Arkansas City Constable John Breene, wounded in a revolver duel with a burglar, November 20, 1906

Journey (John) J. Breene was born in Dayton, Ohio, in 1850 and came to Cowley County in 1870. He took a claim north of Geuda Springs, and held onto it for a few years and then sold out, He then moved to Arkansas City. On November 23, 1876 he married Josephine Wright. They had seven children-Florence, Alice, Anna, William, Frank, Fred, and Edward.

John Breene clerked in different stores in Arkansas City for a few years until he was elected constable. When George McIntire was elected County Sheriff, Breene became his deputy and served four years. Breene then ran successfully for the position of constable and was elected as Arkansas City Constable in 1888. He held the office continuously except for one two-year term.Even though he won the election on this occasion, owing to a misunderstanding of the law about his bond, Breene lost his position as constable and returned to private life for two years. He was a law enforcement officer for twenty-four years.

Johnny Breene was generous almost to a fault.He drove a small yellow pony mare for many years.People remarked that this mare was the cause of his election so many times. He never refused a friend the use of his horse and buggy, saving them many a step. If John Breene had a dollar and some friend wanted half of it, he got it. That was his way and he went along winning friends every day.

Arkansas City Constable John Breene was wounded in a revolver duel with a burglar. It happened about 2:30 a. m., Saturday morning, November 20, 1906, at his home at 500 North C Street, Arkansas City. The burglar fled.

The bedroom occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Breene in their residence was on the first floor by the kitchen. Their children slept in rooms on the second floor. With a mother’s instinct, Mrs. Breene woke upon hearing a strange noise in the house.She determined that she heard somebody on the cellar steps so she woke her husband. He arose and picked up his revolver, which he had placed on a dresser.

The Breene’s then went through the kitchen into the dining room, where Mrs. Breene struck a match.In its light, Mr. Breene and the burglar saw each other and both fired.The burglar’s first shot struck and passed through Mr. Breene’s left wrist. The burglar’s second shot entered just below Constable Breene’s right nipple; the leaden bullet passing through his lung and lodging just under the skin at his back.

Constable Breene fired three times, shooting the last shot as the burglar darted around the corner and to the stairs.The burglar stumbled and fell down the steps; he then pulled himself upright and got away. Breene looked about the house until his weakening condition made him quit.

The shots alarmed the neighbors, who summoned officers. Policemen Gray and Cummins came to the house.They decided that the man who did the shooting wore no shoes since they found a pair near the Breene home.Gray went to the south railroad yards where he kept a watch on outgoing trains until daylight.

In the morning they found that the burglar had fled west on vine Avenue, and north on Eighth Street to Mr. W. T. Richardson’s home. A horse was stolen there. A description of the horse was soon given.“The mare was five years old, 15-l/2 hands high, weighed about 1,000 pounds and was bay or brown in color.She had a black mane and tail, with the foretop cut short,She also had one white hind foot and was shod with smooth shoes.”

The officers traced the stolen horse northeast to the Walnut River Bridge at Kansas Avenue. The tracks showed the rider of the horse was uncertain what course to take.He went to the bridge and then turned, coming back toward the city.After a short distance, he turned again and went back toward the bridge.This time he entered the timber on the west side of the Walnut River and headed south.Deputy Sheriff Charles Peek and City Officer Nash visited occupants of the houses along the trail they thought the burglar had taken.They wanted to find if he had stopped anyplace to get a pair of shoes. Their search was fruitless.

The president of the Anti Horse Thief Association (A.H.T.A.) was Mr. Charles Liston. He announced that the Association offered $100 for the arrest and conviction of the man who shot Breene.They also offered to pay a suitable reward for the return of the mare.

Mr. and Mrs. Breene described the burglar as about 5 feet and 9 inches tall, wearing a long black overcoat and a black derby hat. He was not masked and they were certain that he was either a white man or a mulatto.

The burglar had little time in which to do his work before encountering the Breene’s. A watch, belonging to Fred Breene, left on a sideboard in the dining room, was missing.

Miss Alice Breene, awakened by the shots, ran down stairs from her room. She reached the dining room door as the last shot rang out. She was in line with the bullets from her father’s revolver. Had she been a moment sooner, she could have been wounded.

When the doctors arrived, they examined Breene’s wounds and removed the bullet (thirty-two caliber) from his back.Breene was ashamed of his aim, but informed everyone that he thought one of his shots had hit the burglar.

A hired hand on the Thompson farm was doing chores before daylight on Saturday morning. The Thompson farm was two and one-half miles northeast of Arkansas City.The hired hand reported that he heard a horse coming down the road from the north.He went out into the road and turned the mare into the barnyard at the farm.The mare showed signs of having been ridden hard and was covered with lather. OI&ers were informed on Sunday morning and an examination proved that the mare was the one stolen from Mr. Richardson.

Late on the following Tuesday afternoon it was learned that the night engineer at The Baden Flour Mill in Winfield had a visitor about 6 a.m. Saturday morning, who asked him for a pair of shoes.

The engineer gave a description of the unexpected visitor.“The man wore socks but no shoes.He had wrapped his feet in pieces of a brown blanket.He wore a black cap and a long black overcoat. He was about five feet, six inches tall, and weighed about 150 pounds. He had the appearance of being about thirty years of age, with a badly skinned nose.”

J. F. Roebuck took the train to Winfield that evening to interview the engineer. He returned on Wednesday and reported the engineer further remembered that the man had a serious wound on his forehead.This looked as though it might have been a glancing bullet wound.It was so noticeable under the coarse bandages that the engineer commented upon it.

A theory about the stranger’s skinned nose was made by Frank Breene. He believed that the man struck his nose on a shelf in the cellar way while escaping. The shelf in the cellar-way at the Breene home was low enough that a person passing under was compelled to stoop to clear it.

On Monday morning, November 26th, the “mysterious stranger” in Winfreld was arrested. He turned out to be simply an old tramp.

The rewards offered for Breene’s assailant soon totaled $600.This amount was divided as follows: Cowley County Commissioners, $300; A.H.T.A., $100; Arkansas City, $100; Sheriff Welfelt, $100.

On Saturday morning, November 27, 1906, Arkansas City Constable John J. Breene died. Weakened by his wound, he developed pneumonia and succumbed.

On November 30,1906, Coroner Cooper impaneled a jury consisting of the following to hold an inquest over the remains of John J. Breene: W. H. Bond, John W. Berry, Henry Forster, Samuel N. Rockhold, Dave G. Lewis and John Neuman.On December 21 st they returned the following verdict. “That John J. Breene came to his death at Arkansas City, Cowley County, Kansas, on the 27th day of November, A.D. 1906, from the effects of a gun shot wound at the hands of some person to this jury unknown. ”

Nobody was arrested and convicted of this crime.


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