Posts Tagged ‘Karney’

Jim Dahlman and the Charley Bree Shooting

February 9, 2009


See previous Jim Dahlman related posts:

“Cowboy Jim Dahlman: Perpetual Politician”

“Dahlman and Middleton: Characters of the Old West”







Democratic Nominee Meets Campaign Story Early by Giving Authorized Interview on His Life in the South.

James C. Dahlman “got his man” in Texas thirty-two years ago and came to Nebraska under the name of “Jim Murray.”

In 1884, wishing to marry and hearing that he had not killed his victim after all, he resumed the name of Dahlman.

Because such rumors were afloat and because they would probably be printed before the campaign is over, Mayor Dahlman was asked by The Journal to give an authorative account of his early life before he became known in the political world. He readily agreed to this and told his history in a frank and unhesitating manner. This was on Thursday, when he passed through Lincoln. A reporter met him on his arrival from Beatrice and rode with him to Wahoo. He answered every question, only stipulating that a copy of this interview be submitted to him before its publication. The copy was mailed to him at Central City, where he was to be on Monday, a carbon copy remaining in the office for immediate use. Last night the publication of the interview was authorized by the following telegram:

GRAND ISLAND, Neb., Sept. 27. — State Journal, Lincoln, Neb.: All right. Cut her loose. Except county is Lavaca, if I remember rightly instead of DeWitt that trouble took place.

Mayor Dahlman’s Story.

“My father settled in DeWitt county, Texas, in 1845, and there I was born and raised, with a rope in one hand, spurs on my heels, and a six-shooter on my hip. It was a wild country as early as I can remember and was but little better when I left there. There were seven children in our family, of whom I was the fourth.

During the war and afterwards DeWitt county came to be the rendezvous of about the toughest gang that could be found in the United States. Feuds were common and unrelenting in character between such groups as the Hardins, the Taylors, the Suttons, and the Clemmons factions. I think I am safe in saying that more men died violent deaths in DeWitt county than in any other territory of equal size in the country at any time in the history of Texas. I have seen as many as seven men killed in one fight between these factions.

“This was the atmosphere in which I grew up and naturally as I became a young man about the only right I knew was that of the pistol and a quick hand. The law was but poorly enforced and men lived by the right of might. I got to be pretty tough, I admit it. I went around a good deal of the time with a chip on my shoulder hoping some one would knock it off. The country was full of maverick cattle and no one was a better hand than I with the rope chasing down these strays and putting the branding iron on them. Everybody did it. I was training with a bad crowd, as bad as there was in the country, harum-scarum, devil-may-care fellows, you know. I can see now that it was only a question of time when I would get into trouble. So I came to Nebraska to get away from it.

Dahlman Family 1870 Census

Dahlman Family 1870 Census

Name:  Rosalee Dahlmann
Gender: Female
Marriage Date: 7 Jun 1868
Spouse: Charles M. Bree
Marriage city: Dewitt
Marriage State: Texas
Source: Texas Marriages, 1851-1900

Why He Left Texas.

“The immediate cause of my leaving Texas was this: An older sister married a man named Charley Bree, a shiftless sort of fellow, nothing more or less than an outlaw. They lived together for two years and some time after their child was born he deserted her for no apparent reason than that he was tired of married life, and his innate cussedness. I was a fiery, quick-tempered boy less than twenty years of age. There was scarcely any law in the country and none that was likely to reach a cuss like that. I sent him word that I  would shoot him the first time I saw him. Things went on in this condition for some time and Bree and I did not meet. Then on day purely by accident we met in a town where neither was known. No sooner did we face each other than we both pulled and shot. I got him; he missed me. We shot but once each. My shot hit him about the eye and he dropped like lead. I thought he was done for and wasted no time in getting away. I rode through into Arkansas and stayed there in secret.

“Well, I stayed in Arkansas for six months. Finally my money ran low and dead broke I wrote to a friend in Texas for a loan, meanwhile going to work for a butcher. This Texas friend did not send me the money. It happened that an old-time acquaintance was coming to Nebraska and my friend told him to stop off and get me. He did so and we came by rail to Omaha and thence west on the Union Pacific. He had $350 when he dropped off in Arkansas and divided even with me. I afterward paid him back with interest. It is not true that I followed the trail from Texas to Nebraska. This was in 1878, and I was twenty-two years of age.

His Arrival in Nebraska.

