Albert Pike

         Mountain Legend of Albert Pike's Two Years in the Ouachitas         
                             I knew by the smoke                             
                          That so gracefully curled                          
                             Above the green elms                            
                           That a cottage was near                           
                         And I said "If there's peace                        
                           To be found in the world                          
                            A heart that was humble                          
                            Might hope for it here"                          
It is a well known fact that Albert Pike, the great Mason, spent thirty      
three years of his life in Arkansas, but the fact that is not so well known  
is that he spent two years of that time in the Ouachita Mountains in         
Montgomery County of Southwestern Arkansas. In 1861 when Arkansas cast her   
lot with the Confederacy, Albert Pike was made a Brigadier General and       
placed in command of the Indian Territory. While filling this position in    
the Territory he heard great talk of the beauty and vastness of the forests  
and mountains in this section of the country. The mountains at that time     
were called the Ozarks, but at present time they are called the Ouachitas.   
The name doesn't matter, the mountains in all their glory still remain just  
as God created them.                                                         
It was in the year 1862 General Pike came to this country from the Indian    
Territory by way of Fort Smith, Arkansas. I shall now try to tell you the    
story of General Pike's arrival, sojourn, and departure from the mountains   
just as the people and especially the old settlers tell it to me. I have     
heard it told so many times over by both young and old. The story runs       
something like this:                                                         
In late October, 1862, ... when ... Boreaus was shining down upon the        
mountains and valleys of Montgomery County, where each bright ray revealed   
a gorgeous glow of color, ... nature in all her beauty was beckoning to the  
artist, the poet, the lovers. It was in and through this great panorama of   
color and beauty ... that General Albert Pike arrived in Caddo Gap like a    
Monarch in a beautiful shiny buggy, his white hair falling over his          
shoulders, his snow beard billowing upon his chest. To the buggy was         
harnessed two of the most superb white horses the mountain people ever       
beheld. In front of the horses marched the vanguard of twenty negroes.       
Behind the buggy came a heavily loaded wagon of the prairie schooner type.   
To this wagon slowly prancing were four or five more fine horses. Following  
in the wake of the wagon ... marched twenty solemn stalwarts forming a rear  
guard. It being war time made the incident far more interesting than it      
would have in time of peace. The great majesty and nobel bearing of General  
Pike was noted and appreciated by all. The mountain people were quick to     
note and appreciate their honest perceivings.                                
The grand cavalcade came to a halt, inquiry was made, the General wished to  
find the Post Office. A young man by the name of Sheffield gave the          
information required. Albert Pike entered the Post Office and introduced     
himself to Dave Basinger, the Postmaster. In the handshake which followed    
in all propriety with the introduction, General Pike discovered that Dave    
Basinger was a Mason. It also developed in a course of the conversation      
that General Pike was on a quest of land, wanted to buy a home here in the   
mountains. He had important writing to do and wished to be in a quiet place  
for a few years. Could Mr. Basinger tell him of likely place? Yes. Mr.       
Basinger knew just the ideal place for a writer, a lover of nature, or a     
poet. So Mr. Basinger told the General in a very effective way of a little   
farm that nestled in a valley at the foot of a high mountain. There was also 
a bubbling stream close by. This little farm nesting in the lap of nature    
belonged to a close friend John Berry Vaught also a brother Mason. From the  
accurate description of the place, the General was most sure it was just     
the kind of place he had in mind, so, thanking Mr. Basinger and promising    
to see him again soon, he returned to the buggy and mounted to the seat.     
Looking about him as a monarch would inspect things from a throne he gave    
an order and the strange cavalcade moved on toward the "cove" and the        
Vaught farm.                                                                 
The sun was low in the west, the lingering rays crowning each high point of  
the mountains with diadems of light while the glowing shades deep in the     
valley were taking on a purple hue. Cow bells could be heard in the          
distance as the tired bovines trudged homeward when the cavalcade approached 
its destination and the coveted place of rest. In answer to the lusty "Hello 
the House" Mr. Vaught appeared in the doorway, called off the dogs, and      
walked out to the gate. The General put his hand somewhere about his collar  
in what looked almost like a sign. Mr Vaught lifted his hand and smiled.     
"Get out" said Mr. Vaught. "Come right in. Supper will soon be ready."       
Vaught's wife who liked company flew around adding extra hot biscuits, fried 
the best part of the last ham on the place, opened a can of peaches and      
announced "Supper's ready." Before bedtime General Pike had become the owner 
of the Vaught farm paying John Berry Vaught four hundred dollars in gold for 
forty acres of land and the house. Mr. Vaught gave up possession the         
following day. General Pike unpacked his books, stored his trunk of gold in  
the loft, nailed the boards back on and made himself at home.                
