The planning of Puyallup began in 1877, conducted by Ezra Meeker- a man who traveled the Oregon trail for five months with his family all the way from Iowa, to Portland, before eventually settling in Washington in 1862.
Andy Anderson, president of the Puyallup Historical Society, can tell you a lot about the Meeker Mansion, Ezra and Eliza Meeker’s beautiful 17-room home, built in 1887 for $26,000 dollars.
“It was always the fanciest house in Puyallup and it still is,” said Andy Anderson. “They were visited by all sorts of people. Ezra had relationships with five presidents of the united states.”
Ezra was the first mayor of Puyallup and a very wealthy man. He was known as the “Hop King of the World.”
Even though Ezra himself didn’t drink, it was the hops, that gave him his money.
“They planted them in a field and that crop brought them $150. In the mid-1860s, that was real money and that started the boom,” said Anderson. “The interesting thing about what that did to the community is that it brought a lot of money and influence here. And this is the period that we call the golden age of Puyallup.
“If you were going to develop something, it was useful to have some of Ezra’s money. There is Meeker money behind almost every church in the community,” said Anderson.
Ezra, with the help of his wife, was a founder of the Puyallup library association.
“The first library was a lean-to on the back of Meeker’s cabins in the middle of town. Mrs. Meeker kept 67 publications current to loan out to the community.”
Now- just steps away from where the current library stands on the edge of Pioneer Park, a statue of Ezra stands tall, welcoming people to Puyallup.
After his wife died, Ezra left their mansion in the hands of one of his daughters to dispose of, and throughout the 1900s the building was used as a hospital and a nursing home. It wasn’t until the 1970s that it began to be restored back to its original Meeker Mansion – a restoration process that’s still underway today.
In Ezra’s final days, he became known as an influential advocate for preserving the Oregon trail. He even retraced his journey, leaving markers along the way.
Ezra Meeker died in 1928 in Seattle. He was 97 years old.
The Puyallup Historical Society at Meeker Mansion is proud to present a new exhibit Puyallup During the World Wars. In an effort to both commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the signing of the armistice which ended World War I and celebrate those men and women who served in both World Wars, the third-floor volunteers have put together a special exhibit from our collection.
This includes a uniform worn by Private First Class Jay Faris who served as a Military Policeman in the 13th Division during World War I as well as a uniform worn by Charlotte “Lucy” Johnston, a WAVES flight instructor during World War II. Also included is a Purple Heart presented to the mother of former Puyallup High School quarterback Lieutenant Edward J. Myers near the end of World War II. These artifacts, among many others, represent the men and women who put their lives on the line to fight for something bigger than themselves and those at home who dealt with a different sort of fight.
Come and see how each of these great wars shaped those we would come to honor as veterans and the Valley they left behind. The exhibit runs through November 11th so make sure you come and see it before it is gone!
Enjoy a fun throwback to the 1960’s. The Daffodil Festival Parade is such an integral part of the Puyallup Valley history, we thought our Meeker Mansion followers would enjoy seeing this slice of history. Even the music set in the background will give you a sense of 1960’s nostalgia. Maybe you’ll spot someone you know in the footage!
For future visitors of Meeker Mansion, a suggestion: When inside one of its rooms, look up.
There’s a good chance that the designs painted on the ceiling are the work of Sally Hopkins, a professional art restorer who’s been working on Meeker Mansion for more than 40 years.
“My job is to uncover the original decoration to see if we can preserve some of it,” Hopkins said last week as she worked in the mansion.
Hopkins visits Meeker Mansion every few years, traveling from her home in Portland. She doesn’t get to come often, but after visiting Puyallup several months ago for the funeral of longtime Puyallup Hisorical Society President Bob Minnich, she told historian Andy Anderson that she wanted to continue her work on the ceiling of the mansion’s billiard room.
And all of last week, that’s what Hopkins did.
The ceiling of the billiard room is a mosaic of labeled old paint, faded designs and repaired plaster. Each section tells a story, and is part of Hopkins’ process.
