Albert Pike was born in Boston, Mass. in 1809, but spent most of his life in Arkansas. Pike serve in a single battle as Brigadier General of a Choctaw Troupe for the Confederacy in the Civil War and his monument in Washington, D.C. was toppled and burned late on the evening of June 19.
In 1825, he passed the entrance exams for Harvard University, but was unable to pay the advanced tuition to attend. This led Pike to travel west. With brief stops in Nashville and St. Louis, Pike ended up in Santa Fe for a time before eventually traveling to Fort Smith.
He raised funds for his journey west by teaching in his local school. Pike was predominantly self-taught with one story claiming he read a 13 volume history in a matter of days.
In August 1831, Pike joined a hunting party of approximately 75 men to explore the plains of New Mexico. This expedition provided little game, but allowed Pike to receive his first command as captain of a portion of the party.
During this expedition, Pike demonstrated his attitude of giving the benefit of the doubt to the then mysterious Native Americans. He led his party to accept the hand of friendship presented by the tribe and prevented unnecessary bloodshed.
After two months in the plains, Pike and his party struck out to return to civilization. This journey ended in Fort Smith in December of 1831 or 1832. The accounts conflict the year of arrival.
Pike claimed that he walked nearly half of the 1,400 mile journey from Taos, New Mexico to Fort Smith, Arkansas. He also wrote many travel poems along the way about his adventures.
Upon arrival in Fort Smith, Pike began a career as a school teacher in nearby Van Buren. The one room school house has been preserved and recently restored and currently stands on the grounds of the Van Buren courthouse.
Within a year of his arrival, a band of 1,500 Comanches made a move to attack Fort Towson. Pike and several others joined the fight to eventually succeed in defending the fort.
Pike made many influential friendships in Fort Smith while teaching, writing poetry and philosophizing. He wrote several political articles for the Little Rock newspaper The Advocate. These articles caught the attention of the editor who offered Pike a position in the editorial tripod for the paper.
His time in the River Valley was short, but started his stint living all over Arkansas. In 1833, he left Crawford County to teach in Pope County.
Pike soon moved to Little Rock to pursue a career as a journalist where he eventually became editor and owner of The Advocate where he reported on the Supreme Court of Arkansas.
During this time, the Civil War broke out and Albert Pike was called up to be a Brigadier General over a troop made up of several Native American Tribes. He led his battalion in the battle of Pea Ridge where some of the Native Americans scalped Union soldiers while they were still alive. As a result, Pike was relieved of his post.
Later, Pike sold the paper and pursued a career as a lawyer. He worked his way up all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States fighting for the rights of various Native American Tribes.
Pike’s interest in various ancient languages eventually led him to discover the order of the Freemasons, which he joined in 1840 and eventually gained the status of Sovereign Grand Commander of the Scottish Rite's Southern Jurisdiction as a 33rd level Freemason.
With joining the Freemasons, Pike revealed his affinity for secret rites and rituals which led to rumors of him joining the Ku Klux Klan. While there is no definitive evidence of Pike being part of the KKK, one scholar, John Gould Fletcher believes that Pike write the Klan poem "The wolf is on the desert."
As part of a group of a "Committee of the Citizens of Little Rock and Pulaski county" in 1858, Pike joined 11 other men in signing a circular encouraging the people of Arkansas to expel free Blacks from Arkansas. The circular stated "The evil is the existence among us of a class of free colored persons" and went on to explain why their very existence threatened the hold of slave owners on their slaves.
In a letter to John Peay dated Feb. 25, 1877, Pike voiced his displeasure at the election of President Rutherford B. Hayes with an overall tone of North versus South. One such indicator was his statement that, "We did not get much help from the Northern Democrats, after they had, pretending to be state rights men, encouraged us to secede."
Later in the letter, Pike addressed the pardon President Andrew Johnson extended to Confederate Soldiers saying, "I thank God I never accepted a pardon."
In Fort Smith, there is a road and an elementary school named after Pike. There is also a bust of Pike at the masonic lodge in Little Rock.
The multi-faceted man ended his days in Washington, D.C. where he died in 1891 at the masonic temple. The Freemasons built a monument to him in 1901 in Judiciary Square. This monument stood as the only Confederate affiliated statue in the District of Columbia until rioters tore it down on June 19 as a part of the George Floyd protests that have taken place since Memorial Day.