A Masonic Lodge was organized in Caddo Gap in the year 1857. The Masonic     
Hall was the second story of Dave Basinger's store and Post Office. It was   
here in the modest surroundings of this unassuming hall that the Masons of   
the mountain country heard their first great lectures on Masonry from Albert 
Pike. General Pike made many friends among the Blue Lodge Masons (and) ...   
it was while living here in Montgomery County that he wrote the great        
Masonic book supposed by Masons to be his masterpiece: The Morals and Dogma  
of Scottish Rite Masonry.                                                    
General Pike found this country an ideal place for a writer. He soon         
learned to love his mountain retreat so in the spring of 1863 he erected a   
beautiful two story building, bought furniture from Little Rock, fitted up   
his place of abode in real style and comfort. A man by the name of Dick      
Whisenhunt was the carpenter who built the General's new house. Uncle Dick   
passed away two years ago, but as long as he lived he never tired in telling 
of General Pike and the house he built. He never failed to described the     
"windin' stairs." All confess General Pike was a God-send to the people of   
this country in the stricken siege of war. The General spent his gold        
lavishly and helped many of the farmers through a tight place when their     
finances were low. General Pike was so lavish in his support of schools,     
churches, lodges and humane societies: Ever a true friend in time of need.   
One of General Pike's closest friends while living here was Captain Burke    
of Amity a leading Mason of the section. They made many trips together to    
Fort Smith, Little Rock, and many other places. Captain Burke spend much of  
his time in the Albert Pike home. The beauty of the Pike home was the wonder 
of the great mountain country. Wagon after wagon load of farmers and small   
town residents would drive over the rough roads just to see "The Pike        
Mansion." The beauty of the grounds, the artistic landscaping (Pike was a    
lover of beauty) made the place the more impressive and too, the warm        
handclasp and the hearty "Come in" from the General made the congenial       
people want to go there.                                                     
Albert Pike Vaught, one of our leading citizens here in Caddo Gap, is the    
son of the late John Berry Vaught, was named after General Albert Pike. His  
brother, the late Ham Vaught, was named for Ham Pike, the son of General     
On a cold rainy afternoon in late November, 1864, some strangers came into   
Caddo Gap inquiring about General Pike and the hoard of gold he was supposed 
to have somewhere about his place. John Berry Vaught who happened to be in   
Caddo Gap on business heard the inquiry. Keeping his eye on the suspicious   
strangers, he soon discovered one of them off to one side on low-toned       
conversation with a man considered to be the "rakings." He became very       
alarmed and going out the back way to the hitch rack, he untied his horse    
and mounted quickly. Leaving his parcels behind he rode in all haste to his  
farm which was near General Pike's place. He wrote a note to the General,    
placed the late J.R. Vaught on the fresh mount (a mule) and started him on   
his way to the General's house. The General must be warned. The rain was     
cold and the road was rough and dark. Young Jim the messenger was only ten   
years of age, but nevertheless about midnight he reached the Pike home and   
delivered the note.                                                          
There ensued a mad scrambling of packing. What could be taken along? Piles   
and piles of manuscripts were jammed into suitcases or carpet bags and       
boxes. Some tied in bundles. The precious papers and the gold were the       
things to be saved. At one thirty a.m. John Berry Vaught arrived to render   
his assistance in effecting the "get-away" from the lawless band of          
"Jayhawkers" or "Bush-whackers" as they were sometimes called. At two a.m.   
all was in readiness. The vehicle used this time was a sturdy hack. All      
small bundles and grips were placed in the receptacle under the high seat    
and the lid fastened. Then came six husky negroes with the trunk of gold     
(and) from the staggering of the negroes ... Mr. Vaught offered his          
assistance in hefting the trunk up into the hack. He often vowed it was the  
heaviest thing he ever helped lift.                                          
The General called all negroes around him and said "I can't take you with    
me this time, boys, but here is something to tide you over." He proceeded to 
give each one a handful of gold coins and in a backward glance with a husky  
voice, he prayed "God Save My Home." The General then mounted into the seat  
by the driver John Berry Vaught who touched the impatient white horses and   
they were off in a mad gallop up hill and down through dark gulches and      
muddy swirling creeks. Finally they reached the Caddo Gap River at the       
narrows. The river was high, the angry water roaring, but without hesitation 
they dashed right into the seething tide. Before they reached the center of  
the current the horses plunged under. So did the hack and its occupants. The 
driver, being mountain raised and used to swimming the streams, held on      
tight and came ashore with the hack. Then plunged back into the flood,       
breasted the tide to the General's side, giving him a hand. They reached     
the shore and safety. General Pike drenched to the skin, his gray hair       
falling in wet masses upon his shoulders, lifted his face to the heavens     
and said, "Oh God, I thank Thee." After bidding his friend adieu and         
expressing heart felt thanks, he climbed into the hack, picked up the        
reins, and the valiant horses and the General were off with the wind.        
The "Bushwhackers" made all the preparations for carrying out their          
murderous plan not knowing the bird had flown. The raid was made the         
following night and the place ransacked, books and records torn and strewn   
in every direction. Just at dawn the house was set on fire and the most      
beautiful home in the Ouachitas was destroyed. To this day the name (of)     
Albert Pike is revered by the people of Caddo Gap and Montgomery County.     
The Mena Evening Star, April 22, 1939. Article by Ida Sublette Cobb. Edited. 
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