Saturday, March 19, 2011

Sepia Saturday - Ezra - We Hardly Know Ye!


Ezra Meeker 1830-1928

I used this photo postcard for yesterday's Postcard Friendship Friday. The subject of my post had nothing to do with the picture, but curiosity about this colorful portrait sitter got the best of me. Luckily his name, Ezra Meeker, appears on the postcard and it also turned up immediately on my search for information. Turns out Ezra was a modern day Johnnie Appleseed! In his later years he traveled along the already well established Oregon Trail sowing patriotism, remembrances of the early days on the trail and he also sought to memorialize the Oregon Trail - one of our great highways to the west.


Ezra Meeker 1921


Ezra was born in Huntsville Ohio in 1830. At age 22 he married Eliza Jane Sumner, had a son, Marian, and took off on the Oregon Trail to take advantage of land offerings in Washington. The family settled near Puget Sound and then moved inland to land where he made a good living growing hops. He platted out a townsite and named it Puyallup after the local Puyallup Indian tribes. Eventually the town grew and became incorporated,. Ezra was elected the first mayor of Puyallup.


Ezra and his ox cart on the Oregon Trail

He enjoyed a successful life and built a mansion for Eliza Jane (isn't that a lovely name!) which they enjoyed until hops aphids destroyed his crops.

"He subsequently tried a number of ventures, including dehydrating fruits and vegetables, working on packaging milk in paper containers, and four largely unsuccessful trips to the Klondike looking for gold. He also wrote a novel about his experiences on the trip west."



One of Ezra Meeker's hand made Trail markers



During Ezra's traveling years, which he began at age 76, he traveled the Oregon Trail, and made his way by oxcart all the way to Washington DC. In 1916 he drove the Trail in his 80 horsepower (60 kW) automobile with a prairie-schooner top. In 1924, at the age of 94, Meeker flew from Vancouver Washington to Dayton Ohio in an open cockpit Army plane. He met with Presidents, Coolidge and Theodore Roosevelt and eventually received the funds needed to memorialize the Oregon Trail when in 1926 the U.S. Mint issued 50 cent pieces memorializing the Trail and depicting Ezra's oz drawn wagon. The coins were issued to the Oregon Trail Memorial Association, which sold the coins to raise funds for trail markers.

The city of Puyallup still thrives with about 37,000 residents. It lies in a fertile valley in the shadow of Mt. Rainier. The town is known for their daffodils which they grow and sell worldwide!
A statue of Meeker was built in Puyallup 1926. His ox cart is housed in the Washington State History Museum in Tacoma Washington. His oxen are there too, stuffed and mounted! Ezra felt - and rightly so - that they should be properly memorialized.

More information is available at Wikipedia which is the source I used for this post and pictures.

More Sepia Saturday is available HERE!

21 comments:

Tattered and Lost said...

Thanks for the history lesson. I am richer for it.

Oregon Gifts of Comfort and Joy said...

This is so cool! A true pioneer with gumption, courage and a lust for adventure, if you ask me!

I really enjoyed learning about Ezra and his family and about the history of Puyallup. When we get around to Washington historical museums, I'll keep my eye out for info about him.

Thanks!

Brett Payne said...

Thanks for sharing your wanderings through the story of this fascinating "almost centenarian." The 1921 portrait suggests the directness which was so obviously part of his character.

Titus said...

I didn't know any of that! Thanks.

Life Goes On said...

what a great photo and story of this man. Thanks for sharing

Postcardy said...

He sounds like quite a character.

Christine H. said...

I read about Ezra Meeker when we went to the Washington State Historical Museum in Tacoma. I was so fascinated that I had to get on eBay and buy a postcard. They have his cart in the museum - and supposedly they have the two oxen somewhere too. Thanks for the post on Ezra. What a guy!

TICKLEBEAR said...

well, at least, HE wasn't "stuffed and mounted" as well...
:D~
interesting tale!!
somehow, this puts me in the mood to read "the big sky", by Guthrie.

your fault!!
:)~
HUGZ

whowerethey said...

Great history lesson on Ezra. It also serves to remind us that the westward expansion isn't all that far removed from us in terms of generations.

Karen S. said...

Oh my goodness what a character, great photos of stunning strongness! Great story too! Thanks!

imagespast said...

What an interesting life Ezra led - he was a "do-er". I'm intrigued by his fancy gloves in the first photo. Thanks for an enjoyable post :-) Jo

Bob Scotney said...

This is a story that must never be lost. What a man! He looks as though he knew how to use that gun.

Alan Burnett said...

As so often, not just a stunning image but a great story as well. It is an aspect of history I know too little about, so thanks for sharing it.

barbara and nancy said...

Ezra is very interesting, but I liked him better as an illustration for your previous post.
Barbara

Betsy said...

Very nice photos! I'm loving his striking white hair and beard!

Jinksy said...

Now that's what I call a beard! :)

Tess Kincaid said...

It's amazing how these people forged their way on the Oregon Trail. We Americans descend from hearty stock.

L. D. Burgus said...

Here's to Ezra. What an interesting character of history.

Margaret said...

What a character! And I am so into dehyrdrated fruit lately! His oxens are stuffed! Now that takes the cake. Love all the info.

Nancy said...

He looks like a character but he sounds like a true pioneer with spirit, spunk, and determination. I think it's wonderful that he wanted to preserve the memory of the Oregon Trail. Might it have passed from America's history books and collective memory without him? Thanks for the interesting psot.

tony said...

Ezra Meeker Was A Fantastic Bloke!