Meeker attended school in Oberlin and in Hudson.
While in Euclid, Meeker became interested in the teachings of François Marie Charles Fourier and began to lecture on the subject. Because of this interest, he joined the Trumbull phalanx at Braceville, Ohio, where Fourierism was being practiced. He worked on a farm, lectured, taught school, prospered, and, as he said later, "learned how much co-operation people would bear". Three years' experience sufficed him, and in 1849 he reentered the business world in Euclid. Early in the fifties, he was invited to open a store in Hiram, where a group of Campbellites were preparing to start a college. While there he wrote a novel, "The Adventures of Captain Armstrong, " which was an interesting commentary upon the final phase of his own life, for the captain, wrecked on an island in the South Seas, tried to educate the savages in the ways of civilized life. The panic of 1857 brought this Hiram venture to a close. He opened a store in southern Illinois, became a newspaper correspondent, and about 1865 joined the staff of the New York Tribune.
In 1869 he was sent west to survey the work of the Mormons. While he did not reach Utah he learned much about their cooperative plans and still more about the conditions in the Territory of Colorado. Out of this trip grew his plan to organize an agricultural colony in the West. With the support of Horace Greeley and of the Tribune, he launched the Union Colony in December 1869. Early the next year he set out, with two others, to choose a suitable site for the colony and, on Apr. 5, selected a site on the Platte River, north of Denver and on the Denver Pacific Railway. His call for settlers proved successful and his earlier wish, to form a community of the people whose interests were in moral and intellectual development, was about to be realized. He returned for a time to New York in order to arrange for the transportation of settlers at reduced fares and to attend to many necessary details. By early May about 12, 000 acres of land had been bought from the railroad and from individuals, while agreements had been made with the railroad and with the government to obtain 111, 000 acres more. The colony was cooperative, a new type of organization in Colorado. Yet the little settlement was eager to have it understood that it was not a community in the sense of the Oneida Community. Instead, it recognized private ownership of land and individual control of the activity. No saloons and no billiard halls were tolerated. A school was opened at once, a library started, and a lyceum founded. The inhabitants of Colorado looked upon the colonists as cranks and as led by a chief crank, Meeker, the president of the colony, tall, awkward, slow of speech, and tactless. On November 16, 1870, he published the first issue of his paper the Greeley Tribune, in which his editorials were wise and idealist admonitions to the people who lived in the little town of Greeley set in the center of their irrigated fields. Even though it must have been hard for such a wanderer, he remained in Greeley for eight years. In 1878, however, he accepted the appointment as Indian agent at the White River reservation and proceeded to attempt to carry out his ideas of the proper method of managing Indians. Like the Captain Armstrong of his novel, he believed in the civilizing effect of work. He thought to induce the Utes to live in log houses, to plow the fields, to raise crops, and to support themselves. His lack of tactful understanding led him into difficulties. The Utes, hostile to his plans, rose and killed him with all the rest of the white men in the agency.
In 1844 Meeker married Arvilla Delight Smith who accompanied him on his later wanderings and survived him.