Eliza Jane Meeker (1833-1909)
On 13 May 1851, Ezra Manning Meeker & Eliza Jane Sumner were married in the cabin of Thomas Sumner & Sarah (Anderson) Sumner in Spring Valley, Marion Co., Indiana 9 miles west of Indianapolis, and immediately departed for Eddyville, IA. The next spring they packed up and left for the Oregon Territory, with a seven week-old baby.
Eliza Jane Meeker is an important part of the Meeker story, but without a voice of her own. She only shows up in a handful of photos:
1. Carte de Visite, 1880s
2. Sitting in the Washington exhibit at the New Orleans, Louisiana Exposition
3. At Mount Vernon
4. On the Meeker Mansion front porch for daughter Olive’s wedding
5. In a 1901 Golden Wedding Portrait (A. Curtis)
6. On porch for Golden wedding celebration
7. With Mr. Meeker at the Mansion’s carriage entrance for their 50th Wedding celebration
8. In the 1904 Old settlers meeting
Eliza Jane left a diary of only a few months duration from her travels to the east, late in life. We know she communicated with Ezra while he traveled, but to our knowledge, not a single letter survives. Eliza Jane was left holding the family together on many occasions, yet she was a full partner in his life and doings. Ezra gives her full credit in his memoirs for packing their foodstuffs in such a way that everything worked out on their long trek, along the Oregon Trail, from Idaho to Oregon
As a married man in the Washington Territory, Ezra qualified for twice as much land as a single man. When the land was sold, Ezra gave Eliza Jane the credit for half of the proceeds to pay for her new home, which was in her name.
Eliza Jane was the mother of six, instigator of the first Puyallup library, wife, helpmate, canner of vegetables for Ezra to sell to miners in Dawson City, Yukon Territory and companion to Ezra on some of his official trips, most notably the Washington State Exhibit in New Orleans and to the East Coast and Europe. Eliza Jane had an important role in the suffrage movement in Washington DC, attending National meetings and maintaining momentum for the movement in Washington State.
Mrs. Meeker became ill after her husband departed on his 1906 expedition East to retrace and mark the Oregon Trail, Ezra had left her in the care of one of his daughters, yet he worried about her every day he was gone. He wrote she only recognized him twice during the year they were reunited. She died in 1909, and is buried alongside her husband in Puyallup’s Woodbine Cemetery.