Chapter Two: Brother - Like Good News and Sneezes, Murder Comes In Threes
At least for Jere Dunn it does anyway. Last time we looked at the brother of Clarence Whistler, Henry. While Henry was famous in his own rights, it's fairly safe to say that Clarence was even more well known. Both of those passed away in highly tragic manners. This time we're looking at the brother of wrestler and boxer, James Dunn. James is not the most well known sportsmen of the 19th century, but he did face some of the most well known men. And his brother who we are looking at today had involvement with many men who were very active in the wrestling world other than James.
His brother Jere definitely surpassed James for fame, but for all the wrong reasons. The boys were born in New York sometime in the 1840's. Jere moved to Lancaster, Pennsylvania at the age of fourteen. He was a good sporting lad who enjoyed to brawl. By the age of 18 he was fighting in the civil war and leading a mutiny of the New York Forty-Fourth regiment.
After joining the regiment he became a recruiting officer. At one time he was in charge of several bounty jumpers. One of them was a negro who tried to escape. Dunn fired at him, purposely missing, just trying to scare him. When he ran out of bullets the escapee attacked Dunn with a stone. In retaliation Dunn clubbed the man with the butt of his pistol until he stopped moving.
That was the first of three murders. At first Dunn was arrested and sent to jail for murder. It did not take long for Govenor Curtin to pardon Dunn stating his conviction was an outrage.
Jere would go on to lead a group of men who all wanted to leave active service in rebelling against the cononel. The men all gathered and refused to obey orders unless they were given a sixty-day furlough. Reserve troops were called out to surround the mutineers.
All the mutineers were given the choice to go back to normal duties or be shot. Every last one of them except for Jere gave in. Jere called out, "Fire away." The colonel gave the command, "Ready," then, "Aim." Just as he was about to say fire the adjutant ran out and muscled Jere back into line.
Not too long after Dunn left and joined the cavalry men of Sheridan. With this bunch of men Dunn would be apart of the victorius battle of Cedar Creek. It was with that branch he stayed until the end of the war came and it was time for him to go back to New York.
Jere soon found his way into the horse racing game and the friendship of dubious characters associated with it. The nags were not his only interest though as he also took an active interest in politics. Being an active democrat he found a natual enemy in a Judge Dowling who was very much apart of the "Tweed crowd."
A man named James Logan was released from jail by Judge Dowling and when he heard of Dunn's possible plot to murder the judge, he went after him. Logan attacked Dunn with a pistol and an accomplice. Dunn managed to kill Logan, but the other man ran away.
Dunn had a friend in Captain Jordan at the time and therefore he was not arrested immediately. Jordan passed away a few months later though. Dowling moved in soon after and had Dunn sent to Sing Sing for murder. His friends eventually got his sentence reduced to two years. On his release Dowling sailed for Europe.
In 1880 his name was splattered across the newspapers once again in a negative for being cruel to the race horses he owned. It was said he whipped them too much and did not feed them often enough. For this charged he received a $25 fine.
Somewhere along the line he had found his way into the sporting world of boxers, wrestlers and the theatrical management side of things. By 1882 he was managing John L. Sullivan and arranged a match beteeen Jimmy Elliot, a well known pugilist and SUllivan. Sullivan won; easily.
A rematch was wanted by Elliot but Dunn declined it and booked Sullivan to face Jem Mace, another well known pugilist. Elliot was furious was Mace was his other choice of an opponent at that time. This was the fire on the feud that had started between the men when Elliot got angry over the company Dunn kept. Harry Hill was heard to say that Dunn had said he would shoot Elliot on sight.
As you can see so far Dunn was by no means a man without blood on his hands. Then again though, neither was Elliot. He had previously been in jail and was released when Harry Hill paid $1,700 to have him pardoned.
On March 1, 1883 between 8 and 9 o'clock in the evening James Elliot and Jere Dunn met in the Wm. Langon's saloon, Chicago. The two men shot at each other. Dunn was wounded in the head and arms. Elliot was mortally wounded and died in the police wagon. Dunn claimed self defense. In March 1883 it's announced Dunn will be held by the coroner's jury without bail. He was considered a dangerous man.
It's reported that Dunn purchased a pistol from M.E. Thomas the local street gun dealer on the day of the murder. Thomas denied it though. Instead he offered the events that Dunn came to him with a pistol he already owned and needed Thomas to clean up for him and replaced several parts. Later it came out that Dunn actually had two pistols on his person.
