|KANSAS COLLECTION BOOKS|
PIKE'S EXPEDITION -- 1806-07, PART 1.
At the time of Pike's explorations, there was an intense jealousy, amounting to incipient war, between the Spanish colonies along the northeastern borders of Mexico, and the Louisiana settlers. The boundaries between the two possessions had never been definitely settled. All of the region lying north of the Rio Grande to the Platte, and east to the Missouri, which embraced the present State of Kansas, was debatable ground, esteemed of little value to either power, except for the profits derived from the Indian trade, yet jealously watched on either side, that neither should secure it against the other. Hence came the Spanish expedition of 1720, which followed that of Du Tissenet, the disastrous ending of which has already been related. No sooner were the Spaniards informed of the proposed expedition of Pike than they made a fresh attempt to gain ascendency by forestalling his visit to the Indian tribes, and by overpowering him by superior numbers if the two hostile parties should meet. Pike, himself, gives the account of the expedition quoted below, which he says "was the most important ever sent out of New Mexico; and, in fact, the only one directed to the northeastward, except that mentioned by `Abbe Raynal, in his History of the Indies,' as being sent to the Pawnees." The account is as follows:
In the year 1806, our affairs with Spain began to wear a very serious aspect, and the troops of the two governments almost came to actual hostilities on the frontiers of Texas and the Orleans Territory; at this time, when matters bore every appearance of coming to a crisis, I was fitting out for my expedition from St. Louis, when some of the Spanish emmissaries in that country transmitted the information to Maj. Merior, and the Spanish Council at that place, who immediately forwarded the information to Capt. Sebastian Roderiques, the then commandant of Nacogdoches, who forwarded it to Col. Cordero, by whom it was transmitted to the seat of government. This information was personally communicated to me, as an instance of the rapid means they possessed of conveying intelligence relative to the occurrences transacted on our frontier. The expedition was then determined on, and had three objects in view; first, to descend the Red River, in order if they met our expedition to intercept and turn it back; or should Maj. Sparks and Mr. Freeman have missed the party from Nacogdoches under the command of Capt. Viana, to oblige them to return, and not penetrate farther into the country, or make them prisoners of war.
The Spanish expedition was planned and executed after the news of Pike's preparations was known in New Mexico, and with such celerity as to have forestalled and partially defeated one of its designs, which was to thwart and turn back Pike's party. When Pike reached the Pawnee villages some fifty miles up the Solomon Fork, September 25, 1806, he found that Malgares had visited the Pawnees a few weeks before, and was then on his return journey to New Mexico. Pike frequently crossed the return track of the Spaniards as he journeyed south and west across Kansas, they being but a few weeks in advance of him.
The expedition of Lieut. Pike was planned in April, 1806, on the return of that officer from a successful tour of discovery and exploration to the head waters of the Mississippi. Its objects are set forth in the following letter of instruction from Gen. Wilkinson, by whose command the expedition was undertaken:
St. Louis, June 24, 1806.
Under the above instructions, and a subsequent order to arrest all persons found on his route trading with the Indians without a proper government license, Capt. Pike set out from Belle Fontaine, four miles above the mouth of the Missouri, July 15, 1806. The party consisted of twenty-three white men, and a party of fifty-one Indians of the Osage and Pawnee tribes, who had been redeemed from captivity among the Pottawatomies, and were to be restored to their friends at the Osage villages on the head-waters of the Osage River.
The whites were as follows: Captain, Z. M. Pike; Lieutenant, James B. Wilkinson; Doctor, John H. Robinson; Sergeants, Joseph Ballenger and William E. Meek; Corporal, Jeremiah Jackson; Privates, John Boley, Henry Kennerman, Samuel Bradley, John Brown, Jacob Carter, Thomas Dougherty, William Gordon, Solomon Huddleston, Theodore Miller, Hugh Menaugh, John Mountjoy, Alexander Roy, John Sparks, Patrick Smith, Freegift Stout, John Wilson; Interpreter, Baroncy Vasquez. George Henry, an interpreter, joined the expedition as a volunteer at St. Charles, on the Missouri.