“If you think of this like archeology … it’s like the same thing here,” she said. “You have to sand down to the original layer without completely destroying it.”
Sally Hopkins, a professional art restorer who’s been working on Meeker Mansion for more than 40 years, discusses her work recovering and restoring the ceilings of Meeker Mansion. Joshua Bessex email@example.com
Built in 1890 as the home to hops grower Ezra Meeker and his family, Meeker Mansion was also used as a hospital and a nursing home in later years. In 1970, the Puyallup Historical Society was formed to save it. In her decades of work, Hopkins has uncovered and restored designs in the mansion’s downstairs hallway, formal and family parlors, dining room, carriage entrance, the “yellow” room and one of the bedrooms. Hopkins started her work in the mansion’s billiard room several years ago, where she got to work sanding through 14 layers of paint from the mansion’s former uses.
It’s a delicate process. Hopkins doesn’t use chemicals, which might be faster but could potentially damage the original artwork.
“It takes some practice so you don’t take the layer you want off,” Hopkins said.
After sanding, Hopkins carefully tapes a transparent piece of paper to the ceiling and draws what she sees.
Hopkins learned the art of restoration from her father, Ken, who started the work of restoring paintings at Meeker Mansion. One day, he took Sally with him to work.
“It was going to be a summer job … and it was more than one summer,” she said.
Her father taught her to not assume to know what she was drawing and to just follow the lines of the art.
“We just (drew) exactly what we saw and if we didn’t know what it was, we left it out,” Hopkins said.
She remembered restoring art of a clear sky on a ceiling downstairs in the mansion with her father. On lunch breaks, they would go to the billiard room and wonder what was lying underneath.
“Our running joke for years was that it’s going to be a cloudy sky,” Hopkins said. “You wouldn’t believe my surprise when (it was).”
But it was other things, too. On a piece of paper taped to wall where Hopkins worked, she wrote, “The pattern on the 1890 ceiling is a trellis full of hop plant leaves and cones set against a cloudy sky.”
“(Ezra Meeker) made his money with hops, so it was a big deal for him,” said Hopkins. She uses a drawing of hops growing in different stages to help her identify what she sees before her.
Other images she’s uncovered? Pink roses, apricots, a Japanese Torii gate, and a bee skep.
The Puyallup Historical Society identified the painter as Fred Atwood, who Sally said still surprises her with his paintings. About 80 feet of grapevines restored downstairs was one of those surprises.
“He had a quirky sense of humor,” she said. “Every time I think I’ve got him figured out, he always throws in a zinger.”
After she’s finished with her drawings, the Historical Society will decide whether it wants the recovered paintings to remain untouched, or to be repainted by Hopkins. Only about 20 percent of the original ceiling can be saved.
In either case, it’ll be a long time before completion, and Hopkins isn’t sure how much longer she can do the work.
“I’m hoping to come back here again … (but) I don’t know if I have the stamina left to finish,” she said.
She hopes that the original paintings and labels will remain, because many Meeker Mansion visitors enjoy looking at them and puzzling them out.
The Historical Society says it’ll take another $30,000 to $35,000 to restore the artwork on the rest of the mansion. Anderson said the society would love to have Hopkins return — as long as it can continue to pay her.
“We are the only house that I’m aware of in this part of the world that has hand-painted ceilings,” Anderson said. “It’s not something you find everywhere. We’ve taken on the responsibility of restoring the house that’s what had to be done.”
“It’s a lot of work, but it’s been really neat to do,” Hopkins said.
Sally Hopkins, a professional art restorer from Portland, traces out a design on a wall of the master bedroom in Meeker Mansion. Hopkins has spent decades uncovering the original painted ceilings of rooms in Meeker Mansion. Joshua Bessex firstname.lastname@example.org
Descendants of Oregon Trail preservationists attended Sunday’s dedication of an interpretive panel at the junction of the Independence and St. Joe roads that carried pioneers in the westward expansion. From left, Camille Bradford, Denver; David Hammett, Marysville; and Janet Kanter, Camino, Calif. Holding the flag is Trail Life member Dominic Edwards, Marysville. Photo by Sarah Kessinger
The wide open sky spread above farm fields Sunday behind a new, colorful panel telling Oregon-California Trail history northwest of Marysville.
