Louis F. Iman
(Told by the Pioneers, Reminiscences of pioneer
life in Washington, Volume 3)
Father came here in 1852 by ox team. There were 37 wagons
in their train. They had to get together because they were
afraid of the Indians. Mother came West that same year, from
DeKalb County, Missouri, but she did (not) meet father until
after they both came to live in the Cascades. Mother was
born in Tippicanoe County, Indiana. Her maiden name was
When father's wagon train reached the Snake River, they
dumped out a lot of their supplies and furnishings and used
the wagon boxes for boats to float down the river. But you
can't navigate a stream like that in wagon boxes and this
they found out.
came to this country because there was more opportunity here
for work and better pay. Back in Illinois he got paid $8.00
a month and he was a good carpenter and a mechanic, too.
Here at the Cascades he could make that much in one day
building boats and boathouses.
I remember a few log houses here as a boy, but most of
them were box houses of lumber, upright, with battens over
the cracks, and were 16x24 feet in size.
We got around in boats. All boys had to learn to row.
Many a time I've rowed a boat across the river here for
medical aid. My oldest sister was the first white woman born
in Skamania County. Her name is Flora Addia (Iman) Nix. She
was 80 years old on the 24th day of March, so she was born
here in 1856.
Also, my brother was the first white boy born in Wasco
County, Oregon. For food we had salmon, spuds and plenty of
When my father came here, there were fifty Indians to one
white man. On March 26, 1856, there was an Indian massacre.
I guess the fight was really between two chiefs, Chief
Chinault and Chief Banahah. Each wanted to be supreme here
and control the white man. A half-breed., a Kanaka Tetoh,
son, of the old chief Tetoh, married the chief's daughter
after Banahahts death. A man named Jones told me this. Tetoh
came to town to get a coffin for his father, the chief, who
had died. He said he'd take two coffins. Jones said, "Why,
is the old woman dead, too?" "No", replied Tetoh, "but she
will be!" And sure enough, she did die.
I can talk Chinook, but I have to have an Indian tell me
what I'm saying. An Indian can talk English if you have
something he wants and won' t give it to him, but if you
want something from him, you have to talk Chinook.
My father owned a little water-power mill. He and Mr.
Sheppardson built the first school house here, on the
Sheppardson donation claim with lumber from this mill, the
building being 16 x 24 feet. It had different sizes of desks
in it. My first teacher was Blake. He was a terrible man.
Other teachers I had,, were Coffee, Denver Clark and Bull.
In 1880 I was too big to go to school, so I quit. My teacher
that year was Isabelle Cleary from Vancouver. She gave me a
certificate of excellence for that year. I have it yet.
A lot of people here made their living by chopping wood
for fuel for the steamboats. You'd see the banks all lined
with piles of cordwood. Horseshoes was a popular game our
school days and still is, for that matter.
The early Indians had bark houses and dug-out canoes. In
1886, I saw an Indian making a canoe . He was chiseling it
and burning it out. The chips he made with the chisel he
used for the fire. It must have taken him months to hollow
In 1867 we all stayed in the block house for a couple of
weeks because of Indian trouble.
1n 1884 we had a terrible lot of snow. After one storm,
six trains were blocked out of here. The snow was over the
tops of rail fences. That is the only kind of fence we had
This town was laid out in 1893 on the Sheppardson
donation land claim.
high water of 1894 didn't do much damage right here, but it
was clear up in all of these buildings. In 1890 the river
was frozen over. No materials or provisions could come in
for some time, because the boats couldn't come up the river.
I put up ice right down here that year. Three times that
year the river froze up. It's dangerous when the ice breaks
up. The big cakes float down and get in a jam. The river
never freezes over slick like a lake. These huge cakes of
ice pile up and the water around them freezes roughly.
"hailstorms are common here and we have them all the year.
Not very large hail stones, though.
The first Fourth of July celebration here was in 1894. We
had a big picnic. About 15 or 20 people lived here then.
In 1902 we had a terrible forest fire along here, but
right in Stevenson here we were lucky. It made a sort of
half circle around the town, but the smoke was terrible.
We were married here in Stevenson in 1889. After the
wedding dance we took to the trail and walked over to a
"Black and Tan" dance. I call it that because there were so
many Indians and half breeds there. I used. to play the
fiddle for dances.
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