COBWEB CORNERS: The Long Expedition of 1820

By Mel McFarland

       One of the early visitors we do not hear much about was Major Stephen Long. He was a veteran of the War of 1812. (Inci-dentally, Pike was killed in that war.) In 1820, Long was sent out, like others after the Louisiana Purchase, to map and explore portions of the new land west of the Mississippi. You have learned of Zebulon Pike's 1806 visit to our region, last year being the bicentennial.
       Long, with a party of 22 others, left what is now Nebraska, following the Platte River. When they got to where it divides, they followed the south branch into present- day Colorado. They were soon treated to a grand mountain view. Assuming this was the same mountain Pike had seen, they initially referred to it as Pike's Peak. In reality, it was another mountain, as they soon discovered. Eventually, this peak was named Longs Peak.
       The expedition members worked their way along the mountains, exploring as they traveled. They passed through present-day Boulder, Golden, Colorado City and Manitou. (None of these towns were there until 20 or more years later.) They camped in the Pikes Peak region in July for over a week. During that time, Dr. Edwin James, a doctor from Maine, and a few soldiers from the group walked to the top of the mountain. The trip took three days. Long christened it James Peak, honoring the leader of the climb.
       Leaving the area, the Long party traveled south along Fountain Creek to the Arkansas River. The members divided into two groups at the Arkansas, one heading east, the other south toward Raton Pass. This area at the time was still part of Mexico. Eventually they returned north to the river, which was the southern border of the Louisiana Purchase.
       The mountain was called James Peak until the 1840s when it was formally named Pike's Peak. Today there is a James Peak near Frasier and Winter Park, west of Denver, to honor Dr, James. In the hills of Black Forest there were still signs of the Long visit a century ago, but now they are well erased.