The land is two miles north of U.S. Highway 36 on the Washington-Marshall County line. On prairie where tallgrass began its transition to shortgrass, the site was once traversed by thousands of wagons, oxen and people making the 19th century trek west to seek fortunes.
The panel was recently installed by the KANZA chapter of the Oregon-California Trails Association with guidance from the National Park Service. It stands beside a longtime stone trail marker, which notes this was the junction of well-traveled roads merging on the famed trail.
“No one who visits this site today would ever guess that so many people once crowded and jostled their way across this land,” Pat Traffas, Overland Park, OCTA national president, told a crowd of 70 people at Sunday’s dedication ceremony. “Although no traces of either trail or junction remain, this small stone marker and new interpretive sign will commemorate this glorious junction.”
Hanover native David Gerdes, Monument, Colo., unveiled the panel amid applause. Gerdes donated the funds for the KANZA chapter of the trails association to purchase the panel.
He said the marker was near where he grew up and he was pleased to help make people more aware of the monument and its history.
Recognized at the ceremony were David Hammett, Marysville, grandson of local historian Ray Ellenbecker and great-grandson of John Ellenbecker, the historian who took up early 20th century efforts to preserve the trail’s story in Kansas.
Hammett quoted his great-grandfather, who said the monuments to the trail should be “honored and protected.” John Ellenbecker wanted to see a marker each 10 miles to keep the trail’s history intact.
Also present were Janet Kanter, Camino, Calif., great-great-granddaughter of Ezra Meeker, who started a national campaign in 1906 to place stone markers along the trail so it wouldn’t be lost, and Camille Bradford, Denver, stepdaughter of Howard R. Driggs, second president of the Oregon Trail Association.
“America has a legacy, let’s not forget it,” Kanter said before the ceremony.
The marker sits on land owned since 1962 by Ray Feldkamp, Manhattan, who said Sunday he was pleased to see the site restored and explained by the illustrated panel so future generations could appreciate trail history.
Feldkamp and Frank Bruna, who farms the site, each were given Friend of the Trail Awards from OCTA at the ceremony.
The site was also traversed by the Pony Express in the 1860s, and Gary Minge, Hanover, of the Kansas division of the National Pony Express Association paid tribute to the historic mail route Sunday.
Few people explored the history of the Puyallup Valley as thoroughly as Lori Price, whose articles about the community’s dynamic past were published by the Puyallup Herald for more than three decades.
Her stories were a bridge to countless yesteryears. Readers – including this writer – thrilled in crossing that bridge with her as their gentle guide. “I grew up in an age where a man’s (or woman’s) word was his bond, where a handshake was as good as a written contract…” she once wrote.
Loretta (Lori) Price introduced us to people from banking, business, farming and other walks of life – historical pioneers all – for whom many Puyallup streets and schools are named today. She portrayed the past as a pretty good place and time. She reminded us that the past is the backdrop for the stage on which the present takes a bow. With her elegant storytelling, Lori focused a warm light of renewed vibrancy on figures and places of long ago. If not for her, their significance to our community might be lost to the ages. She cared too deeply to let them be forgotten, and for that we can be eternally grateful.
I had the privilege of serving as editor of the Herald for a while and meeting Lori several times. I would often go to a place she had written about to see how the location looked today in comparison to the black and white photograph that accompanied her article. This was my attempt to blend past and present, perhaps, and travel across time through my imagination.
Born in Kentucky, Lori spent most of her adult years in Puyallup. “I have found … that rain is necessary to my peace of mind, which indicates to me that I have finally, after 27 years, entered the ranks of the ‘natives’ of the Pacific Northwest,” she penned in 1986.
