Robert and Catherine Dean Fiander

Our guest blogger today, Bob Walter, gives us some background of pioneers Robert and Catherine Dean Fiander.

Robert Fiander and his horses
Robert Fiander and his draft horses

The area’s first pioneer homesteader survived a long, hand-to-hand fight with a cougar, and lived to tell about it.

Robert Fiander was born in Dorset County, England, Sept. 30, 1847, one of 12 children.

Fiander filed his claim near Swan Lake in 1874, several miles west of what later became Eatonville, the very first white settler in this area. He built a small log cabin and survived by hunting and fishing, while clearing and draining his land for farming. His encounter with the cougar was presumably during those early years. He raised cattle, and draft horses, and then became a dairy farmer. He lived there for the better part of 48 years.

Robert married twice. His first wife Jennie, an Indian girl, had a son. Jennie died nine years later. Robert later married Catherine Dean. They had eight daughters.

Fiander is said to have introduced T.C. Van Eaton to Indian Henry.

After Van Eaton arrived in the area in 1889, he persuaded a group of men from neighboring homesteads to help build a road from Fiander’s place to the Van Eaton claim. Certainly Fiander’s involvement, being established and having draft horses, was critical.

Catherine Fiander is on the far right holding the baby
Catherine Fiander is on the far right holding the baby in front of Swan Lake School

Fiander was a county road supervisor for a number of years, a perfect role for a man with draft horses. He helped another settler, Herman Anderson, lower his wagon straight down the side of Ohop Valley to his homestead claim by use of a rope, a stump for a hitch, and his oxen team.

His daughter Susie (Scoggins) was five when she rode in the wagon with her father to Eatonville. On Ohop Hill his horse, Daisy, was so startled Robert almost lost control of her. The source of her fright? A boy careening by on his bicycle.

He served on the Swan Lake School Board for many years.

The Fianders opened their home on many occasions to travelers, and Catherine Fiander was known for her skill at treating and mending the sick, especially with the use of poultices. She comforted the dying as well. She had a huge, plentiful garden and shared her bounty with anyone in need.

At age 71, five years after Catherine’s death, Robert Fiander got a passport and traveled to England to visit his sisters, whom he presumably hadn’t seen in 48 years.

He died in Eatonville in 1927, age 79.

3 responses to “Robert and Catherine Dean Fiander”

  1. Robert Fiander came to the NW to meet up with his much older, former Hudson’s Bay employee brother named Richard. Richard settled in Yelm and married a native woman as Robert did after he came to Yelm. Robert and native wife Jennie had one son, Willie. She may have died or left, but Robert found love again with Catherine Dean Fiander.

    For more in-depth information about the Deans and Fianders and pictures of wife Catherine, first son Willie by an earlier marriage to a native woman, and daughters go to


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