Citizen Explorer: The Life of Zebulon Pike

Home » Pike: On This Day » 2. February 1807 » February 28, 1807. A Suspicious Character

February 28, 1807. A Suspicious Character

We marched late. One of the Frenchman informed me, that the expedition which had been at the Pawnees, had descended the Red river 233 leagues and from thence crossed to the Pawnees expressly in search of my party.…He then expressed great regret at my misfortunes, as he termed them in being taken, and offered his services in secreting papers &c. I took him at his word, and for my amusement I thought I would try him and give him, a leaf or two of my journal (copied)….This I charged him to guard very carefully and give to me after the investigation of my papers at Santa Fe.

Here Pike refers to his visit to a Pawnee village on the Great Plains earlier in his voyage. A contingent of Spaniards had preceded him to the village by a few weeks. Because of this conversation today and others like it, Pike believes the Spaniards were after him. In fact, they were after Lewis and Clark. There are no records in Spanish archives that colonial officials knew specifically about Pike until he turned up in their territory. This Frenchman is the first of several individuals who will offer friendship to Pike. Pike does not trust them, suspecting them of spying for the Spanish officials. Today Pike and Spanish officials begin their cat-and-mouse game in which they try to get his papers and he tries to withhold them. The outcome has significant implications for how much Pike will have to rewrite from memory when he gets home and thus how much we can trust the content of his journals.

We pursued our journey over some hills, where the snow was very deep, and encamped at last on the top of a pretty high hill, among some pines. Distance 36 miles.


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