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.
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….”
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.