Ezra Meeker braved the Oregon Trail in 1852, and eventually became a hop farmer and broker in the Puget Sound country. He platted the town of Puyallup, Washington and served as its first mayor. By the 1880s he had built a fortune and a mansion. Then suddenly, a devastating scourge of aphids followed by a severe national depression, swept his assets away, “slick as a mitten.” He rescued his friends and neighbors when the local bank failed, however, by tapping his own capital to return funds to account holders.
The Alaskan gold rush held renewed prospects for the financially ruined. Despite his advanced age, Meeker ventured to the treacherous Klondike four times, transporting and selling more than 60 tons of groceries to Yukon gold miners. The arduous hauling of eggs, potatoes, dried goods, and even live chickens, required steamers, dog teams, pack animals, human backs, flatboats, and scows. His wife, Eliza Jane, who remained closer to home, managed the food-drying and canning operation, manufacturing granulated eggs and dehydrated soup vegetables.
Ezra delighted in his infant grandson, Wilfred, who accompanied him to Dawson in 1900. Four years of letters, most from Ezra to his beloved Eliza Jane, relate the details of his risky schemes and experiences, from business pursuits, to keeping warm, to the daily antics of his grandchild.
Photographs / maps / notes / bibliography / index / 136 pages (2009)