Ezra Meeker was one of the pioneers who came across to Oregon on the Oregon Trail in the mid-1800s, and later in life endeavored to put up markers at different points along the trail as a way to preserve its history.
One of those markers was posted at the at the site of Old Fort Boise which is now along Oregon Highway 201 next to an Oregon Trail Kiosk. The information that follows is an account of its own interesting history and the mystery surrounding it.
“The Mystery of the Missing Monument” was solved.
Or at least another piece of it was, now that a former resident of Nyssa had fessed up to the fact his father was one of perpetrators of the theft of the Oregon Trail Marker from the Idaho side of the Snake River near the site of Old Fort Boise.
They claimed, of course, it was all for a good cause by one account, to keep the monument out of the hands of Ontario.
The mystery first came to light in the July 21, 1922 issue of the Nyssa Gate City Journal, under the headlines, “Relic in New Home,” and “Monument Marking Oregon Trail at Old Fort Boise Brought To Town.”
The story reads: “Nyssa Citizens were surprised Wednesday morning to discover the monument which has marked the Oregon Trail at the site of old Fort Boise, a few miles above Nyssa, standing against the door of the Commercial Club rooms.
“All inquiry as to how it got there was without result and it was finally accepted as an act of providence, which recognized that Nyssa was the logical point for it to be set up, as the crossing at that point has been abandoned and the route of the old road changed to pass through Nyssa.”
The story went on to report, “The monument will be set up at some conspicuous point in the vicinity, probably near the school house at the intersection of the Jordan Valley Market Road with the Oregon Trail.”
The late Louise Hill, a longtime Adrian area resident, said the school referred to is the Hogback School, which preceded the Oregon Trail School.
The Hogback School was located directly east of the still existing Oregon Trail School.
According to information in the Malheur Country Review, the newsletter of the Malheur Historical Society, published in the fall of 1990, Oregon Trail pioneer Ezra Meeker was responsible for the original placement of the monument. He founded the Oregon Trail Memorial Association which raised funds to erect markers along the trail.
Information turned up by Parma historian Lucille Peterson, said the monument, to be placed at the site of the Hudson’s Bay fort at the junction of the Boise and Snake rivers, was to be made of native granite quarried at Boise.
Peterson realized she had never seen a granite monument at the site of old Fort Boise and could not find anyone who had. According to the story in the Review, she then met Lizzie Sells who recounted a story told to her by Charlie Johnson. Johnson, who lived in Parma during the 1920s, saw the monument at its original location and then Johnson later spotted the memorial leaning against the Commercial Club building in Nyssa.
Johnson said he figured some pranksters had stolen it and then dumped it in Nyssa.
He had made plans to steal it back but did not get around to it and then left Parma shortly afterwards.
A few years after she heard Johnson’s story, Sells found the 1922 account of the monument reprinted in the “50 Years Ago” column in the May 9, 1972, issue of the Gate City Journal, and decided Johnson had not told an idle tale after all.
In 1974, Sells was a member of a group tour which followed the Oregon Trail from its crossing at the Snake River to Farewell Bend. Lloyd Adams, who was born on the Oregon side of the river where the trail crossed, pointed out a stone monument with inscriptions on two sides, one about Fort Boise and the other pertaining to the Oregon Trail.
Sells took Peterson to see the monument and the two felt they had solved the mystery of the monument missing from the Idaho site of Old Fort Boise.
The monument now sits about a mile west of its old position on the Oregon side of the Snake River, along U.S. Highway 201, between Nyssa and Adrian.
Having solved the where, there was still the lingering question of who. Skip ahead to 1999. To about two weeks ago to be exact. Hill, whose family moved to the Adrian area in the 1930s, had a visit from Roderick Stubbs. Stubbs’ family lived in Nyssa from 1917 to 1925. Stubbs, 86, came down from Washington with his son to revisit the Nyssa area and to check out cemetery burial information concerning a baby sister who died in 1917.
Hill said Stubbs still had a good memory of where things used to be when he lived in Nyssa, but he also kept asking about a certain “Ezra Meeker Monument.”
Having read the story in the Malheur County Review and having seen the monument along the road for many years, Hill became suspicious Stubbs knew something about the incident. Hill began asking her own questions but Stubbs never gave her a direct answer.
However, after he went back home, Stubbs sent Hill the following account of the incident, plus other information about the Stubbs family in Nyssa:
“Frank Stubbs (Roderick Stubbs’ father) attended the city council meetings because his dryline and team of horses worked for the City of Nyssa. Members of the Nyssa City Council became upset and concerned over Ontario, Oregon’s plan to move Ezra Meeker’s Oregon Trail Marker from its location where the Boise River joined the Snake River, and to mount it in the City of Ontario. Nyssa contended the stone marker should be on the Covered Wagon Trail. Frank Stubbs and a helper, that I believe to be Art Cook, quietly moved the stone marker one night to Nyssa, and leaned it against the back wall of the council building.
“Shortly after the stone marker removal, a man from Parma, Idaho named Charlie Johnson, came snooping about Nyssa, checking the alleys. He found the stone marker and inspected it carefully and then left town. Frank Stubbs knew the man from Parma and figured the jig’ was up. The stone marker was then secretly taken to Vale, Oregon and placed for care in the possession of a businessman that ran a hardware store in Vale. He was to keep it secretly until a further decision could be made.
“The removal and secrecy of the matter was done for Nyssa so that someday the Oregon Trail Marker would be placed on the Covered Wagon Route for future travelers to see.”
Frank Stubbs fainted and fell from the water wagon while sprinkling Nyssa streets one evening in 1925. He spent time in the Ontario hospital and was checked by Boise doctors. Told he would not live much longer, the Stubbs family moved to Lewiston, so his wife, Barbara, could obtain a teaching certificate to support the family.
The Nyssa Odd Fellows and Rebekah Lodge helped finance the move.
Frank Stubbs actually lived to be 87, dying Aug. 25, 1976.
The remaining part of the mystery is how it got to its present location from Vale.
In a personal note to Hill about the monument, Roderick Stubbs wrote, “I was happy to learn it was found and it came to rest as a historical marker on the Covered Wagon Trail, very near the pioneer crossing of the Snake River. It’s where the old time city fathers figured it ought to be.”