Dunn's cell was crowded with visitors who wanted to offer their assistance in any way possible following his arrest. Dunn stated he had been in fear of his life for some time from threat of harm by Elliot and he just needed his side of the story to be told.
One unnamed man stated to a newspaper tht Elliot had been on a tour with "Parson" Davies in the west. They were due to go to Dodgey City, Kansas, however, Elliot went on a several day drunken spree. Often he spoke of his hatred for Dunn. Elliot left the tour and headed to Chicago. Davies followed him upon hearing the news of Elliot's plans. When he arrived in Chicago Davies told a gentleman of the predicament. The gentleman then passed it on to Dunn.
May 7, 1883 Jere Dunn was brought before Judge Sidney Smith in the criminal courts of Chicago as they tried to decide a jury. The trial was to continue on the 8th.
May 8, 1883 one juror was accepted. It was estimated two days would be needed to gather a full panel.
May 10, 1883 problems with the jury continue as it's thougt a member to the group of sporting men Dunn belonged to was on it.
May 14, 1883 one witness is arrested during the trial for refusing to testify.
The following comments were made during the trial through May 1883:
Several witnesses testified that Dunn fired first.
Mike McDonald, the boss of the Harrison Administration testified that he saw a revolver in Elliot's pocket an hour prior to the shooting. He stated he had no knowledge of the actual homicide though.
E.S. Stowell, a saloon owner said he knew Elliot and not Dunn. Elliot had been inquiring a week before in the saloon where Dunn was. Two nights before the murder Elliot was in the saloon looking around with two unknown men. Elliot was in the saloon again the night before the shooting and said he was hunting Dunn and was carrying two pistols which Stowell saw.
James Mead testified he saw Elliot in Clayton's saloon on January 26, 1883. He stated that Elliot came in and had a pistol in his pocket with his hand on it, ready to pull out anytime someone walked through the door. Elliot told Mead to get Dunn. Mead told Dunn Elliot had a pistol and planned to kill him. Mead and Dunn left the saloon premises together. Mean told the court he had seen Elliot before in Philadelpia beat a five foot tall man over the head with a pistol and take his watch and chain.
Walter Williams, a partner in Clayton's, echoed similar events as Mead.
Thomas C. Newman, manafer of Clayton's, also said the same.
George Hoffman, a bottler, said Elliot had told he would fix Dunn to show people he wasn't a coward as the folk in west was calling him.
Thomas W. Chandler, the proprietor of the South Park Hotel, stated he spoke with Elliot about the trouble with Harry Hill and Elliot had told him he'd put a hole in Dunn's head if he ever saw him.
All of them said they told Dunn of their conversations with Elliot.
James F. Asay, an attorney, stated he saw Dunn on the day of the homicide. Dunn had left Clayton's upon being told of Elliot's plans.
William M. Boyle, keeper of restaurant No. 5 Gambler's Alley, stated Dunn was in his saloon on the evening as Elliot would not go there due to Boyle having word put out he was not welcome.
Dunn was acquitted on May 17, 1883. He continued to work in the theatrical and sporting worlds. He continued to work the gambling scene and acted as a referee frequently for boxing bouts. Horses became his main focus once again though.
It would appear Dunn was just not ready for a quiet life though. From 1890 to 1894 he was in a bitter feud with Starter Caldwell. In the later year both men met at the St. James Hotel bar. Caldwell hit Dunn, Dunn hit Caldwell and split his nose open. Then their friends pulled them apart.
Not long after Dunn and the actor Harry Meredith had a fight in the Hoffman House. Dunn threw Meredith over the table and then Meredith was dragged out of the building by Billy Edwards, a boxer and wrestler. Meredith wanted to get a gun and kill Dunn but was unsuccessful in securing a weapon.
He had been still active in the gambling scene until March of 1906 when cancer started to get the better of him. It's said in one newspaper:
"But he's dying game, as he lived - an old gladiator, asking no 'thumbs down' mercy in the final arena of life."
In his last days he reflected that he was not sorry that he killed three men to save his own life from their hands, but he was sorry that the situations where he had to ever arose. Jere Dunn died on Wednesday, June 27, 1906 of cancer in his elegant Elizabeth, New Jersey home leaving behind a wife. The murder was recalled as the reason he was well known.
By Jimmy Wheeler
As unique content strictly for the Professional Wrestling Historical Society.
Jimmy Elliot was the brother-in-law of John Lynch, baseball player.
Jimmy Elliot was the brother-in-law of John Lynch, baseball player.