The party ascended the Missouri and Osage Rivers in boats, the Indians accompanying them on foot along the banks of the river. From the start, the party subsisted on the game killed. Bear and deer were abundant, and were their chief subsistence, varied occasionally by wild turkeys, which were not plenty. They saw trout in the Osage River, about one hundred miles from its mouth, but caught none as they were without hooks or nets. The first prairie mentioned was between the site of Pierre Choteau's old fort and the village of the Grand Osage, at the forks of the Osage River in Missouri. This village was reached Wednesday, August 20th, a council having been previously held at the American encampment on the edge of the prairie. The village of Tuttassuggy or "The Wind," chief of the Little Osage, was visited on the 21st, and a grand council held on the 22d, at which both bands were represented, Cheveau Blanc, or White Hair, being chief of the Grand Osage. The Osage captives had been sent forward by land with Lieut. Wilkinson, and Pike found the Great Osage chief quite jealous because they had gone to the inferior village first. After soothing the troubled feelings of the irate warrior and giving them the usual talk about the desires and will of their "Great Father," preparations were made for an overland journey to the Pawnees. Selling one boat, and procuring horses from the Osages, Lieut. Pike's party attended a parting entertainment-the great medicine dance at White Hair's Village, and on the 1st day of September left for their western journey. The party were accompanied by the son of White Hair, and by the brother of "The Wind." It now consisted of one Captain, two Lieutenants, one Doctor, two Sergeants, one Corporal, fifteen privates, two interpreters, three Pawnees and four chiefs of the Grand Osage, with fifteen loaded horses. They coursed the Osage River to its source, crossed some of the small branches of the Grande (Neosho), and followed the divide between waters flowing into the Grande and Kansas Rivers. They struck "a large branch of the Kansas" September 18, 'which was impregnated with salt'." In the rear of their encampment was a hill, on the summit of which was a huge rock which afforded a much-used lookout for the Indians. The route from the Osage villages led through the counties of Linn, Miami, Franklin, Osage, Lyon, Morris and Dickinson to the mouth of the Saline River. During the whole journey the country literally swarmed with game. Pike thus writes in his journal September 14: "On the march, we were continually passing through large herds of buffaloes, elk and cabrie; and I have no doubt but one hunter could support 200 men. I prevented the men shooting at the game, not merely because of the scarcity of ammunition, but as I conceived the laws of morality forbade it." Elsewhere he writes: "Standing on a hill, I beheld in our view below me, buffaloes, elk, deer, cabrie and panthers." Of the country, the following descriptions are taken from his journal: "The country round the Osage villages is one of the most beautiful that the eye ever beheld. The three branches of the river, viz., the large eastern fork, the middle one (up which we ascended), and the northern, all winding round and past the villages, giving the advantages of wood and water, and at the same time, the extensive prairie, crowned with rich and luxuriant grass and flowers, gently diversified by rising swells and sloping lawns, presenting to the warm imagination the future seats of husbandry. The numerous herds of domestic animals, which are no doubt destined to crown with joy these happy plains." Under the date of September 6, having been once obliged to return to the Osage villages, the journal says: "We marched at 6:30 o'clock, and arrived at a large fork of the Little Osage River, where we breakfasted. In the holes in the creek we discovered many fish, which, from the stripes on their bellies and their spots, I supposed to be bass and trout; they were twelve inches long." * * * * *
"At 5 o'clock, arrived at the dividing ridge between the water of the Osage and the Arkansaw or White River, the dry branches of which intersect within twenty yards of each other. The prospect from the east and southeast is sublime. The prairie rising and falling in regular swells, as far as sight can extend, produces a very beautiful appearance." "From the Verdigris River, our course had lain out over gravelly hills, and a prairie country, but well watered by the branches of the Verdigris and White or Grand River. From the dividing ridge which parts these streams, to the source of the latter, there is very little timber. The grass is short, and the prairies high and dry, and exhibits many appearances of iron ore; and on the western side some Spa Springs. Here the country is very deficient of water."
