Ezra Meeker and President Theodore Roosevelt 1908
Ezra Meeker (1830-1928) was an early Washington State pioneer who trekked across the country by way of ox cart on the Oregon Trail. He was born December 29, 1830, in Huntsville, Ohio, to Jacob and Phoebe Meeker. By the time he was ten years old, the family had relocated to Indiana, near Indianapolis. In 1851, Meeker married his childhood sweetheart, Eliza Jane Sumner. Meeker, his wife, and his newborn son left Iowa for Oregon in 1852, arriving in the Puget Sound area the next year. They settled permanently in Puyallup in 1862, where Meeker established a successful hop-raising business. He and his family lived in a tiny cabin for the next 26 years. Eliza Jane planted an ivy vine at one corner of the cabin in 1864, and it flourished, providing shade for the home. It was still there years later when the cabin walls finally rotted away, long after the Meekers had moved into their new home, the Meeker Mansion. The citizens of Puyallup, grateful for Meeker’s gift of his land as a park (Pioneer Park), decided to preserve the vine as a part of the town’s heritage, and provided a concrete pergola to support the vines. The ivy-covered pergola stands where the Meeker cabin once stood. At 76 years old, Meeker became a national celebrity when he loaded up his ox cart and followed the Oregon Trail to the east. Along the way he gave speeches, encouraging the preservation of the Oregon Trail route. The expedition was such a success that Meeker undertook the journey once again in 1910. Meeker also wrote a book on the trail and convinced President Theodore Roosevelt to set aside money for trail preservation. In later years, he made the trip by automobile, train, and even airplane. Meeker continued to promote the Oregon Trail until his death at age 98.