OFFICER ENOCH E. BREECE – EOW: 7-3-1902
By: Officer Mike Severance #2866
The outlaw, Harry Tracy, is said to have been a survivor of the Butch Cassidy Gang. He was serving a 20 year sentence in the Oregon State Penitentiary in Salem. On June 9, 1902, after somehow obtaining a pistol, Harry Tracy, 25, and fellow convict and brother-in-law, David Merrill, made a daring escape. In the process, Tracy killed three prison guards. The two escapees managed to elude law enforcement officers for many days before they crossed the Columbia River near Vancouver and entered Washington. Somewhere near Napavine, Tracy and Merrill appear to have had a quarrel. Tracy shot Merrill in the back. Tracy made his way to Olympia where, on July 2, 1902, he hijacked the launch N & S, its Captain and some crew members. He forced them to sail north towards Seattle. Tracy and one hostage went ashore at Meadow Point (Golden Gardens) around 7:30 p.m. They started walking south on the railroad tracks towards Seattle. Tracy eventually released his hostage, and Tracy was thought to have continued south, but he had turned and headed northeast. As soon as it was learned that Tracy was in the area, the manhunt around Seattle began. In 1902, the Seattle Police Department had 60 Patrolmen, 3 Sergeants, 6 Detectives, 3 Jailers, 2 Captains, and 1 Chief.
Tracy was not spotted until around 3:00 p.m. on July 3rd. He was walking north on the Seattle, Lake Shore & Eastern Railroad tracks. The police were informed. A posse, including Everett Detective Charles Raymond, took the Madison Park ferry to Kirkland. From there they headed towards Bothell. Near Wayne, some footprints were found leading towards a cabin in a gully. As the posse moved towards the cabin, Tracy, who was hiding behind a tree stump about thirty feet away, started shooting with his Winchester rifle. Detective Raymond was killed instantly. Two other officers were wounded, and Tracy escaped into the woods after a gun battle lasting about three minutes.
Tracy made his way out of the woods to a road where he met a man on horseback. Tracy took the horse, and rode towards Seattle. He came to the farm of Louis Johnson near Green Lake. He forced Johnson to hitch a horse to a wagon. With Johnson as a hostage, they headed for Seattle. Around 6:00 p.m., and at the top of Phinney Ridge, Tracy spotted the house of Mrs. Van Horn. The house is no longer there, but, 100 years from that day and before it was razed and replaced with apartments, the house was still standing. Its address was 5011 Phinney Ave. N. Tracy forced his way into the house and demanded food and clothing. Besides Mrs. Van Horn, a man named Butterfield was in the house along with a bed-ridden man recovering after being thrown from a horse. Around 8:30 p.m., a grocery delivery boy knocked on the door. Mrs. Van Horn managed to whisper to him that Tracy was in the house. The lad hurried back to Fremont and spread the word.
King County Sheriff Edward Cudihee was in Fremont when he received word of Tracy’s whereabouts, but his posse was in Ravenna. Seattle Police Officer Enoch Breece, his close friend, Cornelius “Neil” Rowley, a miner, and a local insurance man, J. I. Knight, were together in Fremont. They joined Cudihee and all four started towards the Van Horn house. Cudihee would later state that he told Officer Breece to go and gather more men before going to the Van Horn house. That account was never confirmed by anybody. The four arrived at the Van Horn house around 9:00 p.m. It was very dark outside, and it was raining. There was probably no moonlight. It is unknown exactly where the four positioned themselves. Cudihee positioned himself alone somewhere near the horse and wagon where he hoped to ambush Tracy if he came out of the house. Cudihee was armed with a rifle. Louis Johnson’s horse and wagon were tied up to a post of the Woodland Park fence on 50th St. just east of Phinney. The other three were in a different spot near the horse and wagon.
There is no doubt that Cudihee and Breece would have recognized Tracy if they saw him. Tracy’s picture had been circulated throughout the Northwest. Considering the darkness, how were the officers to identify Tracy before opening fire? It would seem that the identification of Tracy could only have been made by getting close to him.
Around 9:30 p.m., Tracy, Louis Johnson, and Butterfield came out of the Van Horn house and started walking towards the horse and wagon. Tracy had a gun to Butterfield’s back. As the three got to the horse and wagon, Breece and Rowley appeared. Knight was a short distance away. Breece and Butterfield knew each other. When Breece was close enough, he recognized Butterfield, and he certainly must have recognized Tracy. Breece asked Butterfield who the other two men were. Butterfield lied about the names of the other two, and said they were just visiting a friend at the Van Horn house. Breece walked away a few paces, turned, and told Tracy to drop his gun. Tracy shot Breece once in the chest and once in the head. Officer Breece died instantly. Rowley was shot in the chest. He died the next day. Cudihee stated he fired two shots at Tracy as he was running away. He missed, and Tracy disappeared into the forests of Woodland Park. Cudihee said he was helpless to do anything when the shooting started, but he later stated he was lying right next to the horse and wagon when Tracy came out of the Van Horn house.
An autopsy showed that Breece had been killed with a .45, and Rowley was killed with a .38. The only person at the scene who was armed with a .38 was J. I. Knight. Officer Breece was killed two days before his 56th birthday. Newspapers originally reported that Rowley was a game warden. They retracted that a few days later.
