Felix G. Iman – Stevenson Washington

Felix G. Iman – Stevenson Washington

Traveling through Skamania County Recently, and stopping at the excellent Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center, revealed a number of interesting local history connections. One of the primary ones being Felix G. Iman who’s life story is quite interesting in conjunction with his contributions to the growth of Stevenson Washington and settlement of the Columbia River Gorge area.

His gravestone is located next to his wife’s at the family plot in what is now the Stevenson Iman Cemetery. It was established in 1901 before his death on the banks of Rock Creek which was the northern border of his land claim.

Felix Grundy Iman Gravestone

It reads;
“Felix Grundy Iman – 11/24/1828 – 7/17/1902
Born Dekalb Co MO
Arrived at Cascades by Ox Team in 1852
Married Margaret Windsor 1853
1854 Built & Owned Steamer “Wasco”
1855 Donation Land Claim of 323 Acres
1856 Worked on Upper Cascades Blockhouse
Built & Owned 2 Sawmills
Built 1st School For short time Saloon Owner”

His wife, Margaret, has an equally informative gravestone.

Margaret Windsor Iman Gravestone

“Margaret Windsor Iman
1834 – 7/28/1924
Born at Tippecanoe Co. Ind
1852 Missouri to The Dalles on horse back
Carried motherless babe 500 miles
Took raft down river to Cascades
1853 met and married Felix G. Iman
Survived Indian War of Mar 26, 1856
Indians Burned Home
Had 16 Children, 9 boys, 7 girls”

Note that Felix’s grave stone is incorrect, he was not born in Dekalb County, that is where the wagon trains Margaret joined started from.

Interestingly, neither Felix or Margaret show up on the 1852 Emigrants List compiled by the amazing Stephenie Flora. It is reported on the Iman family history website that Felix arrived in a train of 37 Ox-driven carts. An newspaper article states that Felix joined up with a California bound train, which would explain why he wasn’t on the original list.

The same site reports that Margaret’s mother died when she was only two years old, and her step-mother kept her locked up. She escaped and joined the Wilson Family, where she presumably carried the above mentioned motherless baby, before falling sick her self and being left at the hospital built by Isaac H. Bush in the town of Cascades. (Located where North Bonneville is now.) There is a Jane Wilson on the 1852 list, with no daughter or son of listing, nor any children of her own. I speculate that Jane and Margaret could have easily been the same person, but that will take a bit more research. If you know anything about that, please comment below!

The couple also raised two other children, Cassius Marcellus Sully “Celly” Williams and Christopher Fields. Sully was born in August 1852, two weeks after his mother Mary arrived. Her husband, John Williams had died on the trail and she married Roger Gerald Attwell six months later. They all lived together until 1865, when Attwell traveled to Texas and likely died there. His mother had several other children and was running a hotel to make ends meet so Sully ended up living with the Iman family. In her fever, Margaret had heard Sully’s cries in the hospital and had asked to hold the baby, leading to their life long friendship.

One source says that Sully was the baby that Margaret carried the last 500 miles. It is recorded that the baby she actually did carry was taken to live with relatives near what is now Lake Oswego, so it it possible that in her fever she mistook Sully for that baby and wanted to take care of it.

Christopher Fields came to live with the Imans when he was five years old. He was born in Linn County, Oregon and likely was orphaned when both his parents died.

Felix G Iman (about 1900) Felix Iman was a carpenter and mechanic. In those days it made him an perfect person to build the steam boats that would soon be plying the waterways of the Columbia and Willamette Rivers, and their tributaries. He originally settled in Portland but a month later was sent up the river by the Oregon Steamship Navigation company to build the Cosmopolite meant to ferry more immigrants from The Dalles to Portland. He didn’t enjoy the saloon business much, but his grandson would later own a saloon in town himself.

Margaret wrote an autobiography titled “My Arrival in Washington in 1852” that was printed in “Told by The Pioneers Reminiscences of pioneer life in Washington Volume 1” that was printed in 1937. An massively updated version was reprinted in 1952. For comparison, the first versions is below and the second is on the next page.

My Arrival in Washington in 1852 – by Margaret Windsor Iman (1937)

We landed in The Dalles in the year 1852 and came down the river on a raft to what is known as Shepard’s Point, where Stevenson, the county seat of Skamania County, now stands.

I had come down with mountain fever (Ed, a generic name used in the 19th Century for one of several diseases formally known as typho-malaria. Microbiology would later separate these two diseases even further, but the name was also used for what would become Lyme Disease) during the trip and was taken to the hospital, which Mr. Isaac H. Bush had erected at the head of the Cascade Rapids. (Ed, now underwater due to the Bonneville Dam. The rapids extended from present day Cascade Locks to Hamilton Island) He also owned a hotel and I went to work for him as soon as I was able.

