____________________________________________________________________________ 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 Pike. 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. ____________________________________________________________________________ HTML file and design by David Kelley, 1997. All rights reserved.