Saturday, September 3, 2016

Mississippi Explored

Below you will find four days of excerpts from Zebulon Montgomery Pike, the first to explore the Mississippi River after the Louisiana Purchase. The year is 1805, Pikes Peak in Colorado is named after this man and his great explorations. This excerpt comes from Vol 1 of a three volume set on Pike's Memoirs. There are later accounts of when he was exploring what is now Pike's peak and being half frozen and starved. He's an interesting man and his explorations were very important in the growing of the United States. I'll post more on Pike in the days to come.

Oct. 15th. Ripples all day. In the morning the large boat came up, and I once more got my party together; they had been detained by taking in the game. Yesterday and this day passed some skirts of good land, well timbered, swamps of hemlock, and white pine. Water very hard. The river became shallow and full of islands. We encamped on a beautiful point on the west, below a fall [Fourth, Knife, or Pike rapids] of the river over a bed of rocks, through which we had two narrow shoots to make our way the next day. Killed two deer, five ducks, and two geese. This day's march made me think seriously of our wintering ground and leaving our large boats. Distance five miles."0

Oct. 16th. When we arose in the morning found that snow had fallen during the night; the ground was covered, and it continued to snow. This indeed was but poor encouragement for attacking the rapids, in which we were certain to wade to our necks. I was determined, however, if possible, to make la riviere de Corbeau [now Crow Wing river], the highest point ever made by traders in their bark canoes. We embarked, and after four hours' work became so benumbed with cold that our limbs were perfectly useless. We put to shore on the opposite side of the river, about two- thirds of the way up the rapids. Built a large fire ; and then discovered that our boats were nearly half-full of water, both having sprung such large leaks as to oblige me to keep three hands bailing. My Sergeant Kennerman, one of the stoutest men I ever knew, broke a blood-vessel and vomited nearly two quarts of blood. One of my corporals, Bradley, also evacuated nearly a pint of blood when he attempted to void his urine. These unhappy circumstances, in addition to the inability of four other men, whom we were obliged to leave on shore, convinced me that if I had no regard for my own health and constitution, I should have some for those poor fellows, who were killing themselves to obey my orders. After we had breakfasted and refreshed ourselves, we went down to our boats on the rocks, where I was obliged to leave them. I then informed my men that we would return to the camp, and there leave some of the party and our large boats. This information was pleasing, and the attempt to reach the camp soon accomplished.

My reasons for this step have partly been already stated. The necessity of unloading and refitting my boats, the beauty and convenience of the spot for building huts, the fine pine trees for peroques, and the quantity of game, were additional inducements. We immediately unloaded our boats and secured their cargoes. In the evening I went out upon a small but beautiful creek [i. e., Pine creek of Pike, now Swan river"] which empties into the falls [on the W. side], for the purpose of selecting pine trees to make canoes. Saw five deer, and killed one buck weighing 137 pounds. By my leaving men at this place, and from the great quantities of game in its vicinity, I was insured plenty of provision for my return voyage. In the party [to be] left behind was one hunter, to be continually employed, who would keep our stock of salt provisions good. Distance 233^ [about in] miles above the falls of St. Anthony.

Oct. 17th. It continued to snow. I walked out in the morning and killed four bears, and my hunter three deers. Felled our trees for canoes and commenced working on them.

Oct. 18th. Stopped hunting and put every hand to work.

Author of the memoirs notes:
In 1850, and has become quite well settled up. I will say before closing that the rapids at the foot of which he built the fort bear the name of Pike rapids, so named in honor of him. I will send you a copy of our extra paper [Daily Transcript, of Little Falls], issued the 1st of January. If I have omitted anything that you may wish to know write me again.

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