|The history of Meeker can be seen first hand by visiting the White River Museum which is located at 265 Park Street, behind the red stone courthouse. You won't be able to miss the rough hewn log buildings which store the treasures of the White River Valley.The original structure was built in 1880 as quarters for U.S. Army officers. The army pulled out in 1883 and sold the block of buildings to the town for $50. The museum was a private residence until 1945, the garrison building, which is currently under major renovation, was a residence until 1995, and the corner building continues to be a private home.|
Take an hour or possibly an entire afternoon to wander through the original four rooms of officers quarters as well as the three additions which have been built over the years.
As you walk down the main hall, take a look at the old photographs of Meeker. One hundred years ago Meeker was a typical western town of frame buildings and dirt roads with nary a tree in sight. Now there is a thriving community shaded by willows, box elders, birch and aspen. If you look closely at those pictures, you'll also be able to see dugouts along the river. This is what the army's enlisted men called home way back in the 1880's.
One of the original small rooms is devoted to pictures and information about the town, Nathan C. Meeker and his family. If you want to know more about anything you're seeing, you'll most likely find someone in this room who'll be more than happy to fill in the details.
You've only just begun your tour, though. Continue on into rooms filled with the history of Meeker's pioneer families like the Rigby's who donated a portable pantry which was brought to Meeker in 1900. You'll see hoosiers, ice chests, grinders and sideboards filled with kitchen implements commonly, and uncommonly, used by pioneer families.As you continue your wanderings, you'll be delighted by the high chair-stroller which was built in 1867 and came all the way from Germany.
One of the curators or volunteers can probably even be talked into pulling down the old folding bed which was donated by a local family. There's a Florence sewing machine "built in 1854 which was brought around the horn by sailing ship to Portland, Oregon then to Meeker by wagon."As you walk up into the next level, you just might start to think there's more to this museum than you'd thought. You're right. Up here you'll see dresses, wedding gowns, hats and jewelry, from the late 1800's through the 20's, 30's, 40's and on. If you don't find the large Victorian wreath made of human hair, make sure and ask someone. It truly is exquisite.
There are uniforms from every branch of the service, worn by Meeker men in wars going back to WWI.Through personal belongings you'll meet people who've added color to the Meeker landscape. You can see Rory White's bear hide coat. Rory was the stagecoach driver between Meeker and Rifle at the turn of the century. Only in high summer was he seen without his bear hide coat.
You can read articles about the "Real" facts behind the Meeker Massacre, and on the spot coverage of the Meeker bank robbery in 1896.Behind glass enclosures are rifles which were used in the civil war, a Colt Frontier six shooter that was taken from the bank robbers and even a battle axe found on the old +L ranch - the locale of the massacre.
You won't want to miss seeing Chief Colorow's peace pipe, or the pair of moccasins made by a Ute woman for a pioneer boy. And if you're interested in arrowheads or rock samples and fossils from bygone days, the museum has those too.In fact, there's probably something for everyone tucked somewhere in this museum.
You can see the original hand printing press brought to Meeker in 1885 from Leadville by wagon to print the Meeker Herald weekly newspaper - which, by the way, is still in circulation.If you travel back into the far room, you'll see sleighs that come right out of picture post cards, the Concord stage coach which was used between Rifle and Meeker (and held up by bandits in 1887).
No matter what takes your interest as you walk through the museum, let your imagination take hold. This is not Hollywood, but the real thing. These pieces of furniture, these pictures, and personal treasures are truly the pioneer west.
During the summer, the museum is open seven days a week from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.. Winter hours are sporadic, but you'll probably find the doors open fron 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. most weekends. There is no charge, but donations are thankfully accepted.