Officer Breece was survived by his widow, Hattie, and three children, Cora, Dora, and Albert. The funeral was held at Brooklyn M. E. Church on July 6, 1902. The church’s address is now 1415 N.E. 43rd . Today, it is University Temple United Methodist Church. More than 500 people attended. More than one hundred mourners had to stand outside because no more seats were available. Officer Breece was buried at Lake View Cemetery.
Harry Tracy was still on the run. It would be more than a month before he would be brought to justice. He spent July 4th holding a farmer and his family hostage in Ravenna. The next day he returned to Meadow Point where he hijacked a fisherman and his boat. He went to Bainbridge Island. After that, he was in Renton, Enumclaw, Kent, and the Roslyn area. He is believed to have jumped on an eastbound freight train and ended up in Wenatchee and then Ephrata.
On August 3rd, Tracy was in Creston, about 60 miles west of Spokane. He accosted 17 year-old George Goldfinch who was out for a Sunday horseback ride. Tracy wanted to go to the nearest farm, and Goldfinch took him to Lou Eddy’s farm. Tracy told Eddy who he was and that he had no money, but he would help Eddy finish his new barn in exchange for his keep. Eddy agreed. Tracy allowed Goldfinch to leave only after threatening to kill his mother if he told anybody about his presence. Tracy stayed at the Eddy farm on August 4th. He planned to leave for Canada or Wyoming on August 6th. But he made a bad decision and decided to stay an extra day. On August 6th, Goldfinch went to Creston and told the Sheriff about Tracy. The information was telegraphed all over the state. A citizen in the telegraph office overheard the news. He thought that he and four of his crack-shot hunting buddies should collect the large “dead or alive” reward for Tracy. The five hunting buddies arrived near the Eddy farm around 6:30 p.m. They separated and approached from different directions. Tracy saw them coming. He grabbed his rifle and headed for a wheat field. As he dived into the field, he was hit by a bullet which shattered one of his legs. Tracy crawled a short distance into the field, and tried to staunch the bleeding. A short time later, he put his .45 Colt to his head and pulled the trigger.
Enoch Ezekiel Breece was born on July 5, 1856 in Licking View, Ohio. On February 26, 1879, Enoch married Hattie Zelma Yarnel in Iowa. That same day, Enoch and Hattie left for Kansas in a covered wagon. Through hard work and sacrifice, he became very successful as a farmer and forester. He owned many hundreds of acres. Enoch was also a school teacher for several years and even had a photography business.
Enoch and his family moved to the Seattle area in late 1889. He purchased 80 acres of timberland in Snohomish County. To encourage settlement in Brooklyn (now the University District), the first twenty settlers to purchase a lot and erect a residence worth at least $1,000, were given a second lot for free. Enoch traded some livestock for a lot and built a house. The house is no longer there. If it was, the address would be 4034 14 Ave. NE. He attended the University of Washington for one year, and then accepted a position as a United States geologist, conducting geological expeditions within the state. Enoch eventually owned twenty-two lots in Brooklyn. He erected a business block with stores below and a hotel above. It is unknown exactly where that business block was located, but it would not be a surprise if it was located on what is now University Way NE. Enoch was a Trustee of the Brooklyn M.E. Church. He was a pioneer in Brooklyn and very involved with his community. Enoch was commissioned as a Seattle Police Officer sometime in 1898.
Hattie Breece and the children continued to live in the residence after Enoch’s death. Hattie died on February 26, 1912, the 33rd anniversary of her marriage to Enoch. She is buried next to him. Albert worked for the Mail Service in Seattle before moving to California. Dora married and moved to the east coast. Cora married and spent the rest of her life in Seattle. She and her husband celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 1962 while living at the Norse House, just three blocks from where her father was killed. Cora’s granddaughter, Dorothy, lives in Utah. Dorothy’s daughter, Beth Payne, lives in Poulsbo.
In May 1998, Officer Enoch E. Breece was one of forty Seattle Police Officers, killed between 1881 and 1977, who were posthumously awarded the Washington Law Enforcement Medal of Honor. A sworn member of SPD had been tasked with locating the surviving families of our Fallen, and he had from 1995 to 1998 to do it. He managed to locate four surviving families who attended the 1998 presentation ceremony. After 1998, the Department made no effort to locate surviving families of the other thirty-six officers. Officer Breece’s medal gathered dust at the Seattle Police Department for more than 14 years. During the first week of May 2011, Enid Ostrander visited the Metropolitan Police Museum. A chance conversation revealed that she was the granddaughter of William Breece, one of Enoch’s brothers. Officer Jim Ritter gave me her contact information, and I gave it to the Deputy Chief of Operations. On August 20, 2011, during a ceremony at her north Seattle home, Enid was presented with Enoch’s Medal of Honor. Several months later, I located a great granddaughter and a great-great granddaughter of Enoch Breece.
At a ceremony on January 30, 2014, twenty surviving families of our 1998 Medal of Honor recipients finally received the officers’ medals. The Medal of Honor Committee authorized a duplicate Medal of Honor for the Breece family. The great-great granddaughter of Officer Breece, Beth Payne of Poulsbo, was presented with that medal during the ceremony.