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Zebulon Pike, 200 years ago this month

Article by Central Staff

History – July 2006 – Colorado Central Magazine

Have you been wondering what was happening in July, 200 years ago? Probably not, but just in case:

On July 15, 1806, Lt. Zebulon Pike of the U.S. Army left Belle Fontaine (a landing near St. Louis, Mo.) with orders to reach the Arkansas River, ascend to its source, proceed south to the headwaters of the Red River, and descend the Red to its junction with the Mississippi River in Louisiana.

His military party included “two lieutenants, one surgeon, one sergeant, two corporals, 16 privates, and one interpreter.” Also, “We had under our charge chiefs of the Osage and Pawnees, who, with a number of women and children, had been to Washington. These Indians had been redeemed from captivity among the Potowatomies, and were now to be returned to their friends at the Osage towns. The whole number of Indians amounted to 51.”

They traveled in small boats up the Missouri River. On July 28, they reached the mouth of the Osage River (a few miles east of present Jefferson City, Mo.) and ascended it. By the end of the month, they were camped near present Mary’s Home, Mo. They had traveled about 200 miles.

Along the way, Pike lost one soldier, Henry Kennerman, who deserted on July 19. On July 17, his interpreter, Baronet Vasquez, “was arrested by the sheriff … for a debt between $300 and $400, and was obliged to return to St. Louis.” Pike recorded that on July 31, “I lost my dog, and the misfortune was the greater, as we had no other dog which would bring anything out of the water.”

Commemorative Events:

July 1 & 2: Watch an artist create a painting at a site where Pike camped — Westcliffe, Colorado. Sponsored by: the Pike Partners of the Royal Gorge Region (Fremont and Custer Counties — Canon City and Westcliffe, Colorado). Contact Dorothy Urban at

July 1: Pueblo, Sangres Art Guild Plein Air workshop by Fran Dodd, noted Pueblo West artist. Meet at 8:30 for registration, demo by Dodd at 9 a.m., then paint at the Grape Creek area or near Macy Creek (both locations were used by Pike on his way south and west). Lunch will be provided and then more painting. After a break for dinner, all will display their work for viewing and sale to the general public. Registration and payment due June 24. $35 member/$45 non-members. Contact Myke Jones at 719-783-3295, or Sharon Conner at 719-783-3295.

July 1: The Great Race follows the Santa Fé and Pike’s Trail through Lamar. The public is invited to cheer the antique auto racers as they take a pit stop at the Chamber of Commerce on Main and Beech from 1-3 p.m. A street carnival, antique wagon show, food vendors, and a mini-history camp. Stay in Lamar for a free concert that night sponsored by Prowers County featuring country star Zane Lewis. Contact Kim Fournier of Prowers County at 719-336-8025.

July 2: “Zebulon Pike and the Blue Mountain” film, at the Jones Theater in Westcliffe, 2:00 p.m. Sponsored by the Pike Partners of the Royal Gorge Region (Frémont and Custer counties — Cañon City and Westcliffe,). Contact Dorothy Urban, jklranch@

July 8: “Nothing Happened in Howard Day.” A Pike celebration by Western Frémont Historical Society, LaDonna Gunn, 719-269-9036.

July 8: The Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum presents “History Explorers,” a children’s program for ages 7-12, 10:00 – 12:30. Pre-registration is required. Call 719-385-5631; Fee.

July 10, 11, 12, and 13th: “Explorer or Spy” Lecture Series, 7:00 p.m. at Pueblo Community College, Hoag Theater, 900 West Orman Avenue in Pueblo, Colorado. For more information contact Deborah. Lecture topics and presenters are:

July 10: “In the Footsteps of Zebulon Pike, Army Explorer, Southwest Expedition of 1806-1807.” Don Headlee, Park Ranger, Army Corp of Engineers.

July 11: “Defending the Empire; the Spanish Military.” Dr. David Sandoval, Professor, CSU-Pueblo.

July 12: “The Pike Expedition: A Spanish Perspective.” Rick Manzanares, Director Fort Garland Museum/Colorado Historical Society.

