Built prior to World War II, the Imnaha Guard Station includes a three-room cabin, large barn, stable and corral, all surrounded by rustic fencing. - Bill Miller

A welcome place to rest

Lee Edmondson wasn't the first to set out his trap lines in the thick Rogue forest east of Prospect, but he was the one who stuck around.

Born in Lake County, Calif., in 1864, Edmondson was the son of Benjamin Franklin Clarke Edmondson and his wife, Kizzie Ann Hale, who before their marriage had been part of the same 1853 California-bound wagon train.

In about 1870, Lee's father brought the family to Oregon, stayed not far from Butte Falls for three years, and then decided to return to the Golden State. In 1878, they were all back in Oregon again, taking out a 160-acre homestead claim on a grassy prairie about 15 miles north of Butte Falls.

This was cattle country long before railroad and logging companies came to the area. There was plenty of grass for grazing and the meadows were fertile enough for farming.

Lee Edmondson would one day become a rancher and farmer like his father. But as a young man, he preferred traveling and trapping far and wide.

The story goes that Edmondson learned his trapping skills while working through the Wallowa Mountains of northeastern Oregon, and there's no reason to doubt it. He has been credited with naming five Upper Rogue creeks near his father's homestead — Wallowa, Wickiup, Whitman, Sumpter and Imnaha, all names of rivers or creeks found in Eastern Oregon.

According to Lewis McArthur's "Oregon Geographic Names," Imna was the name of an Indian chief in Wallowa County. McArthur was told that the Indian people added "ha" to a chief's name to indicate the territory under his control.

Early in the 20th century, Forest Service rangers riding horseback built a small tool cabin near Imnaha Creek, a bubbling spring that flowed through rocks, low flowers and moss.

Called the Imnaha Guard Station, it often was a base of operations and always a welcome place to rest and graze horses.

Before World War II, when roads in the forest were inadequate or nonexistent, the Forest Service set up guard stations at strategic locations, where fire season patrols and special project crews could live comfortably close to their work.

The Imnaha Guard Station got a major upgrade in 1939 when "brush marines" from the Civilian Conservation Corps tore down the old one-room tool shack and replaced it witha sturdy three-room cabin.

A large barn, stable and corral were erected nearby and surrounded by rustic fencing.

By the 1980s, Forest Servicepersonnel rarely used the cabin and in summers allowedvolunteer campground hosts to stay there.

In 1991, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places as a way to preserve and commemorate the architecture of the CCC and remember its valuable Forest Service history.

By the mid-1990s, civilian campers could rent the cabin for themselves.

Dying two years before the cabin was built, Lee Edmondson never got a chance to see it, or to know that the names he gave to Upper Rogue features would stick, just as he had so many years ago.

Writer Bill Miller lives in Shady Cove. Reach him at

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