Her achievements included serving as president of the Ezra Meeker Historical Society (now the Puyallup Historical Society); being named City of Puyallup Historian by the City Council in 1986; and co-authoring with Ruth Anderson, “Puyallup: A Pioneer Paradise,” a definitive account of the Valley’s early days that has been reprinted several times. She was also a wife, a mother and a friend to many.
Lori died in January 2007 at age 82.
“An icon of the community, Ms. Price believed that history tells us about the current world in which we live, and that our search for meaning through historical records gives us a wiser understanding of who we are and what we are capable of achieving,” a Puyallup Herald editorial stated shortly after her passing. “We will miss her.”
We do indeed.
Lori’s writings and research were donated to, and are preserved for future generations by, the Puyallup Historical Society at Meeker Mansion at 312 Spring St. The Mansion is open from 12 to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. For more information, visit the Mansion online at www.MeekerMansion.org or call (253) 848-1770.
About the writer: Gale B. Robinette is a member of the Puyallup Historical Society Board of Directors.
CELEBRATION: Toledo Marker Is One of 11 Between Tumwater and Vancouver
Not all travelers on the Oregon Trail ended their journey in present-day Oregon.
Toward the end of the 1800s, many families got to Oregon to find it had already been heavily settled, said Rich Herman, president of the Northwest Oregon California Trail Association. Instead, they turned north. Some took the Cowlitz Trail and ended up traveling through Toledo.
“The new end of the Oregon Trail became wherever you ended up,” Herman said.
One-hundred years after the Daughters and Sons of the American Revolution placed a marker commemorating the town’s place on the Oregon Trail, members of the groups on Tuesday rededicated and revealed the restored trail marker.
“It took a lot of scrubbing, but we did it,” said Toledo Mayor Steve Dobosh, who helped with the marker’s restoration.
The Toledo marker is one of 11 between Tumwater and Vancouver, all placed by the DAR and SAR.
The groups organized a rededication ceremony Tuesday, including local officials, members of the groups, historians, volunteers and Oregon Trail enthusiasts. Many came dressed in period clothing.
“Everyone here has a passion for history,” Herman said.
When they decided to restore the Toledo trail marker, the Daughters of the American Revolution contacted Marion (Mick) Hersey, known for his work restoring monuments and markers.
Hersey taught the DAR members how to restore the plaque, which was re-dyed and covered in a polyurethane coating and a coat of wax and oil to protect it from the elements.
“All 11 markers, as of last Friday…have been restored.” Hersey said, giving volunteer Chuck Hornbuckle credit for his help. “This big thing is to honor and remember.”
Before its restoration, the marker was tarnished and difficult to read from years of wear, DAR members said.
Doug Nelson, president of the Washington State Sons of the American Revolution, shared stories of how his family crossed the Oregon Trail in 1882.
Settlers were lucky to travel 18-20 miles a day, he said. They traveled in large groups to avoid confrontations with Native American tribes and ran into cattle rustlers and other dangers.
Lanabeth Horgen, first vice regent of the Washington State DAR, also recounted her family’s history with the Oregon Trail.
“I was born and raised in Independence, Missouri,” she said, adding it was the jumping-off point for many westward travelers. “My family stayed there and that’s where we probably saw some of your families off.”
The event also included displays of the tools and equipment used to clean the marker, information about Ezra Meeker and the Oregon Trail, and a covered wagon.
Fourth-grade students from Toledo Elementary School participated in the event, placing rocks with their names on them near the marker.
Historian Dennis Larson discussed the history of the Toledo Monument, starting with a 1905 visit from Meeker, a man dedicated to mapping and preserving Oregon Trail history, to the placement of the marker by the DAR and SAR in 1916.
Several speakers thanked Toledo for the city’s part in the project, and commented on the marker’s purpose of recognizing history.
The marker is a “reminder of the sacrifice made by the pioneers who helped settle the Washington Territory,” Herman said.
