Saturday, August 13, 2011
Margaret Iman’s (1834-1924) story is writ in stone is a small, eponymous cemetery on the backside of Stevenson, a river town on the Washington side of the Columbia as she rips a gorge through the Cascades:
Born at Tippecanoe Co., Ind.
1852 Missouri to The Dalles on horse back
Carried motherless babe 500 miles
Took raft downriver 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
Her husband, Felix Iman’s (1828-1902), slab is next to hers. Together they sketch a compelling pioneer story.1
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
1858 worked on upper Cascades block house
Built & owned 2 sawmills
Built 1st school. For short time saloon owner.
Aside from a minor error, it hints at the enormous effort the Iman’s put into wresting a home from the forest. Frank, it happens, “was born 24 November 1828 in Monroe, Illinois,” according to “Iman Family Notes: ‘Margaret’ (A Windsor Perspective).”2 It wasn’t Frank who came from DeKalb Co., but rather Margaret, who left for Oregon from there.
It wasn’t an easy departure. Margaret, it turns out, was a runaway. She was born a Windsor, whose mother died when she was about ten years old and was subsequently raised by an archetypically cruel stepmother. By the time she was seventeen, her family was living in DeKalb Co., and by the time she was seventeen she’d decided she’d had it and ran away from home, joining a wagon train headed for Oregon. Her father went after her, dragged her back, and lost her again when he went looking for a river crossing. The second time he let her go. She was subsequently lost to the Windsor family until a descendant in Kansas put an add in the Ladies Home Companion in the 1920s asking if anyone knew what happened to her? One of Margaret’s children, Louis, chanced upon the magazine in a Vancouver, WA barber shop and his wife contacted the folks in Kansas.
The Indian War mentioned on her tombstone actually lasted longer than March 26, although not much. It’s frequently called the Cascade or Fort Rains Massacre and was part of a general Indian war of resistance to the white invaders known as the Cayuse War, of which, probably, the most famous incident was the euphonious Battle Of Seattle. The Imans played a not insignificant role in the events, and their interpretation of what happened differs considerably from the official record. According to James Windsor,3 who refers to the incident as the Yakima attack, the wrong Indians were punished. Sheridan claims4 that the Yakimas forced or coerced the local Cascade Indians into joining the attack, but the Iman’s claim otherwise. Sheridan left us a list of the settlers and soldiers killed in the uprising:
" I append a list of killed and wounded: Killed — George Griswold, shot in leg; B. W. Brown and wife, killed at the sawmill, bodies found stripped naked in Mill creek ; Jimmy Watkius, driving team at mill ; Henry Hagar, shot in Watkins' house, body burned ; Jake Kyle, German boy ; Jacob White, sawyer at mill ; Bonrbon, half-breed, died on the Maty going to The Dalles ; James Sinclair, of the H. B. Company, Walla Walla ; Dick Turpin, colored cook on steamer Alary; Norman Palmer, driving team at mill ; Calderwood, working at mill ; three United States soldiers, names unknown ; George Watkins, lived four days ; Jacob Roush, carpenter, lived six days. Wounded — Fletcher Murphy, arm; P. Snooks, boy, leg; J. Lindsay, shoulder; Jesse Kempton, shoulder; Tommy Price, thigh ; two .soldiers, U. S. Army ; H. Kyle, German ; Moffat, railroad hand; johnny Chance, leg; ]\I. Bailey, leg and arm; J. Algin, slightly'."5
Sheridan doesn’t supply us with a list of Indians hanged, but a loose sheet of paper in the Oregon Historical Society’s files offers these names: “Chief Chenoweth, Capt. Jo, Tecomcoc or Tecomeoc, Tsy, Sim-sasselas or Sim-Lasselas, Tumalth or Tunwalth (other spellings), Old Skien, Kenwake (sentenced but reprieved on scaffold), and 4 Finger Johnny.”6 In Margaret Iman’s oral memoirs she describes the hanging of the Indians: She recalled they were “hanged on a tree about one mile from where we lived. Some of them, when asked to talk, shook their heads and put the noose around their own necks. Others laughed at those who were hanging.”7
Felix Iman’s schooner, Wasco, also particpated in the repulse. Assigned the task of hauling troops from Portland to The Dalles, the Wasco came under fire from Indians collected where White Salmon is now, across the river from Hood River; but the river is sizable and their balls had no effect. The third steamer to ply the waters between Cascade Locks and The Dalles, she subsequently returned to her trade, albeit for a short period of time. By 1857 she was out of business on the river. A newspaper advertisement from, probably, the 1860s offered passage between Bellingham, WA and Seattle on the “fast and commodious” steamer Wasco for $1; although I can’t be sure it’s the same steamer Wasco.
