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Walter Meacham papers

Identifier: Ax 065

Scope and Contents

The Walter Meacham papers are comprised of correspondence, manuscripts, research notes, and a variety of materials associated with the Old Oregon Trail Association and Meacham's promotional activities.

The Correspondence series dates from 1900 to 1943, and includes letters regarding the American Pioneer Trails Association, the Oregon Trail Memorial Association, other related organizations and Oregon pioneers. Within groupings of periods of several years each, letters are arranged roughly alphabetically by correspondent and/or subject. There is one file containing letters written by Meacham family members, from 1900-1916.

The Manuscripts and Associated Materials series contains book-length manuscripts, associated correspondence and notes, and manuscripts of short articles and stories. These manuscripts are extremely diverse in nature; some are actually chapters from larger book-length manuscripts (many of the pioneer stories may be found in the manuscript for Wagon Wheels), some may have been designed as speeches or press releases, as with those articles associated with The First Covered Wagons to the West announcing the Covered Wagon Centennial in Portland, 1930, etc. The articles are grouped alphabetically by title or subject. The files with pioneer and explorers' stories are followed by a collection of Northwest Native American legends. There are two files containing a small sampling of "Oregon Trail" and Northwest poetry by Meacham, Joaquin Miller, and others. These poems are roughly identified by subject.

The Research Notebooks series is described by headings Meacham himself wrote on each of his notebooks. As there is little order or logic apparent in the organization of the notebooks, and several subjects appear in a number of different volumes, Meacham's headings prove very useful.

The Old Oregon Trail Association Materials series contains materials associated with Meacham's activities in the Old Oregon Trail Association. There is a separate folder of correspondence regarding these events. In addition, there are brochures, pamphlets, programs, magazine articles, newspaper clippings, and scrapbooks.

The Scrapbooks series contains two volumes with newspaper clippings.

The Photographs series contains photograph prints and six albums of photographs of Oregon Trail related pageants and events. The photographs document Meacham's interest in the Trail and several Baker County celebrations and reenactments, including one circa 1919 and one in 1943 attended by President Harding. Additional albums include a commemorative album of the 1943 launching of the tanker ship "Oregon Trail'; an album of the SF Pan-Pacific Intl. Expo, 1915; and two albums of Meacham's travels and life in Baker. The Photographs series was separated out of the collection for preservation reasons. The photographs are filed under the call number PH106.


  • 1840-1943


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open to the public. Collection must be used in Special Collections and University Archives Reading Room. Collection or parts of collection may be stored offsite. Please contact Special Collections and University Archives in advance of your visit to allow for transportation time.

Conditions Governing Use

Property rights reside with Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries. Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs. All requests for permission to publish collection materials must be submitted to Special Collections and University Archives. The reader must also obtain permission of the copyright holder.

Biographical / Historical

Walter E. Meacham (1879-1951) was born and raised in Baker County, Oregon, the son of Oregon pioneers. He developed a fascination with the history of the Northwest, its Native American tribes, and the pioneer settlers who came via the Oregon Trail. This fascination motivated a lifetime of research and writing of Oregon history.

Meacham's father, Joel E. Meacham, served as superintendent for the construction of the famous "Eldorado Ditch", a 100-mile long canal built to transport water from the Upper Blunt River to the mining camp at Eldorado (later Malheur City).

Meacham wrote numerous books and articles on the Oregon Trail and Northwest history, including The Old Oregon Trail: Road Which Saved an Empire, Bonneville the Bold, and Old Oregon Trail: Roadway of American Home Builders. Contemporary critics praised him for his careful documentation of facts, and his attempts to ensure the authenticity of his stories.

In addition to his research and interviewing efforts, Meacham was involved in activities promoting Oregon and the Oregon Trail. He organized the 1923 Oregon Trail Pageant in Meacham, Oregon, which was attended by President Harding on his tour of the west. Meacham founded the Old Oregon Trail Association and served as its president for many years. He promoted development of the Old Oregon Trail as a major highway which would attract affluent eastern tourists to Oregon and the Northwest.


8 linear feet (10 containers, 7 volumes) : 7 manuscript boxes, 1 clamshell box, 1 8x11 photo box, 1 oversize flat box, 7 volumes

Language of Materials



Walter E. Meacham (1879-1951) was a historian and Oregon Trail enthusiast. The Walter Meacham papers consist of correspondence, manuscripts, research notes, and a variety of materials associated with the Old Oregon Trail Association and Meacham's promotional activities.


Collection is organized into the following series: 1. Correspondence, 2. Manuscripts and Associated Materials, 3. Research Notebooks, 4. Old Oregon Trail Association Materials, 5. Scrapbooks, and 6. Photographs.

Related Materials

Other collections relating to Walter Meacham can be found the Oregon Historical Society Research Library: Walter E. Meacham Papers, Mss 2479.

Processing Information

Collection processed by staff.

This finding aid may be updated periodically to account for new acquisitions to the collection and/or revisions in arrangement and description.

This collection received a basic level of processing including minimal organization and rehousing.

Description information is drawn in part from information supplied with the collection and initial surveys of the contents. Folder titles are based on those created by the creators or previous custodians. Titles have not all been verified against the contents of the folders. In some cases, staff supplied folder titles during initial processing.

Photographs were separated out of the collection for preservation reasons. The photographs are filed under the call number PH106.

Guide to the Walter Meacham Papers
Revise Description
Austin Munsell and Kira B. Homo. Revisions by Sarah Lueders.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.
Funding for production of this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC).

Repository Details

Part of the University of Oregon Libraries, Special Collections and University Archives Repository

1299 University of Oregon
Eugene OR 97403-1299 USA