A couple of years ago, while Audrey Neuendorf and I were cleaning out the unfinished attic on the third floor, we found some old light fixtures back in a corner. We took them out and decided to investigate them further. They were the old style light fixtures similar to what could have been in the mansion originally. We called them “transition lights” as they are made for both gas and electricity. What we found were two fixtures with four individual lights, two upright for gas and two pointed downward for electricity and five fixtures with two individual lights, one upright and one pointed down. We have learned of the story that in 1890 when the mansion was completed, electricity was not available in Puyallup yet but it was thought to be coming soon. So when the house was built, transition light fixtures were installed throughout the mansion so as to be ready to convert to power when it became available.
Luckily, we met a man who came by the mansion one day whose name is Everett Culp. He specializes in the restoration of old light fixtures. We made arrangements to meet with him so he could take a look at the found lights and give us an opinion as to their age, etc. He was very informative and thought that the fixtures were of the age that the mansion was built. He was very excited about the lights and offered to rewire them at no cost to us so that we might hang them in the mansion one day. He also arranged for us to purchase glass shades for the lights at his discount prices.
Everett did a wonderful job in the restoration of the lights. They looked beautiful when we he delivered them and we were excited have them installed and show them off. However, it took us a while to decide where in the mansion they would look the best.
Finally, on Monday, November 28th, Everett along with help from Neil Vincent installed all the lights, shades and bulbs in one day! We were very excited to show them off for our Evening at the Mansion when we recognize our volunteers on December 2nd.
We are very grateful to Everett for everything he has done for us. We were thrilled to have Everett and his wife , Jane, attend our annual Volunteer night so we could thank him and show our appreciation.
We cannot be sure that the light fixtures found in the attic are original to the mansion but we do know that they are very similar to what would have been there at the time the mansion was built.
Bruce Cadwell, great-great-grandson of Ezra Meeker, reunites a dining room chair with the Meeker Mansion on Oct. 10. Joshua Bessexjbessex@gateline.com
BY ALLISON NEEDLES email@example.com
For years, Bruce Cadwell had been using a chair passed down through his family as his desk chair in his home in Boise, Idaho.
“It was a cool chair,” said Cadwell, 76. “I was using it for my computer chair.”
Bruce Cadwell, left, stands for a portrait with his sister, Kerry Syverson, and the Meeker dining room chair at the Meeker Mansion in Puyallup on Oct. 10. “It was a cool chair,” said Cadwell, 76. “I was using it for my computer chair.”
As a great-great-grandson of Ezra Meeker, Cadwell thought the chair belonged to the Meeker family after it was passed down to him along with a desk in 2003, after his mother passed away.
On Oct. 10, Cadwell had a chance to make the trip to Puyallup to unite the chair with its long-ago home at Meeker Mansion.
This wasn’t the first time Cadwell traveled to Puyallup to return furniture. The desk, also belonging to the Meeker family, was returned by Cadwell to the mansion about 10 years ago.
The history, said Cadwell, is that Ezra and Eliza Meeker had possession of the desk and the chair since the Meeker family moved into the mansion in 1890. The furniture then passed down to the Meekers’ daughter, Ella, who gave it to her only daughter, Bertha.
When Bertha passed, the furniture came into the hands of her brother, Charles L. Templeton, a physician and the grandfather of Cadwell.
From there, Cadwell took ownership of the desk and chair through his parents.
“When my grandmother passed away my grandfather gave (the furniture) to my mother,” he said.
The desk made its return to Meeker Mansion around 2007, but the chair slipped under the radar. Andy Anderson, historian at Meeker Mansion, said that he knew the chair belonged to the Meeker family right away after he and Cadwell exchanged pictures.
The chair had the same curvature and shape as some of the dining room chairs at Meeker Mansion, Anderson said.
“We had three that matched it,” he said. “How wrong could you get?”
Even so, it took a while to get the chair back to Meeker Mansion.
“It took me years to say I have a chair for (Anderson),” joked Cadwell the day of the chair’s delivery. “I didn’t want to give it up. It’s very comfortable.”
Now, the chair sits in the dining room of the Meeker Mansion with its counterparts. One difference in Cadwell’s chair is the upholstery, which was changed around 30 years ago.