“I guess I was a hard-looking customer. I wore the high heeled boots of the cowboy, with pants tucked in at the top of them. I affected also a mustache and a little French goatee. My luggage was carried in a pair of leather saddlebags. I would give $500 today if I could get hold of those saddlebags. I had never seen snow nor ice until I saw them in Nebraska. Well, we went west on the Union Pacific to Sidney and from there overland north. I remember the stage was so heavily laden that we had to take turns walking. We were not dressed to trapse through snow six inches deep in the midst of a blizzard, and finally I got so mad that I tumbled the whole crowd out at the point of a gun, got in, and threatened to shoot the first man who mentioned walk again. We rode.

“Well, I first got work from a ranchman, known familiarly as “Old Man Newman.” He is still alive and lives in El Paso, Tex. He would not hire me at first because he said I looked too much of a tough, and would be picking quarrels with his cowmen first thing. But I was broke and persuaded the foreman to let me camp with them a while. Finally he gave me a job. I stayed with him for seven years, became his foreman and there was not a better paid cowboy in that section of the country. Newman’s ranch was located twelve miles east of what is now Gordon.

Went Into Politics.

“Finally I got a job as brand inspector for the Wyoming live stock association and held this job two years. In the meantime Chadron had been started and I decided to start into business for myself. I had got a few cattle together and started a ranch. I and my partner also ran a meat market in Chadron. Then I mixed some in politics, was elected sheriff of Dawes county three terms, and mayor of Chadron twice. About the time I quit the position of mayor the hard times were upon us and we all went broke. I was fortunate enough to secure the position of secretary of the state board of transportation and moved to Lincoln. My youngest daughter was born while I lived there. Since then everyone knows of my career as chairman of the democratic state committee, twice member of the national committee from Nebraska and member of the executive committee. I moved to Omaha and engaged in the live stock commission business in South Omaha, meanwhile residing in Omaha. I got into Omaha politics and that is how I came to be elected mayor the first time. And there you are.”

“What became of Bree?”

“Oh, he got well from the bullet wound I gave him, although I did not know for two years that he was not killed. He died several years ago. My sister, over whom we had the trouble, is still alive. She married again.”

Came Here as “Jim Murray.”
“Did you live in this state under an assumed name, Jim Murray, after you came here in 1878?”

“Yes,” and the mayor smiled his appreciation of the question. “When I go to Arkansas I changed my name to Murray. I do not know why I picked that name. I thought I had killed Bree, and I was keeping out of sight, you bet. Strange to say the authorities in Dewitt county never took the matter up and I was never looked for. But I did not know that.

“I kept the assumed name after I came to Nebraska, and cowboys and ranchers in Wyoming where I was brand inspector still know me as Jim Murray. After I knew that Bree had recovered I felt no need for the name but it was easier to keep than to change back.

“I finally changed to my right name for this reason: We used to trade with a trader at the Pine Ridge agency, ninety miles from the ranch., Blanchard was his name. I got to know him pretty well and he often invited me to his house. He had several children and finally secured the services of a young lady named Hattie Abbott as governess for these children. I fell in love with her and decided to ask her to marry me. But before doing so I told her the whole story of my life and took back my real name. This was in the fall of 1884, after I had been Jim Murray for sex years. We were married in Union, Ia., where she had a sister living.

“I think that pretty well covers my life history. I was a tough one in Texas, and I guess I did not change all at once after coming to Nebraska, although I had resolved to live a different life. When one considers the environs in which I grew up and the desperate character of the people of Texas, and later the not entirely tame life on the frontier of Nebraska, you will have to admit that I did pretty well to come out of it no meaner than I am. I did a great many things which I would not do now, but I am not ashamed to tell what they were, and I have told you.”

The Nebraska State Journal (Lincoln, Nebraska) Sep 28, 1910

Yellow Bank / Koerth, Texas

Yellow Bank / Koerth, Texas

From Texas Escapes Online Magazine:

Irish settlers arrived three years before Texas Independence was declared. The site was first known as Yellow Bank and later Antioch. St. John the Baptist Catholic Church were built around 1865. German and Czech immigrants replanced the original settlers after the Civil War. Storekeeper C. J. Koerth opened a post office in his store from 1884 through 1910 (although it was closed from 1887-1893). Koerth built a school in 1914.



Harks Back Thirty-two Years to His Own House Warming and Tells Incident as He Saw It and Heard It.

Some weeks ago The Journal printed a biographical sketch of Mayor J.C. Dahlman of Omaha, present candidate for governor on the democratic ticket. This story was authorized by Mr. Dahlman who said it was substantially as he had related it. Comments on this story of the life of Mr. Dahlman as he related it were general. The general opinion was that it would not seriously affect his candidacy one way or the other, whereas if the story had been printed without his having told it, it might have been more serious from a political point of view. Many people, however, declared that the tale was too favorable to the “Cowboy Mayor” and that The Journal had played far too fairly with him in giving all the extenuating circumstances as presented by the relater.

