Ezra Meeker: The influence Puyallup’s first mayor still has on the city today
BY JOHN HOPPERSTAD AND TESSA LAVERGNE
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.