The Seven Toughest Men in Oregon History – Part 3 – Joseph Meek
With little doubt the single most important person in Oregon History is mountain man Joseph Meek. Ironic that he was barely ever mentioned in any of my grade school or high school history classes, nor in the college level Oregon History class I took at one point. The introduction paragraph of his Wikipedia article misses the full measure of the man.
Quoted from Wikipedia “Joseph Lafayette “Joe” Meek (1810–1875) was a trapper, law enforcement official, and politician in the Oregon Country and later Oregon Territory of the United States. A pioneer involved in the fur trade before settling in the Tualatin Valley, Meek would play a prominent role at the Champoeg Meetings of 1843 where he was elected as a sheriff. Later he served in the Provisional Legislature of Oregon before being selected as the United States Marshal for the Oregon Territory.”
By the time Meek came to Oregon, he had already been a fur trapper for over ten years. He joined in on the political fray and was instrumental in the narrow vote to organize the Oregon Territory as a United States possession, instead of a British one. He organized and financed the first cattle drive to Oregon, from California. After the Whitman Massacre where his own daughter was killed, instead of try to take revenge, he took the news to Washington D.C. in the middle of winter. After meeting the President of the United States and urging Oregon be officially recognized as a State, he was then made the Oregon Territory Federal Marshal. A position which he held for five years.
After that he organized a volunteer militia company to fight in the Yakima Indian Wars, then did it again a few years later during the Rouge Indian Wars. Through all this, Meek seemed to be constantly opening up new areas of Oregon, scouting out and building roads, and generally helping out wherever he could. He died at 65 years of age on the farm he settled on in the Tualatin Valley, and is buried at the church that he raised funds for and helped build.