Dubuque County Historical Society Images

The Pathfinders

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Zebulon M. Pike

Zebulon Pike was the leader of the first American expedition into the Upper Mississippi wilderness.  In 1805 while Lewis and Clark were “battling their way up Jefferson Fork of the Missouri,” Pike was leading a small force of soldiers up the Mississippi in a 70 foot long keelboat, exploring the river, selecting sites for military posts, making peace with the Sioux and Ojibway, discovering the extent of British and French Canadian fur trade competition, and searching for the source of the Mississippi.  He acquired 100,000 acres of land at the confluence of the Minnesota and the Mississippi which became the site of Fort Snelling, and then traveled as far north as Leech Lake which he believed was the source of the Mississippi. In 1806 Pike led the first official American expedition up the Osage, Arkansas and Rio Grand Rivers, reporting Grand Peak, which is now known the world over as Pike’s Peak.  As Brigadier General, Pike commanded the American army during the Battle of York (now Toronto), the first major American victory in the War of 1812.  He was mortally wounded and died the next year, ending a career which may have included additional exploration, military leadership, or even the presidency.

Inducted in 2003.

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