The History of Meeker, Colorado

The History of Meeker

Meeker and the surrounding areas nestled within the White River Valley is a very special place. While we are renowned for the natural beauty of the Valley and our proximity to the Flat Tops Wilderness Area and White River National Forest, the Town of Meeker is also rich with history. From the days of the Yampatika people, early descendants of the Ute people, the tragedy of the Meeker Massacre and the Battle of Milk Creek and the founding of the town in 1885, Meeker has remained the historical, cultural and economic heart of northwestern Colorado. Visitors with an interest in frontier history will be fascinated with the rich history that has shaped our town over the course of the last two centuries.

 

Nathan Meeker and the Founding of the Town

The town of Meeker was founded in 1885 following the removal of the Camp at White River, a United States Army garrison that was established during the White River War of 1879. The town was named in honor of Nathan Meeker, a journalist, homesteader and entrepreneur who managed the White River Indian Agency. Before settling in the area, Nathan Meeker founded the Union Colony in 1870, located in what is now the city of Greeley, Colorado. In addition to being the namesake of the town, Mount Meeker in the Rocky Mountain National Park was also named in Meeker’s honor.

 

Teddy Roosevelt’s White River Hunt and the Presidential Pet from Meeker

In the early 1900s, Meeker developed a reputation as regional hunting destination. For three weeks in the winter of 1901, then Vice-President-elect Theodore Roosevelt visited the White River Valley for a mountain lion hunting expedition. Led by Meeker resident and hunting guide John B. Goff, Roosevelt and two of his friends stayed in a cabin on Coyote Creek and spent three weeks hunting. Before departing for Rifle, Roosevelt reportedly bagged twelve mountain lions, a tally that steadily (and inaccurately) increased through word-of-mouth as Roosevelt’s stature as a hunter grew.

Despite being one of fifteen hunting dogs owned by John B. Goff and utilized throughout the White River Hunt, Skip the brown terrier managed to stand out to Teddy Roosevelt as a fearless and loving dog. Following a letter to his son Kermit describing Skip’s antics during the hunt, Roosevelt asked Goff if he could adopt Skip and bring him back to Washington. Skip, the most famous dog from Meeker, joined the Roosevelt family as a loving companion to Kermit and younger son Archie.

 

Meeker’s Hollywood Cowboy

If you’re a fan of classic Hollywood cowboys, you may have heard of Buddy Roosevelt. However, chances are you’ve never heard of Kenneth Sanderson, born in Meeker on June 25th, 1898. The future stuntman and leading man left Meeker at the age of 18, taking his prowess as a White River cowboy to the “C. B. Irwin Wild West Show” in Grand Junction. After working as a stunt rider for a number of years, Sanderson ventured to Hollywood to perform as a stunt man in Western movies, but he didn’t last in this position for very long – soon he was a silent Western star for the Universal Film Company, appearing under the stage name “Buddy Roosevelt.”

Sanderson would go on to have a career that spanned the entire era of the classic Hollywood western, with his last credited appearance in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance in 1962, appearing with John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart.

Meeker’s association with Hollywood didn’t end with Sanderson’s death in 1973. Many Hollywood celebrities and other prominent individuals visit Meeker and the White River Valley, especially during the summer months.