.  Jane would join him there 31 years later.  Their graves are marked by a tall obelisk and a joint gravestone.  Peter Nicholson subsequently took over directing the grocery and liquor house.  The building burned in 1891 and after finding other quarters temporarily on Sixth St., the nephew moved to North Broadway, operating the liquor house and marketing David's whiskey until 1920.


As for the fate of David Nicholson’s 1843 whiskey, the following years are murky and somewhat conflicted.  The assumption is that with the coming of National Prohibition, Peter sold the rights to the name.  Shown right, the Peter Hauptmann Company of St. Louis appears to have owned the label in 1934, immediately after the end of the “dry era.”  The brand eventually became the property of Julian “Pappy” Van Winkle and the Stitzel-Weller Company who continued to issue a Nicholson whiskey.  Those whiskey men then sold the rights to an outfit known as Luxco.  

Exactly who is making the whiskey today is not well understood. The bottles shown above are the current manifestation.  One critic has opined:  “This bottle is highly recommended as a hype-free, lower-cost alternative to some of the classic rye-kissed Kentucky Bourbons available today….This brand has survived over 170 years and continues to impress.”  David Nicholson would be proud.


Notes:  The major quotes regarding David Nicholson are from a biography called “Saint Louis City and County, From the Earliest to the Present Day, including Biographical Sketches of Representative Men” Vol. II. by J. Thomas Scharf, published by Everts & Co, Philadelphia, 1883.  My vignette on “Pappy” Van Winkle was posted on this blog on November 22, 2014.



































Saturday, May 18, 2019

Dan Breen and the Wild Side of Life in Texas

    
Born in a small Ohio town into a family of modest resources, Daniel “Dan” Breen, shown here, figuratively “followed the telegraph lines” west to San Antonio, Texas, where he prospered as a saloonkeeper in particularly violent times.

Breen’s 1866 birthplace was Ada, Ohio, a quiet community about 70 miles south of Toledo, a town whose claim to fame is having the shortest name in Ohio.  Dan’s parents were Daniel Breen and Johanna Buckley.   Their 1864 marriage license was unusual since it was applied for by Johanna’s father, Jeremiah, and initially his name was inked in as the groom.   The couple would go on to produce eleven children of whom Daniel Jr. was the second.  The 1880 census listed his father as a railroad worker and “crippled.”

One asset Ada boasted was the presence of a post-elementary educational institution called the Northwestern Ohio Normal School, now Ohio Northern University.   Likely by working his way Breen was able to attend and graduate in 1884 at the age of 18, licensed as a telegraph operator.  That was someone who used a telegraph key to send and receive Morse code in order to communicate via land lines, a 19th Century "high-tech" occupation.  Young men like Breen left farms and hamlets  to take high-paying jobs “reading the wire.” In those early days the demand was such that operators could move from place to place and job to job for ever-higher salaries.

Breen followed the telegraph lines out of Ada and away from his immediate family to travel west.  Shown left is a photo of a typical Old West operator, his hat and clothing advertising his professional status.  Dan’s intermediate stops are unrecorded but by 1893 when he was 25, he had located in San Antonio, Texas.  Not long after his arrival Dan married Mabel Donovan, a woman of Irish heritage who had been born in Illinois.  Their only child, a son, would be born the following year. 

At some point Breen exited telegraphy.  In the 1899 San Antonio city directory, he was listed as working in a company called the San Antonio Brokerage Office, in which C.C. Breen, likely a relative, was a partner. It may have been through that occupation that Dan met William R. “Billy” Simms.  

Considered a “desperado” by some, Simms, shown here, was co-owner of the Vaudeville Theater in San Antonio in 1884 when notorious Western gunman Ben Thompson and a companion were shot down at that burlesque house, gambling hall, and saloon.  [See my post on Thompson, September 27, 1917.]  Simms was charged with aiding and abetting the murder.  Considered a friend by Thompson, Billy was accused of having lured him to the scene.  When the accused gunmen were tried in 1887, however, charges were dropped against Simms.  

Perhaps as a way of restoring a more legitimate persona, the native-born Texan subsequently sold the Vaudeville Theatre and with partners opened a new drinking establishment.  Called “The Crystal Saloon,” it boasted impressive crystal glass chandeliers and an elaborate interior, by far the fanciest watering hole in San Antonio and one of finest in Texas.  By the time Breen arrived in town, according to one author, Simms had become: “…One of the leading figures in San Antonio and was a member of the most influential social organizations.  Politicians and businessmen courted his favor and he was consulted on major city projects.” 

Billy Simms must have seen potential in Dan Breen.  When the Texan branched out with a combination saloon and gambling hall named the “Crystal Turf Exchange” he brought the Ada, Ohio, product into the operation as a partner and the manager.  Located on San Antonio’s Main Plaza, The Turf Exchange may have been a cut or two below Simms’ saloon.  Called a “bookie joint” by some, the business advertised:  “If you want to make a bet on the races, they will accommodate you.”   

