Ezra Manning Meeker (1830 - 1928)

Ezra Manning Meeker
1830 - 1928
updated June 29, 2020
Ezra Manning Meeker was born on December 29, 1830 in Ohio. He was born to Jacob Redding Meeker and Phoebe (Baker) Meeker, with siblings Oliver, John, Hannah, and Usual. He married Eliza Sumner in 1851. Ezra died on December 3, 1928 in Seattle, Washington at age 97.

Ezra Meeker was born in Huntsville, Butler County, Ohio to Jacob Redding and Phoebe Baker Meeker on December 29, 1830. The early years of Ezra's life were a time of frequent moves. In 1836 the family moved to Lockland, Ohio, near Cincinnati. The following year Ezra's father and his brother, Usual Meeker, took their families west by covered wagon, some 200 miles, to the city of Attica, Indiana on the Wabash River. Ezra's mother and his two youngest siblings rode inside, while Uncle Usual drove the wagon. Brother Oliver and six-year old Ezra walked. In 1841 Jacob Meeker moved his family once again, this time to the suburbs of Indianapolis. In 1845, with $1000 in coins gifted by Ezra's grandfather Baker, the Meekers bought a farm five miles southwest of Indianapolis. It was here that Ezra met and wooed Eliza Jane Sumner. On May 13, 1851 the couple married in the Sumner home. That fall the newlyweds moved to Eddyville, Iowa. Uncle Charles Meeker (Jacob's brother, who came to Iowa around 1843) offered Ezra and Eliza a place to stay on his farm just west of Eddyville while they got settled. Eliza Jane did not like how Uncle Charles treated his wife and as a result they moved into town and rented a 10 x 10 room from Rev. B. A. Spaulding. Ezra went to work for Walter Clement (one of Eddyville's founding fathers) as part of a surveying crew. Shortly after the beginning of the New Year Ezra rented a farm three miles outside of town from John B. Gray. Here on March 9 the Meeker's first child Marion was born. Around the first week of April Ezra's brother Oliver arrived in Eddyville on his way to Oregon. Ezra decided to join his brother, and after two weeks of preparation, and in partnership with William Buck, and the McAuley family, the small wagon train was off for Oregon. The trip west over the Oregon Trail made an indelible impact on Meeker and the last twenty-five years of his life were devoted to its preservation.
After stops at St. Helens, OR, Kalama, McNeil Island, Fern Hill and Steilacoom, WA the Meekers finally settled permanently in today's Puyallup, WA in 1862. For the next 30 years Ezra farmed, primarily growing hops used in the brewing of beer. This crop made the Meekers quite wealthy and the family became prominent in the affairs of the growing territory. In 1886 Ezra and Eliza Jane were appointed Mr. and Mrs. Commissioner of the Washington Territorial exhibit at the New Orleans World's Fair. In the late 1880s and early 1890s the couple were heavily involved in the women's suffrage movement. At the height of their prosperity the Meekers went on a construction boom, building a light rail line to Tacoma, the Park Hotel and an electric power plant in Puyallup. They also built a new home (what is today called the Meeker Mansion) for the sum $26,000. In 1890 Ezra incorporated and platted the city of Puyallup, and became its first mayor.
In 1891 the west coast hop industry found itself for the first time facing a scourge that the European and east coast hop growers had dealt with for years—an infestation of an aphid called the hop louse that nearly destroyed that year's crop. His over expansion in building the railroad line and various other projects, combined with a five-year battle against the hop lice, and the worst depression in U.S. history to that point, led Meeker into bankruptcy in 1896. Ezra attempted several other business ventures over the next few years including a three-year stint shipping food products to Dawson City in the Yukon and selling them in his "Log Cabin Grocery." While in the Klondike he also made an effort at gold mining, but succeeded only in losing money. When he returned to Puyallup for his golden wedding anniversary he was at loose ends. In 1903 Ezra served as President of the Washington State Historical Society. In 1904 he spent most of his days in Seattle researching and writing "Pioneer Reminiscences," which was basically an autobiography of his pioneer days. The book created a controversy in the northwest as Meeker argued the point of view that Leschi, chief of the Nisqually tribe, was judicially murdered by an alcoholic Governor Isaac Stevens.
In the later part of his life he spent much of his time trying to build public awareness of the old Oregon Trail. He felt that the current generation had lost interest in the trail and the importance it had on settling the west, and he was determined to do something to change that. He assembled a covered wagon made of parts of wagons that had actually gone over the Oregon Trail in the 1850s, secured a yoke of oxen and in January 1906, at age 75, started east along the trail. At towns along the way he arranged for the erection of stone markers to memorialize the trail and the pioneers who traveled it. His appearance, along with the oxen and wagon, drew large crowds everywhere he went. He sold postcards and lectured to help defray expenses and when he reached eastern Nebraska he published a book, "The Ox Team or the Old Oregon Trail," about his current and past adventures along that trail. It eventually sold 10,000 copies.
Ezra decided to extend his trip east all the way to Washington D.C. via New York City. It took him a month to get a permit to drive the wagon and ox team on New York City streets. On September 18, 1907 Ezra paraded his wagon and ox team down Broadway from Grant's tomb to the Battery, surrounded by immense and cheering crowds. After leaving New York, Ezra drove the team to Philadelphia and finally to Washington D.C., where he met with President Teddy Roosevelt on November 28, 1907. The President was impressed with Ezra's efforts and gave his support to a congressional appropriation for the expenditure of $50,000 to mark the trail. Unfortunately Congress failed to act.
Meeker repeated the trip by oxen again in 1910-12 and still again in 1916, this time in a 80-horsepower Pathfinder automobile with a covered wagon-type top. He next flew in an open cockpit U.S. Army plane from Vancouver, Washington to Dayton, Ohio, and rode in an air show parade there with Orville Wright. The next day he flew to Washington D.C. and met with President Calvin Coolidge. Ezra presented the President with a plan to build a national highway following the route of the Oregon Trail. Just before his death in 1928 he was planning another car trip across the trail.
Today he is honored with a statue in central Puyallup in front of the library. Every year there is a celebration (Ezra Meeker Days), of his life and commitments to the community and country. And the Ezra Meeker Historical Society today preserves his home, the story of his life, and that of the Puyallup valley.