Ten days ago The Journal sent three or four letters to Texas, enclosing a clipping of the story, and asking briefly that if in the neighborhood any old settler resided who could remember the incident of the shooting of Charley Bree, that he be asked to relate it as he heard it, and that the story be sent here to be printed. The idea was that if the story were at all one-sided any old settler of Texas, familiar with the affair, would give the other side, not being actuated in any degree to apologize for the act, as it was charged generally by those opposed to Mayor Dahlman would be the case in taking the story from him.

One of these letters was sent to Yoakum, Texas, as being in Lavaca county where Mayor Dahlman said the shooting occurred. The resulting story here related by a man who saw the whole affair except the actual shooting, and he heard that, being but a few yards distant when the shots were fired.

The tale comes from Texas, a newspaper proprietor of Yoakum being the intermediary. This newspaper man is proprietor of the Yoakum Herald, J.W. Cook. He writes in explanation as follows:

“As per your request of the 9th inst. I am handing you herewith the story of the shooting of Charley Bree by J.C. Dahlman as told by Mr. C.G. Koerth. Mr Koerth is a thoroughly reliable man and any citizen of Yoakum who knows him will vouch for his veracity.

“I have shown Mr. Koerth a copy of the story and he O.K.’d it. Yours very truly, J.W. COOK.”

The Story From Texas.

Here is the old settler’s story:

After making considerable inquiry as to who would likely know something of the shooting case in which J.C. Dahlman was charged with shooting Charley Bree some thirty-two years ago, information was obtained that Mr. C.G. Koerth might remember something of the affair. Mr. Koerth was found. Mr. Koerth is a highly respected and honored citizen of  the city of Yoakum. His is seventy-five years of age and has lived in Lavaca county since 1860. He is a native of Germany. For the past dozen years he has resided in Yoakum and has been engaged in the drug business in this city with his sons, Emil C. and John C. Koerth.

Asked if he remembered a shooting scrape in which J.C. Dahlman and Charley Bree were the principals he replied: “Yes, it occurred at my house. I remember a great deal about it.”

“Would you object to relating what you remember of it.”

“I do not object at all,” said Mr. Koerth.

“The story is about like this,” said Mr. Koerth. “Some time in the late ’70’s, either ’77 or ’78, I was residing near what is known as Yellow Banks creek in Lavaca county. I had established a general merchandise store there and had recently got permission from the department to establish a postoffice there which was given the name of Antioch. During the year in question I had erected a new residence. I did the principal part of the carpenter work on my residence myself but a neighbor of mine, Mr. C. Karney had also had a new home built that year and had employed a carpenter named Eugene Stark. Stark had come to our neighborhood from over near Yorktown in DeWitt county. When he had nearly finished the Karney residence he employed a painter, Charley Bree, who had come to our section from the same place in DeWitt county.

“I needed a painter to finish my house, so Mr. Stark, with whom I had become acquainted and also my neighbor, Mr. Karney, recommended Bree as a capable painter. I employed him. He soon impressed me as being not only a good painter but an intelligent, energetic, good man as well.

“From Stark, the carpenter, I had learned that Bree had been employed some years previous by a Mr. Dahlman as clerk in a store, that he had gained the confidence of the Dahlman family and had married one of the Dahlman girls. Later he was entrusted with a considerable sum of money and sent to New Orleans to buy a stock of merchandise for the Dahlman store. In some way Bree got into trouble on this trip to New Orleans and had lost or spent a part of this money and did not buy near the quantity of goods he was expected to buy. This conduct on Bree’s part aroused the ill will of the Dahlmans and they finally drove him away from home. He located in my community as a painter.

“About the time my new home was finished some young men of the community came to my store one afternoon and wanted to have a dance in my house that night. I objected but the boys saw my wife, secured her permission to have the dance and come back to urge me to yield. I did so, consenting for them to have the dance.

Arrival of Feudists.

During the afternoon of this same day two men, heavily armed rode up to my house and asked for a night’s lodging. As we were entertaining Bree and a drummer for that night we could not accommodate them so my wife sent them to a neighbor, Mr. Gerdes, telling them they might get lodging with him. Gerdes could not take them so sent them on to another neighbor, Schulte, who agreed to keep them over night. These two men later proved to be J.C. Dahlman and “Bud” Seekers.

