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Saving the Oregon Trail

Ezra Meeker's Last Grand Quest

Dennis M. Larsen

$28.95

Ezra Meeker first came west on the overland trail in 1852. At age 75 he trekked east over the Oregon Trail with oxen and a covered wagon, setting markers along the way, and became a national celebrity. Endearing and captivating, but also at times exasperating and irrational, his extraordinary preservation efforts were crucial to saving the trail. A part of his story no one has previously told, this volume begins in 1901 and completes an ambitious biography.

“Ezra Meeker was inspirational, charismatic, and beloved but also arrogant, aggravating, cantankerous, and obnoxious. Dennis Larsen’s biography sings his praises, exposes his flaws, and shows why without Meeker, America might have forgotten the Oregon Trail’s epic story.”—Will Bagley, Independent Historian

Listen to the Columbia Conversations interview with Dennis Larsen.

Illustrations / maps / notes / bibliography / index / 278 pages (2020)

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Description

Ezra Meeker lived ninety-eight highly productive years. At times endearing and captivating, he could also be exasperating and irrational. Once he committed to a cause, he was an unabashed promoter. Meeker devoted his final three decades to commemorating the Oregon Trail. A part of his story no one has previously told, this volume begins in 1901 and completes an epic biography.

One of Washington Territory’s earliest pioneers, Meeker first came west on the overland trail in 1852. He became a Puyallup community builder, agricultural tycoon, and world traveler before hop lice and the Panic of 1893 devoured his fortune. He dallied in mining and joined the Klondike gold rush, spending four years as a Yukon store proprietor.

At age 75 he trekked east over the Oregon Trail with oxen and a covered wagon, setting markers along the way, and became a national celebrity. He visited New York, Washington, D.C., and the White House, and managed to convince regular citizens, the rich and famous, governors, legislators, and even three U.S. Presidents to support his trail preservation schemes.

Never one to shy away from adventure, his other exploits included publishing books, lecture tours, additional Oregon Trail expeditions (one in a bi-plane), attending the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition, experimenting with motion pictures, founding societies, cruising in what may have been the first motorized RV, performing in a Wild West show, and roaming the country selling commemorative coins. In the end, Meeker’s extraordinary efforts were crucial to saving the trail.

“Ezra Meeker was inspirational, charismatic, and beloved but also arrogant, aggravating, cantankerous, and obnoxious. Dennis Larsen’s biography sings his praises, exposes his flaws, and shows why without Meeker, America might have forgotten the Oregon Trail’s epic story.”—Will Bagley, Independent Historian

Listen to the Columbia Conversations interview with Dennis Larsen.

Illustrations / maps / notes / bibliography / index / 278 pages (2020)

 

 

Recognition

“Larsen humanizes and contextualizes Meeker and does this eccentric legend justice…Like Larsen’s preceding accounts of Meeker’s adventures and misadventures, Saving the Oregon Trail offers rock-solid research and the answers to long-held questions, and proves a tremendously enjoyable read.”— Paula Becker, HistoryLink.org, for Pacific Northwest Quarterly

“Ezra Meeker was inspirational, charismatic, and beloved but also arrogant, aggravating, cantankerous, and obnoxious. Dennis Larsen’s biography sings his praises, exposes his flaws, and shows why without Meeker, America might have forgotten the Oregon Trail’s epic story.”—Will Bagley, Independent Historian

“In short, crisp chapters…Larsen masterfully weaves together his statements-of-fact into a compelling portrait of the elder Ezra Meeker…To his dying day, Ezra Meeker was a man on the move, and the book does an excellent job of capturing in words and photos the unrelenting pace of his daily life.”—Debra Koehler, The Bulletin, Genealogical Forum of Oregon, Inc.

“An inherently fascinating man, Saving the Oregon Trail: Ezra Meeker’s Last Grand Quest is an extraordinary work of exhaustive and meticulous research bringing him out of obscurity and to the attention of a whole new generation of American history students, academia, and non-specialist general readers who appreciate the story of a life well and truly lived out in interesting times—making this an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to community, college, and university library American Biography collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists.”—Able Greenspan, MBR Bookwatch

Additional information

Format

eBook, Paperback