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The seat of Skamania County, located on low bluffs above the river, spreads back against rolling hills. A beautiful town square once slanted up a hill, on top of which was a three-story hotel with a glassed-in porch. The town was founded by the Stevenson family, who came from Missouri in 1880 to settle in the old town of Cascades nearby. Driven from there by a flood in 1894, they platted Stevenson.

The first settler was L. F. Iman, who built a water-powered sawmill in 1852. In 1880, the railroad station was named by the Northern Pacific Railway for George H. Stevenson, who settled at the Cascades, but moved when flooded out. An early name was Stevenson’s Spur.