At 6-foot-5 and 200 pounds, Justin Madanifard is a bit lankier than the legendary John Tornow, but he fit the picture perfectly for Sunday’s re-enactment of the ending of the tragic Wildman of the Wynooche story nearly 100 years ago.
Tornow was slain on April 16, 1913, ending a 19-month manhunt for the man who allegedly killed his two nephews and four sheriff’s deputies before meeting his demise at the area known as Tornow Lake about 27 miles north of Montesano.
“Justin was the perfect John Tornow,” said Mark Woytowich, who filmed the re-enactment and Friday’s interview session to produce a video for the Mason County Historical Society and YouTube.
“I was able to capture his soul, the way he handled himself, the way he walked. He was at peace in the woods. He was just an awesome Tornow,” said Woytowich. Madanifard is also the president of the Tornow Memorial Committee.
“It was really cool, really neat. Just a unique experience,” said the soft-spoken Madanifard, 30, with much the demeanor one would expect from a Tornow stand-in. Indeed, he was the picture most have of Tornow, complete with long, dark hair, a black beard, wearing two pair of tin pants and caulk boots. He would be at peace in the woods for he is a presale forester with the Quinault Indian Nation.
“They filmed me at a small campfire, warming my hands, then dummy shooting with real guns behind me.” Woytowich said he handled that perfectly. “His recoil with the shots was perfect.”
The plan was to film the end of Tornow’s life as told by Deputy Giles Quimby to Sheriff Schelle Matthews, his brother-in-law. Quimby explained in newspaper reports that two deputized trappers, Louis Blair and Charles Lathrop, accompanied him to the lake, where they had a tip Tornow was located. “We were able to have Blair shot first and drop to the earth,” said Woytowich, noting he was getting his directions from Tornow committee member Dana Anderson. “Then Lathrop was shot and fell, but after he fell, he got off three shots, though I guess none hit Tornow.”
Joe Rothrock, who is a hunter safety expert and oversaw the shooting aspect, portrayed Blair and Bryce Mode was Lathrop.
Woytowich filmed the death of Tornow without showing Quimby, the man who was credited with firing the bullet that killed him. According to Quimby, Tornow’s head fell after he had fired about six shots. “Again Madanifard knew his role well,” the videographer said. Quimby’s portion, played by Anderson, was filmed a week earlier.
Sunday’s shooting wasn’t just the final death scene. Woytowich also filmed a group of five or six men talking about going in after Tornow. “We also had about four rifles and a couple of pistols on location, one guy had a gun like a muzzle-loader, and another guy nobody knew showed up with an ax. We said, ‘Why not?’ And he joined us.” He also filmed the scene in which one of the bodies was taken out of the woods. “Dana manufactured a stretcher and we figured we better get the lightest person. There was a 10-year-old boy named Logan there. I think he was somebody’s son. We put him on the stretcher and his hand plopped out. Dana thought his hand was too clean to be Tornow, so he dirtied it.”
“It was just awesome, a really well done event,” said Ralph Larson, a committee member. “Dana and others had everything organized so well.”
The weekend kicked off Friday when about 40 people met at the Matlock Grange to share their passion of growing up with the John Tornow story. Virtually all of the dozen or so who spoke said they felt Tornow was misunderstood and more a victim than a villain. Many of those in attendance were in their 70s and 80s.
Rand Iversen, former superintendent at the Mary M. Knight School, and one of his students, Joe Rothrock, both cited stories from Dora Hearing, who lived across the street from the school. “I grew up with that story, thanks to Mr. Iversen,” said Rothrock. Iversen remembers one story, in particular: “I remember Dora saying she woke up one night to the sound of chicken noises. Her father went outside and returned to Dora’s room. ‘It’s just John taking a chicken. Go back to sleep.’ People around here didn’t fear him.”
Rudy Mackiewicz, a Shelton High School student, said he was fascinated by the story after reading Mike Fredson’s “Beast Man,” then went to the library to learn more. He was contacted by Anderson to work on the Tornow memorial for his Eagle Scout project. “Most Eagle projects require 20 hours. I have more than 50 hours,” said Mackiewicz, who along with his family, another student, Nathan Morris, and others is entrusted with clearing the 100 yards of trail and helping construct the memorial.
He said he spent one night out in the woods in a “high-tech sleeping bag and I was freezing. We heard so many frogs and when somebody approached the log, the croaking stopped. I could see how they were his sentries,” said Mackiewicz. “This project has been awesome. I have learned so much about communication skills and leadership.”
Maggie Ogg of Matlock talked about her father, Albert Kuhnle, who was on the posse that brought out the bodies. Her father had trapped with Tornow several times. “I always felt John got a raw deal.”
Ken Howard of Matlock told how John taught his nephews to hunt and fish. “He showed them how to cut a vine maple to spear salmon,” said Howard, citing stories his parents told.
Several pieces of memorabilia also surfaced at the meeting: Velma Hollatz, who owns the present Bauer boys home, showed a program from 1896 of the Elizabeth School’s Christmas pageant that included 16-year-old John Tornow as a participant. Henry Bauer, the twins’ father, and Fred Tornow, John’s oldest brother, were the directors of the program.
Bruce Grun of Aberdeen brought a constable badge that he said his grandmother said was on Quimby when he shot Tornow.
Earlier, Bill Hyde of Aberdeen turned over a rifle that he and his father, Bill, found in a 9-foot cedar stump in the mid-1940s at Tornow Lake. The stump was charred and so is the gun. Anderson determined through a gunsmith that the weapon is a 1889 Marlin with about a .40 caliber. Hyde gave the committee the gun for display.
All of the activities are precursor to Saturday, April 20, when the Tornow Memorial will be dedicated to the legend of the story and all his victims. The public is invited to participate, meeting at 12:30 p.m. at the Montesano High School parking lot and going by caravan to the shoot-out site. Brochures will be available soon. Woytowich said he hoped to have the video edited and finished by about April 6.