“When told of the appearance on the place of these two men Bree looked uneasy. We noticed he soon went to his room and in a few minutes left, armed with his pistol and Winchester rifle. We noticed he went to Schulte’s. Upon returning he told us he knew those two men and that he had told Mrs. Schulte to fix them a good supper and he would pay for it. The gentlemen informed him, however, they would pay their own bill.

“Night came on. The young people of the community had assembled and had started the dancing. Soon after the dancing started these same two men appeared at the door and asked me if they could take part in the dance, I told them they certainly could but that they would have to disarm themselves and turn their weapons over to me. To this they readily agreed, handing over to me their six shooters. They had left their rifles on their saddles. So they came in and took part in the festivities. Everybody seemed to have a pleasant time except I had noticed Bree seemed much disturbed about something. I asked him what the trouble was and he evaded answering for a long time but finally said ‘Those two fellows are here to mob me. They will do it tonight if they get a chance.’

“I tried to console him, telling him in the meantime to keep out of their way.
“At 12 o’clock announcement was made that there would be no more dancing, so the crowd began to disperse. Soon, all  were gone except one man — Jim Goodson. His remaining and other occurrences of the evening aroused my suspicions so I took a seat where I could observe what was going in. My store was about two hundred yards from my home and at the rear of the house in the direction of the store was a small orchard of fruit trees.

Slipped Up on Him.

“Presently I saw some one coming up from the direction of the store, through the orchard, on through the back yard gate into the yard.

“I called out ‘Look out Bree, someone is slipping on you.’

“Bree turned, facing the back door, leveled his gun on the approaching figure and shouted ‘Stop there. Don’t slip up on me that way or I will kill you.’

“The fellow took to his heels and left in a hurry.’

“Of course this created considerable excitement and it was some time before my family retired. After they retired I sat up and watched for some time. I suspected that an attempt would be made to rob my store.

“Shortly after this occurrence Jim Goodson left the house and I went to bed but not to sleep. I asked Bree what he intended doing.

“He said he would stay up a while longer to see what he could learn. I asked him to keep an eye on my store while he was guarding himself. As he left he reiterated that he was sure they would mob him if they got a chance.

“Bree had not been away from the house long before I heard three shots in close succession. I knew something had happened, so I jumped out of bed as hastily as I could and dressed myself. Just about the time I got my clothes on Bree reached the back door of my house and said, ‘They have murdered me.’

“I saw he was all covered with blood. I had him come into the house and examined his wounds as best I could. I found he had been struck on the upper left side of the head and a considerable furrow plowed across the skull with a bullet. I was soon convinced that he was not fatally wounded.

“I kept Bree in my house until the following night, in the meantime summoning a physician to dress his wounds.

“On the following night we moved him to a distant neighbor’s house who had a sort of second story or loft to his place and made arrangements with them to keep him and not let anyone know he was there. He remained there a couple of weeks under the care of a physician.

Bree’s Version of Shooting.

“During this period he told me he had come to my store building and was leaning against an old live oak tree that stood near. Around this tree was a large pile of dirt taken from a cellar which I had recently had dug under the store. He was on this pile of dirt. He said that Dahlman and Seekers had discovered him there and opened fire on him. The two first shots missed him but the third struck him on the head and he soon fell to the ground. He had drawn his pistol but the shot had so paralyzed him that he could not use it and that it fell to the ground.

The shot dazed him for only a moment and when he arose he saw the two men running away.

“The two men left the country and I never heard of them again until Dahlman became prominent in his state’s politics, and I was not then sure it was the same Dahlman until I read his account of the shooting which recently appeared in the public prints.

“After Bree recovered sufficiently to travel, he left our section, going over near Lagrange in Fayette county. He promised me faithfully that he would write me when he was located but he never did. I learned that he left Lagrange with a fellow named Barney Brown, who carried him to Alleyton, the then terminus of the Southern Pacific railroad. He then boarded the train and I have heard nothing from him since..

About eighteen months later a skeleton was found up on Ponton’s creek, hanging to a tree. The clothing on it had some paint splotches, and some of my neighbors thought it was Bree, but I did not think so.

“What of Bree’s character?

“He was a nice man. I knew him several months. He did not drink and had no bad habits so far as I knew.”

The Nebraska State Journal (Lincoln, Nebraska) Nov1, 1910



To Mayor Dahlman’s version of the incidents leading to his flight from Texas and assumption for several years of the assumed name of Jim Murray in Nebraska, we now add the version of a virtual eye witness with no apparent interest in the matter other than to tell the facts. This is Mr. C.G. Koerth of Yoakum, Texas, whose veracity is vouched for by citizens of that community. His account varies from Mr. Dahlman’s in essential respects.