There I met and married Felix G. Iman, who had been sent up from Portland to work on the construction of a steamboat called the Cosmopolite, to ply on between the Cascades and The Dalles. In 1854 my husband built the steamer Wasco (Ed, the second of two steamers he would build), owned by him and Captain McFarland. She plied on the river between the Cascades and The Dalles. She was their steamer that ran on these waters between these two points. The iron hull propellers; Allen the first, Mary the second, and the steamer Wasco the third.

Now the Indians were getting somewhat numerous and were much on the warpath, so my husband sold his interest in the Wasco to Captain McFarland and put up a saloon at the boat landing. There were three saloons a little later on-one owned by Isaac H. Bush, one by Thomas McNatt, and one by my husband. My husband did not like the saloon business, so he sold out to Flech Murphy.

In those early days money was plentiful but clothing and provisions were high. The coins ranged from the silver half-dime to the fifty-dollar slug and I will include the copper cent. I well recall an instance of the paper money, those days –the common greenback. My husband had fifteen hundred dollars worth of them and had to let them go at forty cents on the dollar, and in ten days time they were full face value, and I want to tell you, he never loved a greenback after that. (Ed, Greenbacks were issued by the Union to help finance the Civil War and were subject to heavily inflation.)

I will relate to you a fact regarding high prices. My husband and Mr. Shepard who owned the Donation Claim where this little town (Ed, Stevenson Washington) now stands, went in together to purchase a pound of onion seed, each to bear equally on the expense and when the seed arrived they were “only” eight dollars for the pound. (Ed, $266 in 2019 money)

A fifty pound sack of flour that my husband purchased at the Lower Cascades, as it was then called, or rather at the end of the little portage line, cost fifty dollars and it was carried home in the snow, the distance of the lines being six and seven-eights miles long.

The Indians were getting more hostile and far enough along to assure us of a battle, so my husband decided he would move up on our Donation Claim about a mile distant. We had hewn logs and put up a house on what is yet known ad Powder Island Slough. We had decided to stay and try to fight off the warriors.

We had carried in lots of wood and water and cut portholes through the walls of our house. Making it a kind of fort. We afterwards abandoned this idea as there was a large pile of shavings from the shingles that lay against the house, this would have been an easy mark for them and have thrown firebrands into and cremated us while sleeping.

While we were pondering over the situation, two hostiles put in an appearance about one hundred and fifty yards distant. They were huge and looking fierce and wild. A man named Carter, who was stopping at our house, asked my husband if he had and guns and he said yes, and went out and brought two.

Mr. Carter took one and my husband the other, each one of the mean to name the warrior he was to shoot at, and Mr Carter have the signal to fire after good aim had been taken, but when the word was given my husband’s gun made a “long fire” and he did not get his game, but Mr. Carter took his man square in the stomach. The others ran like elk, and, as far as we know, escaped unharmed.

They had fox skins filled with arrows and as they stood with the bows on end they were almost as tall as the warriors, who were close to six feet. Mr. Carter go the huge bow and the arrows, so after shooting the man they decided to cross the river to the Oregon shore.

I was sick in bed with a small baby, at the time of the massacre, March 26, 1856. In the excitement I was carried from my bed up the river about a mile to where was supposed to be a skiff. The skiff had been taken over to the other side by a man named Herman, who died in The Dalles later; so Mr. Simeon Geil, who was at our place, ran the skiff over to where we were.

As I was being carried into the boat, it was discovered that my little boy, two years old, had been left asleep in the bed. Mr. Geil, who was young and good on foot, ran back and got him. So you can see a part only of what I went through in those early days.

I think that day was the worst I ever witnessed on the old Columbia and there have been many, taking it all in all. I don’t care to see any more of them-the roar of the small cannon at the blockhouse, the firing of guns; the dead and wounded; the war cries of the warriors in their war pain; the burning of buildings, with my house among them, the fleeing of the people, and I being all but well; the smashing waters and bounding skiff did not add to a speedy recovery for me; but we landed on the Oregon shore safe and took the steamer Mary for The Dalles.

Later, when we returned, I hardly knew the place. There were fourteen of the Indian captured and hanged on a tree about one mile from where we lived. Some of them asked to talk, shook their heads and put the noose around their own necks.

Others laughed at those who were hanging. The horrors I went through during those early fifties would be unendurable to the women of today. The Indian trail passed close enough to my house that the stirrups of the warriors would drag on the rough board wall all night. The trail was pretty much hidden by the wild rose bushes and buck brush and other small vegetation as well. Many times I have witnessed this when all alone at night, while my husband would out late on some kind of business and would be detained. I’ll tell you it was all but pleasant during those olden days of the early fifties.

Read the 1952 version here (Next page)

Leave a Reply