A Murder in Pine River – October 29, 1898

George's Ranch 1895 NW Magazine

George’s Ranch 1895 NW Magazine

The mist was beginning to form, evening was coming.  It had rained on and off throughout the day. The leaves were falling and a nip was felt in the air.  It was late October 1898.  The train had come in that day.   It always came on Saturdays.  The crowd of passengers it discharged was unusually large that day.  By now, most of them had gone on their way.  Heading home to their farms in the tall pines or out to a logging camp to prepare for the winter logging drive.  The chore boy, McMahon was at the upper barn helping Bebo and his nephew, Deperrold, bed down their horses for the night.  All that remained was to close up the barn and lock the feed box.  A group of hunters had come in that day and were settling in at the station depot.  The smell of dinner coming from Amarilla’s kitchen was on the breeze.  The lights from the Barclay Hotel glowed brightly.  Darkness was settling upon Pine River.

The Barclay Hotel

The Barclay Hotel

George Angus Barclay settled himself in a chair, from this vantage point he could keep an eye on what was happening in his establishment.  He had been tending bar in the saloon while Yllander, the bartender had been on dinner break.  Yllander had returned to his duties.  Good thing, he thought, it would be such a relief to sit down and rest his aching muscles.  He was pleased there was a substantial crowd in the saloon this evening.  The liquor was moving and the profit would be good.  Several of the men were buying drinks for others. Talk filled the air.  He settled back with a good cigar and the smoke from it circled upwards. The evening was going along pretty much like any other Saturday night at the Barclay Ranch.

The Barclay Hotel had three floors.  In addition to the saloon and the kitchen, there was a dining room, a store,  and living quarters for the Barclays.  You could rent a room for the night or as long as you needed.  The gabled roof was black  with shingles – advanced technology for the day. The porch roof extended out and wrapped itself around two sides of the building. The front of the building had a facade with a small portion of gable roof and on each side it protruded out in a straight line creating a wing on both sides.  This gave the building a little more flair otherwise it would have ended up looking like a big huge box.  There was a balcony on the front side and from it hung a big bold sign “Hotel Barclay.”  On the first floor there were two large picture windows in the front flanking a door.  Around the corner and down the side was another door. White sideboards ran all around and it was affectionately called the “White Elephant  This was definitely a big step up from the log cabin George Angus Barclay had built on the South Fork of the Pine River back in 1873.  The Brainerd Dispatch called the structure “as fine a building (as) would be expected in a town of 500 people.”

ColdBloodedMurder - Copy

Clapp was arguing with Barclay about some national political issue and Amarilla, Mrs. Barclay, was in the kitchen going about her dinner chores when the report of the gun echoed out across the night.   Amarilla’s head jerked up from her task and then she heard the commotion in the bar.  Her long dress swished as she swiftly made her way to the saloon where she spotted her husband.  He was crumpled there on the floor.  Something was dreadfully wrong. Someone was yelling “Barclay has been shot!” The men in the bar were running here and there. The tension in the air was sharp.  Pandemonium reigned. Amarilla heard someone screaming and realized it was herself.  Running over to George she knelt down, blood was coming from his neck.

George Angus Barclay tried to raise himself but couldn’t.  The pain was intense, he couldn’t get his breath, consciousness was fading.  He tried to speak “Co…l” came from his lips.  Time had run out for George Angus Barclay.

This man had survived the bloodiest years in United States history – the Civil War.  As a fresh young recruit he an enlisted at Fort Ridgely, Minnesota at the time of the 1862 Dakota Indian uprising. Later he had traveled up and down the Mississippi as a wagoner with the 9th Regiment, Company I of the Minnesota Volunteers.  He had received an honorable discharge and returned to Minnesota to establish a trading post at Pine River.  He farmed with his brother Alexander for a while, but it was not what he dreamed of doing for his life’s work.  He married Amarilla in 1878 in Brainerd. They lost their son George Alexander at 18 months of age in 1881 and the following year 1882, he held his daughter, Grace, in his arms.

Now he lay dying at age 54 and at the top of his life, successful in all he had done since the war.  The Minnesota frontier had only challenged him and pushed him on and he had come to this end on the floor of his hotel on October 29, 1898 at about 7:30 p.m.  Within 30 minutes or less, he was dead.   As he lay dying, Amarilla applied a cold towel to his head, giving him the last few minutes of comfort he would have in his life.

Written by his great-granddaughter, the person writing this blog, in 2005 from court records, newspaper accounts and more.

6 thoughts on “A Murder in Pine River – October 29, 1898

  1. Nicely done! Any prosecutions? My mother’s uncle was murdered in 1922 as part of a union dispute in front of a ton of witnesses but the times were such and the intimidation of witnesses so rampant that I don’t even think the guy was charged!!

    • Hello Jan, I have been thinking about you. You are going to have to wait to learn more about great grandpa’s murder. I am not done yet. According to a unnamed source in Pine River, no murders in Cass County, MN have been solved. Giggle. Your murder sounds very interesting. Yes, union problems were always scary. My Uncle Angus has been said to have been involved with Steunenburgh’s murder. He was the Governor of Idaho and he was assassinated. So far I have not been able to connect Angus with any of it.

  2. A relative, Robert S. Smiley, was in the same unit during the Civil/Indian wars as your ancestor. Also found the grave of James H. Skinner–same unit as well buried in a cemetery in Scott county near other relatives.

    Interesting reading your accounts of family history. Thank you.

    • Joan: Thanks for stopping by and sharing. Your Robert didn’t happen to leave a diary or journal? I get sad when I think of all the stories of our ancestors that these people could have shared. George’s father John lived in Scott Co. Thanks for the compliment. Bonnie

      • No–no diary or journal to my knowledge, I have found all of the information in books, etc. online, not through family members–all deceased to my knowledge… Only thing remaining was a picture taken in a studio that was passed on to me by a cousin from the other side of the family and Robert was on the maternal side of the line I have been exploring.

      • Joan: Sounds like me, I didn’t have a lot to work with either. I was very lucky in what I have found and sometimes I think there is a genealogical angle on my shoulder looking out for me. I will look for those names you gave me in my Civil War information. Bonnie

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