Iman family notes

Skamania County

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 Windsor.

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.

Father 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 wild game.

Indian Stories

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.

Sure, 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 it out.

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 here then.

This town was laid out in 1893 on the Sheppardson donation land claim.

The 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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