Deputy Sheriff Dennis O'Leary
Born December 15, 1862 in Longford, County Longford, Ireland
Died May 29, 1912 in Butte, Silver Bow County, Montana


This photograph of Dennis O'Leary and his family was taken about one year prior to the shooting incident.


Dennis O'Leary, Deputy Sheriff was shot by a masked gunmen while protecting a voting booth on election night in 1898.

John J. Daly, an election clerk, was also shot on that night, but died soon afterward from his wounds.  William A. Clark (Republican) and Marcus Daly (Democrat) had been battling for years when the election of 1898 was set to take place. Daly and Clark spared no expense in trying to see that their slate of candidates and issues won out.

At the time of the shooting, Dennis O'Leary was a deputy sheriff. Due to his injuries, he was never able to do that work again, and subsequently became a watchman at the St. Lawrence mine, which he continued to do until his death.


Below, in plain text, is one excerpt from a book, and two articles from
local newspapers describing the incident Deputy Sheriff O'Leary's death.

Excerpt No. 1, taken from the book, Copper Camp:

Stories of the World's Greatest Mining Town Butte, Montana, 1943,
Hastings House, New York, New York


‘November 8, 1898, was election day. The vote in Butte and Silver Bow county was close, but late that evening as the returns trickled in, the Daly-Democratic Legislative ticket was leading with a slight majority over the Clark-Republican slate, and the Dublin Gulch precinct, a conceded Daly stronghold, was yet to be heard from. At about four-thirty the following morning, judges of this precinct were finishing the count by the dim light of miner's candles, when suddenly the door flew open and two masked men entered. Guns in hand, they ordered the astonished judges and clerks to "reach for the ceiling."

But the armed thugs had underestimated the loyalty engendered by the Copper King's gold. Dennis O'Leary, an armed deputy, grappled with one of the bandits, and John J. Daly, an election clerk, sprang to his assistance. The bandits fired. The election clerk was killed and O'Leary was badly wounded. Another of the judges threw himself across the ballot boxes as the election clerk fell. Thwarted in their purpose, the two bandits disappeared in the darkness. The were never identified or captured.

In the ballot boxes were 302 votes for the Daly ticket, only 17 for the Clark forces. The loss of these ballots would have swung the Silver Bow Legislative ticket to the Clark-Republican side. With all the state returns in, the result indicated an overwhelming Daly victory.'




ARTICLE NO. 1, from The Butte Miner, May 30, 1912




Suffering 14 years from a bullet wound, Dennis O'Leary, 48 years of age, finally succumbed at his home, 613 Duggan Avenue, early yesterday morning from the old injury. His health had never been good since that time and he succumbed an easy victim to pneumonia.

Mr. O'Leary was a native of Ireland and had been a resident of Butte for many years. He is survived by a wife and three sons, John, Dennis and Michael, and six daughters, Mrs. William Buckley, Mrs. Joseph Foley, Nora, Alice, Margaret and Gertrude O'Leary. A mother and sister of the deceased live in Ireland. Mr. O'Leary had been employed as a watchman at the St. Lawrence mine for years.  He was a member of the Catholic Order of Foresters and the Catholic Knights.  No arrangements will be made for the funeral until a sister, Mrs. Joseph Murphy of Globe, Ariz., is heard from.



ARTICLE NO. 2, from the Daily Inter Mountain:
Butte, Montana, November 9, 1898




Jack Daly Shot Down By Masked Men




What Object the Assassin Had in View Cannot be Ascertained.


Jack Daly, one of the clerks in the voting booth of precinct No. 8, in Dublin Gulch was murdered shortly before 5 o'clock this morning in the presence of all the officers of that precinct and the murderer made good his escape. At the time mentioned the work of counting the votes was progressing and Lawrence Daly, a brother of the murdered man, was doing the latter's work, checking up the vote, while his brother was taking a rest. The door of the booth was opened suddenly and two men wearing white handkerchiefs for masks entered the room. Both carried guns and the one who had entered first leveling his gun at the group ordered them to throw up their hands. As they did not comply quickly the order was repeated with the threat that if they did not, they would be killed. While speaking, the masked man slowly advanced and Jack Daly made a spring for him, catching hold of his gun and trying to wrest it from him. While they were struggling, the second masked man ran forward and discharged his pistol into Daly's stomach. The latter staggered over to the side of the booth and at that instant, Dennis O'Leary, a special deputy sheriff grappled with the man who had been struggling with Daly. An instant later another shot was heard and O'Leary staggered back with a bullet in his left shoulder. A third shot was fired as the assassins were backing out of the door. The bullet passed through O'Leary's coat and grazed the skin. In the excitement that followed, the men made good their escape.

Daly and O'Leary were taken to the Sisters' Hospital, but Daly expired before he reached there. His remains were removed to Sherman's undertaking rooms. John Hanifan, a boy who was a witness to the tragedy ran to the police station and returned with Captain Dawson. A squad of deputy sheriffs were summoned and a thorough though unavailing search of the gulch was made for the murderers.

At the time of the shooting the occupants of the room were election judges Andy Higgins, John Shugroue, Jerry Sullivan and James Ford; clerks Lawrence Daly, Charles Foley, F. E. Castle and Jack Daly. Besides there were a number of boys grouped around the stove where Jack Daly was sitting. One of the boys who gave his name as John Ferrall told the following story today to a reporter for the Inter Mountain.

"The first thing I knew was when two men walked into the booth and hollered. No  one complied with the order and the front man said: ‘Throw up your hands, you _____, or I'll kill you!' I threw mine up. I didn't notice that anyone else did. Daly, who was right next to me, reached over and caught hold of the gun held by the man nearest to him, and while they were wrestling, the second fellow came up and shot Daly in the stomach. Daly did not fall down, but staggered over to the side of the booth. O'Leary then grappled with the first fellow and a moment afterwards was shot in the shoulder. The two men backed out of the booth, and as they were going they fired another shot at O'Leary, but it did not hit him."

Other witnesses to the tragedy told substantially the same story, and said that there was no action or word on the part of the two men to indicate whether they went to the booth for the purpose of robbing the inmates of their cash or to steal the ballots.

Deceased was well known in Butte and was a miner in the employ of the Mountain Con, where his brother Larry is a timberman. The brothers were living at Mrs.  Nevin's boarding house, in Dublin Gulch, and the funeral will be held from that house. Mrs. C. Daly, mother of the deceased, who lives at 1018 Webster street, San Francisco, was notified of the sad occurrence by telegraph.

O'Leary's injuries are not thought to be dangerous, although his shoulder blade is shattered.

Sheriff Regan is following a clue today which may lead to the detection of the assassins. There are grave rumors being circulated around town today and several well known men about town may be called upon to state their whereabouts at the time the murder was committed.


The above was submitted by Janet McGrath

Great Granddaughter of Dennis O'Leary
May 25, 2000