Ezra Meeker is probably the best-known Oregon Trail traveler to retrace his journey. He did it several times in order to memorialize the trail’s importance in U.S. history. In his late 70s, 1906-1908, and again from 1910-1912, he travelled the route in a covered wagon and encouraged communities along the way to install memorials to mark the trail. The trail was being obliterated by the passage of time. Without his efforts, we would know much less about that history than we do today. I’ll do an extended post about Meeker in the future.
Today, I want to tell a smaller story that relates only to Idaho, specifically to a single rock. The photo shows the image of an Indian chief scratched onto the surface of a lava rock. It’s a good rendition when you consider that the artist was seven years old. J.J. Hansen was in a wagon train on the Oregon Trail with his parents on their way to Portland, Oregon in 1866 when they stopped at Register Rock. Many travelers carved their names or initials on the big rock, which is a feature of Massacre Rocks State Park today. Young Mr. Hansen found a smaller rock to call his own and proceeded to chip out the image of an Indian and what looks like a cowboy across the rock facing the chief. Hansen called the man in the hat a preacher. He added the year to his artwork, 1866.
Hansen visited the site again in 1908, 42 years later. His youthful artistic leanings had blossomed as an adult and he had become a sculptor. He found the rock on which he had practiced his art and added the new year, 1908, to complete the circle. The latter date is difficult to see in the picture. It is on the lower right.