Last month I wrote about Ezra Meeker and his 1906 Old Oregon Trail Monument Expedition.
As near as we can tell, this was a passion ignited by his increasing age — something he wanted to do before he died. But this was not the end of the story, not by a long shot. He returned home in 1908, his wife died in 1909, and he walked away from the family homestead, leaving it to be sold by one of his sons-in-law.
Ezra spent the rest of his life (nearly 20 more years) doing “Oregon Trail stuff.”
Not only is 2016 the 110th anniversary of Ezra’s Old Oregon Trail Monument Expedition, it is also the 100th anniversary of a later trip, made with a motorized vehicle on loan from the Pathfinder Company of Indianapolis. With a covered wagon-style back on it, it was one of the earliest RVs. As we approach the month of May, we celebrate Ezra’s preparations for leaving New York to travel the route he took with covered wagons, by then on very primitive roads. The U.S. Army would not send a motorized caravan from coast to coast for another three years!
Dennis Larson, Ezra’s official biographer and the author of three books about Ezra’s full and busy life, will interrupt his own busy schedule to give a presentation at 7 p.m. April 27 at the Puyallup Library.
His topic will be “One hundred and ten years later — What did Meeker do between 1906 and 1916? Hint: It involved the Oregon Trail.”
Beyond our local recognition of Ezra Meeker’s adventures, his trail-marking efforts are receiving national attention. The Travel Channel visited the Meeker Mansion last fall to film an episode featuring Ezra and the Oregon Trail to be aired over the next several weeks. Look for episode 312 of Season 3 of “Mysteries at the Castle.”
The latest edition of the Overland Journal, published by the Oregon-California Trails Association (OCTA — the direct descendant of Ezra Meeker’s Oregon Trail Memorial Association), announced the establishment of an Emigrant Trails Hall of Fame. To no one’s surprise, the first person to be inaugurated into the Hall of Fame is Ezra Manning Meeker (Overland Journal, Winter 2015-16, p.167).
One last teaser on the subject of historic preservation: May is National Historic Preservation Month. The informal Brown Bag Lunch Group (open to anyone interested) has set the date of Saturday, May 21 to celebrate “Historic Preservation in Puyallup.” There will be a variety of activities centered on Pioneer Park (the original Meeker homestead) to match your level of interest and enthusiasm. Bring the whole family!
Andy Anderson is the historian for the Puyallup Historical Society at Meeker Mansion. He can be reached by email at email@example.com or through the Meeker Mansion at 253-848-1770.