More telling was the inclusion of the Turf Exchange in the notorious San Antonio “Blue Book,” a guide to a good time for visitors including information on the location and quality of its brothels.  The author of the Blue Book told readers on the prowl:  “If about town during the afternoon, drop into the Turf Exchange…you can here get some very desired information.”  Simms and his partners in the Turf Exchange were reported to become “very wealthy men.”

Earlier in his career Breen had lived in an apartment with his wife, Mabel, and his son.  His growing wealth now allowed him to buy a spacious home at 518 West Craig Place.  Still standing, the photo here shows how the house looks today.  Breen also used his newly acquired riches to leave the Crystal Turf Exchange and open his own saloon on  Houston Street, below, a major thoroughfare.

  
As seen here from a postcard, Breen’s saloon was itself an upscale place, boasting tile floors, overhead fans in the days before air conditioning, and an ornate bar.  Among the liquors available at Breen’s was “Four Roses” brand, a whiskey originated in Atlanta by Rufus Rose and developed into a national brand by Paul Jones in Paducah, Kentucky, after the Civil War.  As package goods it was available in quart bottles and pint and half-pint flasks.

 

For whiskey over the bar, Dan provided tokens to frequent customers worth, as he put it,  “XII 1/2.”   Customers would know that the reference was to a “bit,” a unit of common currency derived from the early Southwest tradition of cutting a Spanish milled dollar into eight pie-shaped pieces or bits, each worth 12 and 1/2 cents.  “Two bits” made a quarter as that coin sometimes is called today.


Breen’s very simple business card advertised “wine, liquors, and cigars.” The flip side of the card held a verse with a stanza that would prove prophetic:

“Cutoff in the prime of a useful life,”
The headlines glibly say, —
Or “snatched by the grim reaper”
He has crossed the great highway,
They bury him deep, while a few friends weep,
And the world moves on with a sigh.

San Antonio had not yet seen the end of the reckless violence of its past and it would erupt in Dan Breen’s saloon on the night of August 18, 1910.  The shooter was a wealthy businessman and public official from Hidalgo County, located about 230 miles south of San Antonio near the Mexican border.  His name was Dennis B. Chapin.  

Chapin, shown here, had been the kingpin of developers who laid out a new community at a crossroads that eventually became the county seat.  Because of his leadership, residents named the town “Chapin” in his honor.  For several years he served as a Hidalgo County judge and recently had been nominated without opposition to the Texas legislature.

Chapin’s target that night at Breen’s was Oscar J. Roundtree, shown here, an Arizona Ranger from 1903 to 1906 and a Texas Ranger from 1906 until 1910.   Roundtree's service with the Rangers was unblemished and he bore a good reputation.  After resigning as a lawman the previous January, he had been living in San Antonio for about four months.

An altercation began after Chapin and a friend entered Breen’s about 9:30 p.m. and encountered Roundtree.  After Chapin invited the former Ranger over for a drink, the two had a heated argument over what the newspapers called “old troubles.”   Drawing his eight-shot 45-caliber Colt, Chapin fired at Roundtree five times.  One bullet hole was found in the ceiling of Breen’s saloon, two in the walls, one in a rear screen door, and one squarely in the center of Rountree’s forehead that tore through his brain and exited back of his right ear.

Roundtree died at the San Antonio hospital the following morning.  Later examination found that he had a pistol in his back pocket but had not had an opportunity to draw it. Unmarried, he was buried in the Sonora Texas Cemetery.  Chapin was arrested immediately  and spent six days in jail until a judge granted his release on $15,000 bond.  

During his trial the following December, Chapin claimed that Roundtree was working as bodyguard and pistoleer for a hostile former business partner.  According to press reports Chapin told the jury:  “Roundtree was hired to murder me.  I know what I am talking about, because I have copies of  a cypher translated, which he sent to his employer while spying on my actions.”   Perhaps awed by his wealth, the jury believed him and after deliberating only 20 minutes acquitted him.  Breen’s reaction to the violence committed in his saloon has gone unrecorded.

Chapin, however, did not go unpunished.  His political career was at an end and his reputation in Hidalgo County plummeted.  The populace there regretted naming their town for him and officially changed it to “Edinburg” to honor John Young, a prominent local businessman who had been born in Edinburgh, Scotland. Today Edinburg has a population approaching 90,000.

The Ohio native appears to have operated his saloon until about 1917 when it disappeared from San Antonio directories.  It might have been the result of the tightening noose of prohibition in Texas or an effect of declining health.  Breen died on April 15, 1918 at the age of 51, apparently the result of stroke.  He was interred in the Mission Burial Park of San Antonio. Unusually, neither his wife or any Breen relative is recorded buried with him. 


The road from sleepy Ada, Ohio, to gun-toting San Antonio was a long one for Dan Breen.  He had escaped a humdrum life working in his tiny home town to running his own saloon in a wide open  — and too often violent —booming Texas city.   For an adventurous youth of America’s mid-19th Century, the choice had been clear.