Saturday, November 10, 2012

"Wild West" on the Levee

Here's how the Levee looked early in the 20th century. The original C.B.&Q. depot and hotel is in the center of the photograph; the Levee business district, across Commerical Avenue to the southwest. Nothing remains of the Levee today other than a somewhat later building converted into a church.

It's not clear (to me) how the Levee, a commercial neighborhood opposite the C.B.&Q. Depot in northwest Chariton, got its name --- or exactly when it's reputation as a rough and tumble part of town developed. Most likely that happened early in the city's history. But 1911, when hundreds of workers and hangers-on poured into Chariton as the new north-south Rock Island rail line was being built, was a lively year.

The shooting death of Mike "Denver Breeze" McClain during September of 1911 no doubt added to  the reputation of a place where one could always get a drink and at times a few other things --- even during times of prohibition. Here's how the Chariton Leader of Sept. 28, 1911, reported the death under a headline "A Bit of Wild West."

What will likely prove to be a fatal shooting occurred up near the Burlington depot on Tuesday afternoon when Sam Goldwater shot "Denver Breeze" three times with a 32-calibre revolver, a glancing shot in the head, one in the side and a third in the abdomen, the latter being the one likely to prove fatal.

Several months since, when the work on the Rock Island railroad commenced, Goldwater came here, leased the Crips building on what is known as the "levee" and opened a restaurant, doing a good business, about which many idle railroad graders congregated and it is said that there were lively times occasionally up there, but there was no evidence to show that the keeper was handling prohibited drinks.

Sometime later "Denver Breeze" wafted into town and proved an "undesirable citizen," finally getting into jail for some infraction of the law.

On the afternoon of the shooting it seems that he had made himself obnoxious about the Goldwater place and had been ordered to leave, being somewhat intoxicated at the time. What happened can only be conjectured, but from the evidence at hand it seems that he threw some kind of a missile at the restaurant keeper and may have threatened him, with the results above.

Goldwater followed him out of the house, which would not probably be justifiable in self defense, although that is his claim. In his statement to County attorney Collison, he stated that he was told that Denver Breeze had a knife but he did not see it, and that he shot to kill.

It is a bad case at best. Goldwater seems to be a man of business integrity and has followed railroad workers for years and in financial mamtters is said to be straight.

After the shoowing he called a physician and ordered that the wounded man be taken to Mercy Hospital at his expense.

His preliminary bond was fixed at $1,000, which he promptly gave, the contract firm of Cotton & Matthews signing as sureties. However, if the shotting results fatally other arrangements will have to be made.

Later --- The victim of Goldwater's bullets died on Wednesday forenoon.

At the time of the shooting, Goldwater was a newlywed --- his marriage to Myrtle Sage, of Chariton, having occurred the previous week. But the honeymoon seems to have been brief.

Indicted for murder by a grand jury, Goldwater was held without bail until conviction by a Lucas County jury of manslaughter during late January, 1912, and then taken to the penitentiary at Fort Madison to serve a term up to eight years dependent on good behavior. After that, it becomes impossible to track him down.

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