Between the 18th of September, when Pike reached the Saline River, and the 25th of the same month, he completed his journey to the village of the Pawnees, crossing the Solomon on his journey. The village was located on the Republican Fork, some distance above its junction with Solomon's Fork, at the site of the present village of Scandia in Republic County. On the last days march (September 25), he crossed the track of the Spanish expedition on its homeward march. He says on that date he "struck a very large road, along which the Spanish expedition had returned; and which he could discover the grass beaten down in the direction they had taken."
The description of the country as given is as follows: "From the eastern branch of the Kansas River (by one route), to the Pawnee Republic, on the Republican Fork, the prairies are low, the Grass high, the country abounding with Salines, and the earth appearing impregnated with nitrous and common salts. The immediate borders of the Republican Fork, near the village, consist of high ridges, but this is an exception, but this is an exception to the general face of the country. All the territory between the forks of the Kanses river, for a distance of 160 miles, may be called prairie, not withstanding the borders of the woodland which ornament the banks of the streams, but no more than a line traced on a sheet of paper when compared to the meadow country. For some distance from the Osage villages you will find only deer, then elk, the cabrie, and finally buffalo. But is worthy of a remark that although the male buffaloes were in great abundance, yet in all our route, from the Osage to the Pawnees, we never saw one female. I acknowledged myself at a loss to determine whether this is to be attributed to the decided preference the savages give to the meat of the female, and that consequently they are almost exterminated in the hunting grounds of the nations, or some physical causes, for afterwards I discovered the females with young in such immense herds as gave me no reason to believe they yielded to the males in numbers.
Treaties were made with the various tribes by Capt. Pike. The grand council of the Pawnees, at which not less than four hundred warriors were present, was help September 29. The circumstances attending were interesting, as the influence of the Spanish visitors on the minds of the Pawnees was shown, as well as evidence of a treaty or alliance having been made with them. Pike's account is given below:
The notes that I took at my grand council held with the Pawnee nation were seized by the Spanish Governor, together with all my speeches to the different nations. But it may be interesting to observe (in case they are never returned) that the Spaniards had left several of their flags in this village, one of which was unfurled at the chief's door the day of the grand council; and amongst the various demands and charges I made was, that said flag should be delivered to me, and one of the United States flags be received and hoisted in its place. This probably was carrying the pride of the nations a little to far, as there had so lately been a large Spanish force at the village, which had made a great impression on the minds of the young men, as to their power and consequence, etc., which my appearance with twenty infantry was by no means calculated to remove. After the chiefs had replied to various parts of my discourse, but were silent as to the flag, I again reiterated my demand for the flag, adding it was impossible for a nation to have two fathers; that they must either be children of the Spaniards, or acknowledge their American Father. After a silence of some time, an old man rose, went to the door, and took down the Spanish flag and brought it and laid it at my feet, and then received the American flag, and elevated it on the staff which had lately born the standard of his Catholic Majesty. This gave great satisfaction to the Osage and the Kanses, both of who decidedly avowed themselves to be under the American protection. Perceiving that every face on the council was clouded with sorrow, as if some national calamity was about to befall them, I took up the contested colors and told them that as they had now shown themselves dutiful children in acknowledging their great American Father, I had no desire to embarrass them with the Spaniards, for it was the wish of the Americans that their red brethren should remain peaceably round their own fires, and not embroil themselves in any disputes between white people, and that for fear the Spaniards might return in force again, I gave them back their flag; but with an injunction that it should never be hoisted during our stay. At this there was a general shout of applause, and the charge particularly attended to.
Lieut. James B. Wilkinson, in his report to the council, says:
At a council held some few days after our arrival, Lieut. Pike  explained to them the difference of their situation to what it had been a few years past. That they must now look to the President of the United States as their great Father, and that he had been sent by him to assure them of his good wishes, etc., etc. That he perceived a Spanish flag flying at the council door, and was anxious to exchange one of their great Father's for it, and that it was our intention to proceed further on to the westward, and to examine this, our newly acquired country. To this a singular and extraordinary response was given; in fact, an objection started in direct opposition to our proceeding farther to the West. However, they gave up the Spanish flag and we had the pleasure to see the American standard hoisted in its stead.