Life in Pine River – The Barclay Ranch!

There is a book titled: “Down the Mississippi” or “Down the Great River: Embracing An Account of the Discovery of the Mississippi” by Captain Willard Glazier that gives an interesting account of the ranch of George Barclay about 1881.

Headwaters of the Mississippi River - Lake Itasca

In July 2001, I followed up further at the MHS on the reference to Captain Glazier and “Down the Mississippi, (page 35).”  (#F354.655 1841-1905)    This book is not very large about 5 inches by 4 in size and it is bound in a leather cover and it is becoming quite fragile. 

In the table of contents under Chapter II “Through the Chippewa Country” he lists George Barclay …it reads:  “…Ride to Pine River.–Huge Logs and Boulders.–George Barclay.–Characteristics of Indians…….etc.”

Copies were made of pages 35, 36 and 37.  It does not give an exact date.  It does not mention Mrs. Barclay or any children just describes the ranch and accommodations.  The Table of Contents features a really good description of the chapters. 

Page 35-37: 

“After dinner we resumed our journey, with Pine River as the evening destination.  Sometimes in the road, sometimes out of it; now driving along the shore of a lake, and again over huge logs and boulders, it was voted that our ride to Pine River was unlike anything we had ever elsewhere experienced.  The ranch of George Barclay, the only white habitation between Gull Lake and Leech Lake, was reached at five o’clock in the evening.  Here we were most agreeably surprised to find very good accommodations for both man and beast.  Barclay is a decided favorite with the Indians, and his prosperity in this isolated corner of Minnesota is largely due to his friendly relations with them.  He is always supplied with guns, knives, beads, tobacco, and such other goods as are in demand by his dusky neighbors for which he receives in exchange furs, game, snake-root and such other products of the forest as find a ready market at Brainerd or Saint Paul.  Much valuable information was obtained at Pine River concerning our route to Leech Lake and beyond, the peculiar traits and characteristics of the Indians whom we were likely to encounter, and those persons at the Agency who could be of most service to us.  An excellent breakfast on the following morning, with the prospect of reaching Leech Lake, put my little party in the most exuberant spirits for the day……”

Page 148

“…several of my hearers showed their interest by coming large distances to the lecture, and one, George Barclay, a pioneer, told me he had brought his family thirty-seven miles with an ox-team to hear what I had to say about the old explorers.”  Private home in Brainerd, Minnesota August Eighteenth”

In trying to pin down the date or approximate time that Capt. Glazier visited G. Barclay, I found on page. 31 that Glazier headed for Brainerd on July 7, 1881.  He has included his description of George’s ranch in Chapter II – Through the Chippewa Country.  They headed for what is called the Government Road on July 12th to Leech Lake.  He stopped at Reuben Gray’s house who had a hotel/pioneer half-way house between Brainerd and Leech Lake at Gull Lake.  

The interesting thing is that there is no mention of the death of baby George just a little before the visit by Capt. Glazier?

This book is currently available for viewing at Google Books and is well worth reading.

Note:  The photograph above was taken at the headwaters site in the park at Lake Itasca.  They had to clean up the lake from the logging and fix this area with cement so that is why it looks so orderly.  Here is a link to the State Park website:  I think I saw a red fox in the trees when we were there.


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