Iman family notes

Early Days at the Cascades

By George Iman

(Secured by D. A. Brown for the Skamania County Historical Society)

"The first school that we went to was a log house someone had built. It was called the Minter cabin. It did not have any windows and only the ground for a floor. There were six scholars: my brother, T. C. Iman, Henry Shepard, Ellen Nelson, Mary Ann Nelson and Flora A. Iman. The teachers were Stark and J. A. Bull. The schoolhouse stood near the Lyndes planing mill. Mr. Nelson lived above Nelson Creek bridge and the place has been called Nelson place ever since. The Shepard family owned the donation claim where Stevenson now stands. My father lived on the west side of Rock Creek near what was once the Iman sawmill, and I remember when my father felled a large tree across the creek to make a foot bridge so we could cross on it going to school. It was near the first bridge on Rock Creek built by John Brazee during the early 70's. The foot bridge was constructed by holes beings bored ever so f ar apart in the log, and standards put in with rails on them to make it more safe. My father then adzed it off until it was about two feet in width and it made us a good foot bridge.

"My father was a skilled workman, and one who dared to tackle most any kind of a structure. He built and owned the third and fourth sawmills in this country. The first was built just below the 20 foot falls on Rock Creek, near the L. F. Iman place but was later carried away by a heavy flood in the creek. It stood the heavy strain of the angry water for about 24 hours, when it disappeared in the heavy Columbia. At first the mill was what is known as a sash saw mill and very much unlike the saw mills of today. The carriage ran on slides that were kept well oiled and I dare say, there are not many persons of today who have seen the sash mill in operation.

"The next mill was first a water-power mill and was driven by what is known as a center discharge wheel. it was afterwards driven by what is known as the overshot wheel. It was five feet on the face and twenty-nine feet in diameter. At last the mill was driven by a steam engine of the Houston, Stanwood and Gamble pattern.

"My father always had a large number of men employed while operating the Mill., including the tie makers and wood cutters. The logs were all taken to the mill by the old fashioned ox teams.

"My father aided in the construction of the blockhouse at the Upper Cascades, built in 1856. About that time there was a village just this side of the cut where the blockhouse stood. The name of it being called "Baghdad" at that time.

"The section house at the Cascade Locks was the John Chipman house on theJohn Chipman donation land claim and was built in 1855. It is a very good house now and an ancient piece of carpentry.

"Roger G. Atwell a late pioneer, manufactured the first matches in the early 50's. He lived Just across the river from Stevenson. He and my father were partners in one of the first passenger boats that plied the river from the Cascades to The Dalles. The people called it the big float. It was huge , it's beam being about 12 or 14 feet and it's length about 40 feet. It was built of slabs, the edges of which were made straight and sized down on the bark side to fit the timbers, the sawed side out.

"Isaac H. Bush built a hospital near the blockhouse for the benefit of the sick emigrants who crossed the pioneer trail to help build our country.

"The first railroad at the Cascades ran near the I. H. Bush house; its cars were drawn by mules. I have some of the wood taken from it. It was built about 1850 or 1851. It was owned by Bradford and Company.

"There was also a mule road on the Oregon side of the river, owned by Colonel Ruckle. It extended from Cascade Locks down to Eagle Creek.

"At the time those roads were in operation the first steam craft came upon these waters to ply between the Cascades and The Dalles. She was an iron hull boat about 50 feet long with a propeller. Her name was Allen. Her Captain's name was Gladwell. She was wrecked on a bar near Hood River. The next boat was the Mary and the third the Wasco., built by my father during the year 1854.

"On one of the small islands known as the Sullivan Islands, also called "Lower Memaloose Island" was once a burying ground for the Indians. Their mode of putting away the dead was to take them out to the Island and put them in what was known as "dead houses". I well remember just how this dead house looked as I have visited this island many times. A hole dug in the ground, four or five feet deep and the size on the ground they wished it to be. They then put some pieces on the ground around the top of the basement., afterwards building a house with walls and roof.

"They would take the "Memaloosed" party down in the basement and put it next to the wall; then stack them as they died., one on top of the other, till the house was filled. The boxes used for burial were of most any length; it mattered not what the size of the person might be. The boxes were covered with most any kind of calico so long as it had red in the color. All of their belongings were put in with them. Another mode of burial was to put the corpses up into trees on shelves, also hang them by the neck to pins or beams in a house. Those who were hanged for participating in the war of 1856 were buried on the river bottom. Most all of the trees they were hanged on were washed away by the high water."

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