Meeker Mansion volunteers Wes and Suzy Perkinson recently unearthed an uncaptioned photograph of what appeared to be a Grand Army of the Republic event at the Meeker Mansion in the mid 1910s.
With little to go on but the garbed crowd, local costumer Barb Gregg, of the organization “Somewhere in Time,” precisely dated the clothing as 1915.
Sure enough, the Puyallup Herald of Aug. 27, 1915, carried a front-page story titled “The Old Historic Meeker Mansion Dedicated to the Soldiers’ Widows.”
The story read: “About five hundred friends interested in the Ladies G.A.R. Home from Puyallup and surrounding towns and cities ... gathered on the lawn in front of the old Ezra Meeker mansion last Saturday (Aug. 21) to help dedicate the building, for which the ladies of the board have worked so long and hard ... Commander W.H. North of Everett formally opened the Home to the public.”
We knew the mansion had been for sale since 1903, that Eliza Meeker died in 1909 and Ezra soon vacated the premises. There was talk in the newspaper about acquiring the building for use as a library, but nothing came of it.
The building stood empty for a while, and a hospital was operated in the house from about 1912-15.
We knew the building had been purchased by the Ladies of the G.A.R. for use as a retirement home for female relatives of Civil War veterans, but little was known about how they came to acquire it.
A little more research led to the 1925 Puyallup telephone book, which included this description of the G.A.R. purchase:
“Ten years ago (1915) Mrs. Fannie Haskell, Mrs. Tillie Bartell, Mrs. Carrie Peterson and Mrs. Rose Houghton, all ardent members of the Ladies of the G.A.R., determined to establish a home for the Wives, Widows, Daughters, Mothers, Sisters or Nieces of Veterans of the Civil War. They succeeded in securing the aid of the Puyallup Chamber of Commerce and their first efforts (sic) was a benefit entertainment in the Stewart Theatre from which they realized 500 dollars. This constituted the first payment on their home, the old Ezra Meeker Mansion on Pioneer Ave. East.
“Mrs. Haskell was successful in interesting our State Legislature in their cause to the extent of appropriations of $1,500 at two different sessions and $3,000 at another to clear the indebtedness on the home, which cost $8,000. They now have 35 inmates and are very much crowded. Contractors are now bidding on an addition to the hospital and dining room.
“There are 32 different Ladies of the G.A.R. organizations over the state as well as other societies and individuals that contribute to the upkeep of the home. It is a worthy undertaking and is being well taken care of by Mrs. Haskell.”Andy Anderson is the historian of the Puyallup Historical Society at Meeker Mansion. He can be reached at 253-848-1770.