The Murder of George White

Govan, Saskatchewan

In the early morning hours of June 3, 1913, George White was found dead in the neighbourhood stable. He was lying on his stomach with his left hand up by his forehead and his head towards the door, close to the horses’ hooves. Blood pooled beneath his head from what appeared to be two wounds. He was the local drayman, a person who delivers beer for a brewery, and known to be a drinker himself.

His wife, Doris, had been married to him for three years and together they had a small child of about two and a half years old. The two had apparently quarreled almost constantly, and within three days she and their hired man, John Goldspinks, were arrested for his murder.

The Saskatoon Star-Phoenix – June 10, 1913

The preliminary trial took place at Govan and both were committed to stand trial in Saskatoon in the fall.

During her trial, Doris White took the stand and gave her version of events. She told the court of the constant abuse she was subjected to in the two years leading up to the murder, during which she was beaten, choked multiple times, had miscarriages after he ‘trod on her stomach while pregnant’ and while she was convalescing from just such a miscarriage, he set fire to the house while she was inside in bed and locked the door. Their child was also in the house at the time. And he had threated her life multiple times.

On the night in question, she testified that George had come home at about ten o’clock and had been drinking. She was sitting on the chair, holding their two-year-old son when he came in, carrying two bottles, one empty and the other about half full. He offered her a drink and when she declined he told her she might as well be drunk. He had a drink himself and told her, “it’s been on my mind all week, Doris. You will have to give up your life tonight.”

He told her that he was going to kill her and then poison himself and the baby. According to her testimony, she told him that he could kill her but only if he agreed to give the baby to a good home. He refused. She tried telling him that the baby hadn’t done anything wrong and why should he have to die, but George was obstinate. They began arguing, George insisting that she go put the baby down in their bed so he could kill her and she refusing. At some point, they started fighting and Doris put the baby on the bed in the bedroom. She tried to get past him to run to the neighbors, but he grabbed her dress. Goldspinks came in through the front door and George released her. She ran to the bedroom door and yelled for help. Goldspinks retrieved the shotgun from under his bed and came in, handing it to Doris. He grabbed George around the waist and Doris said she remembered hitting him twice in the head with the butt of the shotgun. Goldspinks told her to take the baby to the neighbor’s.

She ran to their neighbor’s home, belonging to Andrew Koch and his wife. The family was asleep, but she managed to knock on the window and wake up Mrs. Koch, who let her in. Andrew Koch testified to this as well, saying that Doris had shown up with the baby, staying only about five minutes. She left the child there with them and went after Goldspinks, who told her George was dead. She told him they needed to call the police and she would take all the responsibility, but according to her, he said not to, that it would bring trouble on both of them.

Goldspinks had carried George’s body out to the kitchen when Victor Koch came to the door, sent by his father, to tell her the baby was crying. She left with him to retrieve the baby. When she returned, Goldspinks had taken the body down the stable. He’d gathered up the sheets, pillows slips and the bedroom rug and buried them in ‘the nuisance ground’. She testified that she spent the night sitting on the bed with the baby, crying, unable to believe that he was dead, thinking that at any moment George was going to come home and go after her.

John Goldspinks denied pretty much all of Doris White’s testimony. According to him, he was in bed when he saw Mrs. White carrying a stick of some kind into the bedroom she shared with George. He heard noises that sounded like blows and jumped up in bed. Mrs. White poked her head through the curtains in the door between the two rooms and said, “I have fixed him this time.” He told the court that he could see George’s feet on the floor but didn’t think anything of it, as he would come home drunk all the time and pass out all over the place. He laid down in bed again and went to sleep. Later, Mrs. White shook him awake and told him they’d have to take the body to the stable. He denied doing anything with the bedclothes or having anything to do with it aside from helping to move the body. He denied handing her the shotgun and insinuated it was an axe handle she’d hit him with, not the butt of a gun. He testified that he was pretty sure the shotgun in question was at the White farm, five miles from Govan, although apparently police did find a rifle under his bed.

So which was it? The police did find an axe covered in bloodstains soaking in a pail of water in a shed on the property, but it was never established if it was human or animal blood on the axe. Andrew Koch and his wife were able to verify the part of Doris White’s story in which she fled with the baby, but as for the rest of the events that night, the only two people who know for sure are Doris White and John Goldspinks. As for Doris’s abuse, that was corroborated by various neighbours in the area, as well as a previous hired man who worked for them. On one occasion George had sent for neighbours, the McKays, after striking Doris with a pitchfork, believing he’d killed her. When they arrived, they found her unconscious on the kitchen floor and it took a while for her to come to. When she did, she had no memory of how she’d ended up there.

On September 27, 1913, Doris White was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to ten years in prison. The judge told the jury that there wasn’t enough evidence to suggest she was innocent and killed him in self defense, since according to her testimony Goldspinks had arrived, interrupting the assault, and she could have taken the baby and run to the neighbours.

The Regina Leader-Post – Sep 29, 1913

John Goldspinks was acquitted of being an accomplice but was immediately arrested again, this time on a charge of aiding and abetting after the fact and was found guilty. He was sentenced to five years.

And as for the child? Doris White’s son was put in the care of her parents after her arrest, but during the trial they brought him to the courthouse and asked an officer to take charge of him. The officer called up the authorities in charge of such cases and he was turned over to them.

And that, my friends, is the murder of George White.

The Saskatoon Star-Phoenix – Oct 2, 1913

Information for this post came from the following editions of the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix, the Saskatoon Daily Star and the Regina Leader-Post: June 10, 1913, June 18, 1913, June 20, 1913, Sep 29, 1913, Sep 30, 1913, Oct 2, 1913 and Oct 3, 1913.

If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe and share! And if you’d like to read more historical true crime stories of Saskatchewan, check these out:

The Hitchhiker With the Revolver

A Crimson Coloured Spade: Murder Near Wakaw

The Mystery in the Well

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