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Searching for ‘the real story’, an interview with Donna Gordon

Chris Marchand

Chris Marchand served as editor of the Dryden Observer from August 2009 to April 2018.

It was a crime that shocked the northwest and the nation, a measure of brutality that has seen no equal in the 53 years since it happened upon a midnight clear.

This image of a handcuffed Tom Young, taken during his trial, appeared in the Kenora Daily Miner in 1959.

On Christmas Eve, 1958, Ear Falls resident Tom Young gunned down five people, including his own father and an OPP constable, in a drunken rage.

Young was tried, convicted and hung six months later — the last execution to take place at the Kenora Jail.

Ottawa resident and land claims researcher Donna Gordon is sister-in-law to the daughter of George Williams, one of the men who was shot assisting Cst. Cal Fulford in an attempt to apprehend Tom Young that night.

Poking around the case for several years, Gordon says she uncovered a disparity between the newspaper accounts of the day and recollections of residents and official court testimony.

Gordon says much of the popular written record about the murders and subsequent trial is inaccurate in her opinion. While the shooting death of a police officer drew national and international press coverage, Gordon says that coverage paid little attention to the four other lives lost — in many cases getting the names of the victims wrong.

“You can never know what the real story is,” said Gordon. “I’m doing this so that all of the grandchildren can know as close to the real story as possible, so they don’t have rely on the inaccurate newspaper articles. Both Winnipeg dailies and the Kenora paper sent reporters and covered it extensively. But it was only because of Constable Fulford. Had it just been the other people, it would have been a footnote.”

Reliving a nightmare — researcher strives for definitive account of 1958 Ear Falls murders

While Young also took the lives of newlyweds Jimmy (18) and Clara Gordon (16), his father Albert Young and neighbour George Williams, he only stood trial for the murder of Const. Fulford.

And while she would never wish to diminish the supreme sacrifice of the OPP officer, Gordon says the tragic death of four other victims, the descendants of whom still live in the Ear Falls area, are in danger of being lost to history through what she believes was the editorial bias of the day against the First Nations and Metis victims.

“It just seems to me that in 1958 that was the way things were done, but we don’t have to perpetuate that,” she said. “I’m writing this for the families and they can decide what to do with it. My hope with having something in the paper is that people who have memories will get in touch with me.”

Donna Gordon can be reached at Box 23051, 2121 Carling Avenue, Ottawa, ON,  K2A 4E2, as well as by e-mail at

One thought on “Searching for ‘the real story’, an interview with Donna Gordon

  1. It is only because of talking with elders that this part of the reality was told me. My life growing up in a white household had Const Fulfords death all that was discussed. In 1980 we moved to Ear Falls and as is the case in most small towns it took a couple years to be trusted. That the whole story was not told is a bitter proof of bigotry towards native people. This story i§ a tiny step towards showing respect.

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