Ezra Manning Meeker Biography

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Ezra Manning Meeker
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Ezra Meeker was born on in Butler County, Ohio United States 45044
Ezra Meeker died on in Seattle, King County, Washington United States
Ezra Meeker was born on in Butler County, Ohio United States 45044
Ezra Meeker died on in Seattle, King County, Washington United States
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Ezra Manning Meeker Family Tree

Ezra's immediate relatives including parents, siblings, partnerships and children in the Meeker family tree.


Dec 28, 1804 - Oct 30, 1869
Jul 10, 1801 - Jun 18, 1854


Jul 23, 1828 - Jan 6, 1860
Jul 13, 1824 - Dec 24, 1910
Jan 23, 1834 - Nov 14, 1902
Mar 2, 1837 - Jul 6, 1854



Ezra Manning Meeker & Eliza Jane (Sumner) Meeker

Ezra Manning Meeker


Oct 15, 1833 - Oct 9, 1909


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Ezra Manning Meeker died on December 3, 1928 in Seattle, Washington at age 97. Ezra was born on December 29, 1830 in Ohio. He was born to Jacob Redding Meeker and Phoebe (Baker) Meeker, with siblings Oliver, John, Hannah, and Usual. He married Eliza Sumner in 1851.
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1830 - 1928 World Events

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In 1830, in the year that Ezra Manning Meeker was born, on March 26th, The Book of Mormon was published in Palmyra, New York by Joseph Smith, Jr. The full title was "The Book of Mormon: An Account Written by the Hand of Mormon upon Plates Taken from the Plates of Nephi". According to Smith, the angel Moroni appeared to him when he was 17 and told him where to find golden tablets that told the story of a people who migrated from Jerusalem to the Americas. He transcribed the tablets, which became the Book of Mormon.

In 1855, at the age of 25 years old, Ezra was alive when on November 17th, David Livingstone, a Scottish missionary and explorer, became the first known European to see Victoria Falls. He named the falls in honor of Queen Victoria but locally it was - and is - Mosi-oa-Tunya, which means "The Smoke That Thunders".

In 1877, he was 47 years old when on July 14th, strikes and resulting riots began at the Baltimore and Ohio (B&O) Railroad. A sympathy strike and rioting began in Pittsburgh and a worker's rebellion began in St. Louis, then spread to other cities. 100 people were killed before the strikes ended when President Rutherford B. Hayes sent federal troops to each of the cities involved.

In 1886, Ezra was 56 years old when on October 28th, President Grover Cleveland officially dedicated the Statue of Liberty. A gift from France, the base for the statue had been built using donations from the American public. The unplanned but enthusiastic celebration after the dedication led to the first ticker tape parade.

In 1928, in the year of Ezra Manning Meeker's passing, Mickie Mouse was born! He first appeared in Disney's Steamboat Willie, along with Minnie. Although they were in two previous shorts, this was the first to be distributed. Steamboat Willie took advantage of the new technology and was a "talkie" - music was coordinated with the animation. It became the most popular cartoon of its day.

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