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PIKE OF PIKE'S PEAK.
VHOSE who happened to be on the Plains in the old days,
when the "star of empire” was on wheels — wagon wheels; when California was known as the land of gold, the North American El Dorado, must have noticed on the broad, white, sun-baked highway, the passage of a team, the beasts being called, by a construction of the plural peculiar to their owner, “oxens." The wheelers were known as “Buck” and “Bright;" the leaders as "Tige” and “Golden”- the former as an allusion to his supposedto-be ferocious and untamable disposition; the latter possibly out of compliment to the destination of the outfit, or their prospects, but probably on account of the dull-yellow color of his hide, which was supposed to resemble the metal which had led his human friends to undertake the long and toilsome journey.
Beside the oxen walked a man, who, in his length, his looseness, his “batteredness," and the hue of his outer garments, reminded one of an illy-jointed stovepipe in a country school house. He indulged in no fancy colors. His tone was dim, not to say subdued. The shock of hair which straggled from beneath his
AN ADDRESS delivered before the Kansas State Historical Society, at Topeka, February 19, 1877.
slouch hat extended to the upper boundary of a coat, called, from the principal dye-stuff used in coloring it, “butternut.” The coat extended to pantaloons of the same color, which were finally lost in tremendous boots - enormous piles of rusty leather— red from "long travel, want and woe.” The man's countenance, painted by the hand of the “ager," was of a dull-yellow hue, not unlike the complexion of the ox, “Golden." From one corner of a gash in this attractive visage called by courtesy a mouth, trickled a fluid called "ambeer,” which word I take to be a corruption of amber. The man carried no weapons except a whip, with hickory handle long enough for a liberty-pole, with a lash in proportion. The whole thing was lamentably slow. The man shambled along as if his boots were made of lead, his loose joints threatening to dissolve their union and erect several separate confederacies. The oxen jogged along like machines, with the exception of an occasional dash of enterprise on the part of “Tige.” Yet the man kept up a constant, rambling, loud-voiced, complaining conversation with the oxen, the words varying only in the stress or accent, as: “You, Buck!” “You, Bright!” rising into an angry snarl when addressed to the Ishmael of the team, “You, TIGE!” Occasionally, when the wagon slid down a declivity, or had to be dragged up an ascent, the round-shouldered driver seemed to grow taller. He drew himself out like a spyglass, and swinging the long lash around, gave it a crack that sounded like the report of a rifle, at the same time projecting from his leathern lungs the ejaculation, "Whoa! Haw !” that rang far out over the plain, and nearly took the oxen off their feet.
So far we have said nothing about the wagon or its contents. It is only by the novel-writer's license that we can see most of the latter, hid from view as they are by the wagon-sheet. The principal figure in sight is, of course, the “old woman,” an angular being who sits in front smoking a cob pipe, distributing fragments of conversation all around—now to the tow-headed children, who seemed to fill all the space in the wagon not occupied by the old woman; now in a querulous voice to her liege lord, who is driving the team, and now to the landscape generally, which the woman appears to regard with dislike, if not malevolence. A tall, slim girl, apparently about sixteen, whose attire consists of a sun-bonnet and a long, narrow-skirted, dark-blue calico dress, which does not hide her bare feet, trudges beside the wagon — the only living creature in the caravan who betrays even the faintest trace of possible prettiness or actual vivacity.
These people pursue their journey, day after day, mile after mile. Every night the blaze of their camp-fire rises beside the stream; every morning they leave a little heap of ashes. There they go, up hill and down dale; they disappear in the passes of the Rocky Mountains, and there seems borne from them on the wings of the western wind, a sound - the echo of an echo- it is, “Whoa! Haw!”
To these people thus described, and to all who bore to them a family resemblance, and who in 1849 and in subsequent years crossed the Plains to California, came to be applied, by whom originally I know not, the general name of “Pikes." Various explanations have been given of the origin of the name. The most reasonable one is, that, there are in Missouri and Illinois two large counties named Pike, and separated from each other by the Mississippi river. In 1849 an immense emigration set in from these counties to California. In consequence, the traveler bound for the States, meeting teams, and asking the usual question, "Where are you from?” was answered, frequently, with “Pike county,” meaning in some cases one Pike county, and in some cases the other. This led to the general impression that everybody on the road was from Pike county, or that the inhabitants of Pike had all taken the road. Hence the general name of "Pikes," as applied to emigrants, especially to those traveling from Missouri, and, generally those migrating from southern Illinois and southern Indiana. Thus the popular song - the only poetry I ever heard of applied to this class of "movers," com
“My name it is Joe Bowers,
I've got a brother Ike;
And I'm all the way from Pike.”
The impression conveyed by all this, that the two Pike counties mentioned are semi-heathen regions, is certainly not correct at present. Pike county, Missouri, is one of the most flourishing of the Mississippi river counties — remarkable for the number and eminence of its politicians and lawyers; while of the general elevation and excellence of that section of Illinois of which Pike county forms a part, it is only necessary to say that the author of this address was born in the adjoining county.
But how did it come about that not only these two counties, but in the United States ten counties and twenty-odd townships and towns bear the name of Pike? I venture to say there are some even in this intelligent audience who cannot readily answer the question. There are doubtless hundreds of Pike county school-children who do not know. To answer this question,