(Feb. 7, 1810 - June 20, 1875)
Born in Virginia, Joe Meek left for Missouri at an early age to escape a disagreeable stepmother. In 1829 he joined William Sublette and for the next eleven years lived the arduous life of a mountain man.
A hand-to-claw encounter with a grizzly, a hand-to-hand combat with a Bannock warrior, the killing of his first wife by a raiding party, the famed battle at Pierre's Hole and a participant in Joseph Walker's expedition to California are a few of the escapades by Joe Meek.
As the fur trade waned in the 1840s, Meek headed to Oregon escorting a one of the first wagon trains. Settling here as a farmer, he served as sheriff in 1843 and legislature in 1846 and 1847. With the Whitman Massacre and outbreak of the Cayuse War in the Oregon Territory, Meek headed for Washington D.C. where he met with President Polk. Joe Meek's case for making the Oregon Territory a federal territory came to fruition with the appointment of Joe Lane as Territorial Governor and Joe Meek as Territorial Federal Marshal.
As marshal, Joe Meek supervised the hanging of five Cayuse Indians found guilty of the Whitman Massacre. Organizing the Oregon Volunteers, Joe Meek led this group in the Yakima Indian War eventually becoming a major for his service.
A local resident described Joe Meek as "very popular and as brave as Julius Caesar". Stanley Vestal (see book below) painted the following picture: "the Davy Crockett of our Great Northwest, bold, adventurous, humorous, a first-class trapper, pioneer, peace officer, and frontier politican. More, he was the wittiest, saltiest, most shameless wag and jester that ever wore moccasins in the Rockies - a tall happy-go-lucky Virginian lover of practical jokes, tall tales, Jacksonian Democracy and Indian women."
Joe Meek is buried in the Tualitin Plains Presbyterian Cemetery (called Old Scotch Church Cemetery by the locals) north of Hillsboro, OR.
Information compiled by Steve Grimm
Books About Joe Meek
The River of the West by Francis Fuller Victor
Based on interviews and correspondence with Joe Meek, Victor relates the life of a great mountain man and born leader. Don't worry about the lack of dates or attention to detail relating various episodes. This book captures the spirit of life as a mountain man, adventurer and pioneer. The prose demonstrates Joe Meek's confidence in himself, a humor leaning toward a prankster and his sense loyalty and justice. Meek is never petty or vindictive, but manifests a character who had a zest for life.
Joe Meek - The Merry Mountain Man by Stanley Vestal
It has been a while since I read this book. I remember it being reliable and relying heavily on the book above.