We can’t reasonably expect Sheridan, who was responsible for the protection of the whites along the river, to admit to hanging the wrong people. Nonetheless, this long quote from James Windsor describes the Iman experience:
Windsor points to this quote to help clarify the situation [of the Indian attack of March 26, 1856]: “I read the settlers in Skamania Co. at the Cascades had been expecting an indian attack for some time. Some of the friendly local indians had been warning the settlers that unfriendly tribes were planning an imminent attack, and for this reason Felix decided to build a new house closer to the river in case the family had to escape by boat. The original Iman house had been farther back from the river by about a mile. Of course no one knew when the attack would come and all were suprised by it. The local indians who were hung had been on friendly terms to the white locals. Indian Jim was one of the ones hung, and he was a good friend of Felix. They were of the Cascade tribe. The motive behind the hangings was anger and racism. Quite a few of the white settlers had lost relatives besides homes in the attack and there was some kind of revenge wanted, and as the Yakimas had all returned back to their land, the Cascades were the only Indians to take revenge one, even though they were innocent. Of course most white people at that time did not like Indians and did not trust them, so of course most of the locals were none too squeamish to get rid of them. Margaret claimed she witnessed the hanging, or at least at some point she claimed to have seen them hanging. Felix was away at the time and when he returned a day or two later he was sorry to hear about the hangings and told the locals that those Indians were all innocent and it was wrong to hang them. At least that is how history has left the story for us. There were also some sordid details a few days after the Yakima attack. There was a friendly indian and his wife and children and they were travelling by boat on the Columbia River near Shepherd's Point. It is said that Samuel Hamilton with some other local men, but not Felix, captured these Indians and their children and raped the woman and then killed them all, children included, in a very cruel way, by strangling them and chopping off their heads. Lt. Philip Sheridan (he later to be famous in the Civil War) was there serving as the commander of the force that had chased off the Yakimas, and Sheridan claimed it was Hamilton and some others whom he named go after the two indians who were then found murdered shortly thereafter. But of course this was hushed up and Sheridan declined to press charges and consequently never spoken of again, so no one prosecuted Hamilton and the others, but it is a sordid story and a sad comment on the history of the area.”8
The sorry story in my research of similar graveyard histories is that it is always the same: the perpetrators rarely see punishment which instead is meted out to the handiest person. Blame is always collective.
1 I’ve covered most of this story in previous blogs, so it may seem familiar. To an extent, I’ve plagiarized myself. The new material primarily concerns the “massacre.”
2 James Windsor, Draft, Iman Family Notes (with footnotes and editing by Steve Iman)[http://www.imanfamily.net/skamania/windsor.html].
4 Mea culpa for not having noted the references for this information. A case of casually reading through the Net for other information, reading this, and filing it away in my memory bank only to not be able to find the source when I went looking again. You’d think I’d learn.
5 Philip Sheridan as recorded in History of the Pacific Northwest: Oregon and Washington.
6 OHS 929.379272; R 179 cem. Ramsey, D. G., Skamania Co. WA Burial Lists.7 Another lost reference. I searched and searched but have yet to refind this memoir online, but I know it’s there. Trust me.
8 James Windsor; Op Cit.
Sunday, August 7, 2011
In Oregon’s formative years when she was learning to fly with her own wings, some surprising groups of people helped shape the future. In their day they were significantly important and often times made up a considerable portion of the population. Take the fur trappers, for instance. Instead of being rough and tumble mountain men from Appalachia, or wherever, they were more likely to have been mixed Indian/Euroamerican people known as Métis; and if not them, then East Coast Indians. Even more unlikely is that a third of the trappers were Hawaiian. Trapping crews were most often shipped west around the Horn, which required (in sailing days) a swing past Hawaii if one wanted to reach North America. It was closer and cheaper to fill up ones crew with Hawaiians than to drag people from the East Coast. Exactly how those Hawaiians accommodated themselves to snow-bound Cascade winters is unknown. There are still Métis around who remember their role in settling the territory, but I’ve never met a Hawaiian who knows anything about the trappers. They simply disappeared.
The Chinese, on the other hand, played an enormous role in civilizing the West, and they haven’t disappeared. Even though many of the early arrivals have. They disappeared, not because they were forgotten or laid in unmarked graves, but rather because the Chinese government paid to have their bodies exhumed and returned to China—men only, thank you. Apparently this process was repeated several times at twenty-year intervals.
The Chinese were particularly active in mining camps, not merely as cooks and launderers, as the movies imply, but as the miners themselves. At times, for example, a third of the miners in Canyon City were Chinese; while in Golden, Oregon, when the entire town packed up for a new strike, their places were filled with Chinese who only had to give the claims back when the whites later returned because the new strike didn’t pan out. At times, Chinese were eliminated with “extreme prejudice,” as it were.
Yet nobody else wanted their people back. The Finns never sent to bring their children home from Astoria. Missouri never called for the return of her sons and daughters gone on the Oregon Trail. The English never brought their ex-pats back to Camelot. Only the Chinese.
That this happened in Portland has been news for some time, and there are plans afoot to memorialize those Chinese, as well as the women and children who were left behind. And that it happened in Baker City is well known because the historic Chinese cemetery in that city is bolted next to the freeway and marked by a sign board; a small pagoda; and a tiny, stone one-room prayer house with a tin roof. Aside from those amenities, what’s most noticeable are the holes pockmarking the surrounding. Whoever did the exhumation forgot to fill them in.
What’s surprising is how extensive the exhumation practice was. Besides Baker City and Portland, it happened in Astoria, Coos Bay, Albany, Ontario, Ashland, Corvallis, Roseburg, Pendleton, and The Dalles. Whatever else, that can’t have been cheap; even if you used Chinese labor.