The Oregon Trail
In 1906, at the age of seventy-five, Ezra Meeker began a journey east from his home in Puyallup, Washington, to retrace the route of the Oregon Trail over which he originally traveled in 1852 with his wife and young son. He traveled the route with a wagon and ox team and reported:
"The purpose of this expedition is to perpetuate the memory of the Old Oregon Trail and to honor the intrepid pioneers who made it and saved this great region the 'Old Oregon Country' for American rule."
Meeker started placing stone markers on the old Oregon Trail during his trip. He feared that the story and the route were being forgotten. Along the way, he talked to numerous school groups and encouraged the tasing of funds for monuments to commemorate the efforts of the hardy pioneers. The cities of Parma, Boise, Twin Falls, American Falls, Pocatello, Soda Springs and Montpelier responded to his appeal to fund local monuments. In Boise, nearly 1,200 pupils contributed funds and over 3,000 people attended the dedication of the monument that stands on the Statehouse grounds. Meeker not only completed his journey, but didn't stop until he reached Washington, D.C. There he was greeted by President Theodore Roosevelt, who pledged his support to help keep the memory of the pioneer's achievements and values alive.
In 1910, Meeker embarked
on another journey along the Oregon Trail. On this trip, he planned to accurately map the route used by the thousands of emigrants. This undertaking took him nearly two years to complete. In 1921, he again traveled the trail - by truck, train and airplane. In 1926, he founded and became the first president of the Oregon Trail Memorial Association, which persuaded Congress to authorize coinage of six million Oregon Trail Memorial half-dollars to be sold at one dollar apiece. The proceeds would be used to erect additional monuments along the trail. Congress tased the bill and President Calvin Coolidge signed it into law on May 17, 1926. Many local groups in Idaho sold the coin, raising enough money to erect Idaho-shaped stone monuments with a bronze replica of the coin inserted into them. A number of these monuments still stand in many Idaho communities.
Ezra Meeker's preservation efforts have resulted in the identification and preservation of many segments of the Oregon Trail in Idaho as well as related trail sites. Upon his death at the age of 97, he was preparing for yet another cross-country trip. He believed there was still a need to publicize the efforts of the pioneers and their trail and that more was left to be done, but the seek had been planted.