“This chair had the same leather (as the other Meeker chairs),” said Cadwell. “My mother was using it so much that they put new upholstery on it.”
But there’s another defining characteristic of Cadwell’s chair — it has armrests.
It’s possible that there might be a matching “Mr. and Mrs.” armrest chair out in the world, said Cadwell, but that it could be anywhere.
Anderson already knew about Cadwell’s relations to the Meeker family because of a contact list kept by the historical society, but that often, it’s hard to tell if a piece of furniture really did once belong to Ezra Meeker.
In May, a loveseat once belonging to the Meeker family made its return to the mansion by a great-great-granddaughter.
“Every once in awhile someone will call up,” Anderson said. “If it comes from the family, it’s a pretty sure thing. If it’s not, (claims) can get a little out there.”
Cadwell traveled to the Meeker Mansion with his wife, Linda, and his sister, Kerry Syverson, the great-great-granddaughter of Ezra Meeker and lives in Centralia.
“We’re tickled to have (Cadwell),” said Anderson. “We’re pleased to have (him) be a part of us and add (Syverson) to the family list.”
Now the dining room table at Meeker Mansion has a chair on each of its four sides.
“I’m sure they’re glad to be together again,” Cadwell said about the chairs.
This photo features Ezra Meeker and 26 of his relatives, both direct descendants of him and many from his father’s second family. Puyallup Historical Society-Courtesy
By ANDY ANDERSON
Mid-morning on September 14, 1926, 5,000 people, including the honoree, gathered in Pioneer Park to dedicate the statue of Ezra Meeker. It was Pioneer Day at the Fair, and many pioneers and their descendants came to town to participate in both events.
The image is of Ezra Meeker, but the statue is meant to symbolize all pioneers who occupied and “civilized” the Oregon Country so that it could be made part of the United States.
The idea of a statue appears in the public eye about 18 months before the dedication. The image was already in work by a Seattle sculptor, a committee was formed, an out-of-town fundraiser was hired to collect some $6,000 statewide, and plans for the dedication began to take shape. By May, still short of the required total, the plaster model was sent to New York to be cast in bronze.
Two photographs survive to document the celebration. The first, a large format Boland photo, reprinted as advertising by the Puyallup Main Street Association, was taken with a special camera with a moving lens. This is one of two known photos that document a large number of local residents at a moment in time. In the photo, one sees movie cameras set up to record the event, causing one to wonder where the footage might be found today. A group of Yakima Indians in native dress is seen against the backdrop of the Carnegie Library, which was torn down some 50 years ago.
Curiously, the statue does not belong to our community. At the dedication, Puyallup pioneer Charlie Ross, as the instigator of the project, presented the statue to the then-president of the Washington State Historical Society.
The second photo, taken shortly after the throngs of well-wishers had departed (and probably after the reception in the First Christian Church across the street), features Meeker and 26 of his relatives, both direct descendants of him and many from his father’s second family. The Historical Society recently shared the family photo with those Meeker relatives we are in touch with, and asked for help with identifications. We believe we can identify all but two of the people in this photo.
Curiously, the statue does not belong to our community. At the dedication, Puyallup pioneer Charlie Ross, as the instigator of the project, presented the statue to the then-president of the Washington State Historical Society. The president in turn asked Frank Spinning, of Sumner, to present it to the mayor of Puyallup for safekeeping.
The city has kept the statue in good condition, although today it is almost invisible to passers-by. Shielded from the road and from City Hall by the street trees that we all cherish, and from farmer’s market patrons by the concrete stanchions supporting the ivy vine marking the Meeker’ original cabin site for 150 years, the statue is easy to ignore.
We in the Historical Society will do our best to help the community celebrate the centennial of the dedication of the statue in another 10 years. Several of the family members have indicated they intend to be present as well. Now if only we could find those moving pictures …
Andy Anderson is the historian of the Puyallup Historical Society at Meeker Mansion. He can be contacted via email at or by phone through the Meeker Mansion at 253-848-1770.