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Posts Tagged ‘Brainerd’

For many years I did not know how little baby George died.  I had been to the cemetery and viewed his tombstone next to his father but I didn’t understand why he had died so young?

On my last trip to Minnesota in 2007, I found a brief article in the Brainerd newspaper that described the whole ordeal.

George Alexander was only 18 months old.  He died on the 19th of June 1881 on the way to Brainerd from Pine River.  Apparently he drank  some German Cough balsam that was filled with probably codeine and his little body could not handle the amount of narcotic and he died en route probably in his mother’s arms as George tried desperately to get them to Brainerd and get help.  They were too late.

There is no mention of the death of the baby in the Whipple papers at the Minnesota Historical Society (Methodist Episcopal).  The papers are very difficult to read and I have actually looked at them twice to see if I could make out anything else. 

The article appears in the Brainerd Tribune, Saturday, June 25, 1881 under Local News – Death of Baby George A. Barclay.

1) Mr. and Mrs. G.A. Barclay desire to express their heartfelt thanks to the citizens of this place for their kind sympathy and attentions manifested during their recent bereavement, and for the assistance rendered during the last solemn rites at the funeral of their lamented child.

2) A sad occurrence transpired in the family of Mr. George Barclay, postmaster at Pine River, last Saturday.  Their infant child, about seventeen months old, had in some manner got hold of a bottle of German cough balsam , and drank the whole of it.  No physician being nearer Pine River than Brainerd, Mr. and Mrs. Barclay immediately started with the child for this place. But the effects of the potion were to speedy, as just upon arriving in town the child expired.  This is a very severe blow to the bereaved parents, and the sympathies of the community are heartily enlisted in their behalf.  The remains were interred in the Brainerd cemetery on Monday.

George Alexander is buried in the Evergreen Cemetery in Brainerd, MN location:  Center N 1/2 Lot 17 Block 7.  He is next to his father and mother, George and Amarilla Barclay.

George Alexander Barclay

Written on the tombstone for baby George is the following: 

Sacred to the memory George A. infant son of G.A. & A. Barclay died June 19, 1881 1 yr. 5 mo. 9 days.  Underneath this stone do lie as much virtue as could die which when alive did vigor give to us much beauty as could live. 

There is a little lamb on the top of the tombstone.  This tombstone is to the right of the father, George A. Barclay in Evergreen Cemetery in Brainered, MN.

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As we have seen, George’s was busy with his life.  He had established a trading post on the south fork of the Pine River, then moved it to higher land, and obtained several patents for land in the area.  In July of 1878 he went to Brainerd for some reason, probably to get supplies or do business, and took time to go a courting.  He met and married Amarilla Grace Spracklin at a friend’s house.

Amarilla had left her home near Blairstown, Iowa and migrated to Brainerd, Minnesota sometime after the 1870 U.S. Census.  Her granddaughter Miriam said Amarilla arrived there about 1877.  Amarilla had been living with her father, step-mother and  half siblings since about 1863 in Iowa. 

If you look at Iowa in reference to Minnesota you would see that Iowa is just straight south of Minnesota. 

State Map of US

Miriam writes in another part of her notes, that Amarilla was not happy in her situation:

“Her father, Daniel Dare Spracklin had two families. Amarilla (Ammarilla , sometimes varied it) belonged to the first family, hated the second and left home.  Supported herself as a seamstress. ” 

“Came to Brainerd, Minn., in 1877 and earned her living as a dressmaker and milliner.” Miriam McDonald Notes circa 1980’s.

There is no state census in Iowa for 1875 so we cannot be sure if Amarilla was still at home at that time.  Miriam makes a further comment:  “Born near Marengo, Iowa, Nov. 17, 1858.”  It was probably closer to Blairstown which is north of Marengo.  In 1878 Amarilla would have been 20 years old.  

The Logsleds to Snowmobile book  makes the following statement:

“On July 27, 1878, in St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Brainerd, with the Reverend Herbert Root officiating.  George Angus Barclay married Ammarilla Spracklin.  Barclay’s new bride was the first permanent white woman settler on the Pine River.  She continued to hold the distinction for 15 years.” pg. 105 

This reference implies that George and Amarilla were married in the St. Paul Episcopal Church in Brainerd, however the evidence shows that the record of the marriage from the St. Paul Episcopal Church hint that it was at the residence of a C. H. Mayo.  Click on the photo to make it larger.  

St. Paul Episcopal Church Register

Here is a copy of their marriage license.  It is one of several that were in the Civil War Pension file of George A. Barclay’s.

1902 Copy of Marriage License

A brief article found in the Brainerd Tribune dated Saturday, August 3, 1878 on page 2 on the left at the bottom also repeats this information of a marriage at a friend’s house, the home of a C. H. Mayo. 

Barclay & Sprecklin Marriage

How George and Amarilla met is  a mystery.  Miriam said that Amarilla was a milliner, a person who makes hats.  

