On July 15, 1806, Lieutenant Zebulon M. Pike with twenty-one men left St. Louis on an expedition to explore the plains and find a road to Santa Fe. After a long march across Missouri and Kansas he arrived, September 25th, in the Republican valley near the border of Nebraska. Here he found the great village of the Pawnee republic numbering nearly two thousand people. He also found that a party of three hundred Spanish cavalry from Santa Fe had visited the village three or four weeks before. The Spanish commander had given the Pawnees presents, had promised to open a road for trade and had left with them a Spanish flag, which was flying from a pole in front of the Pawnee chief's lodge.
Lieutenant Pike held a grand council with the Pawnees on September 29th, and told them that they must haul down the Spanish flag and in its place raise the Stars and Stripes, for their land no longer belonged to Spain but was a part of the United States. The chiefs were silent, for the Spaniards had come with a great force on horseback bringing many presents, while the American lieutenant had only twenty-one men on foot. All around were hundreds of Pawnee warriors ready for battle. The young American lieutenant, pointing at the Spanish flag, said that the Pawnee nation could not have two fathers, they must either be the children of the Spanish king or acknowledge their American father.
After a long silence an old Indian rose, went to the door of the lodge, took down the Spanish flag, brought it to Lieutenant Pike and laid it at his feet. He then took the American flag and raised it on the staff where the Spanish flag had floated.
It is believed by some that the place where this took place is about eight miles southeast of Hardy, Nebraska, just across the Nebraska line in Kansas. Here is the site of a large Pawnee village, stretching for several miles along the banks of the Republican River, and here in September, 1906, the state of Kansas raised a flag and erected a monument to mark the spot where, one hundred years before, the Spanish flag came down and the Stars and Stripes were raised.
There are others who believe that the Spanish flag came down in what is now Nebraska, and that the site of an ancient Pawnee village some miles farther up the Republican river is the place where Lieutenant Pike and his little company of soldiers saw the American flag raised over the Pawnee nation.
Whether the spot where the Spanish flag came down is in Kansas or in Nebraska is not important. The Spanish flag came down forever and in its place rose the Stars and Stripes. This brave deed of the young lieutenant and his men deserves to be honored in history.