Most people have heard of the Oregon Trail. Some even played the computer game in school. But Zoonie Robertson has a distant relative who actually traveled on the Trail. Sort of.
Ezra Meeker, a distant uncle of Robertson’s didn’t live during the period of time the Oregon Trail was being traversed by the frontiersmen, but he took the trip. Meeker was a hops farmer. On Wednesday, Robertson told this story to an audience at the Jasper County Museum.
“He’d take off with nothing except the clothes on his back and like a 40- to 50-pound backpack and he did that a couple times,” Robertson said. “He did okay. But then he really wanted to commemorate the pioneers and the battle they had going through the Oregon Trail.”
Robertson said she had known of Meeker’s story for a long time, but her parents gave her some documents and photos. She finally presented it Wednesday and at Ridiculous Days. Aside from the Oregon Trail, Robertson also has relatives who fought in the Civil War and Revolutionary War.
“It’s amazing how it all came together,” Robertson said.
Later in life, Meeker visited New York City, where he met President Roosevelt. Robertson showed photos of Meekers wagon that he had taken to New York City. On Wall Street, Robertson said it was so crowded that Meeker had trouble getting out.
“He said that was one of the most touching things because President Roosevelt understood all of the problems the pioneers had,” Robertson said.
Robertson found the photos of Meeker in New York and one of President Roosevelt at Pappy’s.
“The first time I saw them I thought, ‘I don’t need these,’ but then I thought, ‘Yeah, I do,” Robertson said.
While in New York, Robertson’s wagon would be vandalized. People would carve into the wood.
“It was a huge problem,” she said.
Robertson said she believes she would be brave enough to traverse the Oregon Trail much like Meeker did.
“I feel like a frontier woman,” Robertson said. “Just because I’ve been divorced, and I’m here by myself, and I have one son with Down Syndrome, and I’m doing it all by myself, and I’ve never done that before.”
Robertson still said being a frontiersman or woman was no cake walk. Once out West, while most struggled, several frontiersman found their riches in harvesting hops.
“They didn’t know what they were getting into,” Robertson said. “They thought it was an Eden out there and the government made it sounds like it was really productive.”
Staff writer Dave Hon may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 425, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.