An article in the Brainerd Daily Dispatch taken from the Centennial Edition (1871-1971) on the history of Brainerd and the Crossing states that their were 21 stores,  and 1 tailor shop.  So it might be possible that George spotted Amarilla in the town at one of these locations? 

“After a brief courtship they were married on July 27, 1878.  Following the ceremony, the new bride of 19 and her husband drove as far as Gull Lake, probably to John Bishop’s half-way house on Bishop’s Creek, where they stayed overnight.  The next day they continued on with their “tote” to George Barclay’s Ranch on the Pine River.” 

Logsleds to Snowmobiles, pg. 112

The Coroner’s Inquest file regarding the murder of George Barclay from Cass County Records had a testimony by a Andrew Whitesides, an employee of George A. Barclay since 1894.  He testified at the coroner’s inquest about George’s murder but in addition he made an interesting comment  about Amarilla – that she was “an inmate of a variety theater?” 

Now the same article I mentioned from the Brainerd Daily Disptach does indicate there were 15 saloons, and 2 billiards halls but it does not mention a theatre in Brainerd?

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Apparently my great-grandfather George Angus Barclay was not a farmer because after 1870 he is no longer listed on the census with his brother Alexander.  George left his brother Alexander in Eureka and he must have headed west and north.  Minnesota has state census but George does not seem to appear in the 1875 version which is missing Cass and Crow Wing Counties online at Ancestry.com.  

I often ponder what drove him to this remote area and why? It was the frontier back then. I think that his experiences as a wagoner in the Civil War taught him about requisitioning supplies, driving teams, using wagons, creating supply lines and more.  Spending time like he did in the Quartermaster Department gave him the skills he needed to be a trader of goods.  George’s granddaughter Miriam said he was “ambitious.”  Well he would need it where he was going!  

George was about 28-29 years old when he arrived on that south fork of the Pine River in central Minnesota.  He was old enough to be on his own and find his own way in the world.   

Trails.com – Pine River Topo Map (You will have to move the map around to find the South Fork of the Pine River.  

Crossing the South Fork of the Pine River

The photo is about where they would cross the Pine River and George’s trading post was not far from this site. The actual site where George’s first trading post is situated on private land.   

The book Logsleds to Snowmobiles, by the town of Pine River makes this comment on page 104:  

“In 1873, George Angus Barclay, according to The Northwest Magazine of February, 1895, purchased 840 acres of land along the Pine River.”  The purchase was made under the “cash entry system” which meant that Barclay paid $1.25 per acre under an 1820 federal law designed to encourage the settlement of farmers on forest lands.  At the same time, Dennis, McNannie, believe to be an Ojibway mixed blood, settled on 80 acres near Barclay.    

In the same year, Barclay and McNannie constructed a trading post, the site of which today is marked by a hole 19 feet square and five feet deep, 140 yards north of the old Elwell Road bridge over the South Branch of the Pine River south of the village.  The post was adjacent to the Leech Lake Military Trail.  McNannie continued as Barclay’s partner or employee until December, 1875….” 

The remains of the 1st Trading Post

My hubbie is being very helpful after I teased him about his pit.  He is of Norwegian descent and his Lokensgard family came to the Minnesota in 1857 and settle near Northfield, Minnesota.  We attended a reunion several years back and they chartered a bus that took all the Lokensgards from Stillwater to Northfield and out to the farm land where they had settled.  The land is on private land as well.  There the family walked about 10-15 minutes to a forested area and when they found the depression where the location of the house had been they gathered to remember the first Lokensgards to come to America.  It was very moving.  I do not have all the memorabilia and stories that my hubbie’s family has so I was estatic to learn I also had a pit in my family history!!!!  It is amazing to me how quickly nature takes over and obscures what came before.  

The “Logsleds” book has been like a guide to me.  Trying to identify exactly when my great-grandfather came to the area of the Pine River is rather difficult.  Believe me I have tried looking at census, deeds, documents, history books and newspapers to see if I could pin it down.  They all seem to think he was there by 1873.  

Brainerd the next biggest town in the area was just becoming a town of significance in 1873.  Brainerd would play a big role in the life of the Barclay’s.  There is an article reproduced from the Centennial Edition of the Brainerd Daily Dispatch (1871-1971) “Choice of Crossing from Three Sites Meant Birth to Brainerd, Death to Crow Wing.”  This article was Web posted Friday March 5, 2004 and recently removed from the web.  Fortunately I took this quote from the article before that time. The town of Brainerd seemed to have all that is necessary to establish a trading post north of the city.  

“As of February 22, 1873, Brainerd had 21 stores, 18 hotels and public boarding houses, 15 saloons, 2 billiard halls, 1 livery stable, 1 tailor shop, 3 barber shops, 2 blacksmith shops, 1 brewery, 2 photographers, 1 newspaper, 5 churches, 4 lawyers, 3 lodges.” 

The header photo of this blog is taken at the Crow Wing State Park.  Crow Wing was the town established before Brainerd but because of the railroad Brainerd took the lead and what you see is a large grassy area.

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