Joseph Meek was born in Virginia on 7th February, 1810. He moved to St. Louis and in 1829 became a mountain men in the Rocky Mountains. He took part in the battle of Pierre's Hole in July 1832 and the following year joined Joseph Walker on his California expedition of 1833-34. His brother, Stephen Meek, was also a trapper.
After spending eleven years trapping beaver Meek settled down and worked as a farmer in Oregon. By 1845 Meek was heavily involved in politics. He had also been converted to Methodism and was a member of the temperance movement.
Meek met President James Polk in May, 1848, and soon afterwards was appointed marshal of Oregon Territory. He also served in the Oregon Volunteers during the Yakima Indian War.
Meek had children of mixed race and they suffered discrimination. Therefore, although a member of the Democratic Party, he was pro-Union during the American Civil War.
Joseph Meek died on 20th June, 1875.