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Blair, Deputy Lewis

End of Watch: 
Wednesday, April 16, 1913
County: 
Grays Harbor
Agency: 
Grays Harbor County S.D.

On Wednesday, April 16, 1913, Grays Harbor County Deputy Lewis Blair and Deputy Charles Lathrop would become the fifth and sixth victim’s of John Tornow, known as the “Wildman of Wynooche.”  Tornow was wanted for killing two of his nephews in 1911 during a hunting trip and for killing Grays Harbor County Deputy Albert Elmer and Deputy Colin M’Kenzie on March 9, 1912.  Deputy Elmer and Deputy M’Kenzie were killed while attempting to arrest Tornow for the murder of his nephews.

On a tip, Grays Harbor County Deputy Giles Quimby joined Deputy Blair and Deputy Lathrop to find Tornow in the area of the Oxbow of the Wynooche Valley in Grays Harbor County.  Deputy Blair and Deputy Lathrop were both trappers from the area but were deputized by Grays Harbor County Sheriff Schelle Mathews to serve as part of a bigger posse. 

Despite being blind in one eye, Deputy Lathrop was known as a very good shot and Deputy Quimby had seen action with Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders in Cuba during the Spanish American War.

On the afternoon of April 16th, Deputy Quimby, Deputy Blair and Deputy Lathrop came across a crude shack which they believed was Tornow’s shelter through the previous winter.  The three deputies stopped short of the shack and began discussing their plan.  Deputy Quimby suggested that everyone stand down and wait for the rest of the posse, which included Sheriff Mathews, before converging on the shack.  Deputy Blair chose to press on and entered the shack with Deputy Lathrop behind him, finding beef that was still warm drying on an open spit.  Apparently, no one was home, but someone was close by.

Before Deputy Blair and Deputy Lathrop entered the shack, Deputy Quimby decided to stay back and moved left, a move that probably saved his life. 

Deputy Blair and Deputy Lathrop continued their search around the shack when suddenly, Deputy Quimby noticed movement in the waist-high brush nearby.  Three shots rang out and Deputy Blair fell immediately, followed by Deputy Lathrop.

Deputy Quimby was about sixty-five yards away from the shooting.  He strained his eyes and was able to make out the face of a bearded man with his rifle extended.  It was Tornow.  He continued to fire at Deputy Blair and Deputy Lathrop from a distance of about ten feet.

Deputy Quimby advanced a few yards towards Tornow and found cover behind a small alder tree.  He fired six shots without any return fire.  Tornow was still upright in the brush when Deputy Quimby fired his seventh and final shot. 

Tornow’s head dropped to the side.

Not sure if Tornow was dead or just hit, Deputy Quimby retreated to Simpson Camp 5 near Pillowshack, about twenty miles from Montesano.  He telephoned Sheriff Mathews about the incident.

Sheriff Mathews assembled a team of twenty-one men to respond to the camp so that Deputy Quimby could lead the men in, which included the county coroner and an undertaker.

They arrived at Pillowshack several hours later.  They continued into the valley and finally arrived at the area of the shack.  Sheriff Mathews assembled the posse into a semi-circle and they converged on the shack.  As they approached, they found the bodies of Deputy Blair and Deputy Lathrop.  Sheriff Mathews found Tornow leaned up against a Hemlock.  He looked at one of the men and said, “John Tornow may be gone, but he will never be forgotten.”