horn 01 & 02.jpg

Harvey Hisgen, who has spent more than a decade trying to establish the Pike National Historic Trail, believes this to be a gun powder horn carried by Zebulon M. Pike during his expeditions to the Pikes Peak region. Courtesy photo 

For 15 years, a group led by Harvey Hisgen has appealed to state legislators and the National Park Service in an effort to see roadside signs and educational panels spot some 8,763 miles thought to be explored by Zebulon Montgomery Pike during storied expeditions between 1805 and 1807.

Today, there's no telling when or if a Pike National Historic Trail will come to fruition. That will depend on Congress and the agency tasked with determining the worthiness and feasibility of such designations.

"It's in the long-hold situation," said Hisgen, a retired professor living in Conifer who has previously collaborated with committees dedicated to the Lewis and Clark and Santa Fe national historic trails.

In the meantime, Hisgen is coming across items he considers to be treasures from the life of Pikes Peak's namesake.

Some were mentioned in the latest Pike National Historic Trail Association newsletter. They include a horn Hisgen believes belonged to Pike, storing the young Army captain's gun powder during the winding, troubled journey he laid eyes on his "Grand Peak," which he would never climb.

A Native American figure appears to be etched on one side of the horn. Scratched on the other: "CAPT ZEBULON M. PIKE HIS HORNE 1807."

The newsletter explains a Nevada man called to say he had the horn, which he understood came from a secondhand store in Philadelphia in the 1930s. Hisgen said it had yet to be authenticated. Nonetheless, he said he anticipates receiving it to display at a museum in the San Luis Valley — territory covered by Pike on his Arkansas River quest.

"I've had Pike's sword and scabbard in may hands; it happens to be stored (at the El Pueblo History Museum). This is going to be another one of my pleasures in life," Hisgen said.

The recent newsletter also features the 1809 declaration signed by James Madison that promoted Pike to lieutenant colonel. Courtesy of the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum, the declaration recognized Pike's "patriotism, valor, fidelity and abilities."

Another document reprinted in the newsletter: one signed by Thomas Jefferson in 1807 thanking Pike for sending two grizzly bear cubs back to Washington. Pike's commander in chief wrote that "the most formidable animal of our continent is so little known in the U.S." and expressed his wish to have the animals studied.

Something else that recently captured Hisgen's curiosity: potentially a rare rendering of Pike's wife, Clarissa Harlow Brown. Like the horn, he said the portrait has yet to be verified.

For Hisgen, they are among personal discoveries that keep him going on his mission to see the national historic trail established.

"I'm going to say (the portrait) is Zebulon Montgomery Pike's wife, because I have to have something to picture who he married," Hisgen said. "I'm just saying, it's nice to have something."