The legend of the Wildman of the Wynooche may last even longer now that there is a monument memorializing his victims in the forest a 40-minute drive north of Montesano, where he is said to have lived and been killed 100 years ago this month.
Stories of the man, John Tornow, have circulated around Grays Harbor and beyond for the past century, told and retold. The legend’s popularity was evident Saturday at the site of the memorial where historians and fans of the story came to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Tornow’s death on April 16.
Around 80 people, young and old alike, stood in the mist and rain to get a glimpse of the plaque, cleared trail and shootout site, just 100 yards or so off the Wynooche Valley Road. The monument was placed where sheriff deputy Giles Quimby shot Tornow in a shootout that also claimed the lives of two lawmen. He’d been the subject of a 19-month manhunt.
“I just can’t believe this unknown spot in the woods is now filled with all of you,” said an exuberant Justin Madanifard, Chairman of the John Tornow Memorial Committee, who spoke to the crowd at the newly cleared forest and memorial site.
The search for Tornow began after he allegedly shot and killed his two nephews; he is thought to have probably killed six men while hiding in the Wynooche and Satsop headwaters area, including four law enforcement officers.
“I just think he was somebody who wanted to be left alone,” said Diana Bonfield of Hoquiam, who added she thinks someone else shot Tornow’s nephews. She and her husband, Jim, came to stand in for their friend Bill Quimby, who is related to the famous sheriff’s deputy but could not make the event.
Tornow enthusiasts shared stories, listened to speakers, songs and poetry about Tornow and his victims, and got a glimpse of some new artifacts.
Bill Lindstrom, a Tornow historian and member of the memorial committee, answered questions and told stories about Tornow and the detective work it’s taken to piece the story together after all these years.
Some, who had heard the stories of Tornow since they were children, had only just begun to dive deeper in the past few weeks, due to the approaching 100-year anniversary mark.
Cleve Lickiss, said he first heard the story from his mother when he was in his early 20s in the late 70s, but had recently started researching everything he could about the events. He said he thinks that Tornow has “gotta be guilty “ of the deaths of police officers, but that he is “not so sure about the nephews”— a view that seemed to be popular among attendees.
Special guests included: Doug, David and Duane Lathrop, three of the great-grandsons of Charles Lathrop, who along with Louis Blair were the last of Tornow’s six victims; the two died when ambushed by Tornow. Also present was Mike Fredson, who wrote the book “Beast Man” about Tornow, Dana Anderson of Matlock who first unearthed Tornow artifacts using a metal detector in the 1990s and was responsible for planning the building of the memorial, and Shelton High School junior and Eagle Scout Rudy Mackiewicz who along with friend Nathan Morris and 8-year-old brother, Ryan, are responsible for hours upon hours of work clearing the trail from the road spur to the shootout site where they helped set up the memorial.
Visit the newly up-and-running www.johntornowoutlaw.com for more information on the century-old legend of John Tornow, the Wildman of the Wynooche.