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Posts Tagged ‘Pine River’

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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We were on a mission back in 2000 to get to our appointment at the Pine River Journal newspaper office in Pine River.  

I had written to the Pine River City Hall and apparently my letter had been read in a Pine River Chamber of Commerce meeting.  The editor at the time emailed me and informed me that they had bound editions of the newspaper going back to the 1920’s (some years missing) and that I was welcome to come in and look through them.  I made an appointment. 

Pine River Journal Office

We arrived at the newspaper office in the early afternoon and were greeted and escorted into the editor’s office.  The editor asked me questions and I loaned her photos which she took to make copies.  The result was a full-page article that went something like this… 

 “Climbing Through the Branches of the Family Tree,” 

“It started 16 years ago, with the death of her mother, Bonnie Jean MacDonald, a resident and native of Seattle, Washington, began wondering about her family history.  She gathered bits and pieces of information from an aunt — but the business of life soon took over and she set the project aside…then a year and a half ago, her aunt passed away. 

It was about my quest to learn about my family history and my great grandparents George and Amarilla Barclay of Pine River. The article appeared on page 16 of the Pine River Journal on Thursday, May 11, 2000.  For purposes of copyright, I cannot reproduce this article here but only point you to it.  The Minnesota Historical Society in St. Paul has a state newspaper collection and the Pine River newspapers are available in that collection.  

The article was very well done.  I had my 15 minutes of fame.  I do have to point out a slight error. One comment in particular needs to be addressed for it is just not true.  Under the caption for the old picture of Amarilla’s house, that I provided, it states that Grace grew up in that house.  The house that was Amarilla Barclay Dawes Urton’s and later the Durkee’s home wasn’t built till 1904.  My grandmother Grace was born in 1882 in probably Pine River.  She didn’t grow up in that house she grew up in the pioneer house(s) that her father George built.  

We spent some time looking through those old bound editions of the Pine River newspaper.  I made copies of course. There is just something about the feel of old documents.  

The article mentions that we toured Amarilla’s home. This is true.  This was one of the happiest days of my life.  I was very grateful to the current owners for indulging me.  There are very few things left of a personal nature that are part of my great grandmother’s legacy so knowing that this home is still standing is so very comforting to me.  They are tenderly caring for this old historic home.  

The article states that I received a copy of the Pine River history book and this is also true:  

BOOK:  “Logsleds to Snowmobiles 1873 to 1973” written by the town of Pine River.  This is celebration of the 1st 100 years of Pine River’s history. 

Don Moser did indeed hand me a copy and I remember him saying it was the last copy.  I am grateful. I was so excited!  The book has been well-loved and falling apart because of it.  What is in that book has been enormously helpful.  I have learned that there is a copy at the Family History Library (FHL) in Salt Lake City but it has not been filmed yet.  

I am very grateful to the Pine River Journal newspaper they have been very kind to me and helpful over the years. We will be revisiting this newspaper in the future for it has opened many doors to my research.

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We were five minutes outside of Pine River, Minnesota. The date was April 2000. I had picked up a travel brochure in Walker with the title of “Pine River, Minnesota – A Visitors Guide to the Pine and Lakes Region.” In the upper right corner is said “Free Take One!”

As we were driving along I was turning the pages and came to page 10, “A History of Pine River.”  I started to read out loud to my hubby.   

Visitor Guide

 “Pine River owes much of its history to the pine, particularly the white pine. The pine forest stretching across the state from the shores of the “big sea water” to the plains of the “American desert” contained thousands of square miles of the finest virgin timber east of the Pacific Northwest.  

Found near the center of this mammoth forest preserve, located in the giant forest-fertile crescent formed by the headwaters of the Mississippi River and flowing through what many termed “the richest stand of timber in the Old Northwest,” is a river memorialized by early explorers as “The Pine.”

 And at the place where its two major tributaries, the South Fork and Norway Brook merge to form this majestic stream a peppery Scotsman founded a trading post in 1873, then a ranch followed by a hotel.  Later came a railroad, then a town – and finally a prosperous city.

 Within two years after the Northern Pacific Railway had bridged the Mississippi River at “The Crossing” (now Brainerd), George Angus Barclay established the first permanent trading post on the Pine River. From this site grew the village, which eventually took the name of the river and became “Pine River.”

– from “Logsleds to Snowmobiles”

Little did I know that a door had opened and my genealogical life would never be the same. 

Welcome to the Barclay’s of Pine River, Cass County, Minnesota.

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