Mr. Dahlman’s story was that Charley Bree, “a shiftless sort of fellow, nothing more or less than an outlaw,” married his sister and later deserted her “for no apparent reason than that he was tired of married life, and his innate cussedness.” Dahlman “sent him word that I would shoot him the first time I saw him.” Later “one day purely by accident we met in a town where neither was known. No sooner did we face each other than we both pulled and shot. My shot hit him above the eye and he dropped like lead.” Then followed the flight that brought Dahlman to Nebraska as Jim Murray.

Mr. Koerth’s story differs in practically all these details. Bree was “an intelligent, energetic, good man,” who made his living as a painter. Formerly he had been employed by his father-in-law, Dahlman, in a store. Bree failed properly or satisfactorily to perform a business mission for the Dahlmans and “they finally drove him away from home.” To the community where Bree worked as a painter, and where he had become known, followed two men, Jim Dahlman, brother-in-law of Bree, and Bud Seekers. After midnight they fired upon him in the darkness, inflicting the wound in the head, and fled the country.

Dahlman’s own story puts himself in the attitude of avenging a sister abused by a worthless husband, and doing it in fair and open duel. Mr. Koerth’s story has him executing a good man, as men went in Texas in those days, who had been driven away from his wife by the Dahlmans; and moreover, perpetrating the act while skulking under cover of darkness and reinforced by an assistant. There was some frontier romance, a dash of unwritten law, in Dahlman’s act as described by himself. As described by an onlooker the act was unnecessary, unjust and cowardly, the act of a common, craven outlaw.

Which story is true? By the ordinary rules of evidence Mr. Koerth’s story would have the more weight. Dahlman has an obvious motive for glossing over his conduct. Koerth has no interest on way or the other. But except as Koerth’s story discredits that boasted frankness of Dahlman it can hardly make a difference in one’s opinion of Dahlman or in his chances to be governor. If Dahlman’s record in Nebraska politics, his personality, and the things he stands for in this campaign will not put him under the ban of the Nebraska voters, neither will the story, even if accepted, that he ambushed at midnight and shot an inoffensive man.

The Nebraska State Journal (Lincoln, Nebraska) Nov 2, 1910

Omaha City Hall

Omaha City Hall

Body of Picturesque Leader Of City for 21 Years Lies in State

(By Associated Press)

OMAHA, Neb., Jan 24. — As the body of Mayor James C. Dahlman lay in state at the city hall today and thousands paid homage to the man who headed their city government for 21 years, the picturesque life of the man was told and retold.

There were those among the crowd who had known him when he was plain Jim Dahlman, the cowboy, feared and loved as one of the best shots and hardest riders on the Western plains. These men were in great demand, for the people of Omaha had never tired of hearing of early exploits of their mayor, who died Tuesday night at Excelsior Springs, Mo.

In all this story telling there came to light a tale which Dahlman’s old cronies said had been revealed to the public only once before and that 20 years ago. It revealed how Dahlman once “got his man” and that this man was his brother-in-law.

The story, as told by Dahlman himself:

“An older sister of mine married a man named Charley Dree [Bree]. He was a shiftless sort, in reality nothing more than an outlaw, and he did not treat her right. They lived together two years. When their child was born, Dree deserted her for no reason the family could see except that he was tired of married life and because of his lack of responsibility, and his meanness.

“I was about 20 at the time, fiery of temper, having gone much in bad company since I left home. I knew the nature of hte man. The law in that country was not likely to reach that sort of a man. So I sent him word that I would shoot him the first time I laid eyes on him.

“We did not see each other for a long time, but I happened to be in a town in Lavaca County (Texas) one night when I saw him in a saloon. He was with a partner and I was with a friend. The whole town went over to a dance on the edge of town and, after it was well under way, we saw him go, too.

“The word must have reached him, for when I approached the dance hall, later in the evening, I saw him coming out with his rifle in hand. Dree saw me about the same time I saw him. He raised his rifle and missed me. I got him over the eye. I was pretty handy with the six-shooter then.

“I ran over to where he was and it looked as if he was done for, so I lost no time in getting out of there. I rode through into Arkansas and remained there in secret, while I sent my partner back to find out what happened. It seemed that Dree lived a few hours.”

Dahlman lived in Arkansas for a time and then went to Nebraska with an old friend. He roped and branded steers in the western part of the State, finally coming to Omaha.

The story of his rise to political fame here, however, was conspicuous, his friends agreed, by the absence of the spectacular.

He recently had filed for re-election for his eighth three-year term. A public funeral will be held tomorrow.

San Antonio Express (Texas) Jan 24, 1930