KANSAS COLLECTION BOOKS

William G. Cutler's History of the State of Kansas


EARLY EXPLORATIONS AND
EXPEDITIONS, Part 4

[TOC] [part 5] [part 3] [Cutler's History]

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.

Secondly, to explore and examine all the internal parts of the country, from the frontiers of the province of New Mexico to the Missouri, between the La Platte and Kansas Rivers.

Thirdly, to visit the Ietans, Pawnee republic, Grand Pawnees, Pawnee Mahaws and Kanses. To the head chief of each of these nations, the commanding officer bore flags, a commission, grand medal, four mules; and with all of them he had to renew the chains of ancient amity, which was said to have existed between their fathers, his most Catholic majesty, and his people, the red people.

The commanding officers also bore positive orders to oblige all parties or persons in the above specified countries, either to retire from them into the acknowledged territories of the United States, or to make prisoners of them, and conduct them into the province of New Mexico.

Lieut. Don Facundo Malgares, the officer selected from the five internal provinces to command this expedition, was an European, and his uncle was at that time one of the royal judges of the kingdom of New Spain. He had distinguished himself in several long expeditions against the Appaches and other Indian nations with whom the Spaniards were at war: added to these circumstances, he was a man of immense fortune, and generous in its disposal, almost to profusion; possessed a liberal education, a high sense of honor, and a disposition formed for military enterprise.

This officer marched from the province of Biscay, with 100 dragoons of the regular service, and at Santa Fe, the place were the expedition was fitted out, he was joined by 500 hundred of the mounted militia of that province, and completely equipped with ammunition, etc., for six months, each man leading with him (by order) two horses and one mule. The whole number of their beasts was 2,075. They descended the Red River 233 leagues; met the grand bands of the Ietans, held councils with them; then struck off to the northeast, and crossed the country to the Arkansaw, where Lieut. Malgares left 240 of his men, with the lame and tired horses, whilst he proceeded on with the rest to the Pawnee republic. Here he was met by the chiefs and warriors of the Grand Pawnees; held councils with the two nations, and presented them the flags, medals, etc., which were designed for them. He did not proceed on to the execution of his missions with the Pawnee Mahwas, and Kanses, as he represented to me, [15] from the poverty of their horses, and the discontent of his own men; but as I conceive, from the suspicion and discontent which began to arise between the Spaniards and the Indians. The former wishing to avenge the death of Villeneuve and his party, whilst the latter possessed all the suspicions of conscious villainy deserving punishment.

[15] Pike, when under Government surveillance in New Mexico, was in charge of Malgares, with whom he contracted an intimate and lasting personal friendship, and from whom he received the story of the expedition as given.

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.
To Lieut. Z. M. Pike:

Sir -- You are to proceed without delay to the cantonment on the Missouri, where you are to embark the late Osage captives, and the deputation recently returned from Washington with their presents and baggage, and are to transport the whole up the Missouri and Osage Rivers to the town of the Grand Osage. The safe delivery of this charge, at the point of destination, constitutes the primary object of your expedition, and therefore, you are to move with such caution as may prevent surprise from any hostile band, and are to repel with your utmost force any outrage that may be attempted. Having safely deposited your passengers and their property, you are to turn your attention to the accomplishment of a permanent peace between the Kanses and Osage nations, for which purpose you must effect a meeting between the head chiefs of those nations, and are to employ such arguments, deduced from their own obvious interests, as well as the inclinations, desires and commands of the President of the United States, as may facilitate your purpose, and accomplish the end. A third object of considerable magnitude will then command your attention; it is to effect and interview, and establish a good understanding with Ietans or Camanches. For this purpose, you must interest White Hair, of the Grand Osage, with whom, and a suitable deputation, you will visit the Pawnee Republic, where you may find interpreters, and inform yourself of the most feasible plan by which to bring the Camanches to a conference. Should you succeed in this attempt, and no pains must be spared to effect it, you will endeavor to make peace between us and them, particularly the Osage; and, finally, you will endeavor to induce eight or ten of their distinguished chiefs to make a visit to the seat of government next September, and you may attach to this deputation four or five Pawnees, and the same number of Kansas chiefs. As your interview with the Camanches will probably lead you to the head branches of the Arkansaw and Red Rivers, you may find yourself approximated to the settlements, and therefore it will be necessary you should move with great circumspection to keep clear of any hunting or reconnoitering parties from that province, and to prevent alarm or offence, because the affairs of Spain and the United States appear to be on the point of amicable adjustment; and, moreover, it is the desire of the President to cultivate the friendship and harmonious intercourse of all the nations of the earth, and particularly our nearest neighbors-the Spaniards.

In the course of your tour, you are to remark particularly upon the geographical structure, the natural history and population of the country through which you pass, taking particular care to collect and preserve specimens of everything curious in the mineral and botanical worlds, which can be preserved and are portable. Let your courses be regulated by your compass, and your distances by your watch, to be noted in a field book; and I would advise you, when circumstances permit, to protract and lay down in a separate book, the march of the day at every evening's halt.

The instruments which I have furnished will enable you to ascertain the variations of the magnetic needle, and the latitude, with exactness; and at every remarkable point I wish you to employ your telescope in observing the eclipses of Jupiter's satellites, having previously regulated and adjusted your watch by your quadrant, taking care to note with great nicety the periods of immersion and emersion of the eclipsed satellite. These observations may enable us, after your return, by application to the appropriate tables, which I cannot now furnish you, to ascertain the longitude. It is an object of much interest with the executive, to ascertain the direction, extent and navigation of the Arkansaw and Red Rivers; as far, therefore, as may be compatible with these instructions, and practicable to the means you may command, I wish you to carry your views to those subjects, and should circumstances conspire to favor the enterprise, you may detach a party, with a few Osages, to descend the Arkansaw, under the orders of Lieut. Wilkinson or Sergt. Ballinger, properly instructed and equipped, to take the courses and distances; to remark on the soil, timber, etc., and to note the tributary streams. This party will, after reaching our post on the Arkansaw, descend to Fort Adams, and there wait further orders. And you yourself may descend the Red River, accompanied by a party of the most respectable Camanches, to the post of Natchitoches, and thus receive further orders. To disburse your necessary expense, and to aid your negotiations, you are herewith furnished six hundred dollars' worth of goods, for the appropriation of which you are to enter a strict account, vouched by documents to be attested by one of your party.

Wishing you a safe and successful expedition,
I am, Sir, with much respect and esteem,
Your very obedient servant,
JAMES WILKINSON.

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 [16] 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.

At the same council, Characterick observed that a large body of Spaniards had lately been at this village, and that they promised to return a town adjoining his. The Spanish chief, he said, mentioned that he was not empowered to counsel with him; that he merely came to break the road for his master, who would visit him in the spring with a large army; that he further told him the Americans were a little people, but were enterprising, and one of these days would stretch themselves even to his town, and that they took the lands of the Indians and would drive off their game. "And how very true," said Characterick, "has the Spanish chieftain spoken." We demanded to purchase a few horses, which was prohibited us, and the friendly discourse which had existed between the town and our camp was stopped. The conduct of our neighbors assumed a mysterious change; our guards several times alarmed, and finally appearances became so menacing as to make it necessary for us to be on our guard day and night.

[16] Pike had been made captain of this expedition, though he still held only a lieutenant's commission in the army. He received his commission as captain some time later.

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