July 13: “A Man to Match the Mountain: The Character of Zebulon Montgomery Pike,” Clive Siegle, Professor of Southwest History, Southern Methodist University, Texas; Santa Fe Trail Association Manager; Executive Director of the National Pike Bicentennial Commission.

July 13: The Rocky Ford Historical Museum in Rocky Ford will present “Pike’s Trail and US Highway 50, America’s Coastal Highway,” by Ron Davis. This free program begins at 7 p.m. For further information contact

July 14: Dessert Social for the Pike Family at the La Junta Senior Citizen’s Center, La Junta.

July 14: Pike in the Park. As part of the Pike Family’s visit to Southeastern Colorado, the public is invited to follow along with them and enjoy a day of food and history. The day begins at 9:00 a.m. at Pike’s Tower in Willow Creek Park in Lamar, Colorado, with an old-fashioned Pancake Breakfast put on by the Lamar Rotary and Lions Clubs. Breakfast is $5 for adults and $3 for children, but the public may attend the other festivities for free. A live performance by the Arkansas Wind and Percussion Ensemble will feature Pike-period music; and there’s a tour of Pike’s Tower and Willow Creek Park. Festivities end in time for the Pike family and anyone else interested to head to the Boggsville Historic Site for more fun. Other events you may want to attend are the Boggsville lunch (call site archaeologist Richard Carillo at 719.384.8054) and the First-Sighting Ceremony nearby. For more details about Pike in the Park call Bill Wootten of the Rotary Club at 719-336-7634 or Trevor LaCost of the Arkansas Valley Wind and Percussion Ensemble at 719-336-4332.

July 14: A pre-dedication ceremony for the historic marker commemorating the “First Sighting” of the peak to later be named after Zebulon Montgomery Pike is being planned. This site is located at the John Martin Reservoir, near Las Animas, on property owned be the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. A 5-ton boulder of red granite from Pikes Peak will hold a plaque with an image of Pike looking through his spy glass. It will also have a quote from his journal made on the day of the sighting, November 15, 1806. A period lunch is also being planned at historic Boggsville, where Kit Carson spent his final days. Call 719-336-3476.

July 15: Opening of the Pike Centennial Time Capsule in Antlers Park in Colorado Springs. Marking the 200th anniversary of the day Pike embarked on his western sojourn, this event combines music and suspense. Museum staff will rediscover a 1906 time capsule placed there during the Pike Centennial. The Colorado Springs Conservatory and the Colorado Springs Choral will perform. Leave your mark on history by participating in the creation of a new time capsule. Antlers Park is located across from Giuseppe’s Restaurant at 31 West Pikes Peak at Pikes Peak and Sierra Madre streets.

July 15: “You know the mountain…now discover the man.” Zebulon Montgomery Pike in Pueblo at the Historic Arkansas Riverwalk of Pueblo. Events include a parade, historic reenactments, concerts, and a chuckwagon dinner. Spend the day in historic Pueblo! For more information log on to

July 21: An Evening with Lieutenant Zebulon Pike in Salida. Re-enactor John Patrick Murphy will be Lieutenant Zebulon Montgomery Pike, at the Salida Steam Plant, 7:30 p.m.

July 22: The Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum presents “History Explorers” a children’s program (for ages 7-12), 10:00 — 12:30. Pre-reistration is required. Call 719-385-5631; Fee.

July 22: Royal Gorge Region Pike Partners Trail Ride, Canon City. The Canon City Chamber of Commerce will be hosting a trail ride through the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park area on this Saturday morning. Contact; George Turner, Canon City Chamber of Commerce, 719-275-2331.

July 22-23: Royal Gorge Bridge and Park, Canon City. Zebulon Pike Bicentennial Commemoration. Zebulon Pike spent several weeks in the Royal Gorge area looking for the headwaters of the Arkansas River, and crawled up the granite gulch that is now home to the World’s Steepest incline railway, a 1,550 ft. incline at a 45-degree angle, near the bridge. Re-enactors with authentic period costumes will be strolling through the park, and a Commemoration Ceremony honoring Pike’s explorations are among the many activities planned for the weekend. Contact Royal Gorge Bridge and Park, 719-275-7507.